For Gen Z and Millennial Women, Finances Are a Balancing Act
For Gen Z and Millennial Women, Finances Are a Balancing Act
Over the past few years, the economy has reeled from inflation, labor shortages, global conflict, and, yes, the Covid-19 pandemic. Even before the uncertainty of today’s climate, women were grappling with unique setbacks: earning lower wages, shouldering the bulk of unpaid labor, and facing more student loan debt than men.

Now, as mask mandates lift and job growth gains momentum, women are still lagging behind. An analysis of the January 2022 Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs report by the National Women’s Law Center found that there were 1.1 million fewer women in the labor force in February 2022 than in 2020. This reduction may be attributed to the impact the pandemic has had on industries where women are overrepresented, like retail and education. Or, it may be the result of the challenges caregivers and single parents (both predominantly women) face. Whatever the cause, women are feeling it in their wallets. 

This month the team at Bestow surveyed more than 500 women aged 18-40 to understand how they are responding to the unique challenges of today’s economy and its impact on their financial plans.

Key insights

When the pandemic struck, 61% of women reconsidered their work and how they manage money.

  • Of those who reconsidered their work and money management:
    • 30% invested in themselves by going back to school or starting their own business.
    • 18% found a new job that gave them more flexibility, like working remotely or having a more flexible schedule.
    • Among working moms, 15% reduced their work schedules or quit working to take care of their families.
  • 81% of women also reported learning a financial lesson due to the pandemic. 
    • For 50%, that was the need to save more money per paycheck.
    • Another 17% of women said their top financial lesson was the need to save money for medical expenses.

Nearly half of women (46%) are or plan to be the breadwinner in their relationship.

  • Many women are the Chief Financial Officers of their households. Half of women (50%) with financial dependents reported that they are primarily responsible for managing their household finances.
  • In addition to managing the household budget, 39% of women under 40 reported financially supporting a partner, children, or other family members.

Gen Z women are more likely than Millennials to prioritize debt reduction over wealth-building — but for both, purchasing a home remains at the top of the list. 

  • Gen Z ranked paying off student loans (43%) and consumer debt (41%) among their top three financial priorities in the next ten years. Yet despite the importance they placed on paying off debt, 56% of Gen Z also ranked purchasing a home among their top three financial priorities. 
    • Gen Z reported an average student loan debt of $11,372 and an average consumer debt of $8,375. 
  • Millennials reported more average student loan debt than Gen Z but didn’t consider paying it off as one of their top three priorities in the next ten years. They did, however, align with Gen Z in prioritizing reducing consumer debt (59%) and purchasing a home (57%) as among their top three. Millennials also considered wealth-building strategies like setting up passive income streams a top priority (35%). 
    • Millennials reported an average student loan debt of $14,204 and an average consumer debt of $16,041.
  • Both Millennials and Gen Z recognized the importance of investing but considered it a lower priority in the next ten years than paying off debt. 
    • 29% said investing in the market was one of their top three priorities.
    • 21% said maxing out their 401K yearly was one of their top three priorities.
    • Only 13% considered investing in real estate one of their top three priorities.

When women earn more, they prioritize increasing savings and retirement contributions, paying down debt and enjoying a vacation. 

  • When asked what top three actions they take when they make more money, three out of four women (73%) said they increase savings or retirement contributions and 70% pay additional money toward debt. Women reported planning a vacation or experience (62%) as the third priority.
  • Almost a third (30%) of women ranked saving or paying for their child’s education as one of their top financial priorities over the next ten years. 
  • Finally, in addition to the financial responsibilities that women take on, 41% said they prioritize giving back through donations or financial support to family when they earn more money.
  • 60% of women reported practicing at least one good financial habit in the past 12 months, including consolidating debt or reading a financial book or blog. 
    • For many, that meant taking steps to create a long-term financial plan. Thirty-nine percent (39%) of Gen Z women met with a financial advisor, invested in the market, or bought life insurance. More than one-third (36%) of Millennial women did the same.
  • But despite their focus on financial responsibility, young women leave room for the “nice-to-haves” in their budget. 
    • Millennial women ranked travel (55%) as a top budget item worth the splurge.
    • On the other hand, Gen Z ranked dining out (56%) as a top budget item worth the splurge. 

Women buy life insurance coverage to help financially protect their loved ones.

  • Millennial and Gen Z women policyholders reported making 64% of what men make, yet they have coverage that is 8x their annual income, compared to men who have 5x.
    • The median life insurance policy for women under 40 is a 20-year, $450,000 life insurance policy, while the median policy for men is a $500,000, 20-year policy. 
    • Life insurance is more affordable for women under 40 than for men. The median monthly premium for women is just $25 — $11 less/month than men. 
  • As they make major life moves like taking out student loans or purchasing a home, Gen Z has increasingly shown interest in life insurance. The number of Gen Z policyholders at Bestow increased by 31% year-over-year, and Gen Z women policyholders increased 40%.
  • Women purchase life insurance to help financially protect their loved ones. For Millennials, children top the list — 42% of Millennials designate their children as primary beneficiaries on their life insurance policy. Nearly a quarter of women (22%) list their children as primary beneficiaries but do not list a spouse at all.
  • On the other hand, Gen Z is more likely to designate their parents (37%) or their siblings (25%) as their primary beneficiaries than children or spouses.

“Despite systemic inequities and economic disadvantages caused by the pandemic, women are a powerful force when it comes to managing their money,” said Claire Martin, Chief Financial Officer of digital life insurance provider Bestow. “Women prioritize essentials like debt repayment and saving for the future, while also caring for others through charitable giving and products like life insurance. The financial services industry needs to continuously invest in women through education, hiring, equal pay and product development to ensure we’re activating and serving their increasing appetite for financial planning.” 


Bestow commissioned a third-party company to conduct an online survey of 561 women aged 18-40 in the United States between February 17-18, 2022. For the purposes of this study, we defined generations Generation Z as ages 18-25 and Millennials as ages 26-40.

Additionally, Bestow’s team analyzed internal data on women term life insurance policyholders aged 18-40.

Source: Bestow

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