Surprise, Men and Women Approach Investments Different

I feel like there is a hyper-push in society today to treat everyone the same, but sometimes the unisex outlook just doesn’t make sense.  I feel like anyone with any type of life experience knows there is a difference in almost every aspect between males and females beyond anatomy and this would obviously include investments.

I would go as far as to say these natural differences in fact does make one sex better than the other at certain aspects of life.  I don’t think I am portraying misogyny or chauvinistic tendencies when I say that the WNBA is a terrible product compared to the NBA.  Anyone that says otherwise is ridiculous.  Similarly, there is a reason why life and auto insurance costs are lower for women they are actuarially better at staying alive and not getting into accidents.

One can call it sexist if they want, but is it so far fetched that the two genders, who were designed (either by nature or God) to handle different things will have different strengths and weaknesses?

Men and Women are Wired Differently When it Comes to Investments

Having such a strong opinion on the subject I was naturally intrigued when I saw the article titled, Investment Decisions: Men’s Brains Are From Mars, Women’s Are From Venus written by Oliva Mellan and Sherry Christie. Citing a wealth psychologist specialists, Ms. Mellan and Ms. Christie conclude,

Their [each gender's] brains are different by the time they’re born, and their brains are what drive their impulses, values and their reality.

This difference is clear in male and female investors. Men measure success in terms of beating a benchmark or their friends. As Kingsbury put it, winning “makes their brains happy.” To women, investment success isn’t about winning or losing, but about meeting their life goals and objectives—in other words, surviving and thriving.

Several physical differences in the brain tend to make women more relationship-oriented and more focused on caregiving, passing on legacies to the next generation and using wealth to better the community. These differences involve three areas of the brain:

  1. The amygdala and limbic system (center of emotion, fear and aggression; responsible for “fight or flight”). The limbic system is larger in the female brain than in males’. Scientists hypothesize that this may contribute to women feeling responsible for caring for those they love, even at their own personal and financial expense.
  2. The corpus callosum (connector that transmits signals between the left and right sides of the brain). Women have more connections between hemispheres, accounting for their proficiency in multitasking and verbal communication. Men’s more limited number of connections makes them less verbal, but enables them to concentrate more fully on individual tasks.
  3. The hippocampus (hub of emotion and memory formation and recall). This too is larger in women than in men, perhaps accounting for women’s greater ability to store and remember details.

I have absolutely no background in nuerosciences but I am pretty sure that every single male can attest to the fact that a woman has a “greater ability to store and remember details.”  But doesn’t it make sense on the basest of levels?

Men measure success in terms of beating a benchmark or their friends. As Kingsbury put it, winning “makes their brains happy.” To women, investment success isn’t about winning or losing, but about meeting their life goals and objectives—in other words, surviving and thriving.

Men want to strut their stuff show women they can provide so they can mate, while women are the caretakers of the child in most mammals so it is in their best interest to survive and thrive (hence, be less risky).

I think there is power in knowing what one’s genetically predisposed to do so you can either run with the feeling or try to consciously fight the feeling.

13 Responses to Surprise, Men and Women Approach Investments Different

  1. I love reading about the actual physiological/psychological differences between people. It’s so surprising how many things go back to the way our body’s are set up.

  2. I can certainly attest the attribute of wanting to win in men. I constantly look for measures of where someone at my age should be in regards to amount saved and invested. These are good tendencies to remember when making financial decisions with a spouse.

      • I had read a few years back (no idea of the resource at this point) that a good measure of amount saved for retirement by thirty should be your average annual salary during your 20’s. I just turned 30 and hit that.

        Now, my litmus test is how soon can I retire :)!

  3. There are definitely a great deal of differences between genders, so it makes sense that they would approach investing differently as well. Women definitely are more detail-oriented for the most part among other things.

  4. I wonder if the desire to win translates into taking on more risk to get there from a male point of view. If that’s the case, its probably why women make better investors then men. I just need to be sure not to tell my wife that :)

  5. Interesting post. Some years ago, before this topic became a bit of a flap, I read a study showing that men do tend to be more aggressive than women when it comes to investments. Often, the men’s risk-taking paid off, which of course tended to reinforce the person’s tendency to invest aggressively.

    That’s why, sexist little me, I hire men to manage my money. At the outset, I did hire a woman, an acquaintance who billed herself as a specialist in women’s finances. The funds she put me in were way too conservative and way too homogeneous.

    While my present investment manager is fairly conservative (sticks largely to blue chips, for example), he has my investments widely diversified over instruments that range from stodgy to slightly aggressive. On my own, I would allocate every penny among three Vanguard funds of with different strategies. And…on my own, I would not have seen my money earn enough this January (in one month!) to cover my living expenses for the next 18 months. :-)

    • Got into a heated discussion on twitter about something and your comment reminded me. When does so called sexist comments turn into just playing the odds.

      I digress, since we are at even higher highs – has your guy pulled some of the gains back? Lock in the 18months of expenses?

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