The more experience you have, the more confidence you get and the more ready you are. -- Robert Kubica  

Confidence is indeed terrific when it's based on experience, but sometimes people are overconfident, which can be costly. There's plenty of overconfidence in the investing arena -- and it appears to happen more often with men. In general, women are less confident -- and they end up with better investment results. 

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Survey says...

Way back in 1998, researchers Brad Barber and Terrance Odean published a seminal report titled "Boys Will Be Boys: Gender, Overconfidence, and Common Stock Investment," finding that "men trade 45% more than women and earn annual risk-adjusted net returns 1.4% less than those earned by women."

Other surveys and reports have been published since then, with similar findings:

  • When robo-advisor SigFig studied its customers in 2015, it found women outperforming men by 12% -- with median net returns in 2014 of 4.7% versus 4.1% for men.
  • A 2018 survey from SoFi and Levo League found 56% of millennial women saying that they don't invest due to fear, and 25% finding investing to be "a total mystery."
  • Fidelity's Women's History Month 2023 survey finds that only 36% of teen girls feel confident about money, while 46% of teen boys do. Meanwhile, "'stress' (46%) is the No. 1 word women use to describe their emotions surrounding money, far more than men (34%), whose top term is 'hopeful' (42%)."

These findings raise lots of questions. Here's a look at some of them.

Why would anyone lack confidence in investing?

It's actually quite reasonable for anyone -- women and men alike -- to lack financial confidence, as relatively few of us are ever taught much about money growing up. (Boys may be taught a bit more than girls by some, if they're assumed to be future heads of households.)

Since investing for the future is so important, it's also reasonable to be intimidated by the prospect of it, since there's the chance of making mistakes that will cost money.

Why can overconfidence lead to poorer investing results?

If you're overconfident, you may end up trading more often, selling one stock you were excited about so that you can plunk your money in a new, exciting stock you just learned about. You also may invest in some suboptimal ways, such as day trading or dabbling in penny stocks, assuming that while they may not be good for most people, you can do well with them.

Meanwhile, if you're not so confident, you might not invest at all, or might only invest with a small portion of your available dollars. A 2015 BlackRock survey found, for example, that women kept 68% of their portfolio in cash and equivalents (such as money market accounts), while men only kept 59% there. When the overall stock market has averaged long-term returns of close to 10% annually, keeping most of your money out of it certainly slows the growth of your portfolio.

How could under- or overconfidence lead to better investing results?

If you're less confident about money and investing, you might read up on and learn about it more before taking any actions. You might be less interested in chasing high returns, instead favoring more dependable blue chip stocks or simple index funds.  

Good news: Women can thrive financially

Despite this troubling information, there's positive news, too. For one thing, more women are investing these days -- with Fidelity finding that 67% of women investing outside of retirement in 2021, up from only 44% in 2018.

Many are learning more about investing, too, whether at sites such as or services targeting women and/or young people or elsewhere. There isn't even that much that they need to learn in order to establish a very promising portfolio. They can nearly match the returns of the S&P 500, for example, via a simple, low-fee index fund. Here's how that might work, if they average 8% annual growth:

Growing at 8% for:

$7,000 Invested Annually

$15,000 Invested Annually

Five years



10 years



15 years



20 years



25 years



30 years



35 years



40 years



Calculations by author.

While women tend to be the less confident ones, many men are underconfident, too. Everyone can benefit greatly by learning more about the stock market and how to build long-term wealth through it. The more you learn, the more confident you might be about making good financial moves. 

Remember: A dollar doesn't know your gender, and neither does the stock market.