The Great Recession helped push women to become more educated about their financial lives, be more proactive in making financial decisions and gain more confidence about their financial futures. But too few women have a detailed financial plan in place, according to Prudential Financial’s 10th anniversary study on women and their financial behavior, something that can impact their financial security in the long run.

The biennial study, Financial Experience & Behaviors Among Women, showed that 95% of women are involved in making financial decisions, with one-fourth of women acting as the primary decision-makers in their households. Yet although women are saving more and paying down debt, which has helped them gain more confidence about their finances, just one-third of women have a detailed financial plan in place, the study reports. Among the youngest segment (ages 25-34) only one in 10 has a financial plan in place. The reasons: lack of time, the number of shorter-term financial obligations, lack of education, and a lack of assistance.

“It’s clear that the more women know about money and finance, the more they understand what it’s going to take to meet their future financial needs,” said Christine Marcks, president of Prudential Retirement, in a press release. “But it’s disturbing that too few have plans in place to achieve their long-term financial and retirement goals.”

The study, which launched in 2000, surveyed 1,250 women nationally between the ages of 25 and 64 with a household income of $50,000 and higher. Nearly 60% are employed. Nearly 75% have advanced degrees, and half have financial assets of over $100,000. The survey was administered by Harris Interactive Poll Online from Feb. 10-Feb. 26. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.9%.

“There is a gap for women between knowing they need to do something and feeling confident to do something,” explained Joan Cleveland, senior vice president at Prudential, to a packed room for the launch of the study.

Despite the fact that over 75% of women plan to work longer or are concerned about retiring on time because of the financial meltdown, 55% of women remain optimistic about the country’s economic recovery. Yet they are not as confident about their own ability to make smart financial decisions, a trend that has continued over the ten years the study has been taking place. The study found that fewer than two in 10 women feel “very prepared” to make educated financial decisions and half reported that they “need some help.” One-third believe they “need a lot of help.” Nine out of 10 of those looking for a lot of help need help picking financial products that work for them.

The problem is that many of these women are looking for help making financial decisions in all the wrong places. Although 82% of women admit needing help making financial decisions, many are relying on friends and family for advice instead of professional financial advisors. Meanwhile, 75% of women without a financial advisor say they want an advisor. The problem: there is no one they feel they can trust.

Cleveland said that women want to turn over their financial roadmap and that as an industry financial advisors need to help them do that.

“Building a financial plan requires expert assistance, so it is important that financial firms work hard to build trust and do a better job of encouraging women to find the time to establish realistic plans to meet their specific needs,” said Judy Rice, president of Prudential Investment, in a press release.



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