Women and Money: A Powerful Combination

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    Mellody Hobson talks women and money in today’s “Money Mondays” segment.

    I’m happy to say that I’m the bearer of good news. It turns out that while the recession put most people off track when it comes to saving and investing, it may have had the opposite affect on women—pushing them to become financially savvier. USA Today recently published results from Allianz Life’s 2013 “Women, Power, and Money” study, and the findings are really interesting.

    Most notably, the study indicated that there is a sea change happening: Historically, women have lagged behind men when it comes to financial literacy and investing, but more women overall have indicated an interest in financial planning and become more involved in family finances since the recession. In fact, according to the Alianze survey, he number of women interested in learning about financial planning, retirement planning, and investing nearly doubled between 2006 and 2013, from 35% to 62%.

    Even MORE heartening is that a subset of women have emerged who have become especially informed, taking charge of managing their money and making financial and investment decisions.

    According to USA Today, who reported the results, the women in this group were “more likely to feel financially secure, have confidence in investing decisions, and be the primary breadwinner in the family than the average survey respondent.” And this is an interesting finding: The women were just as likely to be single as married.
    In fact, data has shown that single, childless women have greater earning power now more than ever before. So it makes sense that this group, now earning more money and greater financial independence, are becoming more savvy.

    So what are these women doing differently than women who aren’t comfortable making investment decisions?
    Great question. One thing they’re doing? Asking for help. According to the Allianz, “women of influence” are 37 percent more likely to have employed a financial professional who they credit for “helping them feel more confident and prepared for their financial future.”

    But also, I think of lot of this change was due to necessity. The recession was a wake-up call for all of us, but I think it helped women in particular to confront some common sticking points that kept them from participating in making financial decisions. Women are recognizing that they need to pay attention personal finances. They’re dismissing outdated notions like “It’s impolite to talk about money,” and they’re taking ownership of their personal finances instead of being mere spectators, reliant on a man to hold the purse strings.

    A more active role in these decisions has also been dictated by the evolution of the modern family and a shift in social norms, including the fact that women are staying single longer, divorcing more frequently, entering into same-sex relationships, and outliving men.

    The sad fact is that women on average earn less than men, so they have less to invest. April 9 marked the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, but women in the United States today are paid on average 77 cents for every dollar paid to men—the gap is even worse for African-American and Latina women.

    But despite limited means, women are recognizing the need to get in the market to achieve their long-term financial goals like retirement.

    So can we expect more competition in the market?
    Men tend to see investing as a competition, while women are much more risk averse—and that can make them better investors! Study after study shows women behaving more rationally over market cycles than men, because women are less willing to take impulsive risks. Men trade more often, incurring more fees as they chase gains, which, on average, hurts their returns. On the other hand, women buy and hold hold, allowing them to ride out the market’s natural highs and lows. So put that in your pipe and smoke it!

    Mellody is President of Ariel Investments, a Chicago-based money management firm that serves individual investors and retirement plans through its no-load mutual funds and separate accounts.  Additionally, she is a regular financial contributor and analyst for CBS News.

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