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Bank of America’s Carol Guyton

According to recent studies, black women have made the most significant strides in earning power, with 33 percent of employed Black women working in management or professional occupations, quality of life indicators remain lower than their white working counterparts of either gender.

An Institute for Women’s Policy Research reports that while black women participate in the workforce at higher rates than any other group of women, black female-headed households are more likely to fall below the poverty line, second only to indigenous women.

“Hard work isn’t paying off for black women in America,” said Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza. Black women headed households are more profoundly impacted by family issues including child care and caring for aging family members. Eighty percent of black mothers contribute at least 40 percent of their households’ incomes; fewer than half of white mothers carry that level of financial responsibility.

“Women on average live five years longer than men,” explained Detroit financial strategist Carol Guyton, a Bank of America executive, “Eighty-one percent of centenarians are women, so our incomes have to last longer.” According to U.S. Census Bureau statistics the gap for African Americans men have an average life expectancy of 69.8 years compared to 75.7 years for black women.

A recent Merrill Lynch investment study conducted in partnership with Age Wave, finds that the average woman is likely to have higher health costs than the average man in retirement – paying an additional $195,000 on average due to living longer and having to rely on formal long-term care in later years.

Age Wave is the nation’s foremost thought leader on population aging and its profound business, social, financial, healthcare, workforce, and cultural implications.

“I’m really exceptionally proud of the Bank of America Merrill Lynch study,” said Guyton. “It reinforces the need for the discussion between women, especially women of color. “There are still some taboo around the money conversation, particularly for women.”

The landmark study entitled, ‘Women and Financial Wellness: Beyond the Bottom Line” examines the financial challenges women face throughout their lives.

Beyond the gender and racial pay gaps (black women earn about 65 cents on the dollar compared to white male counterparts), even college-educated black women who make a median income of $50,000 are increasingly seeking ways to shift the needle toward economic equity and financial security.

“What women really need to do more of is invest, but we need to know more about what we’re investing in,” says Guyton who as a senior banking executive of color is heavily involved with mentoring young women in finance careers.  “Women’s earning power has increased by 35 percent since the 1970’s, however women don’t talk about income as much as men. We talk about health, we talk about parents and we talk about children … a lot of people depend on us,” says Guyton, adding, “but we all have to take a hard look at how we spend money … and find trusted and objective advice about what we should be doing right now.”

Lorna Sabbia, head of Retirement and Personal Wealth Solutions for Bank of America Merrill Lynch supports Guyton’s assessment. “Women are at a tipping point to achieve greater financial empowerment and independence … This includes encouraging women to invest more of their assets, save earlier for retirement and pursue financial solutions that closely align to their personal values and life paths.”

Guyton points out that the reluctance to delve into investment scenarios has in large part been due to the types of finance and savings products available to women in the past. “One of the things that I highlighted in the study is that some of this is because the traditional tools in the industry over the last few decades, have been designed around men’s earnings and men’s projected retirement ages and life spans. Consequently, women didn’t identify with products made available … but that is very quickly evolving.” Guyton adds that 50 percent of the workforce at her Bank of America office are women, 40 percent of management team are women and 30 percent of the board of directors are women.

The Merrill Lynch study also found that although women are confident in most financial tasks, such as paying bills and budgeting, when it comes to managing investments their confidence drops significantly. Only about half of women surveyed say they are confident in managing investments. Millennial women were the least confident and of women who do invest, their financial confidence soars; 77 percent of women who invest feel they will be able to accumulate enough money to support themselves for life.

“I have been with Bank of America for 35 years, and had I made some different decisions, I would be closer to retiring more comfortably than I am now,” Guyton confided. “Women make time for everything and everyone else, except securing themselves and their futures financially … we’re so busy working and taking care of family and being involved in the community, we look up and realize we haven’t set financial priorities or done [enough] financial planning.”

The difference between men and women’s financial resources across their lifetimes, including earnings, investments, retirement savings and additional assets. This wealth gap can translate to a woman at retirement age having accumulated as much as $1,055,000 less than her male counterparts.

Absent higher-earning husbands or partners in the household to lessen the sting of lower pay black women are faced with identifying and taking immediate action to stretch their earnings.”

“We all need to make more of an effort to engage each other in discussions about money and financial priorities. Someone will hear you,” Guyton concluded.

Bank of America financial planning advisors specialize in goals-based wealth management, including planning for retirement, education, legacy, and other life goals through investment, cash and credit management.

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