Don’t Blame Her

A few weeks ago, I was teaching a grad business class at Fordham and of course, had started with the power of female consumers. And a guy raised his hand and asked, “Well, if women are responsible for 85% of the buying, aren’t they the ones that caused the country’s financial crisis?” Grrrr to the sarcastic but clever question, but I simply said that there was plenty of blame to go around. 

But a recent study shows that if anything, women’s behavior as investors is actually what could bail us out of this mess. According to a piece by Jason Zweig in the Wall St. Journal, women are not only more risk averse as investors, they are more fear-averse. Where last Fall’s market crash made men angry, it made women afraid. 

We’ve been talking for years about women’s habit of deliberate decision making, particularly in financial services, but Zweig’s report really brought it home. Because while women’s fear makes them even more conservative, men’s anger incites their financial revenge. He writes, “The results of a nationwide survey of hundreds of investors conducted in March, just days after the Dow bottomed at 6547, show how anger and fear in the minds of men and women can affect their financial decisions…one in eight men, but only one in every 40 women, had ‘made riskier investments looking for long-term growth’ in the previous week. Female investors were twice as likely to expect the return on stocks over the coming year to be zero or negative…

“The women were more concerned but took fewer actions,” said psychologist Ellen Peters of the University of Oregon, who co-directed the survey. “They were also more pessimistic — or realistic? — about what to expect from the market.”

Stocks are up 35% since March, so the women’s fears haven’t yet come to pass. But their inaction already looks wise.”

So, to that student with the 85% question, nyah, nyah.

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