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How women can overcome these financial blind spots

  • Women typically earn less than men and have different tracks that lead them to take breaks from their careers.
  • Consequently, women need to invest with these considerations in mind — or risk falling behind financially.
Women tend to be more conservative investors than men
benjaminec | Getty Images
Women tend to be more conservative investors than men

Women are at risk of falling behind when it comes to personal finance and investing.

And the stakes are high. Women's median weekly earnings were 82 percent of men's in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which looked at full-time wage and salary employees.

In addition to the income gap women face, they are more likely to take time out from their careers to provide care for their parents, children or spouses, according to a recent report from UBS Wealth Management. Women are also almost twice as likely to work part-time compared to men, UBS found.

In addition, women tend to live longer than men. In the U.S., women are expected to live 6.7 years longer than men.

"Even a few years difference can have an impact on women's wealth," the UBS report noted.

The disparity can make a big difference when it comes to retirement. A 2016 report from the National Institute on Retirement Security found that women are 80 percent more likely than men to be poverty-stricken in retirement.

Together, these factors mean that women need to approach financial planning and investing differently.

"There are many things that go on in women's lives that put them at a significant disadvantage to men in terms of their overall wealth," said Jane Schwartzberg, head of strategic client segments at UBS.

There are several things women can do to improve their financial prospects, according to the report.

Think of wealth as an opportunity, not just as security

As investors, women tend to emphasize different priorities than men, UBS's research found. That includes focusing on making sure they can provide for their children and preferring to put their money in investments that have meaning for them.

But women need to make sure they are not being too risk averse — such as having large amounts of cash or investing in low-risk investments like bonds — which can set them further behind. Women can combat this by seeking professional feedback on whether their investments suit their goals.

"They may be independently investing more conservatively than is appropriate for their life expectancy," Schwartzberg said.

Become more confident about investing

Women have distinct traits that make them successful investors, according to UBS' research. When compared to men, they trade less, which means their portfolios often perform better.

But what can hold women back is a lack of confidence. Women can combat that by studying up and becoming more educated, which in turn will lead to more certainty, the UBS report found.

"Women are actually more likely to attend financial education programs and take action," said Svetlana Gherzi, behavioral finance specialist at UBS.

Take a proactive role with your money

Putting financial planning on the backburner will only hamper women's ability to plan for their unique circumstances.

To avoid falling behind, women need to take a proactive approach early on by saving, putting their money to work and coming up with a financial plan.

"The most important thing is to take the driver's seat, rather than assume someone else is going to get you to the right place," Schwartzberg said.

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