Women are stressed about money, thanks in no small part to the Covid-19 pandemic. That's according to a recent survey by Fidelity, which found that 70% of women are stressed about their long-term savings and investments.
Fidelity surveyed 1,902 U.S. adults, including 951 women, and aimed to explore the financial impacts the Covid-19 pandemic has had on women.
Overall, 60% of women respondents say they have been much more stressed during the pandemic, with a range of factors contributing to their stress. These factors include the emotional and mental well-being of their children, everyday finances and long-term savings.
Additionally, nearly 40% of women are considering scaling back their hours or leaving the workforce due to their increased caretaking responsibilities, the survey found.
That being said, many women are taking steps to take control of their finances. Fidelity saw a 41% increase in women who sought out Fidelity's services on their own, rather than through their employer, compared to the previous year.
In order to help clients manage their finances and reduce their money-related stress, Fidelity recommends taking three key steps.
If there is one thing that can be learned from the pandemic, it's how important it is to have a cushion of emergency cash available.
Start by building up enough emergency savings to cover three to six months' worth of expenses, says Lorna Kapusta, head of women and customer engagement at Fidelity Investments. Having those funds easily accessible is essential to cover you in case of a job loss or unexpected emergency, she adds.
Some women choose to put aside up to a year's worth of expenses because it makes them feel more comfortable, Kapusta says. That's OK too. Make sure your plan works best for you and your goals.
It is never too early to plan for retirement. Contributing to an employer-sponsored 401(k) plan allows you to put away a portion of your salary now and defer paying taxes on those savings until you withdraw them during retirement. It's also likely that your employer will offer you a match on a certain percentage of your contributions, which is essentially free money.
If you aren't able to save the recommended 15% of your salary right away, start with what you can put away. But aim to work your way up to saving at least 10% of your income.
Women who are saving 10% of their salary or more felt less stressed about their financial futures, Kapusta says. And saving 15% of your salary throughout your career should help you hit the recommended target of having 10 times your salary saved for retirement, Kapusta adds.
If you do not have access to an employer-sponsored 401(k) plan, there are other retirement savings accounts that can help you plan for the future and get tax benefits, such as traditional or Roth IRAs.
Regardless of how large or small your salary is, developing a financial plan, or roadmap, for yourself, or with your partner, is something you should always do, Kapusta says.
"It's the idea of knowing what you want for today, five years from now and having an idea of where you want to be in 30 years," she explains. "And then having your money set up to help you achieve those goals."
No matter what your goals are, having some sort of plan can better equip you to manage your finances and stay on track to achieve them. That goes for everything from short-term goals, like large purchases, to long-term goals, like buying a house.
"Knowing where your money is, what you owe and how it's working for you significantly reduced women's stress about their finances," Kapusta says.