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Report Shows Gender Disparity on Financial Outlook

Nearly everyone has an opinion about where the economy and their personal finances are heading, but a new study shows that men and women have very different outlooks.

Citi recently commissioned a study - conducted by Hart Research Associates - which reveals that woman have a more optimistic outlook on economic recovery and their personal finances than men. While the percentage of women who are somewhat or very confident that the economy will improve over the next 12 months held steady at 66 percent, those who said they are very optimistic rose 19 percent. Men, in contrast, who report being somewhat or very optimistic declined four percentage points, dropping to 62 percent.

But despite a rise in positive sentiment, women appear to be more concerned about their current debt situation. Twenty-one percent said they were somewhat concerned about their current debt and 15 percent reported being very concerned - a 6 percent increase.

According to the female participants, medical debt was the number one concern - with 12 percent reporting being stressed out by their current health bills. Ten percent said credit card debt was their primary concern, while mortgage debt and student loans both came in equally at 5 percent.

"Women make the majority of the household purchasing decisions so they may be dealing with the increased stress of managing debt for their households during the economic downturn," said Lisa Caputo, Citi Women and Co. chairwoman and CEO. "It's encouraging that they are steadfastly focused on building their financial security for themselves and their families."

The survey also shows that women are making saving for unexpected needs and emergencies a priority as they work to improve their financial condition. Taking measures to prepare for unexpected emergencies is instrumental in protecting consumers from debt that could result in bankruptcy and a steep decline in their credit score.

Citing a recent Harvard study, Investopedia reports that 62 percent of personal bankruptcies are the result of medical expenses and emergencies. Bankruptcies can be especially damaging to an individual's creditworthiness because they remain on their credit report for seven to ten years, preventing them from securing financing and competitive rates. Consumers facing debt may benefit from consulting with a credit counseling agency which may help them establish a budget and repayment plan.