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Sallie Krawcheck details women's top source of stress: 'What we have here is a hidden pandemic'

·Senior Editor
·5 min read

A new survey by Ellevest found that nearly half of women feel that financial stress has taken a toll on their mental and emotional health, and that money is the top source of stress for women.

The survey — conducted between September 23 and September 29, 2021 among 2,026 people ages 18-69 — also found that 46% of women have lost sleep from financial stress, while 40% say it’s damaged their physical health.

According to Ellevest CEO and Founder Sallie Krawcheck, it’s likely connected to the country’s gender pay and wealth gaps.

“No. 1 source of stress, probably because we have less of it than men do,” Krawcheck said on Yahoo Finance Live.

A woman sits on a bench marked for social distancing at the Citadel Outlet mall, as the COVID-19 outbreak continues, in Commerce, California, December 3, 2020. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
A woman sits on a bench marked for social distancing at the Citadel Outlet mall, as the COVID-19 outbreak continues, in Commerce, California, December 3, 2020. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

A 2017 report by Closing the Women’s Wealth Gap found that U.S. women own just $0.32 for every dollar a man owns, while for Black and Latina women, they own only pennies in comparison. The pandemic only worsened these numbers.

“It was actually going in the wrong direction before the pandemic and went further in the wrong direction,” Krawcheck said. “So no wonder two-thirds of women worry about money at least once a week. Half of women say it’s negatively impacted their emotional and mental health. And 40% of women say it’s made them physically ill. So, in fact, what we have here is a hidden pandemic. It’s a second pandemic.”

COVID's role in women's stress

The coronavirus pandemic has played a major role in this “hidden pandemic.”

For example, when industries across the country faced major layoffs at the onset of the pandemic in early 2020, women were among the hardest hit, since they are more likely than men to be in service occupations like tourism, hospitality, and retail.

Consequently, the Ellevest poll found that 46% of women have seen their money anxiety worsen since the pandemic began back in 2020. Additionally, 36% of women worry about their financial health on a daily basis, while two-thirds do so at least once a week.

Women of color are feeling it even worse. While labor force participation has dropped among all women since the start of the pandemic, it has particularly worsened for women of color.

Women faced steeper job declines than men as a result of the pandemic. (Chart: Inequality.org)
Women faced steeper job declines than men as a result of the pandemic. (Chart: Inequality.org)

According to Inequality.org, “between February and December 2020, the drop in labor force participation was 4.3 points for Black women and 3.8 points for Latinx women, compared to 1.6 for white women. Several factors may have contributed to women of color becoming discouraged from seeking work. On top of gender inequities, women of color face racial discrimination in hiring and layoffs and they are disproportionately concentrated in service and care sector jobs with high risks of COVID exposure.”

In the Ellevest poll, respondents were asked about their feelings towards money. The top emotion for men at 37% was “confident” while the top for women at 35% was “overwhelmed.”

“You hear women aren’t as confident about money or risk-averse when it comes to money, and aren't as good investors as men,” Krawcheck said. “None of these things are actually true. Women have about the same financial knowledge as men. But you have a lifetime of messages that women internalize that they are risk averse, that money isn’t for them. They watch their mom coupon clipping … They watch dad invest.”

'More likely to talk ... about sex and our own death than money'

There’s no one clear way to address this worsening issue, but there are some good areas to start, according to Krawcheck.

“40-plus percent of women feel better about money if they simply talk about it,” Krawcheck said. “And it’s interesting — we love to communicate and engage with every topic, but we’re much more likely to talk to our friends about sex and our own death than money. So if we can begin to have the conversations…”

Amina Woods, program director for a foster care agency and a psychotherapist for a private practice, works at her home in New York City, U.S., March 3, 2021. REUTERS/Zakiyyah Woods
Amina Woods, program director for a foster care agency and a psychotherapist for a private practice, works at her home in New York City, U.S., March 3, 2021. REUTERS/Zakiyyah Woods

For example, talking openly about salaries can help other women get an idea if they are being underpaid and how they can negotiate earning a fair wage.

“Something like 92% of articles written to women about money are negative, where 70% of articles written to men about money are positive,” Krawcheck said. “So it comes from all sides. They have less money than men so they say ‘yeah, there it is. I’m not good at it because everybody tells me I have less. Totally my fault. I feel sick.’”

The second course of action is understanding that financial wellness is not the same as financial independence. In other words, just because you have control of your finances doesn’t necessarily mean you couldn’t be managing them better.

According to Ellevest, 21% of women have never invested time in their financial well-being, compared to only 12% of men.

“It really is stepping back,” Krawcheck said. “What do you have? Where are you going? Do you have a budget? Do you have a plan? Do you feel good about it?”

Adriana Belmonte is a reporter and editor covering politics and health care policy for Yahoo Finance. You can follow her on Twitter @adrianambells and reach her at adriana@yahoofinance.com.

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