Women are paid less than men and are more likely to leave the workforce to take care of loved ones, both of which negatively impact the amount of money they have to save and invest over the course of their lives.
Despite this, just 50% of Americans believe women have disadvantages compared with men when it comes to long-term investing, according to a new NerdWallet survey.
The survey was conducted in July 2021 — in the midst of the pandemic that has only deepened women’s systemic and socialized disadvantages. Yet the fact remains that in order to invest and build wealth for the future, women need to contend with these hurdles.
Below is advice for how to combat five investing disadvantages that disproportionately impact women.
1. Evaluate your risk tolerance.
Around 16% of Americans believe women being more risk averse than men is a long-term investing disadvantage, according to the NerdWallet survey. It’s important to consider and acknowledge your personal risk tolerance when choosing investments. But if you’re so risk-averse that you’re unlikely to hit your financial goals or you’re avoiding the stock market altogether, it’s probably time to reevaluate your strategy. Diversification is one effective way to reduce your risk while still growing your portfolio.
2. Increase savings as you can.
The survey shows that 23% of Americans believe women earning less than men is a long-term investing disadvantage because they have less money to invest. As of 2018, women earned, on average, 82 cents for every dollar men earned. And this gap is significantly wider for many women of color. Inequality of earning means women often have to save a higher percentage of their income than men do.
If you have a 401(k) through work, you may be able to set up automatic incremental increases — for example, 1% each year. You can also choose to bump up your contributions as you get raises if you can continue living comfortably on your old take-home pay.
But because part of the wage gap is due to the difference in jobs worked — oftentimes gender norms and expectations tend to encourage men and women to go into different industries — some women may not have enough income or earn the raises required to follow that advice. In that case, your best option may be to seek new job opportunities or fields.
3. Keep investing during career interruptions, if possible.
Career interruptions have been magnified by the pandemic, as millions of women have left the workforce, many because of lack of child care or in-person schooling. But if family finances still allow, those who have a spouse with earned income don’t have to stop investing.
A spousal IRA allows the non-earning spouse to contribute up to $6,000 per year (or $7,000 for those age 50 and older), as long as the couple files taxes jointly. If it’s not reasonable for you and your spouse to max out both your IRAs, you can split whatever money you would put in IRAs and contribute to each equally.
4. Seek out resources.
Around 13% of Americans believe women’s lack of investing knowledge is a disadvantage compared with men, survey results show. Finding free or cheap financial advice and resources is easier than ever, though it’s important to vet your sources to make sure they’re legitimate.
Understand, too, that you don’t need to know everything about investing before you start. The best thing you can give your investments is time to grow, so aim to learn the basics and dive in.
5. Encourage other women to talk about and start investing.
Finally, NerdWallet’s survey found that 18% of Americans believe women have a long-term investing disadvantage because of a lack of encouragement to invest from others, as compared with men. As early as childhood, girls may be taught about managing money from the standpoint of budgeting, while boys might be taught about managing money from the standpoint of wealth building or investing. By being willing to discuss financial topics with friends, colleagues and loved ones, women can encourage each other to invest in their futures.