Please consider two impressive, verifiable facts about women, finance and investing:
• “Over the next decade, women will control two thirds of consumer wealth in the United States and be the beneficiaries of the largest transference of wealth in our country’s history. Estimates range from $12 to $40 trillion. Many Boomer women will experience a double inheritance windfall, from both parents and husband.” — Claire Behar, Fleishman-Hillard New York
• “If academic enrollment is any indicator, in 25 years women will dominate once male-dominated fields such as law and medicine.” — Author Liza Mundy in the Wall Street Journal
With all the wealth controlled by and being transferred to women, many are just now starting to immerse themselves in the investment process. And statistics show that many more husbands than wives still handle the family investments.
A Wall Street Journal article by Susan Thomas entitled “The Rise of the Female Investor” purports that most women don’t have the time or the inclination to coordinate family investment accounts. “…men are still more likely than women to take the lead with the family financial account,” says Thomas. “According to a recent study … 19 percent of wives said they took control of financial decision making, versus 38 percent of husbands. Among female breadwinners, 20 percent said they were ‘very well prepared’ to make wise financial decisions, compared with 45 percent of their male counterparts.”
Thomas also quotes a recent study that “has found that women differ substantially from men in how they relate to investing. They don’t want to hear about … growth or comparative performance of different funds; they want information about reaching their long-term goals, like putting a kid through college.”
Having advised male and female investors both singularly and as couples for 18 years, I think it’s difficult to generalize or stereotype. Each investor is different, regardless of gender.
That said, it seems certain that by necessity women are becoming and will become more familiar with investing. And it’s certainly preferable that women engage the process prior to the passing of a spouse, especially one who handled all family finances. Many husbands will establish a relationship with a trusted investment advisor for the express purpose of easing the financial transition for their spouse if the husband passes away first.
Some statistical studies show that women are more risk averse than men. Ironically, the biggest single determinant of risk tolerance that I experience as an advisor is not gender, but age. Both genders generally exhibit less risk tolerance as they grow older, as they have less time to make up for drastic market downturns. This age-based diminished risk tolerance is not always applicable, of course, as each investor is different, but generally age and not gender has had a greater impact on risk aversion.
Margaret R. McDowell, ChFC, AIF, a syndicated economic columnist, chartered financial consultant and accredited investment fiduciary, is the founder of Arbor Wealth Management, LLC, (850-608-6121~www.arborwealth.net), a fee-only registered investment advisory firm located near Sandestin.