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What Makes Women Different Investors Than Men?

Last week on MomsMakingaMillion Radio, I spoke about some of the differences between women investors and their male counterparts. I suggested that when these two groups were surveyed, the focus was more about finding a way to get more women investing than it was helping women invest. 

In the business of investing, brokerage houses and the like are always looking for new clients. It is what they do. And even though women have grown as an investor group, men still outnumber women in terms of who invests and who doesn’t. The difference between these two groups is startling which is why these investment firms want to understand how to tap this largely unexploited market.

What makes women different investors than men?

Let’s begin with the experience they receive in childhood. A vast majority of women do not get much in the way of personal finance instruction at home. They may get some money management tips and they might get some advice about where to put money or even how to spend it wisely. But this is different than personal finance.

Personal finance is a whole life approach to money. Most advice these women receive coming up through their childhood focuses on saving money, not investing it and saving money on purchases, not whether there was an actual need for the purchase. Think about this when it comes to your daughters. Do they save money to spend money and when they do, feel good about it when they get a bargain?

While effect, this sort of approach teaches our daughters how to be smart shoppers, how to budget, and possibly how to run a household. And in the process, pigeon-holes them into the role of who does the shopping and who does the investing if they should ever get married or simply share their financial lives with someone. This may not happen all of the time and I’m not suggesting it is right, but in the vast majority of instances, these roles seem to fall naturally in to place. Once this assignment of financial jobs within the household takes place, it becomes difficult to explore what the other partner is doing without seeming like you are stepping on toes.

Most of these studies have found that when women look for financial advice, they go to someone they can trust and in too many instances, the someone they trust isn’t even qualified to handle their own finances let alone dole out advice. Trust isn’t often experience in this instance.

Are women unprepared to approach investing?
Dune Thorne, managing director at Silver Bridge Advisors, an independent wealth manager in Boston discovered this when she attended Harvard Business School. There were plenty of classes to teach students how to handle millions of dollars of other people’s money but nothing on personal finance. And even more troubling, when it came to those classes on investment management, there were far fewer women enrolled.

Women rely on personal relationships – and I have suggested numerous times throughout the years I have been writing about this topic - that we should all find a financial mentor, not for advice so much as someone you can bounce ideas off, someone to hear you talk out loud about a financial idea. But these folks may not be experts. Men seek experts but don’t often listen to differing points of view. Women do.

That’s a big difference. It’s not that women want something different than men, although they do. The bottom line is they want the same products but for different reasons. And they take a different approach to getting them.

Ms. Thorne also found that women like to learn in groups, such as this radio show where a wide swath of women get together and discuss topics that are of interest to them. Men like the one-on-one approach of getting advice.

Key differences
Women approach investing with much longer-range goals and with a much wider orientation on how to use their money. Women think about investing with their children in mind and even how they can be more charitable or philanthropic. Men tend to think more about not outliving their money and invest to that end. Women seek legacy. Men seek more immediate goals.

This is a huge difference in how women and men think about money and the path they take to get there will be different. 

There are steps we can take now to change this from occurring.
Teach your daughters well. Spending and saving (when you do) is often the focus of personal finance for young girls. In part because you have been given control over the daily budgets for groceries and household needs. If you, as a mom are removed from the financial obligations of the house, if your husband or the man in your life has that job, how can you possibly teach your daughters and sons how the whole household works? This meaning that the whole household approach involves investing for the future as well as financing the present.

Educate yourself. In many instances, this is not as hard as it seems but be careful to avoid some of the pitfalls I mentioned earlier. Get with a group of like-minded moms, take a class, or simply read the experts on the subject.

And lastly, identify your goals. If you are like most women, you have them but haven’t really thought about what it would take to achieve them.

I’m not suggesting this should be done at the exclusion of your spouses of partners. In fact, it would be better if it were done with them. But knowing the language of investing, the nuances of what it is, the feelings you have as you approach the future are not always easy to express if you are new at it. Once you possess these skills, you will be able to parse any and all information that you share with greater understanding of not only who you are but where you would like to eventually be.