Academic journal article Journal of Financial Counseling and Planning

Motivating Women to Adopt Positive Financial Behaviors

Academic journal article Journal of Financial Counseling and Planning

Motivating Women to Adopt Positive Financial Behaviors

Article excerpt

In a strengths-based study, 17 women ages 25 to 54 participated in focus groups to identify their motivations for positive financial behavior change. Performing a thematic analysis of data, evidence shows they progressed through the Transtheoretical Model stages of change. Emotion, family influence, and life transitions helped participants progress to the Action and Maintenance stages. Although participants utilized a wide variety of change strategies, motivations to change were either circumstantial, underlying, or both. Most participants used educational, social, or professional support to overcome setbacks. Optimism and using financial tricks were common strategies for successful change. Implications for policy and practice include tailoring marketing messages toward women experiencing life transitions and incorporating Transtheoretical Model concepts into financial education programs.

Key Words: finances, motivation, qualitative research, Transtheoretical model, women


According to the 2009 National Financial Capability study, nearly half of Americans have difficulty meeting monthly expenses and most do not plan ahead for financial emergencies or future expenses (FINRA, 2009). The U.S. savings rate declined steadily over the past several decades to near zero in 2007 (Bucks, Kennickell, Mach, & Moore, 2009; Bureau of Economic Analysis, 2010). Recent modest increases in savings are attributed to consumer reaction to the global financial crisis and severe recession that began in 2008. Many people do not save because they enjoy being "impulsive" and because "life is too short"; even wealthy persons and high earners tend to save little (Survey on Savings, 2003).

In 2009 and 2010 the percent of Americans responding to the Retirement Confidence Survey who are very confident they will have enough money for a comfortable retirement fell to the lowest level since the first survey in 1993 (Helman, Copeland, & VanDerhei, 2010). The National Retirement Risk Index estimates that more than half of Americans are at risk for being unable to maintain current consumption levels during retirement (Munnell, Webb, & Golub-Sass, 2009).

While Americans are suffering from low savings and overuse of consumer and mortgage credit, women are particularly at risk for financial insecurity. Women's risk can be attributed to many factors, including traditional gender role socialization, longer life expectancy, irregular career patterns, childbearing, family care giving, and a host of other factors (Bajtelsmit & Bernasek, 1996; Glass & Kilpatrick, 1998a; National Endowment for Financial Education, 2000; Sadker, 1999). While considerable research has examined the financial disadvantages facing women, very little investigation has been undertaken to determine what factors or events motivate women to take more responsibility for their financial future. The current study addresses this concern.

Multiple studies have focused on the need for personal financial reform (Xiao et al., 2001). Numerous resources exist for consumers who want to improve their personal financial security, yet there has been relatively little research on how to motivate financially vulnerable Americans, particularly women, to take appropriate action. The challenge is finding what motivates people to take action to avoid financial problems and to secure their financial future. According to a National Endowment for Financial Education think tank (2004), "financial education does not necessarily motivate individuals; motivation brings individuals to financial education" (p. 19).

As the field of behavioral economics grows in influence, researchers are exploring what motivates consumer decisions and how to help individuals change ineffective behaviors (Belsky & Gilovich, 2001; Shockey & Seiling, 2004). The National Endowment for Financial Education (2004; 2006) has sponsored multiple forums on how to motivate Americans to make positive financial choices. …

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