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There’s a pattern to women’s investing habits – outsourcing to the spouse or father, or a professional investment consultant, instead of doing it themselves. Why?
It was the year I was placed, after my MBA, my first job. I was in money. It didn’t matter that it was too little; so long as it let me dabble and learn investing in stocks, I was content. I was an excited newbie – eagerly taking tips, tracking my stock picks, grasping new terms, making new friends, experiencing new emotions as the markets gyrated.
On one of the rough days when my prized stock dipped, I sat sipping tea with a close friend in a very solemn mood. I mentioned to her that all my gains got wiped in a matter of seconds. My friend gave me the most heartfelt reply, “I am amazed that you can even understand all this”. Truth be told, I actually felt better for the rest of the day.
Ever since then, I have heard similar things over the years from female friends, co-workers, fellow mothers time and again. But the first time was the only time I felt good. With each time I heard it, my emotions traversed from surprise, concern, sadness to distress. In various conversations, I have advocated, pleaded and even fought that investing is not rocket science or a boys’ thing.
I have extensively spoken to women about their investing habits and found them in patterns. Here are the top common responses I have heard over and over again.
I know of some women who love saving cash and genuinely believe that stocking up their cash reserves is more than enough; it will keep them in good stead in times of need. In fact, they pride bigtime on being able to squeeze out from their expenses. But that’s about it. It is stashed up until one day it is spent on a holiday, jewelry, white goods or clothes.
For women in employment, often the salary processing team in HR acts as a guide. Doubts regarding saving taxes or investment proof submission are clarified with HR team members. Often HR teams have distributors stationed for a few days in Jan-Feb-Mar for consultation, and I know of women employees who tend to make their investments through them.
Banks have our unquestionable trust. Women feel that when someone at the counter of their bank branch suggests an investment, it can’t be wrong. After all, we entrust the bank with our money! Little do we realize that most schemes suggested are without knowing our goals. They are probably suggested by that someone keeping in mind their monthly targets!
Our parents have done it. Relatives have done it. Neighbors and colleagues, have done it. So, should we too? For many people, the thesaurus of investing doesn’t go beyond PPF & FD and they are the most universal investment choices.
Across the globe, women often concede finances to their parent or spouse. An oft heard rhetoric by women is that their father or husband’s advisor has done some investment for them as well, and they will get the required tax advantage. If I ask them what the investment was, I just get a sheepish smile back, saying that they have just signed it.
Often times, I have shared a good laugh with the women who have coughed up these responses. And to give them their due, most of them have admitted to lackadaisical financial awareness. At first, it is brushed aside as lack of interest. On further probing, I have gathered that many women want to invest themselves, but they just don’t know how.
To that I always say, the best thing about investing is that you can learn a lot by doing. A little initiation and guidance can open many doors. You just have to start by asking, asking a lot of questions. There is academic, professional, friendly every kind of help available. Seek, is all you have to.
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