Women Less Focused on Finance during COVID-19

Our country is wracked with COVID-19 devastation, replete with untenable deaths, economic shock, and a lingering, widespread concern about when we will return to normal (and what that particular normal will look like). But something positive has emerged: a focus on personal finance, particularly among the young.

We urged our readers to examine their personal spending in an earlier article on coping skills during the pandemic. Now, new research results gleaned from a PSB survey conducted for Saturday Insurance, an on-line broker matching consumers with noncommissioned agents offering life, disability, annuities, and long-term care insurance, shows that 25-34 year olds are doing just that. And they are doing so twice as often as other Americans.

This group, tagged as Millennials, and often castigated in the media for being rudderless while holed up in their parents’ basement playing video games, has proved the cognoscenti wrong. Although watching television still consumes much of their (and our) time, these younger people, furloughed from their jobs in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, have been resourceful in looking at their budget, considering long-term planning, and researching long-term care options for themselves and their parents. They also are reducing long-term debt, taking advantage of historically low interest rates, while examining options for life and disability insurance. “The crisis does seem to be serving as a wake-up call for this group that is just beginning to embrace marriage, children, home ownership and eldercare, which has traditionally been a driver of fiscal responsibility,” notes Saturday’s Insurance CEO, Dennis Ho.

Although these strong data suggest a surprising shift in Millennials’ habits, another group is lacking in this discipline. The survey reveals that women, compared with men, are less likely to focus on consolidating debt, analyzing their budget, reviewing insurance needs (including long-term care options), and engaging in long-term planning. Yet they do outpace men in updating wills and other legal documents.

But statistics may be only part of the story. Women, already burdened with keeping the household functioning, also must coordinate their children’s on-line schooling and manage the challenges of both parents working from home during the COVID-19 crisis—an anxiety-producing situation that leaves little time (or inclination) available at the end of a long day to direct to financial matters. The data bears this out: For example, women still spend 20% more time cleaning and organizing than men. The survey does not highlight provisioning for groceries, but it’s a safe bet that if women aren’t standing in line to get into grocery stores, they are probably the ones checking supplies and preparing the list to arm their significant other who is.

With remaining employed consuming so much of our time and energy, followed by the need to stay healthy (the survey shows that women are allocating more time than men to exercise), we’ve all learned ways to muddle through the pandemic. Zoom social events help us stay connected with family and friends. Delivery services can keep us stocked with essentials. And other on-line resources, including nerdwallet and Kiplinger, can put our finances on track. Most money-center and community banks offer similar tools, available for download from their website, with personal advisors eager to follow up. None of us knows what the post-pandemic world will look like. Some jobs may be lost forever, and the education model may be subject to change as it unfolds. But one thing is certain: Having our fiscal house in order will be vital to withstand what lies before us. Managing expenses, planning for the future, and having adequate insurance coverage are essential ingredients in the formula. Had elderly loved ones who succumbed to the virus in nursing homes been presented with home care options offered under long-term care insurance plans, could these deaths have been prevented? We can only guess that the answer is ‘yes,’ at least in some cases. That is a wakeup call for us all, regardless of age or gender.

About Merry Sheils (24 Articles)
Merry Sheils won the New York Press Club’s Journalism Award for best business writing in 2011 and 2012. As a portfolio manager for private clients, she writes a financial column for WomenAroundTown.com as well as features and profiles. She frequently writes economic and capital markets commentary, including white papers, thought leadership pieces and investment reports, for companies and investment managers. Prior to becoming a writer, Merry worked as a senior portfolio manager and investment analyst at BNYMellon and Wilmington Trust Company (now M&T Bank). A SUNY graduate with a degree in finance, she is the author of “Debt-Based Securities” and has been published in The Financial Times, Forbes and Chief Executive Magazine, and has appeared as a guest on CNBC. She founded First New York Equity, Incorporated, an investment advisory firm, and sold it to Price Waterhouse (now PricewaterhouseCoopers). She divides her time between New York City and her 18th century house in Columbia County, NY, where she is active in the North Chatham Free Library, the Old Chatham Hunt Club and the Columbia County Historical Society.