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Here are two of the biggest financial regrets women say they have — and what you can do to avoid them

Fidelity's 2022 Money Moves survey polled women between the ages of 18 and 35.

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Alistair Berg | Digitalvision | Getty Images

A recent survey from Fidelity asked women adult women to share their actions and attitudes around money management. According to the 2022 Money Moves survey, 36% of women above age 36 say their biggest financial regret is waiting too long to start investing for retirement. Lorna Kapusta, Fidelity's Head of Women Investors, echoes this.

According to Kapusta, a staggering amount of women share one other common financial regret. "Women often also regret waiting to set up a financial plan," she explains. "Seventy-one percent of women said once they set up a financial plan, they felt more confident."  

Creating a financial plan can mean understanding your cash flow (what comes in and what gets spent), having a budget, knowing when your bills are due each month (and creating a system to automatically pay them) and even knowing how much you can afford to save each month. This can be an important starting point for people who are trying to improve their finances or reach a specific goal.

But one major roadblock women have faced when it comes to taking that first step to start investing has been a lack of confidence.

"Only 33% of women feel confident in their ability to make investment decisions, which understandably makes it hard to allocate their hard earned savings into investing," Kapusta says.

And on top of that, 70% of women say they would need to know more about picking stocks in order to be more active when it comes to investing, according to Fidelity's 2021 Women and Investing Study. While it's important to understand the implications of your actions (especially when your money is involved), sometimes waiting too long to take action can result in no action at all. And when it comes to investing, it's better to start small with some low-lift investments rather than not start at all.

The pandemic also played a role in women's ability to invest, though, not always in a positive way. "The pandemic caused lifestyle changes that have disproportionately impacted women," Kapusta explains. "According to a survey conducted by Fidelity in 2020, 39% of women were actively considering leaving the workforce or reducing their hours."

A reduction in income (or no income at all) can significantly change your ability to allocate money toward your retirement accounts and other investment accounts. In such a case, just affording basic necessities like groceries and rent or a mortgage would have been more of a priority. And with less money to put toward investing, this means women who have had to reduce their work hours or leave the workforce may have had to delay investing or pause any investment contributions.

The survey cited increased caregiving responsibilities as the reason women have made the decision to reduce their activity in the workforce. Broken down further, almost half of respondents (42%) said that they needed to step back from the workforce to fulfill homeschooling needs for their children during the pandemic; 27% reported that the cost of hiring someone else to homeschool and care for their children was just too expensive so they opted to do it themselves.

What can women do to avoid regrets around investing?

While much work still needs to be done in order to help women who are being disproportionately affected by global and economic travesties, there are still ways that those who are uncertain about investing or feel they need more guidance can take action.

If you think you need help when it comes to creating a solid financial plan, it might be time to schedule an appointment with a certified financial planner. One huge benefit to speaking with a CFP is that they can get to know your unique financial situation and give you personalized advice. They'll help you craft a plan so you can achieve your financial goals, and not just around investing, but also things like retirement planning, buying or selling a home, tax and estate planning and more.

And if you're uncertain when it comes to your investment picks and decisions, apps like Wealthfront and Betterment take the uncertainty out of choosing between assets. Since these apps are robo-advisors, they can help you determine which investments make sense for you based on your risk tolerance, goals and time horizon. 

Robo-advisors also take on the task of automatically rebalancing your portfolio as you get closer to the target date for your goals (be it retirement or buying a house). This way, you don't have to worry about adjusting the allocation yourself (in other words, you don't even need to be confident in your own ability to pick assets). Remember, while seeking guidance and doing some research is beneficial, you don't need to wait to become an expert before you start investing your money. Wealthfront, Betterment and Ellevest are among Select's top-ranked robo-advisor services. Ellevest is a robo-advisor specifically crafted for women and its investment algorithm considers important realities of women's lives, such as pay gaps, career breaks and longer life expectancy.

Betterment

  • Minimum deposit and balance

    Minimum deposit and balance requirements may vary depending on the investment vehicle selected. For example, Betterment doesn't require clients to maintain a minimum investment account balance, but there is a ACH deposit minimum of $10. Premium Investing requires a $100,000 minimum balance.

  • Fees

    Fees may vary depending on the investment vehicle selected, account balances, etc. Click here for details.

  • Investment vehicles

  • Investment options

    Stocks, bonds, ETFs and cash

  • Educational resources

    Betterment offers retirement and other education materials

Terms apply. Does not apply to crypto asset portfolios.

Wealthfront

  • Minimum deposit and balance

    Minimum deposit and balance requirements may vary depending on the investment vehicle selected. $500 minimum deposit for investment accounts

  • Fees

    Fees may vary depending on the investment vehicle selected. Zero account, transfer, trading or commission fees (fund ratios may apply). Wealthfront annual management advisory fee is 0.25% of your account balance

  • Bonus

    None

  • Investment vehicles

  • Investment options

    Stocks, bonds, ETFs and cash. Additional asset classes to your portfolio include real estate, natural resources and dividend stocks

  • Educational resources

    Offers free financial planning for college planning, retirement and homebuying

Terms apply.

Ellevest

  • Minimum deposit and balance

    No minimum deposit to start investing and no minimum account balance for Ellevest Membership advisory service; however, there are portfolio-specific minimums (ranging from $1 to approximately $240)

  • Fees

    Fees may vary depending on the investment vehicle selected. Ellevest Essential membership costs $1/month (or $12/year), Ellevest Plus costs $5/month (or $54/year) and Ellevest Executive costs $9/month (or $97/year); fund fees range from 0.05% to 0.10% across all Ellevest Core Portfolios and 0.13% to 0.19% across all Ellevest Impact Portfolios

  • Bonus

    Coaching sessions, small group coaching and access to live events

  • Investment vehicles

  • Investment options

    Stocks, bonds, ETFs, ESG, mutual, alternative and impact funds

  • Educational resources

    Online workshops, email courses and video resources

Terms apply.

Kapusta also suggests starting to invest early — even if you only invest a small amount. Starting small can help you get comfortable with the process of investing and using the platform for the brokerage you decide to invest through. But it can also help your money start growing sooner.

"The earlier a person starts to invest, the more time compounding can make an impact on the balance," she says. "For instance, compare a person starting to invest at age 25 to a person starting at age 40. With each person contributing $50 per month until age 67, the person who started earlier will have accumulated approximately $144,000 compared to the person starting 15 years later with $46,000, assuming a hypothetical 7% annual rate of return. That's why we encourage all investors to start early, even if it's just $1 because it can add up over time."

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Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.
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