Pershing, a unit of BNY Mellon, on Thursday released a new study exploring what drives women to invest and affects their investment behavior, and found that low confidence plays a significant role.
Other studies also have explored women's relatively low investing confidence. For example, Prudential research of women and money found that just 22 percent rated themselves as very well-prepared for financial decision-making, compared to 37 percent of men.
Women's lack of confidence sometimes translates into disinterest. Hearts & Wallets, a retirement market research firm, examined retirement decision-making among couples and found that only 43 percent of them plan for retirement together, and 80 percent of the spouses who were not involved were women approaching retirement age. That's hardly a recipe for a comfortable retirement, given the high likelihood of women outliving their husbands for many years.
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But the Pershing study described a route to a possible solution. Often, it found, women simply approach investing with priorities distinct from men's. While men are more likely to invest with a performance goal, women tend to think in terms of purpose—retirement, health care for them or their loved ones and so on.
Arledge believes women can use that framework to arrive at better investment choices. For example, he said, a couple may have a single target-date fund as part of their retirement assets. But if you frame a secure retirement as a purpose, it becomes clear that "they probably should have some hybrid strategy if the biology plays out the way it typically does." That will help ensure "that the woman has financial security," he said.
Thinking about investing for the purpose of retirement may also encourage women to tolerate more risk in their portfolios, which should enable them to build more sizable nest eggs. (Numerous studies have found that women tend to be more conservative investors than men.)
"Women may be risk averse, but they may need more risk in their portfolio to help them close the gap of those moments in their lives when they were out of the workforce or paying more taxes as single woman," said Kim Dellarocca, managing director at Pershing.