Majority of Women Now Primary Earners

Whether they like it or not, the majority of women are now the primary breadwinner, a new study shows.

The Prudential Financial survey revealed that 53 percent of women are the main source of income, with increasing numbers of females assuming the role as a result of partners losing jobs during the financial crisis, divorce or deciding to marry later.

While the majority of women reported being primary breadwinners overall, the research found that 22 percent of women who are married or living with a partner are the ones who make the most money. The numbers vary greatly by race, with 33 percent of Asian American and 31 percent of African-American married women being the higher-income earners, compared with just 19 percent of white women.

"This new data shows that consistent with demographic trends and reflecting the impact of the financial crisis, the majority of women today are financially responsible for generating their own and their families' income," said Susan Blount, senior vice president and general counsel for Prudential Financial. "The study shows that with women in more control than ever of their finances, they face significant challenges when it comes to financial decision making, and admit to a lack of knowledge about financial solutions that can help them."

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According to the study, only 10 percent of female breadwinners feel very knowledgeable about financial products and services, and are only half as likely as men to feel well prepared to make wise financial decisions.

"It is concerning that so many women do not feel they have the information they need to make the necessary decisions to help secure their financial futures," said Christine Marcks, president of Prudential Retirement. "Whether the financial services industry or advisers like it or not, given women’s key role as primary breadwinners and financial decision makers, there needs to be greater emphasis on supporting women’s financial needs."

The research found that women worry most about household expenses, debt and their ability to save for retirement. Men, meanwhile, are more focused on external factors, such as the state of the economy.

A number of the women surveyed are still struggling to financial recover from the economic downturn.

Prudential’s latest biennial study, "Financial Experiences & Behaviors Among Women," polled 1,410 American women and 604 American men between ages 25 and 68.

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