Gender-driven financial decisions
Women’s wealth around the world is on the rise. But research shows they manage their finances in very different ways to men.
Only one third of Asia’s wealthier women have written wills, and in Latin America that proportion is closer to a half — in sharp contrast to their male counterparts, and indeed to better-off women in many other parts of the world.
Such attitudes to inheritance planning are among the many striking differences in the way men and women handle their wealth highlighted in Understanding the Female Economy, a report from Barclays Wealth and Investment Management. The research, which canvassed 2,000 high net worth individuals, found that 61 per cent of men make inheritance a key priority compared with 51 per cent of women, with similar proportions of each sex believing it is important for them to leave a legacy.
Nearly one in three women is without a will, compared to just one in five of men. But the level of inheritance preparation varies by region: in the US, 94 per cent of men and 93 per cent of women have made wills, with the levels in Europe slightly lower. In Asia, by contrast, just 34 per cent of women have drawn up wills, compared with 57 per cent of men.
The report suggests that the lower levels of inheritance planning among women may reflect the reduced role they play in organising household finances: only 36 per cent of women have sole responsibility for financial decisions compared with 67 per cent of men. Yet women are becoming increasingly wealthy, with research showing that in some developed countries, such as the UK, there are now more female than male millionaires, and that, globally, women control $20 trillion of annual consumer spending.
Despite that, it seems that women are no more likely than men to delegate their financial decisions, for example by using an investment manager, says the Barclays research.
Attitudes to risk and investment do, however, vary markedly between genders. While half of men describe themselves as risk-takers and say they are willing to choose high-risk investments to achieve a greater return, less than a third of women opt for this approach. Women are also more likely to take a cooling-off period before reaching a big financial decision and are more likely to adopt a ‘buy and hold’ strategy for investment, rather than trying to judge the best time to buy and sell investments.
“In any setting, and especially in an entrepreneurial one, the propensity for risk-taking is going to be helpful at times and harmful in others,” says Dr Emily Haisley, a behavioural finance expert at Barclays. “Whilst it is natural for men and women to have different perspectives in decision-making, it is important to be aware of your own propensity for risk and surround yourself with people who have different attitudes towards it.“
And she adds: “It’s not a matter of having male opinions and female opinions; it is a matter of increasing the likelihood of having diverse opinions feed into decisions in order to secure the best outcome.”
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