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Financial Wellness: How to Be Resilient During a Crisis

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Financial wellness during crisis

financial wellness during crisis

This infographic is available as a poster.

Financial Wellness: How to Be Resilient During a Crisis

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 90% of Americans feel anxious about money. These stress levels are the same across all income groups.

Unfortunately, financially-stressed people are more likely to face physical and mental health challenges. For example, people with high debt stress during the 2008 financial crisis had higher levels of back tension, severe depression, and anxiety.

In today’s infographic from New York Life Investments, we take a look at the current state of financial health, and highlight ways people can improve their financial wellness during a crisis.

A Current Snapshot

Financial health is the degree to which people are able to be resilient and take advantage of opportunities over time. It rests on eight indicators:

  • Spend: Spend less than income and pay bills on time
  • Save: Have sufficient liquid savings and long-term savings
  • Borrow: Have manageable debt and a prime credit score
  • Plan: Have appropriate insurance and plan ahead financially

Based on these factors, individuals fall along a spectrum of financial health. In the U.S., only about 28% of people were considered to be financially healthy in a 2019 study.

Clearly, many Americans were already facing challenging circumstances prior to the pandemic. Here are a couple of the top issues.

More Complexity

Finances have become more complicated over time.

For many years, workers could rely on defined benefit pension plans that paid a set amount in retirement. In recent decades, pensions have primarily shifted to defined contribution plans. These require the employee to make investment decisions and build their own nest egg.

Unfortunately, financial education has not kept pace with the rising need for knowledge. Fewer than half of U.S. states require high school students to take a course in personal finance.

“Money Talk” Taboo

To build financial literacy, individuals would benefit from talking more openly about money. However, 44% of Americans surveyed would rather talk about religion, death, or politics than discuss personal finance with a loved one.

Fears of embarrassment and conflict are major emotional roadblocks that hamper financial progress. What can individuals do to improve their financial wellness, especially during a crisis?

Building Resiliency

People can follow a step-by-step strategy to optimize their financial situation.

  1. Assess their current situation.

    Uncertainty can be a major source of anxiety. To identify the source of stress—and determine if it’s warranted—investors can take stock of their income, expenses, savings, and debts.

    Financial self-awareness is positively associated with greater financial satisfaction, and stronger spending and investing decisions.

  2. Prepare for the worst-case scenario.

    What can individuals do if they lose their job or see a prolonged drop in retirement savings?

    Investors can consider various options, such as taking on freelance work, cutting unnecessary expenses, or increasing retirement plan contributions. Then, they can “stress test” their financial plan to account for these scenarios and begin preparing as best they can.

  3. Break goals into small chunks.

    Specific, achievable, and measurable goals are easier to manage. For example, rather than having a goal to pay down $51,000 in debt, an individual could aim to make monthly payments of $850 over five years.

    By setting smaller goals, investors can take action to make progress. Research has shown that achieving quick wins makes people more likely to achieve their financial goals.

  4. Improve financial knowledge and openness.

    Investors can educate themselves as much as possible—people with high investment knowledge are proven to be more prepared and less anxious.

     Has planned for retirementFeels anxious when thinking about personal financesHas emergency savings
    Low Investment Knowledge62%48%78%
    High Investment Knowledge73%21%90%

    People can also take steps to break financial taboos with loved ones, by starting with simple conversations about experience and building to more concrete discussions about family finances. The ability to talk about money is one of the most important skills for building financial literacy.

  5. Create long-term, purposeful goals.

    Setting the right goals helps investors define their own parameters for success, which in turn keeps them focused and motivated. It’s also important to monitor goal progress regularly, to allow for portfolio or contribution adjustments as needed.

Taking Charge

Financial crises can strike at any point in time, whether it’s due to personal circumstances or an economic downturn.

To improve their situation, people can focus on the controllable elements of financial health: spending, saving, borrowing, and planning. This allows investors to emerge with a stronger, more resilient plan than they had before the crisis.

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Infographics

The Rise of the Values-Driven Investor

Values-driven investing is on the rise, and this in-depth infographic profiles the diverse demographic it appeals to and why.

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The Rise of the Values-Driven Investor

Many consumers today are considered to be “values-driven”, meaning they consider a company’s stance on environmental and social issues before making a purchase.

Such individuals will research a company’s reputation, boycott brands that are not aligned with their beliefs, and avoid products that negatively impact the environment. These types of concerns, however, aren’t just influencing the things people buy—they’re also changing the way people invest.

In this infographic from New York Life Investments, we profile the values-driven investor and examine the different ways their concerns can be incorporated into an investment portfolio.

What is a Values-Driven Investor?

Values-driven investors seek to align their portfolios with their personal beliefs and create a positive impact for society. Because of these goals, they are naturally driven to consider environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors when selecting investments.

One common misconception is that this type of investing is only for millennials, but survey data proves this is far from the truth.

Age Group
% Interested in ESG Investing
24-3991%
40-5484%
55+80%

Source: New York Life Investments

Although ESG investing is the most popular amongst younger investors, older investors are not far behind, with 80% of correspondents aged 55+ demonstrating interest. This interest also extends across wealth brackets, as shown in the table below.

Personal Assets% Aware of ESG Investing% Likely to Invest in an ESG Fund, if Aware
$100K-$150K41%43%
$150K-$250K43%40%
$250K-$500K31%41%
$500K-$1MM34%37%
$1M+42%29%

Source: New York Life Investments

It’s clear that ESG investing has captured the attention of a very diverse group of people, but what kinds of issues do these values-driven investors actually care about?

ESG Priorities by Age Group

Values-driven investors are likely to prioritize issues differently depending on their age. For individuals between the ages of 25 and 39, longer-term issues such as global warming receive the highest concern. This is likely due to younger investors having more years ahead of them, and thus a greater chance of exposure to the effects of climate-related issues.

Below is a breakdown of each age group’s ESG priorities.

IssueAges 25 - 39Ages 40 - 54Age 55+ 
Global warming34%34%27%
Impact of plastic on the oceans21%30%26%
Sustainability24%23%17%
Data fraud or theft14%20%29%
Gun control13%20%22%

Source: New York Life Investments

For investors with a shorter time horizon to retirement, immediate concerns take the highest priority. For example, 29% of investors aged 55 and over were concerned with data fraud or theft, compared to just 14% among those aged 25 to 39.

How Can a Portfolio Reflect These Concerns?

Values-based investors have two primary approaches to choose from when building a portfolio tailored to their beliefs.

Approach #1: ESG Exclusionary

The first approach is ESG exclusionary investing, also known as “negative screening”. This method is well-suited for investors who want their portfolios to be completely aligned with their beliefs and values.

It involves the reduction, or avoidance, of exposure to specific industries that go against one’s values. Industries that are commonly screened out include tobacco, gambling, alcohol, and fossil fuels, the latter of which has gained significant attention in recent years.

Commonly referred to as “fossil fuel divestment”, this type of exclusionary approach focuses on freezing new investments in the sector while gradually removing existing portfolio exposure. Today, over 1,200 institutional investors representing $14.6T in assets have pledged their commitments to going fossil fuel free.

Institution TypeBreakdown of Total Assets Pledged
Faith-based organization32%
Educational institution15%
Philanthropic foundation15%
For profit corporation13%
Government13%
Pension fund13%
Non-governmental organization (NGO)4%
Healthcare institution1%

Source: Fossil Free (a project of 350.org)

Approach #2: ESG Inclusionary

The second approach is ESG inclusionary, also known as “positive screening”. This method is for investors who believe that companies with strong sustainability practices can outperform over the long term.

Instead of avoiding specific industries, an ESG inclusionary approach seeks to identify the best companies in any given industry. In practice, this involves the analysis of both traditional financial metrics and ESG factors.

Examples of Traditional Financial AnalysisExamples of ESG Factor Analysis
Analyze the company’s financial statementsExamine the company’s waste management practices
Study historical market trendsMonitor the company’s employee relations
Consider the direction of the broader economyGrade the company’s transparency & disclosure

Research on the effectiveness of ESG factor analysis has been overwhelmingly positive, and is a likely reason for the robust growth these types of strategies have seen in recent years. In fact, ESG leaders (companies with strong ESG practices) even outperformed their respective indices during the COVID-19 selloff in Q1 2020.

Building a Well-Aligned Portfolio

Despite several myths surrounding sustainable investment, there is an incredibly diverse group of individuals who want their portfolios to reflect their personal beliefs.

The typical values-driven investor is 48 years old, which means they’re likely in their peak earning years and are able to make larger portfolio contributions. Thus, this growing demographic is one that the investment industry should not ignore.

The types of issues these investors care about, however, can vary depending on age and other metrics. Thus, it’s important for them to learn about the different investment approaches available. Armed with this knowledge, investors can take better control of their finances and feel more confident in their decisions.

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Infographics

Paradigm Shift: The Rise of Women’s Earning Power

As women’s earning power continues to grow, wealth managers who cultivate a deeper understanding of these clients will ultimately stand out from the rest.

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Paradigm Shift: The Rise of Women’s Earning Power

In 2019, women owned almost 33% of global wealth.

Looking at North America alone, women control $35 trillion in assets. These assets are set to grow by a 6.9% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) until 2023, after COVID-19 effects are accounted for. Notably, the acceleration of female breadwinners is amplifying this trend.

The above infographic from New York Life Investments examines four archetypes of female breadwinners, highlighting their household dynamic and financial priorities as the wealth landscape continues to shift.

A Room of One’s Own

Today, one segment of women makes up nearly 25% of households with over $250K of investable assets: female married breadwinners.

They remain a blind spot across the wealth management profession, but provide a vital opportunity for wealth management professionals.

From a high-level perspective, these primary earners describe themselves as independent and hard working, according to a study by RTi Research. While 75% work with an advisor, only 41% feel knowledgeable about their finances. At the same time, 82% of the primary earners are college graduates, while advancing their financial education remains a priority.

Below is a deep dive on the spectrum of female married breadwinner households, outlining their key mindsets, behaviors, and outlooks.

The Four Archetypes

Female breadwinner households can be broken down into four broad archetypes.

1. We’re In This Together

Accounting for 39% of respondent households, this archetype reflects a collaborative dynamic where both partners appreciate each other and are aligned on future financial objectives.

Household Dynamic

  1. Works as a team with their partner
  2. Partners are proud and appreciative of one other
  3. Typically have a positive outlook

Defining Opinions and Behaviors

  • My spouse supports me: 80%
  • My spouse appreciates my hard work: 74%
  • We are aligned on future financial goals: 66%
  • We live in a “normal” household: 59%

2. I Got It

This archetype comprised 25% of respondents. Typically, the primary earner illustrated pride and enjoyment in this role. At the same time, they felt supported by their partners.

Household Dynamic

  1. Comfortable and experienced in this position
  2. Spouse is supportive and comfortable with a secondary role

Defining Opinions and Behaviors

  • Primary earner role is a source of pride: 43%
  • Primary earner role is fulfilling: 41%
  • As the primary earner I am in control: 33%
  • Always been the primary earner: 61%

3. A Little Help Please

With 26% of respondents, this archetype was an outlier, mainly as they did not feel a positive impact from being a breadwinner. These women carry a larger burden on their shoulders and would prefer if their partner would take on more household tasks.

Household Dynamic

  1. Feel that everything relies on them, want their partner to contribute more
  2. Would even prefer if roles were reversed

Defining Opinions and Behavior

  • Everything depends on me: 42%
  • Want spouse to take on more responsibilities: 29%
  • Negative impact as primary breadwinner: 97%
  • Prefer if spouse was the primary earner: 59%

4. I’ve Got It From Here

This final archetype accounted for 33% of households. These were characterized by the women taking on a primary earner role later in life, while feeling proud in the role as the highest earner.

Household Dynamic

  1. Typically new to primary earner role
  2. Feels supported by their spouse, and long-term financial goals are aligned
  3. Appreciates the hard work partner has done in the past

Defining Opinions and Behaviors

  • My spouse supports me: 59%
  • My spouse appreciates my hard work: 51%
  • Became primary earner later in life: 100%
  • Feels strong: 52%

Getting a better sense of these archetypes can help advisors personalize their approaches—and harness a clearer appreciation of their clients financial goals.

On the Horizon

Of course, female married breadwinners have a diverse range of financial goals. These investment goals and objectives typically vary across different life stages, but they also share many similarities.

For primary earners 60 and over, the most important investment goals were a comfortable lifestyle and protecting their future. On the other hand, breadwinners between the ages of 40-59 were most concerned with saving for retirement. Finally, the key investment goals of those aged 25-39 also surrounded a comfortable lifestyle, saving for children’s education, and saving for retirement.

As women amass greater wealth at faster speeds, understanding how to manage it well becomes increasingly crucial.

A New Wealth Frontier

It comes as no surprise that the primary female earners who work with advisors have better views on their finances.

As a result, opportunity knocks. Half of female breadwinners see their financial advisor as a business partner, and 33% see them as a necessity. At the same time, 66% of female primary earners want an advisor that will make them the most money.

As this powerful economic force continues to accelerate, it could create a watershed decade ahead for both women’s wealth and the wealth management field.

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