Fewer women than men invest their earnings, and that needs to change.¹
The gender investment gap is leading to a sizable gender retirement gap. As the numbers show, women over 65 live on income that’s about 17% less than men, yet they are expected to outlive men by approximately 5 years.¹
First, women still earn only $.82 to every dollar earned by a man.² However, with couples marrying later and the increasing rate of divorce, women often find themselves the primary “breadwinners” of households.
Additionally, a significant amount of women will find themselves in a caregiving role for an aging parent, child, or spouse. Not only does this come with high expenses, it also strains working relationships and can take women out of the workforce.
Finally, women have historically started investing later in life. A couple of contributing factors involve cultural upbringing and a lack of confidence in investing.
When women do invest though, female investors have better results than men. Investing can help close the gender retirement gap and lead to greater financial freedom and independence.
Three Female Investors Tell Their Stories
From windfalls to life lessons, investing has both expected and unforeseen benefits.
Alexis’ Investing Story
Sometimes the burden of debt can keep people from investing. They feel like they must have their finances in perfect order before doing so. But maintaining that order can keep people from working toward their future, and financial planning includes working through all goals, including paying down debt.
Alexis’ initially took control of her finances to get out of a tough situation - credit card debt. Little did she know that, when she broadened her focus to include investing, she would start building wealth and plan for her future family.
Years investing: 16
Lives in: Atlanta
Works in: Financial industry
Portfolio: 401(k), Roth IRA and a brokerage account. Investments include mutual funds, stocks and REITs (real estate investment trusts)
At 19, Alexis sat down with an advisor at the bank where she worked and opened a 401(k). But she didn’t really focus on her finances until a few years later, when she vowed to eliminate her credit card debt. While working to become debt free, Alexis read all she could about saving and investing.
She became an enthusiast, sharing her investment convictions and encouraging friends to invest their earnings as well.
Today, Alexis has no consumer debt, and her investing goal is to retire comfortably by age 55. That isn’t just a vision of an easier life. She dreams of continuing a family tradition of sharing experiences with future generations, and that includes financial experiences.
“I plan on having children, and I want to be able to pay for my children to go to college and be able to take my children and grandchildren on vacations with me—because that's what my grandmother did when she retired.”
For Alexis, it also feels good knowing that she won’t likely be a burden to the next generation in her later years. She’d like to leave money to her future kids, so getting started on estate planning is important to her.
But it’s not all about the distant future. Alexis is currently working on a near-term financial plan to buy her dream car, a Tesla.
“For this Tesla, I was thinking about opening a specific investment account, because I believe investing will put me further ahead than just putting it in a regular high-yield savings account.”
Kim’s Investing Story
More and more women are staying involved in money matters regardless whether they combine finances after marriage. This action immediately and positively improves the outlook for women and investing. Why? The vast majority of women will find themselves back in charge of their money situation at one time, either through divorce or outliving a spouse. Getting involved prevents unwanted surprises down the road, and builds financial knowledge along the way.
And it’s never too late to jump in. After years of her spouse controlling the finances, Kim took the reigns with her own investments, building her confidence and satisfaction.
Years investing: 4 actively
Lives in: Chicago Metro
Works in: Public relations and social media
Portfolio: IRA and a small brokerage account. Investments include mutual funds, stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs).
Kim first started a 401(k) through her employer in her early 20s. Then she ignored it for decades while her husband took the lead on finances.
But in the past four years, Kim did a financial 180. Today, she actively selects each investment in her 401(k). She opened a brokerage account and keeps an eye on the market regularly.
Along the way, Kim has learned about herself and her risk tolerance, and has developed her own investing style.
One of the first stocks she purchased was from a software company.
“It went up, seemingly a lot. I asked my husband, should I keep it, or should I sell? He said, ‘It's your decision,’” Kim recalled.
Ultimately, she decided to sell, and was excited to have a profit. But the story took a twist.
“Then the stock went up even further. OK, now I’m mad!” she said, laughing about the incident, which helped her become a more patient investor.
Kim has witnessed the sobering cost of elder care for her parents' generation. She sees her portfolio as her chance to have something left to pass on, after paying for end-of-life care.
For the present, she enjoys using a small percentage of her money to invest in companies she believes in. But the majority of her portfolio for the future is invested for the long-term with a risk level that’s right for her.
Xin’s Investing Story
Guided by those with investing experience, investors can speed up their financial knowledge and confidence to invest.
Xin gained female investor status early and grew a large, diverse investment base. Now, Xin is taking women and investing a step further by looking to invest in companies run by women.
Years investing: 20
Lives in: San Francisco Bay Area
Works in: Software engineering
Portfolio: 401(k), Roth IRA, individual accounts and other holdings. Investments include mutual funds, stocks, bonds, real estate, precious metals and others.
Xin started her Roth IRA at the tender age of 17. She socked in money she’d earned working at her mother’s business and selling used textbooks online. She doesn’t claim to be a financial prodigy for having such foresight.
“My parents told me to do it,” she said. Both of Xin’s parents happened to be accountants.
When she started working after college, Xin dutifully contributed to her 401(k). Although she made a good income, she didn’t rush into buying a home. That left her with cash on hand to invest in real estate during the housing market fall in 2009.
Over the next few years, Xin was able to make a profit as the housing market recovered. She now lives in one of the properties she purchased at the time. In the meantime, she’s continued building an increasingly diverse investment portfolio.
One investment that intrigued Xin was cryptocurrency (digital money). While it’s had its ups and downs, and where it goes from here is anyone’s guess, she’s holding on to some as a long-term investment. She is able to do that because her portfolio is diversified in other ways.
If Xin seems to take more risks than others, it’s because of the freedom she earned by starting to invest early. Another example: Although she is her family’s breadwinner, she didn’t think twice about leaving her corporate job for a startup.
Now, Xin supports other startups through angel investing, funding very young companies. She enjoys that she can use the money she’s earned from investing to help out others.
Make Yourself a Priority
When it comes to women and investing, every person has unique experiences, challenges and goals. A common thread shared by all of these females is that, once they became investors, they opened up exciting possibilities for their futures.
It’s never too late or early to take charge of your investments. We invite you to start with a pledge to invest in yourself and close any investing gaps you may face.
National Institute on Retirement Security, Still Shortchanged: An Update on Women’s Retirement Preparedness May 2020 https://www.nirsonline.org/reports/stillshortchanged/
United States Census Bureau, Women Consistently Earn Less Than Men January 29, 2002 Gender Pay Gap Widens as Women Age (census.gov)
Source: National Institute on Retirement Security, May 2020
These accounts may not be representative of the experiences of other investors. Past performance is no guarantee of future performance
Investment return and principal value of security investments will fluctuate. The value at the time of redemption may be more or less than the original cost. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.
Diversification does not assure a profit nor does it protect against loss of principal.
Generally, as interest rates rise, the value of the securities held in the fund will decline. The opposite is true when interest rates decline.
Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Investment returns will fluctuate and it is possible to lose money.
This material has been prepared for educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide, and should not be relied upon for, investment, accounting, legal or tax advice.