September 19, 2013

Women’s Investment Confidence Lags Their Increasing Affluence

Wells Fargo survey finds women become more risk averse as wealth grows

Despite their wealth and strong savings values, a huge percentage of affluent women lack comfidence in their investing ability.

Forty-one percent of affluent women in a survey released Thursday by Wells Fargo said they were “not at all” confident in their ability to invest.

Koski Research, an independent marketing research outfit, conducted a telephone poll between June 27 and Aug. 4 of 600 women ages 40 to 69 with household investable assets of at least $250,000. Respondents’ median investable assets were $455,000 and household income $145,000.

At a time when women comprise half the U.S. workforce, 44% of survey respondents reported that they earned about the same or more than their spouses.

According to the survey, 41% of all affluent women did not believe the stock market was the best way to grow savings, versus 52% who did, and 34% said it was “too risky” for them.

In fact, 64% said they had become more risk averse as they built wealth, and 58% said they were not interested in learning more about how to invest in the stock market.

While more than half of affluent women were not interested in learning more about stock market investing, 91% said it was important for women to be confident in their ability to invest.

Yet only 8% described themselves as “extremely confident,” while 49% said they were “somewhat confident” in investing and 41% were “not at all confident.”

“Today’s affluent women are financially savvy working women, but investing confidence doesn’t follow hand in hand with increased wealth,” Karen Wimbish, director of retail retirement at Wells Fargo, said in a statement.

“Through our research, we see that investing confidence seems to be the linchpin to so many other positive behaviors that would provide an opportunity for women to grow their savings and to build a solid foundation in retirement.”

The survey found that confidence in investing among affluent women correlated to attitudes and choices that differed significantly from those of women who described themselves as not confident at investing:

  • 59% of confident women said the stock market was the best place to grow savings over time, while 44% of not confident investors agreed.
  • 49% of women who were not confident in investing said the stock market was too risky for them, versus 23% for the confident women.
  • 73% of confident married women said either they alone or in conjunction with their spouse made household investment decisions, versus 49% of those who were not confident.
  • 67% of confident women were “taught about investing by someone,” versus 39% of the not confident.
  • 47% of confident women were interested in learning more about how to invest in the stock market, versus 35% of the not confident.

Regardless of investing confidence levels, 56% of affluent women said men were given more opportunity to learn about investing than women, while 41% said both sexes were given equal opportunity to learn. Half felt men had more confidence in investing ability, but only a quarter thought men were actually more skilled.

“We see that women who were taught about investing by someone tend to be more confident in investing,” Wimbish said. “Financial literacy makes a huge difference and has positive rippling effects for future generations.”

Other research indicates that the gender gap in financial literacy is tapering off.

Retirement Angst

The vast majority of affluent women surveyed felt a successful life was best defined by “peace of mind” over great achievements. Respondents said a successful retirement meant having enough money to live the lifestyle they wanted (39%), being healthy (30%) and spending time with family and friends (16%).

“Running out of money” scared 40% of affluent women in the survey. Allianz Life found similar anxiety among influential women in a recent study.

Forty-five percent of respondents in the Wells Fargo survey, and 52% of those in their 40s, said they would “resist as long as possible” living in retirement without a paycheck by working.

Fifty-seven percent of affluent women said they were scared by “living in poor health for many years in retirement” — more than three times the number who feared having to work forever.

Although health care was the top issue women discussed with their spouses and their female friends, 29% of married affluent women and their spouses had not discussed “how they will address any potential major health care issues.”

A comfortable retirement was a goal for women, but fewer than 40% had a written retirement plan.

They reported needing a nest egg averaging $1.5 million. They expected to retire at the age of 66 on average, and projected that their savings would need to last an average of 18 years.

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