It’s estimated that women lose close to £1m over the course of their lives because they are less likely to invest their money. This is a fact that is particularly hard to swallow given that when they do so, women tend to outperform men. Tamara Gillan, Founder and CEO of the WealthiHer network, shines a light on this dichotomy.
Many of us will have grown up in a world where being told that we ‘throw like a girl’ was regarded as an insult. The same sentiment sadly applies to running money, too.
But, investing like a girl can, quite literally, pay dividends. Warren Buffett, the sixth-wealthiest person in the world, reportedly uses a more ‘feminine’ approach to investing. But what exactly does this look like?
Traditionally, women were described as risk-averse, but they are actually risk-aware. Women are more considered and prefer fact-based, well-researched strategies. We also prefer to invest over a longer period, a way of thinking favoured by Buffett, who once said: ‘Calling someone who trades actively in the market an investor is like calling someone who repeatedly engages in one-night stands a romantic’.
Ultimately, despite how they are often depicted, women are quite unemotional, as well as steadfast, when they invest.
In contrast, we often hear from advisers that men experience heightened concern around their investments, potentially because they err on the side of short term and high risk. As a result, women tend to outperform men by 40 basis points, or 0.4%, a positive margin that can translate into tens of thousands of pounds over time.
Despite all of this, women aged between 21 and 53 are thought to have half the amount set aside for funding investments than men in the same age group. It is also estimated that their investable wealth will continue to grow more rapidly than men’s.
‘Official figures show that women are excellent savers, and our own research found that women have a lot of financial power, with 77% of respondents saying they manage their household’s everyday finances, and 68% feel confident doing so, says Amy Pethers (pictured below), a wealth adviser at RBC Brewin Dolphin.
‘But when it comes to investing, we know that women lag behind their male peers. Rather than trying to grow their money, women are far more likely to leave it in cash savings, thereby running the risk of diminished long-term returns and difficulty reaching financial goals.
‘All of this is why part of our mission is to help women understand that investing ensures their money is working as hard as it should be, and empower them to take their first steps into this world.’
Generally speaking, women earn less and live longer. Yet more often than not, they have much smaller pensions than men – around a third of the size on average. For all of these reasons, we need to find new ways to make our money work harder, and not shy away from what can prove to be a powerful way of protecting and growing wealth.
It’s not just women that are losing out either, it’s thought that fund managers miss out on more than $3tn (£2.85tn) a year by overlooking women. This doesn’t come as a huge surprise: a whopping 86% of asset managers admit their default customer is a man.
Engaging with women and encouraging them to invest would benefit the economy, too. A 2022 BNY Mellon Investment Management study calculated that if women invested at the same rate as men, there could be more than $3.22tn of additional capital to invest globally – this includes $1.87tn towards sustainable and impact investing. This sentiment is further underlined by the fact that 89% of women in the UK want to engage with and invest in sustainable and socially responsible investments and institutions.
So, what is it that is preventing women from getting involved? Buffett maintains that it’s temperament, not intellect, that makes someone a good investor. But ironically, it’s a self-perceived lack of understanding that puts many women off. Three-quarters think investing is confusing, which has led to them keeping almost 70% of their portfolios in cash. Many only invest if they earn at least $50,000 a year and 70% admit that they are not ‘financially confident’.
What can be done to make amends and encourage women to see the benefits of investing and believe in their ability to do so? At present, women report feeling patronised and ‘sold to’ when it comes to seeking information about investing.
What’s more, according to WealthiHer research, younger women are more likely to invest for specific goals. As such, two-thirds of young women would prefer to see more of a focus on what wealth and investing enable in life, compared with substantially less by men of the same age.
Research tells us that women would like to see more female advisers, and younger ones too, and that they identify honesty, knowledge, and transparency as the top values sought in both financial institutions and those who work for them. And women of all ages and stages also want less jargon, and to be communicated with, as opposed to being talked at.
In 2018, a study from the University of Michigan concluded that there are key differences in how boys and girls throw, run, jump or dribble a ball. The reason behind this is that many children – mainly women –aren’t taught (or don’t learn) some of these basic motor skills. Education, not competency, is the missing piece of the puzzle.
Let’s commit to helping the next generation see past the mental barriers to entry when it comes to investing. Let’s teach each of them the words of Buffett: that someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.