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How a financial windfall could level the playing field

One report from global real estate company Knight Frank says baby boomers could pass down as much as $90 trillion to Gen Y, “making affluent millennials the richest generation in history” in the U.S.

Jaime Eckels, a certified financial planner and wealth management partner with Plante Moran Financial Advisors, says that while wealth has historically been tilted toward men, the Great Wealth Transfer could end up leveling the playing field.

Of all the women surveyed with Ellevest — aged 18 to 69 with a salary of at least $150,000 or a $750,000 net worth — 45% either had received or soon expected to receive a financial windfall of $300,000 on average.

“I think the influx of a large amount of assets, at one point, could be a game changer,” Eckels says, noting that women are typically less comfortable with investing their money compared to men — but some extra funds could provide them with more access to resources such as consulting a financial adviser.

In fact, investing was the top priority for millennial women when asked what they would do with a large lump sum in the Ellevest survey.

Tonya Rapley, founder of MyFabFinance.com, a personal finance and lifestyle site for millennials, and financial educator at same-day pay app EarnIn, agrees that the Great Wealth Transfer is an opportunity to leverage resources.

“Not knowing is not an excuse for not doing or learning,” Rapley said in an email interview. “It’s important that [millennial women] think about how to continue to practice financial discipline and wise financial principles, using the tools they used before the transfer, so that they can sustain it.”

The survey also shows that a financial windfall could empower more women to talk openly about money, or even leave relationships that no longer serve them. About a quarter of women who have received or expect to receive an inheritance say they're likely or very likely to leave their partner — double the number of women who aren’t expecting a windfall.

As for millennial women who don’t benefit from an inheritance from their boomer parents, Rapley encourages them to “create their own access” by pursuing higher pay and new job opportunities or finding ways to make money outside of their 9-to-5 that they can invest as well.

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Why women experience personal finance differently than men

Experts say there are several factors that set women back when it comes to earning and managing their wealth.

For example, in 2023, women’s earnings were just over 83% of men’s, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And although younger women have made significant strides in nearing pay equity, research also shows the gap remains wider for women of older generations.

Plus, Eckels notes, since women have a longer life expectancy than men, they’re more likely to face higher and unexpected health care or long-term care expenses — which can jeopardize their financial stability unless they’ve planned and saved up for emergency costs.

Furthermore, she adds that social norms and expectations can sometimes hinder women from negotiating a higher salary or investing in their future, while a lack of access to financial resources and education can lead to lower financial confidence.

That said, the Ellevest survey reveals that receiving a financial windfall closes the gendered financial confidence gap entirely — with 81% of women reporting they’d be confident with money compared to 77% of men. This is a major shift from the 45% of women, who aren’t expecting an inheritance, that say they’re confident with managing money.

And it indicates that women don’t have less money because they have less confidence in managing their finances — it’s their lack of funds that has helped create the rift.

Rapley also believes there’s a massive gendered disparity in financial messaging.

“It's a systemic issue in that American culture villainizes women's spending trends,” Rapley says, pointing to financial messages that warn against buying a latte or shelling out for a new pair of shoes. “The reality is that women control over 80% of spending in the country and will own more than 50% of the wealth.”

Rapley explains that men are often taught to take risks with their money from a young age, while women are typically told they should save.

“It's critical that we start to look at how we're speaking to women and girls about their money from an early age — how they can grow wealth too and not villainize what they do with it, even if risks don't pan out.”

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Serah Louis is a reporter with Moneywise.com. She enjoys tackling topical personal finance issues for young people and women and covering the latest in financial news.

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