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Perspective

Women – Don’t Doubt Your Financial Prowess

Jane Mancini | State Street Corporation

July 26,2018

Not everyone has the luxury of an employer-sponsored 401k.

But for those who do, taking an active role in its management is more than just your right - it’s your responsibility!

I spent years as a financial advisor before coming to State Street, and I don’t believe that the “set it and forget it” model is how anyone, especially women, should manage their retirement accounts. Even though I am no longer providing financial advice, every year I still send my women friends a reminder to check the performance of their retirement accounts, pay close attention to their fees and – if possible – increase their contribution amount.

Unfortunately most women don’t manage their retirement assets or investments as closely as they should to ensure long-term financial success. The reasons vary, but it often boils down to confidence. A New York Times article states, “Many women are struggling to feel in control of their finances, given certain hurdles of their own. (Knowledge gaps + anxiety = shame.) Seventy-seven percent of women want to be involved in the day-to-day decisions about their investments…yet 72% say they ‘know less than the average investor’ about investing in general.”

Cathleen Stahl, CMO of PIMCO, agrees. “I worry our female clients aren’t as active as they could be when it comes to managing their finances. If you don’t have the information to make the best decisions, it’s hard to confidently and proactively plan for your financial future. We have to make educating ourselves a priority.”

We women have the ability to manage, and even outperform our male counterparts, when it comes to our investments.

Interestingly, this confidence gap only seems to apply to individual investments. When it comes to managing the family finances, women make the majority of the decisions. Pew Research found that “By a ratio of nearly two-to-one, women say that they (45%) rather than their partner (23%) manage the money in the household… in families in which one person makes most of these decisions, it’s the woman and not the man who has the last word when purchasing big-ticket items for the home (30% vs. 19%).” When I worked as an advisor, if I was dealing with a couple either the husband or the wife (not both) did the majority of the talking, and I’d say it was half the time for each.. But if I was meeting with a single woman she often ceded all the expertise to me. Single men, on the other hand, made me prove to them I knew what I was talking about. The men were almost always overconfident in their ability to maintain their lifestyle post-retirement. The women seemed more concerned with their long-term security.

What’s even more interesting is that even though women seem to be less confident in their knowledge and abilities, we actually make better financial decisions in the long run. As The New York Times reported, women are less prone to risky behavior and, unlike men, they’re more likely to fess up to their own ignorance. Forbes echoed this by writing “women put a bit more emphasis than men on defensive strategies that help protect their portfolios against losses.” It’s one of the many reasons why having more women in finance, as both investors and advisors, would be better for everyone.

So why are women comfortable making budgetary decisions for their families, but less so about their investment decisions? Perhaps the industry is partially to blame.

As Cathleen stated, “I don’t know if the financial services industry is built for how women think. Demographic factors impact women in unique ways, and there are acute challenges when it comes to our long-term financial security.” The Harvard Business Review was touting this issue way back in 2009 where it reported, “…Private wealth in the United States is expected to grow from some $14 trillion today to $22 trillion by 2020, and 50% of it will be in the hands of women. Yet women are still continually let down by the level of quality and service they get from financial companies, which presume men to be their target customers.” I remember seeing research that showed that in most families, the person responsible for managing the parents’ assets was often the oldest daughter. Even if she wasn’t the oldest child, she was the one responsible for the finances. By failing to build services and solutions that cater to the unique needs and perspectives of women investors, our industry has inadvertently told women they are the ones lacking. In reality, our industry is the one that needs to learn something.

As the aforementioned Forbes article pointed out, “Women’s often-expressed lack of financial confidence about investing largely reflects their inexperience – but that shouldn’t be confused with a lack of prowess.” We women have the ability to manage our financial futures. We are already responsible for a significant percentage of the money being spent and saved every day, both as consumers and as stewards of our family finances, that we can’t let fear of making the “wrong” choice hold us back from actively managing our individual investments.

So women, don’t doubt yourselves. When it comes to managing money you’ve already got everything you need to succeed. Ask questions. Get involved. Just get in the habit of logging into your accounts on a regular basis. Consistency leads to comfort which leads to confidence. So go take control of your financial future.

1. Dunleavy, M. (July 12). Women to Wall Street: Are You Listening? The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/13/business/mutfund/women-to-wall-street-are-you-listening.html?_r=2

2. Women Call the Shots at Home; Public Mixed on Gender Roles in Jobs. (2008, September 25). Retrieved from http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2008/09/25/women-call-the-shots-at-home-public-mixed-on-gender-roles-in-jobs/

3. Siegel Bernard, T. (2010, April 23). Financial Advice by Women for Women. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/24/your-money/24money.html

4. Harris, D. (2017, November 15). Women Investors Get A Bad Rap. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2017/11/15/women-investors-get-a-bad-rap/#17efb7c43828

5. Silverstein, M. J., & Sayre, K. (n.d.). The Female Economy. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2009/09/the-female-economy

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Topics: Gender Wage Gap


Jane Mancini | State Street Corporation

Jane Mancini is a Senior Vice President within State Street’s Asset Manager Sector Solutions team. In this role, Jane manages a team of professionals that provide a multitude of solutions to Asset Managers throughout North America.