Canada VS brings you insight and analysis on Canadian consumers’ preferences, habits and behaviours compared to those in other countries. Today we take a look at how women approach financial services in Canada and America.

What role do women play in financial decision making?

While both Canadian and US women traditionally have a great deal of influence on spending decisions, ie what, where and how much their families are buying, their influence diminishes slightly when it comes to financial planning. Across all age groups and living situations, both Canadian and US women are less likely to be the sole financial decision-maker (around 40%). As women continue to increase their financial power, however, more will play an important role in managing their households’ finances considering nearly two in five Canadian and US women say they jointly make or share in financial decision-making.

Are women prepared financially for retirement?

Just 17% of Canadian women report being well prepared financially for retirement

Mintel research shows that there is huge opportunity for financial services operators to help both Canadian and US women better prepare for retirement as just 17% of Canadian women report being well prepared financially for retirement, and 21% of US women say they are on target to save enough to comfortably retire when the time comes. As a consequence, a full three in five Canadian women are worried they won’t be able to save enough for retirement and are concerned about paying for health care costs when they are older.

We find that Canadian women are generally less confident in their financial planning abilities due to a self-perceived lack of financial knowledge. And the same can be said of American women as research from Mintel’s Financial Literacy US 2016 report shows that the majority of US women give themselves a B or C grade for financial literacy. Even though women in both countries feel they are less knowledgeable, they express less interest than their male counterparts in taking advantage of opportunities to learn more, making it more difficult for financial services companies to reach female customers.

Differing financial priorities

When it comes to financial planning, taking the expected and unexpected into account are equally important. According to Mintel’s Marketing Financial Services to Women Canada 2016 report, women are especially concerned with building an emergency savings account and paying off credit card balances as these are their top financial priorities. However, things differ a bit for their neighbours to the south as saving for retirement and paying off bills/debt are top priorities for US women.

The high priority that Canadian women place on having an emergency savings account and also on having life insurance, while they appear quite conservative when it comes to investing, is due, in part, to the Mintel Trend Prepare for the Worst which explains how consumers are seeking products and services that reassure them, or make them feel prepared and protected against surprises or illness. As Canadians deal with weak economic growth, job losses and the general sense that ‘nobody’s safe’, they’ve emerged with something of a bunker mentality – an emphasis on preventing, preparing, saving, hedging and otherwise getting ahead of potential disaster.

Things like paying off student loans, buying a house and estate planning fall towards the bottom of the list for both Canadian and US women as they tend to be more concerned with the short rather than long term, financially speaking.

Sanjay Sharma is a Senior Financial Services Analyst for the Canadian region at Mintel. He researches and writes reports on the Canadian financial services industry. Prior to joining Mintel, he worked in marketing, research and capital markets positions in Canadian financial services with companies such as the Ontario Financing Authority, Toronto Financial Services Alliance, Ipsos Reid and the Canadian Securities Institute.

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