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Paradigm Shift: The Rise of Women’s Earning Power

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Rise of Women's Earning Power: Female Breadwinners

This infographic is available as a poster.

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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Visualized: The Economic Benefits of a Green Recovery

A green recovery is projected to boost global GDP by 1.1% annually, along with saving 9 million jobs. What opportunities does this present for investors?

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Visualized: The Economic Benefits of a Green Recovery

After years of technological advancement, many renewable energy sources are now more efficient than traditional sources of energy.

Thanks to their falling prices and scalability, a green recovery, which centers on worldwide funding and policy support for green energy alternatives, is gaining strong momentum.

This infographic from New York Life Investments unpacks how a green recovery will benefit both the economy and investor portfolios.

What is a Green Recovery?

A green recovery is the intention of allocating the unprecedented global wave of public spending, pent up over the course of the 2020 pandemic, exclusively towards investment in sustainable systems to support:

  • The creation of millions of jobs
  • Improved productivity
  • A structural decline in greenhouse gas emissions (GHG)

Green Recovery: The Economic Benefits

It is projected that nine million jobs per year will be created or saved over the next three years in a green recovery, along with 1.1% added in global economic growth annually.

Let’s look at two reasons why a sustainable recovery is gaining traction:

  1. Lower costs in energy spending
  2. More jobs created

To start, a sustainable recovery would involve 2% of U.S. GDP invested in low carbon energy. Compare this to current U.S. energy spending, which stands at roughly 6% of GDP—sitting at near lows. In fact, in the past, energy spending in the U.S. has reached as high as 13% of GDP.

Secondly, for every $1 million investment in renewable energy, more than twice as many jobs are created per category than in traditional energy. For instance, 7.5 jobs are created in the wind energy industry versus 2.2 in oil & gas.

Per $1 Million InvestmentTypeJobs Created
Renewable EnergyEnergy Efficiency7.7
Wind7.5
Solar7.2
Traditional EnergyCoal3.1
Oil & Gas2.2

Source: World Resources Institute, 07/28/20

With this in mind, let’s take a look at how investors can take advantage of a sustainable recovery across three industries.

1. Renewable Energy

Historically, energy demand has sharply rebounded after major economic shocks.

Following the Spanish Flu, energy demand plummeted over 15%—but rebounded by almost 25% the year after. Similarly, in the years that followed the Great Depression, World War II and the Global Financial Crisis, energy demand spiked.

In 2020, energy demand growth hit a 70-year low, created by the largest absolute decline ever. If history repeats itself, energy may be poised for a substantial demand increase.

On top of this, renewables have become significantly cheaper and scalable in recent years. Solar energy is a prime example. It is now one of the most affordable sources of electricity. In fact, the price of energy from new power plants—vital sources that generate energy for society—has changed significantly over the last decade.

Energy TypePrice per MWh (2009)Price per MWh (2019)Price % Change
Coal$111$109-2%
Solar Photovoltaic$359$40-89%
Onshore Wind$135$41-70%
Gas (combined cycle)$83$56-32%

Source: Lazard Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis via Our World in Data, 01/12/20

In 2019, over 50% of new global power capacity came from solar photovoltaic and wind power.

2. Transportation

Globally, as electric vehicle (EV) sales have accelerated, so have public chargers, illustrating a new infrastructure opportunity for investors. In 2019, there were 1 million public chargers built worldwide. Since 2014, public chargers in Europe specifically have more than doubled to over 200,000.

Year# of Global Electric Vehicles
2012110,000
2013220,000
2014400,000
2015720,000
20161.2M
20171.9M
20183.3M
20194.8M

At the same time, economies are planning for a wave of green transport investments.

Italy, for instance, plans to invest $33 billion in sustainable mobility as part of its $231 billion green recovery plan. Meanwhile, Germany is investing $6 billion in the electrification and modernization of its rail and bus system. Interestingly, high-speed rail uses 12 times less energy per passenger than airplanes or road transport trips under 500 miles.

Like renewable energy, electric vehicles, high-speed rail, and modern transport infrastructure are all central to the new chapter in sustainable investment.

3. Low-carbon Technology

Finally, you can’t talk about a sustainable recovery without net-zero emissions, where all emissions created are also removed from the atmosphere.

In recent months, net-zero targets have increased substantially. In January 2020, 34% of all global emissions were covered by net-zero targets. By March 2021, this reached 50%. Decarbonization will play a critical role in reaching net-zero targets.

Crucially, net-zero emissions can be achieved through the following decarbonization options:

  • Carbon capture: Chemical absorption and the injection of CO2 into depleted reserves
  • Nuclear energy: Produces energy through nuclear reactions
  • Storage & utilization: Improved electricity grid storage
  • Renewable innovation, and others: Includes hydrogen, batteries, and scaling renewables

Even in the wake of the pandemic, global investment in decarbonization topped half a trillion dollars in 2020, 9% higher than in 2019.

New Turning Point

COVID-19 is radically reshaping the sustainable investment landscape.

In 2020, nearly 25% of all U.S. stock and bond mutual fund net inflows went into sustainable funds. By 2025, as many as half of all investments are projected to be ESG-mandated in the United States. From modern infrastructure to low-carbon tech, sustainable investments present many opportunities for investors.

Supported by lower costs and government policies, sustainable investments show potential for promising growth.

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Beyond Bonds and Bridges: How to Approach Infrastructure Investments

Global infrastructure needs amount to $94 trillion by 2040. Here’s how to take advantage of infrastructure investments in your own portfolio.

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How to Approach Infrastructure Investments

Infrastructure is essential for our transportation, utilities, and communication needs. In fact, the U.S. government has recently emphasized its key role with supportive spending plans—and infrastructure is entering an investment supercycle.

In this graphic from New York Life Investments, we highlight the growing opportunity in infrastructure investments, and how investors can take advantage through both municipal bonds and publicly-traded infrastructure companies.

Investing in Infrastructure

As infrastructure continues to evolve, there are 3 main themes driving growth.

  • Data growth: Wide-scale tech adoption is increasing our need for digital infrastructure
  • Aging assets: Existing infrastructure is in need of upgrading or total replacement
  • Decarbonization: Climate change is driving demand for more sustainable energy

This presents a large opportunity for investors. Between 2016 and 2040, global infrastructure needs will amount to $94T, or about $3.7T per year.

Investors can access this market through municipal bonds, which are debt securities issued by state and local governments. They can also allocate funds to listed infrastructure companies, which are publicly-traded equities that own or operate infrastructure assets.

Here’s what investors need to know about both types of infrastructure investments.

Municipal Bonds

Traditionally, U.S. infrastructure is defined as big public work projects such as bridges, roads, and schools. About three-quarters of the costs are paid for by state and local governments, with a large portion coming from municipal bonds.

Both taxable and non-taxable bonds offer many benefits:

  • High Credit Quality: While corporate bonds are spread relatively evenly between investment grade and non-investment grade, the vast majority of municipal bonds are investment grade. These ratings have held up well, even during recessions.
  • Low Equity Correlation: Correlation measures how closely the price movements of two investments are related. While other bond categories have moved more in-line with the stock market, taxable municipals have had the lowest correlation. Investors who add taxable municipals to a portfolio may increase diversification.
  • Higher Relative Yields: Taxable municipal returns have been strong relative to other high quality sectors, and comparable to that of corporates.
    Bond categoryYield to worst
    Taxable Municipals2.10%
    Investment Grade Corporates1.70%
    U.S. Aggregate1.10%
    U.S. Treasuries0.60%

    Note: Data as of December 2020. Yield to worst is the lowest potential yield that can be received on a bond without the issuer actually defaulting.

    Amid low or even negative interest rates, this is especially important.

Infrastructure Companies

After municipal bonds are issued, governments use these funds to hire both public and private companies to build, maintain, and upgrade infrastructure. These companies have distinct advantages, such as high barriers to entry and consistent demand.

Of these companies, 360 are publicly-traded with a total value of $4.1 trillion. What benefits do public (listed) infrastructure companies offer?

  • Attractive historical returns: Listed infrastructure companies had higher returns than global equities over the 20-year period from 2000-2020.
  • Income potential: Over the last 20 years, income has accounted for about half of public infrastructure’s total return. This is partly due to stable and resilient cash flows.
  • Lower volatility and downside risk: Historically, listed infrastructure has had less risk than traditional equities and other real asset classes.
    Asset classStandard deviation Downside capture ratio vs global equities
    Listed Infrastructure12.9544.8%
    Global Equities15.14100.0%
    Global REITs17.3580.9%
    Energy Master Limited Partnerships38.25209.4%

    Note: Standard deviation and downside capture ratios are in USD over a 5 year period from Jan 2016-Dec 2020 using quarter-end data.

    For example, listed infrastructure only declined 45% as much as global equities during market downturns from 2016-2020.

An allocation to global, publicly-traded infrastructure companies may help reduce portfolio swings and manage risk.

Infrastructure Investments in a Portfolio

While municipal bonds play a key role in funding infrastructure, it’s companies that build our data centers and maintain our bridges.

Investors can benefit from allocating money to both infrastructure investments.

InvestmentWhere does it fit?Benefits
Municipal bondsCore fixed income allocation- High credit quality
- Low equity correlation
- Higher yields relative to other high quality sectors
Infrastructure companiesGlobal equity or real assets allocation- Income potential
- Attractive historical returns
- Lower volatility relative to equities & other real assets

Ultimately, municipal bonds and infrastructure companies can help investors build a stronger portfolio.

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