Imagine a financial advisor. Now, picture an investor. Who do you see? You probably envision a man in a suit and tie when you think of a financial advisor. Perhaps when you think of an investor you picture a man sitting in front of a few monitors, viewing performance charts of various stocks, and executing trades.
More often than not, these assumptions would be correct. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over two-thirds of all financial advisors in the United States are men. A NerdWallet survey in 2021 reported that 66% of men in the U.S. are currently invested in the stock market, while only 48% of women are invested. Though many women are earning income, active in their household finances, or are the primary financial decision maker in their family, there is a large disparity between men and women who are investing. A lack of investing hinders the financial futures of women and limits their ability to create and maintain wealth.
There are three major hurdles women face that prevent them from investing or from investing more, according to a 2021 study by BNY Mellon:
- Few women feel confident about investing. Only one in ten women feel they understand investing fully, and only 28% of women feel confident about investing some money. Financial literacy learning opportunities and even marketing from investment firms is typically aimed towards men. Naturally, women do not have equal confidence as their male counterparts in these areas.
- Women believe they need more disposable income. In the U.S., most women believe they need over $6,000 in disposable income each month before they are ready to start investing. This is unrealistic, as the monthly median household income is $5,625 according to the 2020 census. There is a myth that persists among women that investing is only for high earners.
- They misunderstand the risks. Almost half of women around the world believe that investing is too risky. While there certainly are risks when you are invested in stocks, bonds, real estate, or alternatives, there is also a risk when you don’t invest at all -inflation, which can chew away at your purchasing power.
Investing has a large impact on the life of the individual, the generations of family that may follow, but also society at large. Women, especially young women, invest in companies that have positive social and environmental impacts or align with their personal values at higher rates than men. This means more money is funneled towards businesses that are hard at work inventing ways to meet environmental sustainability goals or make the world a more equitable place. When women invest more, we can expect to see an increase in impact investing and possibly a better world for all.
It is important for women to invest, but what can you do about these issues? If you are a woman or girl and feel held up when it comes to investing, you are in the majority. Here are a few ways to gain confidence in this area:
- Learn the basics of financial literacy. Begin tracking what you earn and what you spend, create a list of your financial goals (retirement, save for a car, have an emergency fund), make savings a habit, and learn about managing debt. There are many online resources to navigate these topics or try talking with a financially healthy friend.
- Start with your company retirement plan. If you have the benefit of an employer-sponsored retirement plan you have an easy way to begin investing. Talk with your HR representative about making contributions to this account directly from your paycheck. It’s okay to start small; even $30 a month can be meaningful over time.
- Chat with a financial advisor. You don’t have to do it alone. Just like investing, access to a financial advisor is not limited to those with a high net worth in most cases. Working with a financial advisor can help demystify investing and simplify your overall financial life. You can even shop around to find a female advisor if that is important to you.
If you already consider yourself an investor, take the opportunity to support the girls and women that are not investors.
Speak about your experiences with investing. Tell others about why you invest, what your financial goals are, and how investing has helped you move towards those goals. Encourage the women in your life that investing is for them, as much as it is for you.
The stereotype of what an investor looks like is changing. Women are just as interested in investing as men, and by making investing more accessible to women and girls we will see a better financial future for women.