January 14, 2014
Men and women talk very differently about how they invest, but “actions speak louder than words.” Are their portfolios as different as you would think based on how the media portrays it? Is a woman's financial style really that different from a man's? I have been doing research on financial literacy and investing for almost five years now, and my research focus has been women – particularly smart women, so that we can tap into their collective wisdom and pass along important messages. When it comes to learning about financial matters, most women don’t watch a lot of financial news on TV, they don’t take financial courses, and they don’t spend as much time talking about their winner and losers. Women are more interested in learning about financial matters by reading or listening to real stories from real people. They then share those lessons with the next generation or friends. Relationships and family life are central. While women may not feel the need to talk about their stock picks, they do care deeply about investing and their financial futures. On the other hand, some men I know love watching TV stations with ‘talking heads’, whether Jim Cramer on CNN or Canada’s Kevin O’Leary. Maybe money talk has the same feel as sports talk in a way. Not all men are like that, and maybe not even 25%, but enough that we can be excused for thinking that men are from investing Mars, and women from a different planet. The confusion around gender and investing occurs because we fail to separate how the genders learn and how they communicate about investing. All I have to do is take a look at the portfolios of men and women I know. I see more or less the same percentage weightings in the various asset classes and the same types of security selections, and the same returns. This is true of my own clients, but it also includes the hundreds of portfolios from prospective clients I have reviewed over the years. I would argue that most differences in investment portfolios reflect investor personality more than gender. For example, you have type A or B people; aggressive versus conservative clients; and investors who want to know the details of their portfolio, and others who don’t care. In my experience, women and men are well-represented in all of these categories. A traditional female may be a bit demure or self-deprecating when she is asked about her financial accomplishments. A traditional male may be very vocal about his investing success. But their investment portfolios and returns will likely be quite similar.