close

Kiplinger Today

Investor Psychology


The Secrets of Women Investors

Thinkstock

Women used to get a bad rap on Wall Street. Industry observers maintained that women started too late, saved too little and invested too conservatively. But research is increasingly proving otherwise. Just as Little League pitching phenom Mo’ne Davis turned the phrase “you throw like a girl” into a compliment, author LouAnn Lofton says you should be flattered if someone says you invest like a girl. After all, says Lofton, who wrote Warren Buffett Invests Like a Girl, the nation’s best-known investor does.

See Also: 9 Smart Retirement Strategies for Women

A raft of surveys indicate that women do more research, are better at matching their investments to their goals, trade less and remain calmer during market upheavals. If you’re unsettled by this year’s stock market swoon, you may be interested to know that, on average, the portfolios of female investors hold up better than those of their male counterparts during a downturn. An analysis of the 60,000 users of Openfolio, an online investment-sharing platform, found that in 2014, a stellar year for the markets, the women investors it tracks outpaced their male peers by an average of 0.4 percentage point. In 2015, a poor year for markets, women lost an average of 2.5%, compared with a loss of 3.8% for men. In both years, women on average achieved their results with smaller swings than men had, adding luster to their already impressive achievements.

Of course, men can be marvelous investors, too, and in some areas women would be wise to take their counsel. But women have a different and valuable approach that can help almost anyone become a better investor.

Advertisement

To that end, Kiplinger’s asked a group of accomplished women from Wall Street and beyond to share their investing advice. From bringing everyday experience to bear on stock selection to rehearsing your reaction to market upheavals, these nuggets can help you improve your investment performance.

Invest in what you know

Women make roughly 70% of household purchases, putting them in a great position to benefit from the strategy that once made Peter Lynch the best-known mutual fund manager on the planet. Lynch, who ran Fidelity Magellan (symbol FMAGX) from 1977 through 1990, said in his book One Up on Wall Street that investors’ best research tools are their own eyes and ears; he got many of his best investment ideas while walking around shopping malls and talking with his friends and family. In fact, Lynch wrote, his wife was responsible for turning him on to what turned out to be one of his best picks ever, Hanes Co., when she told him how much she liked L’eggs panty hose, which Hanes makes.

Investing in companies that make products or deliver services that you use can be a great way to discover winning investments when the firms are still young and have the potential to grow rapidly, says Nicole Sherrod, managing director and head of trading at TD Ameritrade. She invested early in Amazon.com (AMZN), Apple (AAPL) and Disney (DIS) because they provided products or services that she, as a working mother, couldn’t live without. All of the stocks have had great runs in recent years at one time or another. “When you see a product that’s really unique or is flying off the shelf, find out who makes it,” Sherrod suggests. “You’re choosing products every day, so you have tremendous exposure to great companies.”

Not sure who makes the great product you’re buying? With TD Ameritrade’s smartphone app, you can scan a bar code on any product and find out the name of the company that makes it. Of course, you’ll need to undertake more research before you invest. But using your own experience to find potentially attractive stocks is a great place to start.

Temper risk

Women approach risk differently than men do. Studies show that men are more inclined to behave like baseball sluggers, who swing for the fences, even if it means running the risk of striking out far more often. Women, by contrast, are more like contact hitters, who are satisfied with a string of singles. These tendencies show up in various forms. For example, a 2013 study by Fidelity Investments found that men were much more likely than women to hold 100% of their assets in stocks. Openfolio’s data show that portfolios owned by men are subject to far wider swings in value. The problem is that investors who strike out frequently because they’re always trying to smash home runs can undermine their results.

Consider a male slugger who puts $1,000 each into two speculative stocks versus a female lead-off hitter who invests the same amount in two dividend-paying blue-chip stocks. The high-quality stocks each return 10% over the course of the year, leaving the female investor with $2,200. Meanwhile, the male investor hits a home run with one of his picks, which doubles, but strikes out with the other, which loses 90% of its value. His total after a year is $2,100.

The lesson, says Ramona Persaud, manager of Fidelity Global Equity Income Fund (FGILX), is that it’s important to manage risk and avoid huge losses. If you invest in individual stocks, says Persaud, look for strong companies that are willing and able to pay generous dividends. “Your investment return is a combination of dividends and price appreciation,” she says. “If you have enough dividend yield, it dampens the downside.”

Before she invests in a stock, Persaud asks a series of questions: Is the company well established, and does it have clear competitive advantages? Is it profitable and capable of generating enough cash to pay a healthy dividend? Can you buy the shares for a reasonable price? Affirmative answers to all of those questions are likely to result in investments that provide competitive returns with a minimum of volatility.

Think long term

In nearly three decades on Wall Street, Sallie Krawcheck says she has never heard a group of women investors swapping tips on hot stocks or bragging about their portfolio performance—topics you’re more likely to hear in a gathering of men. “Men are all about the competition; women are all about the goal,” says Krawcheck, the former head of Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch division and chair of Ellevate Network, a financial networking group for women, and cofounder of Ellevest, an investing platform for women that is due to launch this year.

Focusing on the goal is smart because it forces you to consider your personal needs rather than some arbitrary measure of success. “It’s not that women aren’t concerned about getting a great return,” says Zaneilia Harris, a certified financial planner and president of Harris & Harris Wealth Management, in Upper Marlboro, Md. “But they don’t care what their friends are doing; it’s all about their individual goals.”

Focusing on your goals rather than on, say, how your portfolio stacks up against Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index provides another benefit: It helps you tune out market noise, which can make you jittery and prone to trade more frequently.

Editor's Picks From Kiplinger



DISCUSS

Permission to post your comment is assumed when you submit it. The name you provide will be used to identify your post, and NOT your e-mail address. We reserve the right to excerpt or edit any posted comments for clarity, appropriateness, civility, and relevance to the topic.
View our full privacy policy

Advertisement

Market Update