It has been some time since I read Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, but John Gray’s international bestseller came to mind the other day when I was talking to a financial adviser about the way women tend to make decisions about their investments.
In a roundabout sort of way, I extended Gray’s idea that when men are stressed they tend to withdraw while women want to discuss the problem, to the way men and women mull financial decisions.
Men, notes Catherine Robson of Affinity Private, are usually happy to hear an investment idea, digest it internally and make a decision either for or against.
Women, on the other hand, want to talk to someone about the investment and ask lots of questions. Verbalising is quite an important part of the process.
Deborah Kent of Integra Financial Services, observes similar behavioural patterns.
“Men will take up the option more quickly. Women will say: ‘Tell me why.’ They want to be educated. They like to understand before they jump in,” says Kent.
“This is one reason why women are slow starters,” adds Robson.
There is both a lesson and a gift in this.
The lesson is that us Venus dwellers probably need to find someone we can trust to talk to about financial matters.
A suitable person might be a financial planner, or a friend, the friend of a parent, a colleague or a gym buddy who is happy to double up as a money buddy.
The right person might be tricky to find but it will stand you in good stead over the long run.
Here, I am reminded of a piece of advice that a friend’s mother once gave me, which was along the lines of when you feel overwhelmed, like a rabbit stuck in headlights, just do something. Just start somewhere.
In this case, just start asking around and find someone to talk to.
If women know how markets operate it gives them less anxiety when markets fall.
The gift is that when women take the time to ask lots of questions and fully understand an investment or savings plan, they are less likely to panic if there are short-term obstacles or nasty market gyrations.
“If women know and understand how markets operate, it gives them less anxiety when markets fall. They are less likely to jump out of something in a knee-jerk reaction and more likely to stick to their strategy. They might need to set aside a bit more time, but once women make a decision they feel quite empowered,” says Kent.
Quite a nice gift.
'I was convinced I'd win Tattslotto'
Human resources manager Andrea Taylor deals with finances at work but, she says, she's "absolutely incompetent" when it comes to her own money.
"I've said to my husband, if he dies first I'll totally spend all our money within 24 hours," says Taylor. "I've got no concept of finances."
Luckily her husband has and it is to him she turns for advice. "He'll explain things to me," says the 44-year-old. "He's very astute and does the research.”
"Real estate, shares – it all makes sense to him and he enjoys it and does well out of it."
Before she met the man she was to marry 20 years ago, Taylor sometimes sought informal advice from an accountant at her workplace but never considered saving.
"I lived week by week. I rented, went out with friends all weekend drinking and partying, purchased clothes and made sure I had enough for food and petrol but I never had any savings unless I was saving to go on holiday," Taylor says.
"I never looked to the future. It was a given that somehow something would happen and it would be all right. I went through a period convinced I'd win Tattslotto."
Conversely her partner, now 51, had been saving for retirement since he was 19. "He credits his father for instilling the knowledge and interest in buying houses to self-fund retirement."
Today the telecommunications engineer has a portfolio of blue-chip shares and several commercial and residential properties on the Gold Coast where they live.
"He can turn $1 into $5. I turn $5 into $1," says Taylor. "He's very careful and we have a good life."
Case study by Natasha Hughes