Woman Is Smarter

Steal your heart and run away,
And leave you lonely both night and day.
Believe me, fellas, when I start to say,
The woman is smarter in every kind of way.

Those are some of the lyrics of a song called "Woman Is Smarter," sung by Jimmy Soul on an incredibly politically incorrect CD I have. (Other songs include one urging men to marry ugly women to be happy.)

Believe it or not, the lyrics above came to mind when I read a press release from Merrill Lynch (NYSE: MER  ) the other day. The release began by stating, "When it comes to investing, to err is human -- but women are less likely than men to do so." Here are some specific findings:

  • Women are less likely to hold a losing investment too long (47% of men reported having done so at least once, vs. 35% of women).

  • Women are less likely to wait too long to sell a winning investment (28% of women vs. 43% of men). (Unfortunately, I find myself an exception here, having hung on to many stocks, such as America Online -- now part of Time Warner (NYSE: TWX  ) -- much longer than I should have.)

  • Women are less likely to buy a hot investment without doing any research (13% of women vs. 24% of men).

  • Women are less likely to allocate too much of their money to one investment (23% vs. 32%).

  • Women are less likely than men to repeat their mistakes.

  • "Women investors make fewer mistakes than men despite the fact that, on average, women tend to know less about investing and enjoy investing less than men." (47% of women report not being knowledgeable about investing, vs. 30% of men.)

Interestingly, women describe themselves as "successful" at investing more often than men do. This may explain some of the other numbers. Perhaps men, in general, aspire to much greater success -- perhaps even unreasonable levels -- and might be taking extra risks to achieve outsize results.

Women also tend to enjoy investing less than men do. So perhaps they're less emotionally invested. They might just have some modest goals and, once meeting them, move their attention elsewhere, while men (again, these are generalizations and speculation) might be spending too much attention on their investments, playing too active a role when patience and more passivity can yield better results.

A last tidbit: Women are more likely to have a primary financial advisor (70% vs. 50%) and a formal financial plan (77% vs. 62%). (Note that the study surveyed people of above-average wealth.) Merrill Lynch marketer Hannah Grove quipped, "The old stereotype is that when they're lost, men will keep driving while women will ask for directions.. Unfortunately, when the destination is financial security, late starts and wrong turns are costly."

So what should you do? Whether you're male or female, reevaluate your investing strategies and your success. Consider consulting a financial advisor -- we can help you find a good one. (We even have an inexpensive service of our own, TMF Money Advisor, which allows you to tap the expertise of financial pros by phone.)

Learn more in these articles:

Finally, consider test-driving one or more of our investing newsletters (for free). A free trial will give you the chance to peek at long lists of stock and fund recommendations and will permit you to see how well our newsletters might serve you.

LongtimeFoolcontributorSelena Maranjianowns shares of Time Warner. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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