I conducted my Value Investing Workshop in Mumbai on Sunday, and it was one of the biggest gatherings I’ve ever had in this city so far. Thanks to all who attended the same, and especially to those who flew in from Goa, Delhi, and Vadodara.
As I shared the photo of tribe members who attended the workshop, my friend on Twitter, Yamini Sood asked, “I wonder where are all the women?”
@safalniveshak I wonder where are all the women??? Had a similar group pic in Behav Fin workshop I attended last yr @ Flames
— Yamini Sood (@Yaminintweet) January 22, 2017
I have always congratulated the few women who attend my workshops, but never took this question more seriously – “Where are all the women when it comes to learning how to invest their money in the stock market, and also to take control of their financial lives?”
So, I posed this question to my wife – “What do you think could be the reason more women are not learning to invest well, which I indirectly understand as the lack of inclination on their part to look at the stock market as a way to invest their savings and to take control of their financial lives?”
“I think it’s not about their inclination, Vishal…but more a factor of lack of trust,” she said.
“I agree to that. So many people don’t trust the stock market after all.”
“No, it’s not about the stock market. I am talking about the lack of trust a man has on the women in his house, especially when it comes to money.”
“Oh, but I trust you completely when it comes to money, don’t you know that?” I replied.
“You are one exception Vishal. I am talking about a large majority of other men who would rather lose money on their own than trust women on this front. And this causes a chain reaction.”
“A chain reaction?”
“Yes. Because a woman is not trusted with money, she reciprocates by not trusting other people to manage their money, including this guy whom you so often call as Mr. Market. Have you realized why they never use the term ‘Mrs. Market’?”
“Oh yes, I never realized that!” I said in a moment of revelation. “So I must blame Ben Graham for this for he created this Mr. Market guy! But don’t you worry. This Mr. Market is a moody, emotional person.”
“Right Vishal. But that is exactly what most men think women are – moody and emotional. Isn’t it?”
I was stumped here.
“Men don’t trust women for anything except raising children,” she continued, pouring her thoughts out.
I was drowning in guilt here, “Well you are right Vidhi. Generally speaking, we (men) do not believe things when they’re told to us by women…”
“…well, not all women, but those other than their mothers or teachers or any other woman who happens to be an established authority figure,” she added.
“Yeah, maybe you are right,” I replied. “No, I think you are absolutely right.”
“But don’t feel so guilty. I think trust is not the only factor that keeps most women away from managing their money in general, and investing in stock market in particular.”
“So, what are the other factors?” I asked. “Lack of financial education?”
“Yes, that is one factor. And that is more a result of a woman’s priorities, where learning about how to manage money does not come near the top.”
“Yeah, most women are so busy managing their kids.”
“Not just kids,” she said, “We are also expected to manage everything else, like a job in many cases, groceries, the household, and also take care of in-laws. So where is the time to even look at how we must invest our savings?”
“In short,” she continued, “When it comes to asking why more women don’t invest in the stock market and suggesting that it’s because of their behavior based on their personality or nature, men must not underestimate the influence that external factors and situations have on such a behaviour.”
“I agree, but could this be a reason to ignore such an important task as managing the money women save out of their monthly income whether on jobs or as housewives?”
“No, I believe women must learn to take care of their savings, and that too well,” she said. “But given the paucity of time due to our busyness and because we have never been expected to ‘manage’ money, most of us never learn to look beyond bank or post office deposits and gold.”
“But I believe it’s high time your folk should look beyond these traditional media of saving money,” I said, “And get into investing in better returning investments like the stock market.”
“You are right,” she said. “How I wish, like you regularly share with me the right ways to invest my money, more husbands inspire and motivate their wives too. In fact, when I ask my friends why they don’t invest in the stock market either directly or through mutual funds, most of them tell me they lack the confidence, the kind their husbands have, to do so.”
“Oh, don’t get me started about the confidence of men who invest in the stock market,” I said. “Men might be more confident, but are we more competent to invest sensibly? Research tells me that’s not true. In fact, men who think they are masters of the investment universe have turned out to be masters of disaster so many times in the past.”
“Now that’s interesting,” she said.
“Yes. In fact, Mr. Jason Zweig whom I interviewed for the December 2016 issue of the Value Investing Almanack, has even proposed giving the reigns of the financial world in women’s hands. This is what he wrote in one of his Wall Street Journal columns in 2009…
In the testosterone-poisoned sandbox of the male investor, the most important thing is beating the other guy; the second most important: bragging about it. The long term is somebody else’s problem, and asking for advice is an admission of inferiority. Worrying about risk is for sissies. Leverage is good, since it raises returns — while the market goes up. Is it any wonder the male-dominated world of Wall Street has boomed and busted every few years for more than two centuries?
Women, by contrast, put safety first. Even after controlling for age, income and marital status, women are more inclined than men to wear seat belts, avoid cigarette smoking, floss and brush their teeth and get their blood pressure checked. They even have been shown to be 40% less prone than men to run yellow traffic lights.
Women are less afflicted than men by overconfidence, or the delusion that they know more than they really do. And they’re more likely than men to attribute success to factors outside themselves, like luck or fate.
“Thanks Vishal, I am going to share this with all my friends who must share this with their husbands who write them off when it comes to money matters.”
“You must, Vidhi. What Mr. Zweig has written is of paramount importance for men who have ever doubted that the financial matters are best left to them alone, and that women are better off concentrating on their homes, children, or jobs.”
“But I think…” she continued, “there is one more thing that may continue to keep more women out of investing their money in the stock market.”
“And what is that?”
“Given so much uncertainty we women live through a large part of our lives, we are always in search for some certainty. And, as I understand from our discussion in the past, stock market investing is again full of a lot of uncertainty. You see, any desire we may have of extra profits from the stock market would under-weigh the certainty we are looking for when it comes to our money.”
“I can understand that,” I said. “But women also need to understand that trying to earn that extra profit from stock market investing – even if it’s full of uncertainty – is so important in an age when inflation is eating into their savings in bank deposits. Don’t you think so, because sticking with bank deposits etc. can be bad news in the long term?”
“I completely agree,” she said. “Maybe I can make a start by inspiring more women among those I know to learn how to manage their money better. And I can start by first building their level of confidence that they can invest well on their own.”
“Yes, and also give them the confidence that taking care of their financial lives, or even sensibly investing in the stock market, is not complicated and is not designed to be male-dominated. Plus, they can always start small and also that with some effort they can learn to do it well on their own.”
“How do you plan to start?” she asked.
“Well, two things I am doing right away. One, starting to teach our daughter and her friends how to think sensibly about money, saving and investing. And two, inviting more women to attend my forthcoming workshops by offering them a special discount on the fee.”
“Great! Let’s wish each other all the best!” she said, as I pulled out my notepad to prepare a plan for a women-specific series on money and investing.
I asked Yamini, who had asked me this question in the first place seeing the Mumbai workshop photo – “Where are all the women?” – to share her thoughts on this topic. And this is what she sent me –
BlackRock had done a survey internationally which mentioned that only 25% of baby boomer women feel knowledgeable about investing, compared with 46% of boomer men. And being less confident is actually a positive trait in investing rather than being over-confident.
So yes, the reluctant investors that women truly are, makes them humble and cautious in their approach. This can be an asset in investing. Humility in investing is beautiful.
Also, traditionally a woman has always been the nurturer and man the provider. In the past few decades, we have seen these roles reverse. Ironically, she ends up doing both now. The quantum of such women is only on a rise. But the savings to be invested by the man in the family has been a traditional habit which has hardly seen a change. It emanates from the need to remain clutter free from additional responsibility.
So, most women today are already managing kids, working, maintaining monthly home budgets etc. They are happy not taking the investment decision in their hands. But what they fail to realize is that they need to take charge of their finances as well.
A woman needs to think of investing her own money as only that is true independence, true empowerment. She should do it to prepare herself for any contingencies which may arise in the future, be it divorce, loss of spouse, alienation of job for maternity reasons etc. She needs to invest from the very beginning to take care of any such eventualities. She must learn to make her money work so that it can help her when she is out of work.
That was inspiring, Yamini. Thank you so much!
So, for all the women reading this, I invite you to attend my forthcoming workshops in Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi, and Hyderabad, and claim a special 25% discount on the base fee (click here to register now and book your seat at the normal fee, then send me an email with your bank details and I will refund your 25% discount).
For all women who have already registered for these workshops, or for the Mumbai workshop that happened on Sunday, I will refund 25% of the money you have paid to bring you at par with others.
For all men reading this, please pass on this message to women you know, and maybe attend the session with your partners. I also request you to inspire women in your families to learn how to manage their money sensibly. Nature has wired their brains better than men’s. They are risk-averse, better at self-control, calmer, have a higher degree of acceptance, and are generally more satisfied – all great qualities to become a sensible, successful investor. All they need is inspiration and motivation.
And, by the way, if they could handle you well, they could also handle their money.
P.S. Let me know your thoughts and suggestions in the Comments section of this post on how more women could be inspired to learn to take control of their financial lives better. A special request to women readers of Safal Niveshak to share your thoughts on this subject. Thank you!