On a global average, women earn 23% less than men for the same work. Suffice to say, gender pay gap challenges continue to prevail, and until women and men reach parity, it is even more important for women to take on the mantle of investing their hard-earned money smartly. The question on the minds of women often is — when is a good time to begin investing?
If you are someone who feels unsure about investing, here’s advice to help you, as a woman, become self-sufficient and own the narrative of your finances.
Why Should Women Start Investing?
The logical justification for why women should invest is simply because men can, and do. But outside of stating the obvious, investments are a great way for women to grow their income.
If a woman is working, for example, she can apportion some of her disposal income each month and put that in markets. This could help her save for many things: a vacation, a degree, a vehicle, or even have extra money saved for a rainy day.
But a woman need not be working to invest in markets. Perhaps you’re a woman who stays at home to take care of her family. Investing in markets is a strong mechanism to earn money for long-term goals your family may have: buying a home or saving for your child’s education fees.
When Should Women Start Investing?
At what age should a woman start investing? Is it when you land your first job? Perhaps it is when you first start making a bit of money? Could it be after a promotion?
The answer, fortunately, is not complex and summarized perfectly by the classic proverb, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” Truth be told, if women were influenced to financially plan their lives earlier, there is no doubt that not only would they be more empowered today but would also have more representation in business environments. While many women are more than fortunate to have found high-growth investment tools when they did, they will tell you that they would be much further ahead if they had pulled the trigger earlier.
With that said, not all forms of investment are indeed ideal for someone starting new. When it comes to investing, some routes are far less challenging, and frankly, less cumbersome than others. After all, who wants unnecessary hassle when it can be easily avoided by just selecting more suitable investments over others?
What Kind of Investments Work Better for Women And Why?
When you first begin investing, do so in a way that helps you get the best RoI (return on investment) and bang for your buck. While we are all exceptionally busy, women sometimes have the added responsibility of co-managing work with responsibilities at home. This could make it challenging for them to review their portfolio on a daily or weekly basis.
On the other hand, some women may find that they want to manage their portfolio more actively. No two investment portfolios are the same and that’s why it’s important to be vigilant of how much time you can commit, which in turn can influence your investment options
The following investment options can be ideal for women:
Mutual funds are a good option for any kind of investor, beginner or seasoned. As a woman, you need an instrument that allows you to allocate your funds efficiently based on your goals. If you are a new investor, you can simply begin with a systematic investment plan (SIP). It allows you to invest a certain amount of savings every month, wherein the amount will be auto-debited from your account every month, hence helping you remain committed to your investment strategy.
Exchange traded funds (ETFs)
Gone are the days when investing in stock markets required rigorous research and was essentially beyond the reach of the common woman. An ETF is primarily a basket of securities that considers the universe of assets — be it equity, debt, stocks, bonds, commodities, or currencies. You may buy a share of that basket, just like buying shares of a company. ETFs are traded on the stock exchange and offer the ease of stock trading along with the diversification benefits of mutual funds.
Stocks, otherwise known as equities, represent fractional ownership of a company. When you purchase a share of a company it means you own a small piece of that company. Some of the biggest brands today allow people to buy and sell their stocks. This is typically considered a more risky asset class because of the volatility that is sometimes associated with stock performance. Why is this the case?
The price per share of a company is linked to many factors: the balance sheet of the company, its leadership and so on. However, stocks also have the potential to yield exceptional returns. Because of how much their price can oscillate in a given day, investments in this asset class may not be suitable for every woman. They typically require more vigilance and active rebalancing, which can take some time.
Diversification is crucial in any woman’s portfolio. Remember to never put all your eggs in one basket. Investments in foreign equities can provide diversification benefits in one’s portfolio, along with the opportunity to hedge the rupee. Rupee hedging is important to consider because you may need extra funds to spend when hosting a party in Europe.
Thanks to India’s liberalized remittance scheme (LRS), women can invest in U.S. equities abroad from the comfort of their homes in India. And if direct investments into U.S. stocks is not something you are willing to consider, many asset management companies (AMCs) offer feeder funds.
Whether you are a man or a woman, it is important to remember that investments can be age weighted. What does this mean exactly? As we age, it is likely that our risk appetite will oscillate.
If you are a young working woman, for example, you could consider allocating your portfolio to international equity, international ETFs, and domestic stocks. While these asset classes typically carry more risk than an fixed deposit (FD), any short-term losses you incur have the possibility to be recouped because you have age on your side.
Similarly, as you age and start to think about retirement it is possible that you may want to take on less risk now that you know a regular stream of income from a job will not be guaranteed. Capital protection becomes key. A combination of FDs, bluechip names in the equity segment, and short-term to medium term bonds could be a wiser choice in this scenario.
In other words, it’s important to remember that not one size fits all and that any investment should be matched to your goals, income, and risk. Women should not be dissuaded from investing in any asset class because it seems scary, or difficult. Rather they should make an informed decision.
Investment Mistakes Women Must Watch Out For
While women venture into spaces that men have long dominated, it is worthwhile to examine some common practices of the past that may be mistakes of the present.
Extreme risk aversion
Women are known to be much more patient investors and better risk managers than men. However, investing too conservatively could also hurt your long-term performance, therefore losing out on comparatively and significantly higher returns.
Letting your partner manage your investments
Many Indian women continue to leave investment decisions on their partners, putting them at a massive disadvantage of being unaware of family assets or investments. If you want to be truly independent, you must have an investment portfolio of your own.
Going overboard with gold
Gold has been one of the more sought-after investment options for Indian women for over decades. However, women should avoid going overboard with buying gold and try to explore other investment opportunities to diversify their portfolios. This will also help you focus on financial assets instead of only physical assets.
Keeping too much in bank accounts or fixed deposits
Another favourite investment tool of women in India is either a saving account or best case scenario, fixed deposits. Storing money beyond a limit in these does not work considering their low interest rates. That money may not even beat inflation, resulting in negative growth. Hence, it is best to use savings accounts or fixed deposits to maintain some liquidity and contingency funds, while the rest could be invested in growth funds.
I’m Ready to Start, What’s Next?
If you are someone who feels more comfortable with an in person interaction than find a local investment advisor, or a trusted broker through your network. Make sure you assess their track record of success, which involves evaluating how large their client base is. These are the people who can help you set up your investment account. Keep in mind, there is a thorough know your client (KYC) process which will involve verifying your identity, address, and bank account details. These are all measures taken to safeguard your investment account.
An increasingly more popular option is to invest online. Fintech apps provide a seamless mechanism for you to download them, or go on the web, and open an investment account. The KYC process is entirely online, and can take anywhere from seven to 10 minutes depending on the app you are using. Some of these apps provide an option for you to connect with an advisor, whereas others follow a do it yourself model. The convenience of doing investments online is that you can typically track your holds straight from your smartphone and evaluate your performance more regularly.
Whichever route you decide to take, make sure you thoroughly vett the in person resource as well as the fintech app provider. If they are providing you advice of any kind they should be licensed to do so.
Investing could feel like a bit of work initially, but once you see your money grow, there will be no going back. Fortunately, there is plenty of information available out there to help you get started on your investing journey.
As a woman, you hold the power to patiently, smartly, and efficiently invest your money, which will not only help you reach your financial goals but also lead you down a path of growth and opportunities. Whenever faced with questions regarding how to invest, please remember that one of the best things you can do is ask for help. There are no stupid questions, and the doubts you have today were once, in all probability, the same as others had when they were first starting out. What matters is starting.