Many conversations about women’s empowerment are focused on negotiating salary increases, Ms. Porter said. “But what good does that raise do you if you don’t know what your savings plan is going to be with that little bit of extra money?” she said. “What good does it do to climb that ladder and get that next higher-paying job with better benefits if you don’t take the time to invest that retirement fund correctly?”
Sallie Krawcheck, chief executive and co-founder of Ellevest, an investment platform for women, said millennials might not have realized that if they do not have financial equality, they do not have independence.
“Younger women haven’t had as many hard-won lessons,” she said.
The UBS study has limitations: It did not survey the boomers when they were three decades younger, the age millennials are today, so it is hard to conclude to what extent the differing attitudes are because of age and acquired wisdom versus other changes. And the women surveyed, all of whom had at least a quarter of a million dollars in investable assets, may not be representative of their generation over all.
Erin Lowry, a personal finance adviser and the author of “Broke Millennial,” said one reason boomer women may be more likely to view financial independence as essential for equality was that they have witnessed what can happen without it: Many were raised by mothers who were denied loans or credit cards in their names, she said.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as the director of the A.C.L.U.’s Women’s Rights Project in the 1970s, litigated a string of cases that paved the way for the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974, which prohibited creditors from asking about sex, marital status or the use of birth control.
“I know a lot of millennial women who are feminists, liberated and whatever, who let their husbands handle all the finances,” Ms. Lowry said. “It’s very much still an archetype in heterosexual relationships.”
A graduate student in her 30s said that when she got married several years ago, her husband made most of the money and handled the couple’s long-term finances. That meant he had more say than she did in decisions like where their daughter went to school and where they went on vacation, she said.