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Americans' financial confidence may be on an upswing, but young women have a gloomier outlook.
Millennial women still trail their male peers when it comes to financial satisfaction, according to a new report from online loan marketplace LendingTree. Other elements point to why: The survey found women earn less, carry almost 30 percent more in outstanding debt, and are less confident about their ability to pay it off.
(LendingTree polled 1,050 adults born between 1980 and 1995. It conducted the survey in late June.)
Researchers say the discrepancies may stem from the gender pay gap.
"Predominantly male jobs still pay higher than the typically female-dominated job," said Ariane Hegewisch, program director for employment and earnings at the Institute for Women's Policy Research. "Women are more likely to have college debt and less likely to be able to access well-paying jobs."
A 2016 IWPR study found that women represent 83 percent of workers in middle-skill occupations paying less than $30,000 per year. Yet in growing middle-skill occupations that pay at least $35,000 per year, women represent just 36 percent of workers.
Women are also more likely than men to stay in college even while amassing high levels of debt, said Dana M. Britton, the director of Rutgers University's Center for Women and Work.
This can lead to so-called "unmanageable debt" with monthly payments exceeding 15 percent of income, she said. More than half of women who graduate with a four-year degree carry unmanageable debt, versus 39 percent of men, according to a 2012 American Association of University Women study.
Reassessing financial goals might help millennial women strategize. In the LendingTree survey, millennial women gave their top financial priority as "increasing savings," while millennial men picked "increasing income."
But it shouldn't be either-or. Combining those goals is "the name of the game" for young professionals, said Eric Dostal, a certified financial planner with Sontag Advisory in New York City.
"Those are two of the really major things that people just getting started can do," he said — most millennials are in, or just entering, their peak earnings time.
Dostal also said millennials need to fully understand their debt picture. To figure out the right strategy, start by listing your outstanding debts, including interest rates and payments.
"Only after you figure out where your starting place is can you tackle it," he said.
Look for opportunities to boost earnings, whether that's making the case for a raise at work or picking up a side hustle. Reassess your monthly expenses to see where you can cut back and find cash to pay off debt and pad your savings.