Do you consider yourself an investor? If you’re a woman, the answer is probably “no.”
Even women who easily manage their budget often are reluctant to embrace the idea of investing in the financial markets. But it’s probably even more important for women than men that they harness their money to the power of those markets.
Here’s why: A confluence of factors is leading to a chasm in the amount of retirement income women have compared with men. Thanks in part to the gender wage gap and lower average Social Security benefits, plus smaller retirement-account balances, the median annual income of women 65 and older is 42% lower than men’s, according to a study by financial-services firm Prudential Financial Inc. The study is based on several data sources, including the U.S. Census and the Social Security Administration.
The retirement-income gap is compounded, at least partly, because women often hesitate to embrace investing. And one reason for that is generally women want to feel completely knowledgeable before deciding on anything, whereas men tend to feel more comfortable winging it, according to an analysis of over 30 studies, cited by Prudential.
Thus, for a lot of women, if they don’t feel they really know about investing, they’ll stay on the sidelines. Combine that desire for more knowledge with a lack of time—women spend an average of 28 hours a week on unpaid work, which is 65% higher than men’s average, according to Prudential— and the result is women failing to invest.
“When it comes to investing, women’s shortage of time, combined with their desire for more information in decision-making, may fuel procrastination, lower engagement, and reduced confidence,” according to the Prudential study.
Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that even though the vast majority of married couples surveyed said they share financial decision-making, fully half of those couples also said that investing is the husband’s province, according to a survey by financial-services firm UBS, cited by financial adviser Alice Finn in her new book, “Smart Women Love Money.” Finn is founder and chief executive of PowerHouse Assets, in Concord, Mass.
Yet there is no sexism or gender bias preventing women from investing, Finn notes.
“It might be a long time before we close the gender wage gap or pass legislation to guarantee paid maternity leave,” Finn writes, “But you don’t need to wait for anyone else’s consent before you get more engaged in your financial future.”
Finn also cites a Stash Invest survey that found that 60% of millennial women don’t see themselves as investors. “In actuality, an investor is anyone who puts money to work hoping to get a financial return,” she writes.
Who among us doesn’t want our money to work for us? Too often I’ve heard women say that “personal finance is boring” or “investing is too complicated.” But having the money to reach our goals in life is not boring, and investing is definitely not complicated. So why not let the financial markets help us build our wealth, even as we spend most of our time enjoying our lives, careers, families, and adventures?
Whether you’re trying to save through a 401(k) or other retirement plan at work, have a lump sum that you want to invest for the long-term, or are thinking that you’ve got $100 you could spare every month to invest for retirement, now’s the time to embrace the power of investing.
Below is a brief rundown of how to start investing, culled from Finn’s book as well as a free investing guide produced by Ellevest, an online financial adviser (look for the guide on Ellevest’s website, under the Resources tab).
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