While Chris still handles their investments, Kim says the decision-making process is more collaborative, and she feels much more comfortable and confident in how their money is allocated. She says she can't wait to be able to teach the couple's three young children — two girls and a boy — what she has learned "so this vernacular is familiar to them. I want them to be able to do this without the anxiety that I felt."
Studies show that the majority of American women share Kim Knox's previous anxiety about investing. And it's a sentiment that needs to change, given the increasing role women play in society, as professionals, as breadwinners and as the dominant gender in old age, financial planning professionals say.
Women are gaining financial independence to an unprecedented degree — they now make up the majority of college graduates, are nearly half of the labor force and are becoming the primary earners in many households. Yet most remain uneasy or uninvolved when it comes to talking about and managing money.
The repercussions of their lack of knowledge are ones everyone, not just women, will have to bear the burden of, personal finance experts say.
"If we find ourselves in a position 15 years from now where the husbands start to pass away and the wife doesn't know what to do in terms of managing money, there's going to be a lot of bad decisions made, a lot of economic waste and a lot of scared people," says Justin Reckers, a certified financial planner who runs wealth management and divorce management practices in San Diego.
The majority of women (single, married or with a partner) are the primary breadwinners in their homes, according to a 2012 study of 1,410 women and 604 men by Prudential. Among women who are married or living with a partner, 22 percent report making more money than their husband or partner, the study shows.
Their earning potential has also grown — as of 2008, wives contributed to 36 percent of family earnings, vs. about 27 percent in 1970, according to a 2011 survey of more than 4,500 households by financial services research firm Hearts & Wallets.
A high divorce rate, in addition to women outliving men, means that 80 percent to 90 percent of women will be solely responsible for their finances at some point in their lives, says Kim Dellarocca, director of global segment marketing and practice management for Pershing, a business solutions firm for the financial services industry.
The problem? Women's financial responsibilities are growing faster than their knowledge, says Joan Cleveland, senior vice president of business development for individual life insurance at Prudential.
Many studies in the last decade have shown that women consistently feel less confident than men in their understanding of financial products, their ability to make financial decisions and their perception of their current economic standing, the Prudential and Hearts & Wallets studies among them.
Traditional gender roles
Women are 42 percent more likely than men to be concerned about having enough money for retirement; 49 percent say they are "very inexperienced" with investing vs. 34 percent of men and 42 percent say they are "very uncomfortable" taking on investment risk compared with 28 percent of men, the 2012 Hearts & Wallets survey of 5,460 households shows.
"There is a big general problem about women feeling insecure about their finances, not knowing where to get help, being too conservative and then facing retirement alone and underfunded," says Peg Downey, a CFP who co-founded a financial education and consulting firm aimed at helping financial advisers address women.
Some of it can be attributed to falling into traditional gender roles, especially among Baby Boomers, Reckers says.
"They're still in the generation where it's more accepted for a man to drive those decisions," he says. "They lack the knowledge because a lot of them haven't needed to do it in the past."
But it's also because of the financial services industry, which still overwhelmingly caters to men in the way it presents and discusses information and products, Downey and other financial experts say.
"It's a male-dominated field — the vocabulary, the way we measure it, present it. It's a language that has been always spoken by men to men," says Eleanor Blayney, co-founder of the financial education firm with Downey and a consumer advocate for the CFP Board of Standards. "It misses some fundamental truths about women and the way they think and make decisions."