It can be hard to manage things alone. For senior women living by themselves, the sudden stress of navigating legal and financial matters can become overwhelming.
Many senior women find themselves thrust into the responsibility of managing finances following significant life changes like the death of a spouse or partner, a divorce, illness or a move away from a longtime home. Given that the life expectancy of U.S. women is longer than that of men, senior women are more likely to at some point face the need to manage their finances alone.
Only one-third of respondents could correctly answer a series of three basic questions about compound interest, inflation and risk diversification.
Some manage their own households while undergoing treatment for chronic conditions. Unexpected hospital bills, large co-pay responsibilities and medication costs can add a tremendous amount of pressure and uncertainty, which in turn can lead to lower physical, emotional and spiritual quality of life.
In some cases, a move to a retirement community might be helpful, to the point that such a move would take responsibilities like cleaning, home maintenance, cooking and the like off a senior’s daily docket.
But what about the rest? What about paying bills, banking, financial planning, budgeting and other financial literacy skills?
Is financial literacy an important senior issue, or an important women’s issue?
Although much has been said in recent years about historically low financial literacy rates among America’s youth, the problem of financial illiteracy is really cross-generational. According to The Atlantic, the majority of Americans today — regardless of age — exhibit some degree of financial illiteracy. And the problem is just as pronounced among seniors as it is among young adults.
One survey of people over the age of 50, conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research, found that only one-third of respondents could correctly answer a series of three basic questions about compound interest, inflation and risk diversification.
Complicating matters, financial illiteracy may be more prevalent among women and minorities. A study of Americans and Europeans conducted this year by the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center (GFLEC) found “strikingly similar” gender disparities in financial literacy across countries.
“When asked to answer questions that measure knowledge of basic financial concepts, women are less likely than men to answer correctly and more likely to indicate that they do not know the answer,” Bucher-Koenen, et al., reported.
“In addition, women give themselves lower scores on financial literacy self-assessments than men. Both young and old women show low levels of financial literacy. Moreover, women for whom financial knowledge is likely to be very important—for example widows or single women—also know little about concepts relevant for day-to-day financial decisions,” the GFLEC researchers wrote.
What can be done to narrow the financial literacy gap for senior women?
Here at Episcopal Retirement Services, our staff is taking steps to help improve seniors’ knowledge of financial and legal matters by providing them with opportunities to learn.
On Oct. 26, for example, Deupree House will hold its Women’s Financial Literacy Seminar, “Demystifying the Investment World,” which aims to help female residents learn how to manage their own financial and legal affairs.
This ladies-only event will open to all women living at Deupree House, to members of the community’s auxiliary and to community supporters, including board members, former board members and donors.
Residents who are interested in attending the seminar or who have questions about it can click here to email the organizers to take the first step in improving their financial literacy.