Courtesy of Debra Ohstrom
The financial services industry has changed over the past 25 years. There are more ways for a person to learn about financial planning and investing topics through various articles and education from around the internet. Yet, data shows that a majority of American women, over 50%, still do not take an active role in their financial future and rather leave those decisions to their spouse.
Another area that hasn’t changed much over the years is that, in the US, of the roughly 300,000 financial advisors today, only 18% are women. Even more bleak: Just 2.9% of all advisors identify as Black or African American, 5.1% as Hispanic or Latino, and 4.3% as Asian, which means an even smaller share of those professionals of color are women.
I have often heard from my own friends and family that the biggest turnoff about finance and investing is the constant use of jargon by advisors that anyone outside the industry doesn’t understand. It’s so off putting that my female friends say they would rather not engage in any investing conversations at all.
I know personally that there are areas of my life where I would rather speak to a woman, such as a female doctor on certain health issues. I can completely understand that when it comes to something as personal and emotional as our money and our financial future that women would want to speak to another woman about that as well.
While the financial services industry is slowly making progress, and it will take some time, I wanted to share these tips with you to put investing in a more approachable light.
1. Use ‘buckets’ for each of your goals
Put your money into buckets so you can define the goal for that money. Once you know the goal for the bucket, this helps you to define when you will need to use that money. This is important, because the longer you can invest the money, the more risk you can take to grow it.
Money buckets can help when you have a few goals in mind. For example, you may need to start an emergency fund, you will need your retirement bucket, and perhaps start a bucket to help pay for a child’s education if possible.
All of these buckets have different time horizons for when the money will be needed. This means the money needs to be invested differently. An emergency fund, for instance, is short term, so a bank account or high-yield savings account is best.
Depending on your age, your retirement bucket is long term in nature, and investing in a basket of stocks and bonds through an exchange-traded fund in a retirement account would make sense.
For a college expense bucket, depending on your child’s age, you would also want a blend of bonds and stocks and to utilize a 529 account that is tax-deferred when used for education expenses.
2. Remember that the stock market goes up over time
Another tip is that it’s often better to understand history than math when it comes to investing. Put another way, the biggest challenge most individual investors face is letting their fear drive their decisions, so they make short-term buy and sell decisions at the worst possible time.
If you understand the history of the stock market and how it behaves, you can mentally prepare for downturns, and then be less likely to get nervous during down markets and sell at the worst time.
3. Invest for the long term — don’t trade frequently
Trading is short term in nature, and the data shows it’s hard to get your short-term trading picks right over the long term. Investing is about having a process and philosophy on building a mix of bonds and stocks that, over the long term, will grow your money and meet your goals.
4. Automate your investments
Lastly, if you can set up your investments to be automated and it becomes second nature, your wealth grows and your future self is more secure and better off no matter what life brings.