You've heard it before. Men are from Mars, women are from Venus. Men "never" ask for directions and women "always" go to the restroom in groups. And so on and so on ...
The differences between men and women are numerous, sure, but there are also plenty of stereotypes that favor one gender over another. When it comes to money and investing matters, though, who's the frontrunner: men or women?
According to a number of studies conducted by banks and investment firms over the past decade, women tend to make better investors than men. Experts have shown that regarding finances, men tend to be "more overconfident," while women are "less overconfident" – and this behavioral difference has a direct impact on their success as investors.
Regardless of the research, both sexes can benefit and learn from each other when it comes to the complicated world of investing and retirement planning. Let's take a look at more of the differences between male and female investors – and what everyone can do to help increase their chances at a successful retirement:
1. Men are more competitive (leading them to take on more risk), whereas women take fewer risks and tend to hold "safer" investments. Women's aversion to risk extends even beyond investing: they're more likely to wear seat belts and avoid smoking, and they're less likely to run yellow traffic lights. And while healthy competition can increase motivation, constantly comparing your returns to those of your brother or coworker can cause unhappiness and stress.
The lesson: Any worthwhile investing strategy takes risk tolerance into account, so you'd better know what yours is. Going too risky with your portfolio can result in higher losses in case of a market downturn, but being too conservative in your asset allocation isn't necessarily the answer, either. Assessing your risk tolerance is highly personal and requires you to know yourself. If you're not sure what your risk tolerance is, an investment advisor can help you figure it out. Don't forget to reevaluate regularly to reflect any changes in your personal situation.
2. Women trade less frequently. Using account data for more than 35,000 households from a large discount brokerage, researchers Barber and Odean found that men trade 45% more than women, with single men trading 67% more than single women. The result? Women incur lower transaction costs and fewer tax consequences. Trading reduces men's net returns by 2.65 percentage points annually, compared to 1.72 percentage points for women.
The lesson: Staying abreast of market news is great. And while it's natural to react to what you read or hear on the news, you should make investing decisions based on facts and research – not emotions. Market timing has no place in a long-term investment plan, so resist the urge to chase the hottest stock. Rather, focus on consistent performance using time-honored strategies like diversification and dollar-cost averaging.
3. Women do more research. According to one report, roughly 25% of the men surveyed said they would buy a "hot" investment without doing any research. Only half as many women said they would make the same decision.
The lesson: Do your homework. Assessing fund quality isn't just about returns. There's a lot to consider, such as performance and risk relative to peers; holdings; and the fund manager's alignment with shareholders' interests via fund or company ownership. To get started doing your own research, check out these six questions to ask about the mutual funds in your portfolio.
Though the research may show that women are better investors, it's also true that men tend to be more active and engaged in investing and are significantly more likely to see their role in retirement planning as "primary" compared to women.
Our advice? If you're a man who does this on his own, get your wife involved in the process – or if you're a woman who wonders whether your husband is doing this right, don't be afraid to ask questions and take on a larger role. Ask to meet with your investment advisor (an unemotional third party) together as a couple so that you can review investments together and get your questions answered. A little collaboration now can help bode for a more successful future later.