Are women financially conservative or just economically realistic?

They're less willing to play the market than men, but they'll ensure the mortgage is paid off

Mar 4, 2014 @ 11:56 am

By Carl O'Donnell

Women are more conservative with their finances than men and slightly less confident, according to a survey by BlackRock Inc.

More than half of women surveyed globally say that they are not willing to take any risks with money, and just 21% are willing to invest in stocks. According to the survey, men are much more open to risk, with about 33% expressing a willingness to play the market. Meanwhile, 41% of women feel knowledgeable about saving and investing, compared with 57% of men.

Female investors surveyed are also more pessimistic. More than 53% use negative words, such as “nervous,” “frustrated,” and “concerned,” to describe their financial circumstances. In addition, women are more doubtful about their ability to achieve financial goals such as building wealth and funding retirement, the survey indicated.

(See also: Krawcheck: Women on Wall Street have 'gone backwards')

“Simply put, when it comes to money, women and men today see the world quite differently,” Sue Thompson, a managing director of BlackRock, said in a statement. “Women have a profoundly sober financial perspective, apparently more influenced than men by the realities of today's market volatility and ongoing economic uncertainty.”

This sober worldview manifests itself in some distinct behaviors. For example, women tend to prioritize day-to-day solvency over long-term goals. If given a hypothetical extra $200 per month, female respondents said their first priorities would be to save, reduce debt, and spend more on children.

One consequence of this near-term focus is that many women put off preparing for retirement. Only 53% of women have begun saving, compared with 62% of men, the survey said.

Another result of women's economic pessimism — or realism, depending on your outlook — is a heightened fear of financial catastrophe. Women are more likely than men to cite job security as a major concern. Women are also more concerned about the consequences of spending more than they earn.

Some of women's biggest financial priorities include paying off the mortgage, reducing other debts, saving for a new home, and financing children's education, the survey said. Men value all of these things too, but to a slightly lesser extent.

“Women seem highly realistic about the financial state of both the world and their own households,” Anne Ackerley, BlackRock's chief marketing officer, said in the statement. “The research we've conducted with investors indicates that women's more cautious stance yields healthy financial priorities, including urgency regarding saving and paying of debt.”

The survey polled 17,500 investors, including 4,000 Americans, split roughly evenly between men and women.

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