Outdated myths about women investors persist

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Women are often overlooked as investors but in just a few years they will control about $4-trillion in assets and need financial advisers who can help them reach their goals.Getty Images

Jessica Moorhouse started investing $200 a month 13 years ago. The 37-year-old, now a money blogger and accredited financial counsellor, says she knows firsthand how myths about women investors can impact confidence.

“In my 20s, I was so scared to talk about investing because I knew I didn’t fully understand it, but also, I was afraid of people finding out how little I knew and the judgment that would go with it,” she recalls. “But that fear is just going to hold you back from learning what you don’t know so you can start making better, more informed investing decisions.”

Myths around women being risk averse, conservative investors, who have limited financial knowledge and lack strategy, have also caused women to be overlooked as investors. However, it is estimated that by 2028, Canadian women will control $4-trillion in assets, almost double the $2.2-trillion they control today. Women investors are not a niche market.

A 2022 global survey by investment platform Etoro reported that of the 9,500 women investors surveyed, 72 per cent invested at least monthly, with 16 per cent investing a third or more of their monthly income. Four out of five women surveyed also reported they were confident they would achieve their desired retirement income if they stuck with their current investment strategy.

Despite the statistics, the myths persist, according to those in the industry.

“It seems that in capital markets, when it comes to investing, there’s some sort of an unspoken bias out there that maybe women don’t understand as much or they don’t care to understand as much about investing, so they get overlooked,” says Skye Collyer, vice-president of business development for fund management company, Global X Investments Canada.

However, a 2021 report from Fidelity, found that 60 per cent of all women invest in the stock market. Furthermore, analysis of five million Fidelity customers over the past 10 years revealed that, on average, women investors outperformed their male counterparts by 40 basis points or 0.4 per cent.

Ms. Collyer adds that, in her experience, the women she has worked with have possessed both strategy and a willingness to learn more. They also consider their investments more deeply, “relating it to how they want to design or build their life in the future [rather] than just drilling down on which stock is winning or losing today.”

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Jessica Moorhouse, now a money blogger and accredited financial counsellor, started investing just $200 a month and slowly learned more about investing over time.Supplied

With almost 20 years working in the financial industry, Kimberley Jensen, a financial planner at Sun Life in Manitoba, says she’s heard many myths about women and investing and believes they are just that: myths dating back to when women often worked in the home and didn’t have as many assets.

But that is no longer the case and there are a lot of women Ms. Jensen has worked with who debunk many of these myths.

“I don’t see women as more risk averse,” says Ms. Jensen. “Working with clients, especially couples, women often have more appetite for risk. I see this stemming from a deeper desire to understand the risk-versus-return relationship and understanding the overall objectives of what they are trying to accomplish.”

While Ms. Jensen says every person’s investment strategies are unique, regardless of gender, she echoes Ms. Collyer’s impression that women are more goal-oriented and tend to think about how their investments affect their lives and overall goals.

Ms. Moorhouse herself has shifted her investing strategy over the years. At first, she invested in mutual funds offered through her bank, like her parents, but as she became more knowledgeable about investing and fees, she began to manage her own portfolio of exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

“I’m not trying to be an investing rockstar,” she explains. “I’m just trying to build my wealth over the long-term so I can reach financial freedom one day, and index investing has been a great strategy for me to achieve this.”

Ms. Moorhouse says the history of dismissing women financially – for instance, Canadian women weren’t allowed to open their own bank account (without a husband’s signature) until 1964 – plays a major role in these misunderstandings. And while the industry has evolved for the better, “it’s going to take time for us to catch up compared to the centuries men have had to control all financial decision-making.”

Teaching everyone, but especially women, about investing is one of the things that Ms. Moorhouse says she finds most satisfying about her current role as a financial counsellor because she remembers what those ah-ha moments felt like for her.

“Investing can be intimidating because people have very strong opinions and aren’t afraid to tell you you’re wrong,” she says. “But what’s so amazing is when you do take steps to learn what you don’t know, those moments when things start to click can feel so freeing.”