MONEY

Women More Optimistic than Men about Finances

Women appear to be more optimistic about the economy and their financial future than men are, according to a recent survey. But it helps to be young.

Asked whether business conditions where they live will improve over the next year, 56% of women polled by Citigroup said yes, compared to just 50% of men.

(The telephone survey, conducted in June, is accurate within 2.2 percentage points, according to Citi.) The outlook was similar when it came to personal finance: 66% of women were hopeful that their own personal financial situations would improve, versus 62% of men.

While the difference may seem slight, other numbers indicate that the financial outlook of the sexes is diverging; men grew more pessimistic in the three months since Citibank conducted a prior edition of the survey, while women’s confidence in financial matters held constant or worsened to a lesser degree than men’s.

Why the shift? Lisa Caputo, CEO of Citibank’s Women & Co. business, says, “When people are optimistic, it’s because they’ve taken the steps to make sure that their own personal financial situation feels good to them.”

Alternatively, women’s relative optimism could be due to current big-picture financial conditions. One of the noteworthy effects of the latest recession, in fact, has been that the unemployment rate for men has risen faster and higher than it has for women.

And the relative optimism doesn’t extend to all areas of personal finance: The survey also showed that 36% of women reported being uncomfortable with their level of debt, compared to 30% of men. That could be due to perception rather than anxiety: At least one study indicates that wives tend to estimate that their family’s debt level is higher than their husbands do.

A bigger difference in the survey concerned how women view their personal financial situations throughout their lives. Stunningly, 82 percent of women under 40 surveyed believe their personal fiscal situation is on the upswing. But just 59 percent of women over the age of 40 were as optimistic.

And why is that? Having lived longer and undergone more financial ups and downs, females over 40 might be more likely to envision their future based on past experiences rather than future possibilities. For older women, the financial demands of a secure retirement may feel more immediate; younger women might find it easier to put off such worries to a later date. The financial challenges faced by women are well known: They tend to earn less over their lifetime than men do, and they tend to outlive men, meaning that they have longer retirements to fund. Earlier this year, a survey of workers age 60 or over found that 76% of women didn’t feel confident they had enough money to retire, compared to 68% of men.

Do you have a guess as to why women right now might feel more confident about their financial prospects than men? Leave your comments below.

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