Women and Wealth

Mar. 11, 2021

With Women’s History Month in full swing, we take a look at how women invest, what’s important to them, and how they are achieving success.

Women think about money differently, invest it differently, and spend it differently. While motivations vary from person-to-person, as a whole, female investors have several preferences that make them distinctly different from men. The differences between male and female investors are many, and we list some of the most striking ones below.

More women control the family wallet.

Women have been responsible for the majority of consumer purchases for many years, but the number becomes more staggering as their wealth grows. They now influence or control 70-80% of consumer purchases and are responsible for some of the largest retail trends. Their influence extends beyond day-to-day purchases. From an income perspective, women are already the primary breadwinners in 40% of US households. They’re not just spending the family money, they’re earning it, too. These staggering sums makes women’s wealth management needs larger than many in the industry are expecting. More and more wealth managers should be drawing women into conversations about family finances.

Women tend to be more risk averse.

Women statistically play it safer than men. They are less likely to run yellow lights, more likely to wear their seat belts, and get their blood pressure checked. It’s no surprise that this prudence extends to their investments. Women keep a full 11% more of their assets in cash than men, and surveys have found that women are more eager to avoid large losses and less inclined to act on incomplete information. This risk aversion is partly due to emotional differences. Men tend to display anger in the face of negative events, while women are more likely to react with fear. This ‘lens of fear’ contributes to uncertainty, and it may lead female investors to be more conservative.

When women do invest, they tend to perform better.

Studies have shown that female investors often outperform their male peers. The average male investor tends to be more confident and trade more often, whereas women are more likely to buy and hold. It has been shown that for the vast majority of investors, long-term investing is more effective than short-term trading. Even among professional investors, diverse perspectives can be the difference between outperformance or missing your benchmark. Having a diverse team can help investors recognize trends and insights that are likely to otherwise go unnoticed.

Charity is more important to women.

Women are far more giving then men. They are two times more likely to name charitable giving as the most fulfilling aspect of their wealth. 68% of women consider themselves very involved in charitable giving. This can take the form of donating, fundraising efforts, sitting on boards, or helping plan larger non-profit and charity events. Not only do they contribute monetarily, but they also contribute their time. The non-profit sector is largely made up of female staff, but men are still overrepresented in leadership roles. In the US, women comprise 75% of the workforce in the non-profit sector, but only 18% hold the position of CEO.

There are more obstacles to building wealth for women.

Women already face unique obstacles in wealth accumulation. The gender wage gap, less access to financial education, and more lengthy and frequent career breaks to care for children or aging parents all conspire to hold women back. Worse still, hesitancy to invest can make the results of this more severe. Per one projection by Ellevest, over the course of a 35-year career, the cost of the investing gap between men and women can add up to a staggering $1 million depending on salary and market performance. Not developing an appropriate investment strategy to make up for this accumulation difference can be devastating.

Women are solving workplace frustration by starting their own businesses.

Four of every ten US businesses are owned by women, and the number continues to grow. Women list a variety of reasons for pursuing business ownership. Among these are a desire to follow a new idea, work for themselves, or leave a difficult work environment. Working for themselves provides women highly desirable flexibility that they often are not afforded at many enterprises, allowing them to create their own schedule. In this way, women can remain a household’s primary or sole breadwinner, without sacrificing on caretaking duties for children or aging parents. Nearly 90% of women will be solely in charge of their own finances at some point in life. We expect that percentage will only go up as women delay marriage, divorce, and often outlive their spouses. It is vital for both men and women alike to be fully aware and in control of their wealth.

You can read more articles like this in our third edition of Prosper, our financial planning magazine. We address a diverse range of topics, including retirement planning, investment themes, estate planning, recent legislation, taxes, and so much more.

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