Foundation for Financial Planning (FFP) Celebrates Women’s History Month
FFP Special Post, March 8, 2023: During Women’s History Month, FFP recognizes the amazing female leaders and trailblazers who have fought to ensure women can access all the financial rights, benefits, and opportunities that are available to men in the United States.
In this post, we briefly trace the history of women and money in the U.S., look at the financial progress and struggles of women today, and highlight three remarkable organizations – each of them an FFP grantee — that are helping women build promising financial futures.
A Brief History of Women & Money
Before the Women’s Movement of the 1800s, American women had little to no financial independence or control. It was not until 1839 that Mississippi became the first state to allow women to legally own property in their own names. Years later, in 1845, New York legislators passed the Married Woman’s Property Act, which allowed women to receive an inheritance and earn income.
Other states passed their version of the Married Women’s Property Law by the 1900s after women activists such as Ernestine Rise and Elizabeth Stanton started to campaign nationwide for the legal and financial liberation of women. Activists, freedom fighters, and everyday women continued to strengthen their economic standing throughout the decades.
In the 1960s, women gained the right to open a bank account nationwide, and in 1974, Congress passed the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, which ended credit discrimination against race and gender. Prior to that, a single woman often could not get a loan, no matter her income, without bringing a man to co-sign for her.
Progress & Hurdles
Today, women are increasingly taking the reins when it comes to managing household finances. In fact, nearly 30 percent of women earn six-figure salaries, and close to 39 percent of women keep their finances separate from their partners.
Despite the significant progress over the past decades, there are still plenty of changes that need to occur for women to achieve financial equality. For example, when it comes to debt and retirement, 39 percent of women are more likely to report carrying unmanageable debt than men, and 43 percent of retired women are more likely to live on an income below the poverty level than men.
According to a survey by U.S. News and Money, 63 percent of women wish they knew more about financial planning and investing. The same survey found that while women are interested in understanding financial concepts on a deeper level, over half of those women do not know where to seek out that information.
For many years, FFP has been enhancing the financial security of underserved women, doing so in part through our grant-making to nonprofits who specialize in bringing services to them. This year, we are especially proud of our grantees, Savvy Ladies, Wings for Widows, and Wise – each of whom are dedicated to helping women of various backgrounds gain financial guidance, confidence, and security.
Three Change-leading Organizations
Founded in 2003, Savvy Ladies Inc. is a nonprofit in New York that provides free financial literacy and guidance to women nationwide. Savvy Ladies aims to decrease the number of women who fall prey to financial abuse and increase the number of women who understand the importance of empowering themselves financially.
The Savvy Ladies Helpline supports women by arranging a confidential telephone consultation with a Certified Financial Planner™ who volunteers to assist them with their specific needs.
“My volunteer was amazing,” says one Helpline client. “I went into our meeting feeling overwhelmed, confused about my situation and choices, and overall, a bit lost. I got kind, empathetic, and data-driven advice and got help formulating a plan on how to move forward. I am so grateful,” she ended.
Since its start, Savvy Ladies has helped over 25,000 women in the New York area and nationwide through its Helpline and robust programming. With a grant from FFP, Savvy Ladies will increase the impact and reach of the hotline, serving more women via the adoption of technology to facilitate matching callers and volunteers.
Wings for Widows:
According to the bestseller book “Moving Forward on Your Own: A Financial Guidebook for Widows,” 70 percent of women experience widowhood. With more men than women dying of COVID-19, the past couple of years have increased the rate of new widows, and for many of these women, the road to poverty begins after their spouse dies.
Wings for Widows, a Minnesota nonprofit, works to match volunteer CFP® professionals with recently widowed women (and men) nationwide. CFP coaches work with their widowed clients over four sessions, on average, to address their most pressing financial concerns.
Noted one Wings for Widow client with a 22-year-old special needs son, “My coach helped me so much in so many ways. I had several huge decisions to make and with his guidance, I am in the process of moving forward and securing our financial future.”
Through a grant from FFP, Wings for Widows will increase its impact and reach, serving more newly widowed persons nationwide.
Working in Support of Education:
On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the U.S. Women ages 20 to 24 are at the greatest risk of domestic violence and the effect of domestic violence is not just physical. A survey by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research revealed that domestic violence can affect survivors’ education, career, and economic stability over the course of their lives.
W!SE (Working in Support of Education), a groundbreaking, educational nonprofit, is working to change that. The organization provides pro bono financial guidance to survivors of domestic violence through its innovative MoneyW!SE program. As 99 percent of domestic violence survivors have experienced financial abuse by their partners, MoneyW!SE has transformed hundreds of survivors’ financial lives by partnering with agencies that specialize in domestic violence support services, such as Family Justice Centers and YWCAs.
“Thanks to becoming financially literate, MoneyW!se clients have stabilized their financial health by opening bank accounts, strengthening budgeting skills, and reducing credit card debt,” says David Anderson, the CEO of W!SE.
“This class is an awesome opportunity for people like me,” said one MoneyW!SE participant. “I am determined to save more and make my credit go up as well.”
According to a nonprofit partner of W!SE, data shows that it normally takes 8-10 attempts for their clients to leave an abusive relationship. After completion of the MoneyW!SE course, the number of attempts has fallen to six due to the clients’ expanded financial knowledge and self-empowerment.
With FFP’s support, domestic violence survivors in Chicago and New York City will have the opportunity to take the MoneyW!SE course virtually, receive one-on-one financial counseling from CFP® volunteers, and become Certified Financially Literate™ by passing the W!SE Financial Literacy Certification Test.
Libbie, Katie. “Women, Money and Power: The Next Generation.” U.S. News & World Report, 2 Mar. 2017, Women, Money and Power: The Next Generation (usnews.com)
Horan, Stephanie. “Cities with the Most Female Six-Figures Earners.” Yahoo, 17 Jun. 2021, Cities with the Most Female Six-Figure Earners – 2021 Edition
DeMatteo, Megan. “Sharing is Caring: A Fintech Study Reveals how Couples are Splitting the Bills”, CNBC, 12 Feb. 2021, Couples are Splitting the Bills
Boiman, Tiffany. “Five Things to Know About Women and Retirement.” U.S. Department of Labor, 30 Aug. 2021, 5 Things to Know About Women and Retirement
“Nearly 50% More Likely to be Financially Healthy.” Financial Health Network Financial, 14 Jul. 2022, New Financial Health Study Examines Deep Gender Gap (3blmedia.com)
Rehl, Kathleen. “Moving Forward on Your Own: A Financial Guidebook for Widows” Land O’Lakes: Rehl Financial Advisors, 2018. Print.
“Violence Against Women in the United States: Statistics” National Organization for Women Foundation, Violence Against Women in the United States: Statistics
Hess, Cynthia & Del Rosario Alona. “Dreams Deferred: A Survey on the Impact of Intimate Partner Violence on Survivors’ Education, Careers, and Economic Security” Institute for Women’s Policy Research, C475_IWPR-Report-Dreams-Deferred.pdf