Only half of Gen X and older women feel better off financially today than 10 years ago, survey finds

Two women sitting together at a table at work, talking about finances Image: Two women sitting together at a table at work, talking about finances

In a Nutshell

Only half of women belonging to Gen X and older generations “somewhat” to “strongly agree” that they feel better off financially than they were 10 years ago, despite making some financial gains, according to a new Credit Karma survey. There are a few reasons this may be the case, including only 28% of respondents citing that they feel they’re paid equally compared to others in similar roles.

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A new Credit Karma survey shows that despite making some financial progress, only half of Gen X and older women feel they’re better off today than they were a decade ago.

By comparison, most Gen X and older men (58%) feel they’ve made financial progress over the past 10 years — as do most millennial women (64%) and Gen Z women (52%). (Learn more about our methodology.)

So why do women who have spent more time in the workforce feel less optimistic about their financial progress compared to women of other generations? And counter to that sentiment, what’s improved in the past decade? Let’s look at some results from the survey as well as tips for achieving financial progress.

Want to know more?


Key survey findings

Just 37% of Gen X and older women feel they’ll earn more in 10 years than they’re earning today.

Only 28% of Gen X and older women think they’re paid equally today vs. 39% who feel the same was true 10 years ago.

Just 40% of Gen X and older women are saving for retirement today, down from 50% who report doing the same 10 years ago.

However, 72% of Gen X and older women believe future generations of women will be able to meet their financial goals.

What are the details?

Looking at the survey results, there are a few themes that reveal why women belonging to Gen X and older generations may feel less optimistic about financial progress than their younger counterparts.

  • They believe their earning potential may be peaking. Fewer than two in five (37%) of Gen X+ women feel like they’ll be earning more in 10 years than they’re earning today, compared to 74% of millennials and 80% of Gen Z who feel the same.
  • Some don’t believe they’ve experienced equal pay themselves. Some Gen X and older women surveyed (39%) expressed a lack of confidence or reported that they didn’t know whether equal pay will happen in their lifetime, though this was down from 50% who said they felt that way a decade ago. This lack of confidence in the near-term may be because only 28% of Gen X and older women believe they’re paid equally today, down from 39% who believe the same was true 10 years ago.
  • Retirement saving is taking a back seat. Half of Gen X and older women said they were saving for retirement a decade ago. Today, only 40% are doing so, according to our survey.

Despite the sentiment among women of Gen X age and older, there’s been some progress over the past decade.

For example, among the Gen X+ we surveyed who reported that they’re saving for retirement today, more women (39%) than men (34%) have at least $100,000 in retirement savings. Compared to the same group’s account of past retirement savings, 24% of men reported having at least $100,000 put away 10 years ago, while only 22% of women could say the same.

Plus, the decade has given most Gen X and older women more experience. Nearly two-thirds (64%) say they’re at least somewhat more confident in their ability to manage their finances now than they were 10 years ago.

And even though only half of Gen X and older women surveyed reported feeling better off financially, most (72%) believe that future generations of women will be able to reach their financial goals.


Tips for working toward financial progress

As the latest results show, and as we know from a previous Credit Karma survey, women in particular can feel discouraged when it comes to finances. But we’ve got some tips to help.

  • Save early, often and for the long haul. It’s OK to save money in small chunks, even something like $5 a paycheck. The important thing is to get started — and to continue up until retirement. Let compound interest work to your advantage, growing the interest you earn on your savings.
  • Prioritize debt payments. Although only 16% of Gen X and older women surveyed report being debt free, the burden of debt weighs on many. A debt repayment calculator, like the one on Credit Karma, can help you get an idea of how costly it could be to avoid paying down what you owe.
  • Advocate for yourself at work. Negotiating salary can be intimidating for anyone. But having information on pay can help. You can check out the Economic Policy Institute’s gender pay gap calculator or view salary information on sites like Glassdoor. You may also want to consider investing in a compensation report through 81cents. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s website has more information about fair compensation in the workplace.

Methodology

On behalf of Credit Karma, Qualtrics conducted a nationally representative online survey in January 2020 of 1,026 U.S. adults to better understand their views on equal pay and how their finances have changed over the previous decade. Of those surveyed, 664 (347 women and 314 men) belonged to Gen X or an older generation.