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The Great Wealth Transfer: What It Means For Women And For The World

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David M. Brenner, ChFC®, CLU®

D. M. Brenner, Inc.
Phone : (858) 345-1001
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It’s no secret that money is power, and 2023 was dubbed The Year Of The Woman because a number of high-powered women left a mark on our culture and drove economic growth. The most notable is Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour that not only delivered joy and created earthquakes, but also boosted the U.S. economy by nearly $6 billion. From Beyoncé’s Renaissance World Tour driving economic growth for local businesses in what’s being called the “Beyoncé Bump” to “Barbie” scoring the spot as the highest grossing film of the year, these activations illustrate how women are a powerful economic force.

At the same time, a large economic shift is currently underfoot that will put more money in the hands of a greater number of women than ever before: A recent Washington Post article reports that the $30 trillion in Baby Boomer wealth will largely be controlled by women, which is close to the equivalent of the annual U.S. GDP. Being dubbed “The Great Wealth Transfer,” this will not only impact women’s lives, but our society at large.



What More Money In The Hands Of Women Could Mean For The World

One impact on society may be in part due to the fact that research shows some gender differences in how money is wielded. Some studies find that women in general tend to be more altruistic than men. For example, one study found the feel-good hormone dopamine increased in women’s brains when sharing reward money, while it increased for men when keeping the reward money for themselves.

This of course doesn’t apply to all women, but it is being illustrated by some prominent high-net worth women donating unprecedented amounts of their wealth, from MacKenzie Scott to Laurene Powell Jobs to Melinda French Gates.

Then there are lesser-known women also creating examples of how women give, such as Ruth Gottesman, former professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, who donated $1 billion to the school to offer all students free tuition in perpetuity. “The Einstein gift, which came from a 93-year-old woman named Ruth Gottesman, is remarkable not only for its size but also for the absence of any apparent vanity surrounding it,” wrote Ginia Bellafante in The New York Times.

“When we look at a society where women have more of the power and more of the money, we're looking at a more inclusive and equitable society,” says Tori Dunlap, founder of Her First $100K and author of Financial Feminist. “There is this element of baked-in altruism. As women, we have been told to be selfless and to think of others first. This weaponization of altruism that happens when women start getting money can harm us in really significant ways in terms of us not advocating for ourselves [or our needs] as much as we should. And then this beautiful thing also happens with that altruism where we are focused on the communal good versus an individual good. If this wealth transfer to women does happen, I think the world will be significantly impacted by it.”

Tori Dunlap, founder of Her First $100K and author of Financial Feminist


Dunlap says she hopes that women in general will be prepared for accumulating more wealth with tools to help them first and foremost take care of their own financial houses, such as arming themselves with financial knowledge and mapping out their plan. “Because altruism only works if you yourself are fed and taken care of,” she says.

This means not only donating money, but investing it. When it comes to investing their money, women may also be more likely to put it towards companies that do good. Investing for impact is rated a top five money priority for women across generations who receive a financial windfall, according to The Ellevest Women and Wealth Survey 2024: Great Wealth Transfer survey.

One Woman’s Path To Financial Freedom

Nancy Tsuei, 46, a single mother who lives in New York City, is a prime example of a woman who has intentionally built financial freedom for herself so that she could leverage that financial freedom to also give back.

After spending 20 years leading public companies focused on the home industry, such as West Elm, and helping to create billions of dollars in revenue, she says she is now at a phase in her career where she is “devoted to being in service of others and empowering leaders to create meaningful value in the world,” such as by using her experience and knowledge to help women founders navigate a complex business landscape. Reaching this phase did not come without some sacrifices, smart money moves, and hard work.

Tsuei’s upbringing greatly shaped her money story: Tsuei shares how her parents were born in China, but immigrated to Taiwan to escape the Chinese Communist Revolution. Her father got a scholarship to the prestigious California Institute of Technology, and the people in his village pooled their money to buy him a one-way ticket on a cargo ship to America. He arrived with about $5 in his pocket. After getting established, he sent for his wife to join him.

“My father is now a world-famous quantum physicist, so clearly it was the right decision for him to pursue his education,” says Tsuei. “However, I think we can mostly conclude that scientists do not make a lot of money in America.”

As a result, Tsuei says that after her mother learned English from watching “Sesame Street” and “All My Children,” she started to dig into the family’s limited finances. “I'm talking about not having the ability to buy fish or meat on a regular basis. Never was there a brand name food in our home,” says Tsuei.

So her mother looked to other ways to create an income stream for their family. Tsuei says, one penny at a time, her mother stocked away money to be able to buy a property, and then use the property for rental income. The whole family learned how to paint the walls, sew the curtains, and participated in the renovations.

“First my parents started with a tiny condo that wasn't very expensive,” says Tsuei. “They taught themselves how to fix it up, and then sold that condo to make a profit. With the profit, they bought another small house. Eventually, they probably accumulated six properties. The properties appreciated, and they continued to rent them out.”

Tsuei says they were making as much money in profit from their rental incomes as her father was making from his salary. “Now that journey took 20 years to see anything significant, but fundamentally it helped my parents and our family achieve what they had set out to: Sending their children to university without a loan so we wouldn’t start out in the workforce in debt,” says Tsuei. “That has greatly shaped my view on why I think wealth is critical to have freedom in your life. Money is the freedom to make your choices for the betterment of your life, even if you started at a disadvantage.”

Her parents set her up for financial success early on by covering the down payment for an apartment in a gentrifying area of Tribeca in New York City, which today has appreciated in value, while she covered the mortgage payments. Tsuei herself eventually invested in more real estate in other up-and-coming neighborhoods by saving any bonuses she received at her full-time jobs to pay for down payments, setting herself up for additional income streams. Today she has four investment properties in New York that she rents out.

Tsuei correlates financial freedom to women’s freedom, and says it was critical for her to be able to leave a marriage five years ago and financially support her then-toddler daughter.

“I am not unaware that many women are in relationships that they don't want to be in,” she says. “But I would guess that a significant number of women do not have the power to walk out the door—or walk out the door safely—or be in control of the terms and how they want to separate. It's not just about the process of divorce. It's a process of getting on the pathway in which you are in control of your own happiness, in your own purpose, and giving yourself the space to be able to figure that out.”

Financial Empowerment Equals Women’s Empowerment

Financial empowerment is linked to gender equity because it gives women the ability to control their future across different aspects of their lives. A large part of gender inequities are related to the fact that women have faced greater barriers than men when it comes to accumulating wealth.

The gender and racial wage gap can cost women up to $1 million over the course of a 40-year career. The motherhood penalty means that mothers’ wages decrease an average of 4% for each child they have, while fathers’ wages increase 6% for each child. (Gender norms and stereotypes linked to expectations that women be the primary caregivers also impacts the number of women in the workforce and the economy at large). There is also the gender wealth gap, which shows women have less overall, such as less savings, investments, and assets. Women founders receive only 2% of VC funding. These wealth gaps widen for women of color.

“Financial freedom means choices. It means options. I want every single woman to have the ability to leave situations she doesn't want to be in and put herself into situations she wants to be in,” says Dunlap. “Something that encompasses this perfectly is that 99% of abusive relationships have some sort of financial abuse tied to them. When you hear a stat like that, it's so clear to me that money is power and control and can be used to completely transform somebody's life. And the feeling that I have that I want for every single person on this planet, and really every single woman, is the ability to take a vacation, to quit a job, to start a business, to donate to causes she believes in, to support her community, to not only change her life, but to change the world around her.”

How To Better Advocate For Yourself

Systemic issues like racism and sexism create barriers for women’s financial independence. Yet, recognizing these challenges is one part of the pathways to begin to overcome them.

“The statistics show there's a problem, and it's not getting any better, “ says Jennifer Justice, a lawyer and CEO of The Justice Department, a consulting and law firm whose mission is to help women and diverse leaders make more money, and whose past clients include Beyoncé and Jay Z.

“I'm so tired of hearing, ‘Oh, women used to get only 2% of VC funding, but this year it’s increased to 2.5%.’ That .5% does nothing. The fact that our salaries are not going to be equal for another 200 years is ridiculous. The fact that there continues to be only 10% or so women CEOs in the Fortune 500 shows that nothing is changing. The only way it's going to change is if we make it change. Make sure you advocate for yourself, and also be intentional about working with women-owned businesses, because where you spend your money matters.”

Justice says if she could tell women one thing about finances, it’s that, “We're all under paid. We all deserve to be paid equal, if not more.”

Since some women may feel more comfortable advocating for others than for themselves (which makes sense given that studies show women who self-advocate are perceived as less likable as compared to men), Justice’s advice is to think about something you love more than anything to give you the confidence to push back.

“If people are underpaying me or disrespecting me, I tell myself they're not only doing that to me, but to my kids,” says Justice. “Because my work takes time away from my kids, and if someone wants to underpay me, then they're disrespecting my kids and I will do anything for them. Sometimes keeping that in mind is what it takes for me to get that confidence.”

Normalizing Money Conversations

Syama Bunten, 40, who lives in San Francisco, is making it her mission to help women get more comfortable sharing their money stories with a soon-to-be-launched podcast called “Getting Rich Together.”

Bunten is an entrepreneur who started out working in fashion for brands such as Barneys and Gucci, and today is the founder of Scaling Retail, a consultancy firm that helps retail companies launch and scale.

She says that as her business grew, there were two money moves she would make: She would increase her donations to charity, and she would invest some of that money in an effort to continue to grow her wealth. She says she took classes on investing and started to ask others how they were investing in an effort to learn.

“I was fascinated with money and power because I didn't have much money growing up,” says Bunten. “I became interested in investing, because I knew I wasn't going to inherit anything. I had friends whose families could support them in times of crisis, and I knew I was going to have to create that for myself.”

Bunten’s advice to women who are embarking on their own investing journey is to realize that money is personal, and your investments won’t look the same as others.

“Your money will look different than your best friend’s, your mother’s, your aunt’s, or your colleague’s, because everyone has different values, goals, and levels of risk tolerance,” she says. “If you ever feel a sense of FoMo, you shouldn't invest. If you ever feel a sense of anxiety about a particular investment; don't do it. The very first step is to establish what your baseline of security looks like. My baseline is having at least a years’ worth of salary accessible in a semi-liquid account, like the stock market. Identifying what security means to you is important, because then you can take incremental levels of risk.”

Only time will tell how putting more money in the hands of women will impact the world. “Women are 51% of the population, but we've never had equal control of capitalism in a capitalist society. So we've never seen conscious capitalism,” says Justice. “We can’t know for sure, but I am willing to bet—and the only way to prove me wrong is to give women half of the money and see what happens—and I guarantee you the world will be a much better place.”

© 2024 Forbes Media LLC. All Rights Reserved

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David M. Brenner profile photo

David M. Brenner, ChFC®, CLU®

D. M. Brenner, Inc.
Phone : (858) 345-1001
Schedule a Meeting