Personal Finance

To Close the Gender Investing Gap, Talk to Your Young Girls. Here's How to Start

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Women have a money problem. They earn less than men and invest less, as well.

The gender investment gap can be chalked up, in part, to insecurity, experts say.

"The way that people can become confident is through knowledge," said Betsy Kelder, executive director of Invest in Girls, a program with the Council for Economic Education.

The numbers tell the tale. Only 26% of American women invest in the stock market, a 2018 report from S&P Global found, and they invest less aggressively than men. Yet a 2017 Fidelity study found that women who did invest outperformed men by 40 basis points.

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Meanwhile, a 2019 Bank of America Merrill Lynch Workplace Benefits Report found that women enter retirement with $70,000 less saved than men. Nearly 1 in 5 women have nothing saved, according to a 2020 CNBC/Survey Monkey Women at Work survey.

"We live, on average, seven years longer and, if we divorce, we are more likely to end up in poverty," said Jennifer Openshaw, CEO of the online entrepreneurship program Girls With Impact.

"It is critical we think about it early on and get into the habit of saving."

In fact, parents can start addressing the investing gap by having conversations with their children — the earlier, the better.

Girls' confidence levels drop by 30% between the ages of 8 and 14, the authors of "The Confidence Code for Girls" found in their polling with Ypulse. When girls are hitting their lows at age 14, boys' confidence is 27% higher.

It doesn't have to be complicated

When talking to your daughter, context matters.

"Make it a relevant conversation," Openshaw said.

If they are older and like Apple products, for instance, you can show them how much they would have made if they had invested in the company 10 years ago.

If they are young, start with money concepts like budgeting and what it means to save. When they are older, investing can become a more organic, natural conversation.

"If you aren't comfortable about money, then investing seems insurmountable," said Kristen Kimmell, head of advisor recruiting and field marketing at RBC Wealth Management.

Kimmell noticed that when her eldest daughter was about 13, she started feeling less confident about math. Kimmell and her husband created a matching program for their two daughters — when the kids put money into their bank account, the parents matched it. Once the oldest daughter got her first job, she wasn't intimidated by the concept of a 401(k), Kimmell said.

Parents can also have their children separate out their money into envelopes marked "spend," "save" and "give."

Sometimes a teachable moment can be as easy as bringing kids into the things you are doing, whether it is buying groceries, purchasing school supplies or paying for a restaurant meal. They can also watch you pay bills or prepare your taxes.

Learn together

"One of the barriers we see is parents don't talk about it because they don't understand it," Invest in Girls' Kelder said. "So, they are uncomfortable."

Parents can learn about money and investing together with their kids. The Council for Economic Education offers Family-At-Home Financial Fun Packs that contain age-appropriate money lessons and worksheets.

Once kids are interested in the concept of investing and compound interest, they can try their hand at a stock market game available through the SIFMA Foundation, which helps teach financial markets to children through partnerships with schools.

"Leverage what is out there," said RBC's Kimmell, who is on the SIFMA board. "There is a ton of information."

Include them in decisions

As your children get older, you can bring them into bigger family financial decisions, like figuring out the annual household budget, if you have one.

If they are high-school sophomores and starting to think about college, talk about what higher education costs, Kelder advised. You can discuss a reasonable budget, how much you can afford and how much debt your child wants to take on.

"Include kids in the conversations we are having as adults," she said. "We don't give kids enough credit.

"They learn a lot that way."

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