What Women Should Know About Their Investing Power and Needs

Women face different challenges, and some advantages, when it comes to managing their money over the long term.
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Written by Kimberly Palmer
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Edited by Kathy Hinson
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Jessica Spangler, author of the newly released “Invest Like a Girl,” realizes that her book’s title might raise questions for some readers.

“I think there’s an irony when it comes to investing for women, like we have ballpoint pens for women and razors for women,” Spangler says. “You see products that are supposed to be different because they’re for women, and a lot of that is hokey-pokey garbage.” Likewise, she adds, investing fundamentals don’t change based on gender identity.

But there are significant gender differences when it comes to investing that are important to explore: Women tend to live longer, for example, which means they need more money to support themselves post-retirement. They are also more likely to experience career breaks because of caregiving responsibilities and earn less because of the wage gap in this country, all of which can impact their investing strategy, Spangler says.

“We’re often behind when it comes to saving for retirement. We have to think about investing early, investing often and investing aggressively as much as we can,” Spangler says. “Investing is the most efficient way to become financially independent, and we’re actually great at it.”

Financial experts suggest these steps for getting started:

Confront any fears

Tori Dunlap, founder of Her First $100K, which offers money and career resources to millennial and Gen Z women, says the No. 1 factor that holds women back from investing is fear, including fear of doing things “wrong” or losing money.

“All of these fears are natural and common, but they aren’t stopping men from investing,” she said by email. She encourages women to set aside the fear and just get started.

Learn as much as possible

Seeking out helpful guidance online can be an easy way to familiarize yourself with investing topics, suggests Stephanie Hughes, CEO of Wiss Private Client Advisors, an accounting firm and financial advisory. “Information is available very readily,” she says, and starting with reputable sources such as financial institutions and certified, licensed professionals can be a great way to start.

While many professionals share their expertise online, Hughes cautions that some social media influencers may have ulterior motives when it comes to selling specific products or lack financial backgrounds.

Begin wherever you are

“Sometimes wanting to understand everything can lead to delays in investing,” Hughes says.

You can also begin with relatively small amounts of money, says Marguerita Cheng, a certified financial planner. “People think you need to have a lot of money to invest but the opposite is true. When you invest, you build wealth.” Since investments can gain or lose value over time, you want to choose an amount that is comfortable for your budget.

If you’re working with a financial professional, Cheng says, it’s important that you don’t feel pressured to make decisions before you’re ready. She says she provides her clients all of the information they need, including necessary paperwork and any government deadlines for funding retirement accounts. Then, she gives her clients the space they need to process that information.

“If women express hesitancy, it’s really important for advisors not to be pushy,” Cheng says.

Still, the most important thing is to just get started, Dunlap says. You don’t have to be a world-class expert on stocks to invest, she adds. Instead, simply open an account, which could be a Roth IRA or a tax-advantaged retirement account. Then, put money into the account and select your investments.

Make it automatic and build overtime

Cheng says automating deductions from your paycheck into an investment account can be an easy way to stay on track, and you can start with a relatively small amount, like $50 a paycheck, then adjust it over time.

“Any amount is better than not investing at all,” Spangler says.

Plan for longevity

Since women live longer than men on average, Hughes says it’s important to save and invest accordingly. “You need to have more money to fund those extra years,” she says, as well as to consider other goals such as passing money down to family members, funding travel and making charitable contributions.

While longevity, wage gaps and career breaks can create extra challenges for women investors, Spangler says it’s also important to acknowledge their advantages: Research suggests women excel at staying on track with their investments amid market turmoil. And a NerdWallet study released in March found that Americans are more likely to say women are better at daily money management than men.

Amid all of those differences, Cheng says, “At the end of the day, regardless of gender identity, we all want the same thing: financial security.”