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Feb 29, 2024

Women And Money In 2024

by Rita Silvan

“You've come a long way, Baby!" was the ad slogan for Virginia Slims, the Philip Morris' cigarette brand marketed exclusively for women. The campaign cleverly exploited the 1960s civil rights movement. (Congratulations ladies, you're liberated. Now go buy some smokes.) Financial independence may not have been what Philip Morris had in mind, but during the past six decades, women have indeed come a long way.

Canadian women will control $4 trillion in assets by 2028, nearly double the current amount of $2.2 trillion. (In the U.S., McKinsey pegs the generational wealth transfer to women at $68 trillion by 2030.) Despite the persistent wage gap where the average Canadian woman earns 89% of a man's wage, women's growing wealth comes from a group of factors: higher average wages, more senior roles, greater workforce participation, higher levels of entrepreneurship, and being the beneficiaries of inheritances. One of the big cultural trends in 2023 is young women being more educated than their male cohorts. Fewer men are enrolling in college and university, especially in advanced four-year degree programs. This has led women to close the wage gap with men in some jobs and geographical areas.

For the first time in recorded history, women control significant wealth. A lot of that money currently is or will be invested via financial advisors or through family offices. Since the start, the investment industry has been built by men for male clients. This will necessarily change as more women become financially influential. Numerous research shows that the average woman has different attitudes, values, and behaviours regarding money than the average man. (We can debate how much of this is nature versus nurture.)

Different Financial Goals: Security Over Prosperity

Twice as many women as men say they seek financial security over prosperity. In a study by U.S. Trust, only 62% of high-net-worth women said they felt financially secure compared to 76% of high-net-worth men. Women's greater focus on financial security affects how they save and invest. Despite earning less than men, women have higher saving rates and are more likely to participate in a workplace retirement savings plan. Financial advisors report their female clients are more likely to factor family and friends in their budgets and invest the remainder, whereas male clients are more likely to do the opposite.

A 2021 Women and Investing study by Fidelity found that women do a lot of things right when it comes to investing. They are more likely to take a holistic approach to building wealth that is based on their values and goals and then select investments and strategies that are in alignment with those. Among high-net-worth women, a poll by a private bankers association found that clients expected their banks to create sustainable and innovative investment recommendations, take a holistic approach to asset management, and provide advice on how to structure their wealth along with market intelligence and thought leadership. Advisors will need to step up their game to provide a more holistic approach to managing money for their female clients, one that includes financial planning, budgeting, and goal setting, not just performance returns against a benchmark.

Perfectionism And Fear

While there are always exceptions, research shows women are perfectionists who tend to overprepare and overdeliver at work. This may result from the belief that women need to be twice as good as men to get ahead and that should they fail at a task, they may not get a second chance or "fail upwards" into a promotion. Studies confirm women's performance is scrutinized more carefully. One recent study reported in Harvard Business Review found that men receive significantly higher ratings in performance reviews when the grade is based on a 10-point scale. However, there is no gender difference in ratings when the scale is switched to a 6-point scale. The reasoning for this discrepancy is a "10-out-of-10" is considered the "best of the best" and gender bias prevents managers from giving this ranking to a woman. On the other hand, a "6-out-of-6" is merely "very good".

Perfectionism can be seen as having high standards, but it is also a symptom of fear of making a mistake. Women investors are more risk-aware than men. This usually works to women's advantage as studies show female investors—both retail and professional— consistently outperform men by an average of 40 basis points. This small amount of alpha compounds, over the long term, into a meaningful gain. The superior performance is attributed mainly to lower levels of trading activity. Data from 37,000 U.S. households showed that men's trading frequency is almost double that of women; single men trade even more frequently at nearly 70% more often than women.

However, perfectionism's dark side is the belief that you need to know everything about markets and investing before jumping in. Fear of making a mistake is often cited by women as a reason for not investing. In a 2023 Fidelity survey, women delineated five major barriers to investing. The biggest ones were "Fear of Risk" (62%) and "Lack of Knowledge" (48%); a lack of trust in the investment products and providers garnered nearly 50% each. Only 30% said were not interested in investing. Studies show that when women understand the risk/reward profiles of the investments and strategies, they are as willing to take on risk as men.

Starting Sooner

The good news is women are starting to invest earlier. Younger women between the ages of 18 to 35 begin investing at an average age of 21 compared to women over 36, who begin at age 30, on average. One regret that older women report is not starting to invest earlier in life to take advantage of the power of compounding. Starting later puts more pressure on women to catch up or to take more risks than they are comfortable with to build a sustainable retirement income. Younger women are listening to their elders and taking control of their financial destinies earlier.

Iconic Women On Money

"I don't pretend to be some maven, like the guy in Barron's last week who can analyze all the companies and so forth." 

- Barbra Streisand, who installed a real-time stock quote   service in her home.


"We all hope for capital gains, but the only thing we can really count on is the dividend." 

 -Geraldine Weiss, legendary investor, and editor.


"My mom said to me, 'You know, sweetheart, one day you should settle down and marry a rich man.' And I said, 'Mom, I am a rich man.'"

- Cher


"People say that money is not the key to happiness. But I figure if you have enough money, you can have a key made." 

- Joan Rivers


"Power is not given to you. You have to take it."

- Beyoncé

Rita Silvan, CIM is a finance journalist specializing in women and investing. She is the former editor-in-chief of ELLE Canada and Golden Girl Finance. Rita produces content for leading financial institutions and wealth advisors and has appeared on BNN Bloomberg, CBC Newsworld, and other media outlets. She can be reached at