Affluent Women Still Flinch About Investing

Increased wealth and an expanded presence in the workplace have not helped married affluent women to feel more confident about investing and long-term financial planning.

Notable among the Wells Fargo Affluent Women Retirement Survey findings: Although women make up about half the U.S. workforce and more than four in ten (44%) married affluent women now make the same amount (20%) or more (24%) than their spouses, nearly the same number of women (41%) reported feeling “not at all” confident in their ability to invest successfully.

Just 8% of the women surveyed said they feel “extremely confident” in their investing abilities.

“Today’s affluent women are financially savvy working women, but investing confidence doesn’t follow hand in hand with increased wealth,” Karen Wimbish, director of retail retirement at Wells Fargo, said in a statement.

The survey found that women’s perception of investing and wealth management is improving in other ways. For instance, as affluent women gain wealth, two out of three said having more money has made them “thriftier.” And 58% of the women interviewed described themselves as “savers.”

Wimbish suggested that it will be important for financial planners and advisers to find ways to continue this momentum. “Confidence seems to be the linchpin to so many other positive behaviors that would provide an opportunity for women to grow their savings and to build a solid foundation in retirement, she said.


Needing Confidence

Affluent women in general seemed to agree, with a majority of those surveyed (91%) reporting they feel it is important for women to have confidence in their ability to invest. Among those who identified themselves as “confident investors” more than seven in 10 (73%) said they either make household investing decisions alone or with their spouse—compared with just 49% participation among those who described themselves as not confident in investing.

Other key survey findings suggest 41% of all affluent women do not believe the stock market is the best way to grow savings, compared with 52% who do. About a third of respondents (34%) said that the stock market is "too risky," while 64% said they have become more risk-averse with increasing wealth.

The survey suggested a correlation between women’s investing confidence and their belief that the stock market is the best place to grow savings over time. While 59% of confident women see the stock market as the best place to grow savings, just 44% who do not identify themselves as confident investors agree.

Researchers also asked married affluent women about their aspirations and fears regarding retirement planning. They found that, as affluent women think about living in retirement, 40% said "running out of money" scares them. Forty-five percent said the prospect of living in retirement without a steady paycheck is something “they will resist as long as possible by working.”

Health care, the survey reports, continues to be the top-ranked topic discussed by women and their spouses, as well as women and their female friends.

Conducted by Koski Research, the survey reached 600 women between the ages of 40 and 69 with a median income of $455,000 in investable assets and $145,000 in household income. Wells Fargo commissioned the study to illuminate affluent women’s perception of wealth, investing and retirement.

Additional survey findings can be read here.