Wealth Management

Women tend to be better investors than men, but don’t always take enough risk, CEO says

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When it comes to money, women tend to think of themselves as savers rather than investors. Having that perspective can affect women’s ability to grow wealth over time.

“The biggest risk to women’s portfolios is that we don’t take enough risk,” said Nancy Tengler, CEO and chief investment officer of Laffler Tengler Investments in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Tengler, who has served as a portfolio manager for more than 40 years, said she noticed women of all professions — from business executives to doctors to even a rodeo queen — would recoil when she told them what she does for a living.

Their common response was usually something like, “Oh, my husband handles that,” according to Tengler.

The reaction inspired Tengler to write her book, “The Women’s Guide to Successful Investing,” which was first published in 2014 and has been recently updated with a second edition.

“Women make better investors than men,” Tengler said, and are often less benchmark driven, willing to do more research and are open to changing their minds.

More from Women and Wealth:

Here’s a look at more coverage in CNBC’s Women & Wealth special report, where we explore ways women can increase income, save and make the most of opportunities.

Women investors tend to achieve positive returns and outperform men by 40 basis points, according to research from Fidelity Investments, based on an analysis of annual performance for 5.2 million accounts. Yet the firm also found women tend to hold too much cash on the sidelines and often feel they need to know more before they invest.

There are reasons why women should stay actively involved in the management of their household finances, according to Tengler. The average age of a woman’s first divorce is 30, while the average age of a widow is 59.

Tengler experienced this firsthand when she became a widow at 59.

Women are more likely than men to be hit with “financial curveballs” in retirement, according to recent research from Edward Jones and AgeWave.

“Women are less prepared to begin with for retirement,” said Lena Haas, head of wealth management advice and solutions at Edward Jones. “Women are hit with curveballs more frequently, and they’re less equipped to make adjustments in the financial area.”

For women who experience these life-changing events, it can be even more difficult if they are acquainting themselves with their investment portfolio for the first time, Tengler said.

To get started now, Tengler offers some advice.

1. Be willing to take more risk

Women are poised to amass greater wealth. By this year, it is estimated women will control $93 trillion in assets globally, according to Tengler, citing research from the Boston Consulting Group.

As individuals, women can only become wealthier by taking on appropriate levels of investment risk for their age and goal timelines.

Having just 5% of an investment portfolio in cash rather than in equities will lower annual total return by 0.30%, according to Tengler. Over a 20-year period, that may result in $30,000 less in growth for a portfolio that started with $100,000, assuming a 9% annual average stock return.

2. Stay the course

When it comes to investing, women may also miss out if they do not fully commit to their investment strategy.

For example, when market volatility hits, it may be tempting to sell and sit on the sidelines.

But investors who do this will see their returns drop as they lock in losses and miss out on an eventual rebound. While the average annual return may be 8%, missing the market’s five best days may bring that to just 6.2%, according to Tengler.

Over many years, missing the best market days may result in meaningful losses in wealth.

“Because women live longer, we need to engage in the investing process,” Tengler writes in her book. “And, learn the importance of taking enough risk.”

3. Buy companies you know and do your research

Selecting investments may seem intimidating for any investor. But it doesn’t have to be, according to Tengler.

Choosing company names you are familiar with may be a start. Moreover, it often pays to hold on to those stocks long-term, even when their outlook is not favorable, according to Tengler.

Many company stocks, including names like Starbucks, Microsoft or Apple, may have peaks and valleys.

“Over time, good things happen to the bad stocks of great companies,” Tengler said.

Large companies that tend to pay healthy dividends may also make sense for long-term goals.

Investors may alternatively turn to exchange-traded funds, which will give them broader access the market.

Importantly, it helps to do some research on your investments, even if you are working with a professional financial advisor.

“When you have knowledge, you make a much better client,” Tengler said. “And you get better returns from your advisor because they know you’re paying attention.”

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