Your investments: The need for women to be more financially astute

Most data show that while there has been some slight improvement over the last decade, women still take an overly conservative approach to their investment allocation.

money (photo credit: REUTERS)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Women are making more money than they have ever made before. In addition, in many cases they have supplanted men as the major breadwinner in the family. The Pew Research Center came out with some data a couple of years ago that really pointed toward this trend: “A record 40% of all households with children under the age of 18 include mothers who are either the sole or primary source of income for the family. The share was just 11% in 1960. These ‘breadwinner moms’ are made up of two very different groups: 5.1 million (37%) are married mothers who have a higher income than their husbands, and 8.6 million (63%) are single mothers.”
Women have become a powerful force in the workplace. According to Pew, “The growth of both groups of mothers is tied to women’s increasing presence in the workplace. Women make up almost of half (47%) of the US labor force today, and the employment rate of married mothers with children has increased from 37% in 1968 to 65% in 2011.”
There is a lot of evidence indicating that the more education, the higher the earning power. According to the Lumina Foundation: “Individuals with a bachelor’s degree now make 84 percent more over a lifetime than those with only a high school diploma, up from 75 percent in 1999. Today, bachelor’s degree holders can expect median lifetime earnings approaching $2.3 million. By comparison, workers with just a high school diploma average roughly $1.3 million, which translates into a little more than $15 per hour.”
And wouldn’t you know it, but women have taken the lead from men in this as well. Pew continues: “Married mothers are increasingly better educated than their husbands. Even though a majority of spouses have a similar educational background, the share of couples in which the mother has attained a higher education than her spouse has gone up from 7% in 1960 to 23% in 2011. In two-parent families today, 61% have a mother whose education level is similar to her husband’s, 23% have a mother who is better educated than her husband, and 16% have a father who is better educated than his wife.”
Get smart
As women are becoming more educated, that means they will have more money, and the need to become an educated investor takes on even more importance. Most data show that while there has been some slight improvement over the last decade, women still take an overly conservative approach to their investment allocation. This can lead to a nest-egg shortfall come retirement time.
Unfortunately, when it comes to money, while women make better investors, they often lack the confidence to invest in a correct fashion. “Women need to stop believing that investing is too hard or too complicated,” said Sandra Claflin-Chalton, a professor of economics at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. “My experience has been that once women learn the basics, they have excellent instincts and are much better at finance than most men.”
While you don’t have to become a do-it-yourself investor, take the time to learn the basics of investing so that you can challenge your adviser and make sure that the adviser is really doing what’s best for your portfolio. Are the investments specifically tailored to meet your specific goals and needs?
Make sure that you understand not only your investments, but what fees you are paying your advisor. Are you paying on a “per transaction” basis, or are you paying an annual fee? To my chagrin, there are many advisers who will push the envelope and attempt to charge unusually high fees, and unless the client pushes back, they will succeed.
Women need to take advantage of that they are playing an increasing role in the economy. As their earning power grows, their investment portfolio should follow suit.
The information contained in this article reflects the opinion of the author and not necessarily the opinion of Portfolio Resources Group, Inc., or its affiliates.
Aaron Katsman is a licensed financial professional in Israel and the United States who helps people with US investment accounts. He is the author of the book Retirement GPS: How to Navigate Your Way to A Secure Financial Future with Global Investing.