Women, on average, live five years longer than men. They make, on average, 21 percent less than their male counterparts, they take more “career breaks" than men do, and their salaries peak much earlier — at age 40 versus 55.
When you take these factors, and others, into consideration, a woman will retire with substantially less than her male equivalent even though she's more likely to live longer. It's a no brainer — the short answer to “should women invest differently than men?" is a resounding, “Yes!"
The Status Quo
“We often read about the gender pay gap that affects women; much less well-known is the gender investing gap," said Sallie Krawcheck, the co-founder and CEO for Ellevest, an investing firm that caters specifically to females. “Investing less than men can cost some women just as much as the pay gap over their lives. While most big investing firms have 'women and investing' programs, most of them have missed the mark. In my opinion, it's because they all tried to market to women, not to serve women."
Currently, 86 percent of investment advisors are men, which translates into a clear lack of the female perspective in a field that affects the sexes equally. Krawcheck founded Ellevest to fill a clear need in the investing market, and the firm has gone back to the very basics to carefully examine, question, and alter the status quo. Along the way, they've discovered that women don't care about outperforming the market, which is the traditional investing goal. Instead, they care very deeply about planning for their goals and investing to reach them.
Susan Conrad, the chief client experience officer and an advisor at Plancorp, has worked in the investment space for 25 years and is particularly knowledgeable about goals-based, purpose-built investing. She agrees with Krawcheck regarding a woman's investment goals versus a man's.
“Women want to feel secure, to know that they are not going to outlive their money. We often set family related goals, such as paying for children's college or assisting with a down payment for their first home and leaving a legacy for the next generation. Men, in contrast, are often focused on investment performance and trying to hit a number that they think reflects success," she said.
Neither is an inherently wrong approach, but Conrad added that “as advisors, we should address the information needed by our clients. I think it's imperative for an investment strategy to be based upon a financial plan that includes the personalized goals and dreams of each client."
Sallie Krawcheck. Photo courtesy of Girlboss
Changing the Investing Tide
A woman outliving her retirement fund because an investment manager assumed a man's lifespan, or didn't account for other female-driven variables, can be catastrophic. And the fact that women are investing less than men, on average, is a sign that the industry hasn't been doing a great job serving the female market. Clearly, real change in the investment world is needed, and we're on the cusp of a tidal shift thanks to female-driven companies like Ellevest, and advisors like Conrad.
In addition to taking into account obvious changes (such as longer life spans, pay disparity, and salary peaks), subtle findings are being accounted for.“[For example], women won't invest in what they don't understand, while men will. Women are not more risk averse — as so many believe — but are more 'risk aware.' That means they want to understand the risks they are taking, and once they do, we have found that they are willing to take them," said Krawcheck.
“We built a proprietary investing algorithm that helps women choose their goals, make trade-offs among their goals, and put together an investing plan to reach their goals. If the client falls off track, we provide her with personalized tips for getting back on track."
Conrad added, “Over the next decade the largest wealth transfer in American finance history will occur. It will affect women, their children and millennials more profoundly than any other demographic.
Add to that the fact that 70 percent of buying decisions are made by women, and you can see why it's so important for advisors to understand women and address their concerns."
In many ways I am a shining example of the American Dream. I was born in Hungary during the Communist era, and my family fled to Israel before coming to the U.S. in pursuit of freedom and safety. When we arrived, I was just a young, shy girl who couldn't speak English. After my childhood in Hungary, New York City was a marvel; I couldn't believe that such a lively, rich place existed. Even a simple thing like going to the market and seeing all the bright, colorful produce and having so many choices was new to me. I'll never take that for granted. I think it's where my love affair with color truly began.
One thing I had was a strong work ethic. I worked hard in school, to learn English, and at jobs including my first job at Dairy Queen -- which I loved! Ice cream is easily my favorite food. From there, I moved into the garment district where my brother-in-law's family had a business. During this time, I was able to see how a business was run and began to hone in on my eye for aesthetics and willingness to work hard at any task I was given.
Eventually, my brother-in-law bought a dental supply company in Los Angeles and asked me to join him. LA, a place with 365-days of sunshine. How could I say no? The company started as Odontorium Products Inc. During the acrylic movement of the 1980s, we realized that nail technicians were buying our product, and that the same components used for dentures were used for artificial nails. We saw a potential opening in the market, and we seized it. OPI began dropping off the "rubber band special" at every salon on Ventura Blvd. in Los Angeles. A jar of powder, liquid and primer – rubber-banded together – became the OPI Traditional Acrylic System and was a huge hit, giving OPI its start in the professional nail industry. It was 1981 when OPI first opened its doors. I couldn't have predicted our success, but I knew that hard work and faith in myself would be key in transforming a new business into a company with global reach.
When we started OPI, what we were doing was something new. Before OPI came on the scene, the generic, utilitarian nail polish names already on the market – like Red No. 4, Pink No. 2 – were completely forgettable. We rebranded the category with catchy names that we knew women could relate to and would remember. The industry was stale and boring, so we made it more fun and sexy. We started creating color collections. I carefully developed 30 groundbreaking colors for the debut collection -- many of which are still beloved bestsellers today, including Malaga Wine, Alpine Snow and Kyoto Pearl.
There is no other nail color brand in the world that touches the totality of industries the way OPI does.
With deep roots in Tinseltown, we eventually started collaborating with Hollywood. Our decision to collaborate with the entertainment industry also propelled OPI forward in another way, ultimately leading us to finding a way to connect with women beyond the world of beauty, relating our products to the beverages they drink, the cars they drive, the movies they watch, the clothes they wear – even the shade they use to paint their living room walls! There is no other nail color brand in the world that touches the totality of industries the way OPI does. It also propelled my growth as a businessperson forward. I found myself sitting in meetings with executives from some of the top companies in the world. I didn't have a fancy presentation. I didn't have a Harvard business degree. I realized that what I had was passion. I had a passion for what we were doing, and I had my own unique story that no one else could replicate.
Discipline, hard work, and passion gave me the confidence to grow from that shy immigrant girl to become the person that I am today
Bit by bit, I grew up with the business. Discipline, hard work, and passion gave me the confidence to grow from that shy immigrant girl to become the person that I am today -- an author, public speaker, and co-founder of OPI, the world's #1 professional nail brand.
I learned quickly that one can be an expert at many things, but not everything. Running a business is very hard work. Luckily, I had someone I could collaborate with who brought something new to the table and complemented my talents, my brother-in-law George Schaeffer. My business "superpower," or the ability to make decisions quickly and confidently, kept me ahead of trends and competition.
Another key to my success in building this brand and in growing in business was being authentic. Authenticity is so important to brands and maybe even more so now in the time of social media when you can speak directly to your consumers. I realized even then that I could only be me. I was a woman who knew what I wanted. I looked at my mother and daughter and wanted to create products that would excite and empower them.
There's often an expectation placed on women in charge that they need to be cutthroat to be competitive, but that's not true. Rather than focusing on my gender or any implied limitations I might bring to the job as a female and a mother, I always focused instead on my vision. I deliberately fostered an environment at OPI filled with warmth. After all, at the end of the day, your organization is only as good as its people. I've always found that being nice, being humble, and listening to others has served me well. Instead of pushing others down to get to the top, inspire them and bring them along on the journey.
You can read more about my personal and professional journey in my new memoir out now, I'm Not Really a Waitress: How One Woman Took Over the Beauty Industry One Color at a Time.