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Women Focus on Short-Term Financial Planning, But Fewer than Half are Requesting a Pay Raise

Third-annual study by Laurel Road examining financial literacy shows women lack financial confidence, despite having similar knowledge as men New...

Published March 05, 2020

Third-annual study by Laurel Road examining financial literacy shows women lack financial confidence, despite having similar knowledge as men

New York, NY – March 5, 2020 – Three-quarters (77%) of college-educated Americans feel they are behind schedule as it relates to their personal financial security but the underlying reasons differ by gender – women (63%) are more likely to say they don’t have enough money. At the same time, men (46%) are more likely to blame having too many other responsibilities, according to a new survey released today by Laurel Road, a digital lending platform and brand of KeyBank.

The third-annual survey examining financial literacy among 1,000 college-educated respondents found that while many feel behind, there are stark differences in the financial behaviors and priorities of men vs. women, notably in their efforts to request a raise.

Shockingly, just 40% of working females requested a raise in 2019, vs. 70% of males. Of those who sought a raise, nearly half (49%) of women received as much or more than what they asked for, compared to nearly three quarters (72%) of men.  Last year’s 2019 study, found that only 38% of working females requested a raise the prior year compared to 58% of males, and of those, 86% of females were successful, vs. 95% of males.

“Securing a raise is perhaps the quickest and most effective way for one to accelerate meeting their financial goals. However, we are seeing women not speaking up at work as much as men, resulting in them not getting the compensation they need and deserve to set them up for future financial success,” said Alyssa Schaefer, Chief Marketing Officer of Laurel Road. “The data also shows that, unfortunately, the pay gap continues to disadvantage women. While we await systemic change, women will need to continue to fight this uphill battle individually and create supportive, empowering environments for other women to do so. Women need to know their worth and ask for it!”

Is a Confidence Crisis At The Root of Gender Discrepancies?

When respondents were asked if statements with basic financial information were true[1], 67% of males and 64% of women answered one to three questions incorrectly, demonstrating they have a near-equal understanding of personal finance basics.

Despite this similarity, women have less confidence when putting their knowledge into practice. When asked about their ability to invest their money smartly, less than two-thirds (62%) of women said they were confident, compared to 85% of men. The survey discovered a similar crisis confidence faces women when planning to pay for college, showing 84% of men vs. 67% of women were confident that they thoroughly understood their financing options to pay for college when they were applying.

Schaefer added: “We know from past surveys that women face more financial difficulties than men from the outset, only to be further crippled by student debt and the pay gap. When sharing our findings, I am always asked: why? We wanted to dig into the root of these discrepancies in this survey, and we found that women and men have similar levels of basic financial literacy. What women lack is confidence in their abilities, which seems to be preventing them from thinking longer-term about their finances and taking risks – even calculated ones – like investing in a home or the stock market.”

Investing in the ‘Here and Now’ vs. Long-Haul Priorities

More than three quarters (78%) of college-educated Americans are spending more time proactively managing their personal finances this year. However, when asked about their financial plans for the next five years, women show a focus on more immediate financial priorities, such as paying down credit card debt (35% women vs. 28% of men).

Men indicated that future-looking investments such as stocks and bonds (35% of men vs. 23% of women) and real estate/homeownership (28% of men vs. 16% of women) were of more importance to them. The same priorities emerged when asked about top financial regrets over the past five years.

With $1.6 trillion in student debt weighing on Americans, one-in-five (20%) see paying off student loans as part of their financial plan for the next five years, with more respondents seeing it as a priority over asking for a raise (14%).

When Reflecting on Personal Finance, Hindsight is 20/20

Looking back, 85% of respondents regret certain financial behaviors. Of those with regrets, the top five regrets are:

  • Not saving more for retirement (40%)
  • Not saving more in their emergency fund (38%)
  • Not paying down more debt (31%)
  • Not investing more in stocks or bonds (27%)
  • Not paying off a loan (17%)

Interestingly, saving for retirement topped the list of past regrets as well as future priorities (51%) when respondents with regrets were asked to look back and ahead five years. This is also the area in which Americans feel the most lag: among those who feel behind schedule, a majority cite retirement savings (55%), more than any other reason.

Additional Findings:

What’s to Blame: Among the 77% of Americans who say they are behind schedule regarding their personal financial security, the top reasons are as follows, but vary amongst men and women:

  • 53% didn’t have enough money (Male – 41% vs Female – 63%)
  • 40% had too many other responsibilities (Male – 46% vs. Female – 35%)
  • 18% didn’t know how to do it (Male – 18% vs. Female – 18%)
  • 17% didn’t have enough time (Male – 25% vs. Female – 10%)
  • 14% didn’t feel confident in their abilities (Male – 15% vs. Female – 14%)
  • 10% didn’t believe they could do it themselves (Male – 14% vs. Female – 6%)

Millennial Matters: Not surprisingly, millennials (32%) are the most likely generation to feel behind schedule in paying off their student debt (Gen X – 20% vs. Boomers – 11%). They are also the generation that is most prioritizing saving for college tuition for their kid(s) (35%) over the next five years (Gen X – 29% vs. Boomer – 3%).

School’s Out: Men surveyed have taken an average of five personal finance classes during college while women have taken an average of three, suggesting that women are prioritizing this knowledge less during school. Past surveys have also shown that millennial women (79%) were less likely than millennial men (94%) to prioritize earning power over passions when selecting a major during college.


This survey was conducted by Wakefield Research among 1,000 nationally representative U.S. college-educated adults, with 50% of respondents who have a graduate degree, between February 20th and February 26th 2020, using an email invitation and an online survey. Quotas have been set to ensure reliable and accurate representation of 1,000 nationally representative U.S. college-educated adults. The margin of error was +/- 3.1%.

About Laurel Road

Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products, mortgages and personal loans that helps simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. The mortgage product is not offered in Puerto Rico. KeyBank is a Member FDIC, Equal Housing Lender. NMLS ID # 399797.



Media Contact:

KWT Global for Laurel Road


[email protected]


[1] In this question, all respondents were asked if the following statements were true to determine knowledge of basic financial facts: all debt should be paid off as fast as possible; a 401K employer match is free money; the stock-market is a good long-term investment; a savings account is a good long-term investment; owning many shares of one stock is a risky investment strategy; owning shares of an index fund is a risky investment strategy; none of the above are true.

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