Ladies, when was the last time you bought yourself a takeaway coffee or a pastry en route to the office? Or what about treating yourself to dinner out or some post-work drinks?
This morning? Yesterday? Last week? Chances are it wasn’t too long ago – the average British woman spends roughly £211 every single month on day-to-day treats, from new clothes and beauty treatments, to gym classes and dining out.
Now what if I asked you when you last invested money into a stocks and shares ISA or EIS scheme? Tumbleweed…
That’s because we, as women, simply aren’t investing our disposable income the way we should be. In fact, we’re spending half as much on investment opportunities as we are on treating ourselves (just £98 a month to be precise). And when you compare this to the way men invest, we’re really falling behind.
But this is no great secret – the gender investment gap has been around for years and is impacting us just as hard as the pay gap.
I’ve been interested in investment for a long time – literally since the day I got my first pay cheque – but I’m acutely aware that I’m not in the majority here and I’m always fascinated as to why investment is not higher on women’s agendas.
As a motivational speaker and business adviser, I’m constantly meeting ambitious, aspirational and intelligent women who are keen to further their careers, their business ventures and their overall success and prosperity – but what I’m constantly amazed by is how many of these women tell me they’re not that interested or clued up when it comes to investing their money.
Of course, there’s lots of legitimate reasons why. As women, we often earn less than men therefore we naturally have less to invest. We are also more likely to take career breaks in order to start a family so incur more periods where we’re not earning as much, if at all.
But this alone isn’t entirely responsible for the gender investment gap we’re currently facing in the UK, so I recently set out to find out what else was holding women back from putting their hard earned cash into potentially high return schemes. I partnered with research company Mortar to speak to both women and men about their investment habits, and discovered that for every £1 invested by men a month, women are investing just 59p – and more than two thirds of the women we spoke to (64%) aren’t investing anything at all.
When asked what puts them off investing more, or indeed any, of their disposable income, the most commonly cited reasons among women were that they didn’t have enough disposable income to invest (46%), they deem investing as ‘too risky’ (31%), and they don’t understand the different types of investment options available to them (28%). These responses ring some major alarm bells for me and it’s clear that as women, we are inherently more risk-averse than our male counterparts. It was also interesting to discover that more than one in 10 women said they don’t understand the language used to describe different investment options.
So how can we get past these hurdles and start to level out the playing field?
For me, it comes down to two key factors – the first being education. Unless women know the facts about investment, how will they ever feel empowered to take the plunge and part with their money? Women need to research the different types of schemes out there too.
You’ll be surprised at how many ways there are to dip your toes into investment – for instance, it doesn’t have to revolve around traditional routes like stocks and shares.
I recently became a board member of The Money Platform – a peer-to-peer lending service where individuals can borrow and loan money in a safe way. Lenders can get a great return on their money and you don’t have to have huge amounts of spare cash to get started.
Finally, women need to start factoring investment into their own personal balance sheet.
So rather than looking at your monthly disposable income, divvying it up across your favourite treats and savings accounts, and only then considering what’s left out of that to invest – investment should instead form a core part of your monthly disposable outgoings.
To summarise – investment opportunities are there for the taking, women just need to overcome their nerves and take a more fearless approach in order to reap the benefits – after all, who dares wins, right? Even if you decide it’s not for you (investment isn’t for everyone), at the least, you’ve educated yourself enough to make an informed decision.