Investing as a Couple: Draw on Your Differences
It's official: Warren Buffet has a feminine side. Not that the billionaire investor parades around in drag. He doesn't. But the investment patterns of men and women show that Buffet has apparently, over time, tuned into his so-called feminine insight when making investment decisions.
You say potato…
According to Dr. Ellen Peters, a research psychologist at the University of Oregon who co-directed a survey of 800 people beginning in late September 2008 when the economic meltdown was just heating up, men and women have very different approaches to investing.
Men get reactive and angry. That rage takes the edge off any obvious risk, making them feel more bulletproof. (How else would our ancestors have had the guts to take on a woolly mammoth armed with just a spear and a loincloth?) Men are generally more competitive and more aggressive than their female counterparts. And because they tend to be in the thick of it, trading frequently, they are also better at anticipating — and taking advantage of — the soaring highs of a bull market.
Women, on the other hand, approach the stock market with more patience, deliberation and caution. Over time, it's a good way to ensure dependable, risk-adjusted returns on investments, but it probably won't yield any surprise jackpots. Women wait to see how things shake out and then act — or not. It's just more likely to be part of their natural behavior, according to Dr. Peters.
What does all this gender-specific investment-speak really mean? Simply that the two investment approaches need each other, like a yin and its yang. Of course, it could also indicate that the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange — as well as your own investment portfolio — needs a healthy combination of testosterone and estrogen to flourish in the good times and ride out the bad ones.
Consider these complementary investment factoids:
- Men are confident investors. They flip their stocks 45% more often than women.
- Men aren't afraid to take risks for a potentially big score, while women are less apt to climb out on a financial limb in search of the mother lode.
- Female investors tend to incur fewer dramatic losses in their portfolios than men — and fewer dramatic wins, too.
- Women aren't as confident in their stock-picking abilities. In a 2006 Harris Poll survey done for Charles Schwab & Co., Inc., 48% of women said they found investing to be scary, while only 24% of men did.
- In a report by Financial Finesse, a financial education programs company, 73% of men say they generally understand stocks, bonds and mutual funds, while only 40% of women say they do.
Spirit of cooperation
What are investing couples to make of all this? Probably that working together, listening to each other, and choosing funds or stocks in a spirit of cooperation will ultimately make everyone happier — and richer.
These generalizations are just that: general statements about gender differences based on surveys. Maybe you're a risk-taking woman or a patient man. Maybe your investment partner is the same gender as you. The important thing is to use both sets of skills and strengths in order to maximize profit to you both. If you both have the same investment style, seek advice from a third party who can give you the opposite point of view or play devil's advocate.
Here are few more ideas for you and your significant other to consider:
- Get advice. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. So if all you know is a little, talk to an investment profession, such as a financial planner.
- Look your limitations in the face — and then find a way to work around them.
- Draw from your partner's investment experience or insight.
- Don't do nothing. The fear of risk can be paralyzing, but sometimes the risk is worth it. You wouldn't stand still in the middle of a thunderstorm, would you?
- Get educated. If you feel like you don't have a handle on your portfolio and how your investments are allocated, learn more about them. Find out how many shares you own in each company, study those companies and follow their stocks' movement in the market.
The bottom line here is that cooperative investing probably yields the best results. Banking on the strengths of your partner's investing style should strengthen your portfolio — and even your relationship.