Yet evidence shows that women invest on average 40 per cent less money than men. With the gender pay gap ensuring that women earn just 81 per cent of what men earn, not investing can broaden an already existing wealth gap.
We believe that that women shouldn't miss out on the opportunities that investing offers and our partnership with AllBright demonstrates a joint ambition to empower women with the tools that they need to take control of their finances, and feel confident in their financial decisions.
So why are women investing so much less and how can more women can get started?
Introducing the expert
Jessie Zhu is a Managing Director and Head of Investment Products and Advisory at HSBC Private Banking US. After studying for an MBA in finance at Columbia University she started her career in the investment management sector before moving into the private wealth industry, and has been working for HSBC since 2016. Jessie's career has been supported by the female leaders that she has worked with, and she credits some of her success to the inspiring role models that she has had throughout her working life. She now uses her experience to elevate her own team, and provide an opportunity for other women to thrive and shine.
What's holding women back?
Statistics show that women invest less money than men but pinpointing the drivers behind this is complicated. Jessie believes that many women simply don't know how to get started, and that their tendency to be more prudent and cautious can make the process feel intimidating. Women are more risk-averse than their male counterparts when it comes to financial decisions, which can lead to a bias towards lower risk investments and over-allocation to cash. But Jessie also notes that women who do invest in risk assets, such as stocks, are very capable and competent investors who tend to outperform men.
Where should you start?
For women who are interested in investing but don't know where to start, Jessie has plenty of advice.
"You don't have to be an expert to start investing," she says. "There are so many resources available, and you can start with as little as a few dollars. The decision to invest has real long-term benefits for women, and education and awareness can ensure that women don't miss out."
If you can, you should start investing as early as possible so that you can harness the power of compounding – keeping your money invested for the long-term and reinvesting dividends and capital gains along the way. If you have not invested to date, then remember that it's never too late to start. Every day that you are investing makes your money work for you.
When markets are volatile, as they have been this year, people can be tempted to sell or stay on the sidelines. However, the best course of action is often to stay the course and ride it out. For example, this year markets have fluctuated based on daily COVID-19 news developments, but those investors that panicked and sold in February or March may have missed out on the market's recovery since then. It can be hard to resist the headlines, but Jessie suggests avoiding trying to time the market. If you do, you run the risk of missing out on some of the best performing days, which can result in a huge difference in your long-term return.
Similarly, if you're investing for the long term, you shouldn't worry about starting investing at high or low points in the market. If you prefer not to invest one lump sum, then you can consider spreading it out to alleviate the concern about market fluctuations. This is a concept you often hear about called "dollar cost averaging." Dollar cost averaging is a highly effective way to help overcome concerns of investing at the wrong time.
Start with asset allocation and build a diversified portfolio
Asset allocation is a customized blend of stocks, bonds and other types of investments based on an investor's risk tolerance. It is the anchor of investing, and drives more than 90 per cent of portfolio returns in the long term. Single asset class performance can vary greatly year to year, and the best performing asset class this year can be the worst performing next year. The key is to invest in various asset classes so that your overall portfolio will be less exposed to the ups and downs of any single asset class. A diversified portfolio can generate a better return for the same risk, and gives you a smoother ride.
Risk is not a dirty word
Risk is an expected factor when comes to investing, and it shouldn't hold investors back from carrying out a long-term investment plan. The return from lower risk assets such as cash, in today’s low-yield environment can’t keep up with rising living costs and can lead to not meeting return objectives in the long run. Jessie tells us that risk is the active ingredient when it comes to achieving certain return targets. Typically, the higher the desired potential return, the more risk an investor needs to take. After all, they say that with no risk there's no reward, and this is a fundamental principle in investing. A well-diversified portfolio can help manage risks without eliminating them. Of course, investors need to accept that individual investments in a particular stock, bond or other investment may lose some or even all of their value which is why a well-diversified portfolio is so important.
Invest where your heart is
We are now seeing more investors who want to align their investments with their personal values. Whenever a crisis or natural disaster hits, the parts of our society that are most vulnerable tend to be the most affected. Take COVID-19 for example – we now have the opportunity to rebuild our society and recover in a more sustainable way. Jessie explains that ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) investing tends to strike a chord with female investors in particular, who are more likely to take a holistic view of their lives, families, their communities and the world, and prefer to think of investing in terms of long-term consequences on the environment and society.
A part of her job that Jessie loves is enabling clients to use their wealth to make a difference, not just for themselves and their families, but also for the broader world. She believes that there is a misconception that if you focus on ESG investing then your returns can be compromised. The good news is companies who incorporate ESG into their DNA may likely outperform. For example, in the Q1 market sell-off, the companies that scored high on ESG did better than the broad market. Doing well by doing good is on the minds of more investors than ever.
Click here to listen to our Women and Wealth podcast episode ‘Your share of the pie: Investing for your own future' which features Jessie discussing investment in more detail.