Women & Investing: A Fresh Perspective

New thinking on the skills and insights that women bring to managing their finances could benefit all investors.

Much has been written about the differences between male and female investors, with headlines often implying that women are less confident about investing than are men. They're too risk-averse, the story goes, and most would prefer to have their male partners or spouses manage the family's investments. In reality, women are on average just as proficient at investing as men, explains Kathleen Burns Kingsbury, an expert in wealth psychology and the author of How to Give Financial Advice to Women. They just approach investing a little differently, she says.

Of course, you can't pigeonhole investors (or anyone else) based on gender. Still, there are some characteristics that women investors appear to share that all investors can use to their advantage.

Play to Your Strengths
Discipline is one of those feminine traits, says Nikki Reynolds, Asset Management Portfolio Manager with Regions Asset Management. "One thing I've learned from my clients is that it's usually the women who will write out the to-do list in the morning or draw up the monthly budget," she says. Women are also more likely to make consistent contributions to their long-term investment plans, while men tend to contribute in lump sums, Reynolds notes. Consistency in saving and discipline in investing are keys to long-term investment performance, she adds.

Another quality that contributes to investment success: "Women tend to ask a lot of questions before investing, and they thoroughly think through their investment decisions," Kingsbury says. "Then they tend to stay the course."

That means women are less likely to jump in and out of the market, racking up transaction fees, or to panic when there's a correction, locking in losses. In other words, many women possess the qualities that lead to long-term investment success, Kingsbury says.

A Broader Perspective
"Here at Regions, we've long been aware that how and why women invest is usually different from their male counterparts," says Leslie Carter-Prall, Head of Regions Private Wealth Management. "Women tend to look at wealth within the context of their family and the goals they have for their family," she says. "That's the primary driver of their approach to wealth and wealth management." With a long-term, goal-oriented view of investing, a portfolio can be built on enduring strategies that can weather the ups and downs of short-term market contractions and corrections, Carter-Prall adds.

Risk-Aware vs. Risk-Averse
And what about the myth that women are overly conservative investors? Kingsbury says many women may simply be more aware of the risks they're taking on. Research suggests that women take a longer view and use a holistic approach to calculating risk. "Whether it's in business or investing, women will look at their family situation and their personal goals, and they'll think about how taking this specific risk at this particular time will impact those goals," Kingsbury says.

While discussing with couples the risks and rewards of certain investments, Reynolds sees that men tend to focus more on the upside potential, while women are more concerned about the downside risk. In that situation, it's not a question of who's right and who's wrong, she says. The key is to find the right balance of risk and reward to meet the needs of both partners.

Taking Control
With all of these positive traits, why are many women still insecure about their investing abilities? Kingsbury points to tradition. "For generations, women were taught that men should manage the family finances," she says. As a result, the financial services industry has been slow to recognize the differences in how women think about money and investing, Kingsbury says. In fact, a Boston Consulting Group survey found that 55% of respondents felt wealth managers could do a better job of meeting the needs of female clients.

But it's also up to women to take their seat at the table, Carter-Prall says. "There's a bit of a mystique that you have to know everything about investing before getting started," Carter-Prall says. "That's not true. The key is understanding what you can control and what you can't." To that end, Regions is redoubling its commitment to providing the resources and insights women need to make financial decisions that fit their lives. "Our HerVision HerLegacy Initiative is a comprehensive effort within Regions Private Wealth Management that we hope will empower women to define a financial vision so they can control their financial legacies," Carter-Prall explains.

"The fact that more than half of our Wealth Advisors are women sends a strong signal," says Carter-Prall, "but even without that, women should feel confident about the strengths they bring to investing. We just want to support and amplify that."

At every stage of your life, there are steps that you can take to start gaining confidence and taking control of your investments.

Starting Out: When you're in your 20s and 30s, the most important thing is to just get started. If your employer offers a retirement plan, learn about the investment options and then start building your portfolio to get a feel for how markets work. Time is your ally, so don't worry about what you don't know. You can refine your portfolio as you go.

Mid-Career: Women in their 40s and 50s should be actively involved in managing the family's finances. Educate yourself on what the family asset levels, investment selections and investment goals are, says Carter-Prall. Start meeting with the family's Wealth Advisor. Also, given that women tend to live longer than men, you need to ensure that your assets will cover your full life span.

Retirement and Beyond: Because of their longer life expectancy, most women will eventually be responsible for managing their own or their family's finances. So establish a rapport with your Wealth Advisor now, and seek advice from women who have more investing experience than you.

"You don't have to be an expert market timer or stock picker," Carter-Prall says. "The right plan and the right advisor will give you the confidence and comfort you need to make the best investment decisions for your goals."


This information is general in nature and is provided for educational purposes only. Information provided and statements made by employees of Regions should not be relied on or interpreted as accounting, financial planning, investment, legal, or tax advice. Regions encourages you to consult a professional for advice applicable to your specific situation. Information provided and statements made by individuals who are not employees of Regions are the views, opinions, or positions of the individual who made the statement and do not necessarily reflect the policies, views, opinions, and positions of Regions. Regions makes no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, timeliness, suitability, or validity of any information presented.