Women Feel Behind in Investment Knowledge

Women feel less confident than men in their investment knowledge—but the financial crisis has motivated some to seek out more information, according to a Scottrade poll.

The poll found the majority of women investors (59%) consider themselves at a “beginner” skill level, compared to 35% of men. Most men (56%) describe themselves as “intermediate.” Women also struggle more with understanding investing terminology, as 29 % of women reported this to be a challenging aspect of investing compared to 7% of men.

The recent economic downturn apparently made quite an impact on many female investors, with 32% of women saying they’ve gained a new understanding of their financial picture in the last year compared to 24% of men, the Scottrade poll found. Twenty-two percent of women said they’ve worked hard in the last year to learn more about the economy, while 15% of men said they did the same.

“It’s great to see that women have the same investing goals and are taking the same proactive steps as men,” said Chris Moloney, Scottrade’s chief marketing officer and executive director of customer intelligence. “It is surprising, though, that women are not as confident as men. This discrepancy in men’s and women’s opinions of their own investing skills is especially notable because it doesn’t reflect the reality of their portfolios’ performance.”

Retirement Is Main Investing Goal

Nearly 70% of the men and women in the Scottrade poll said they are in the markets as a way to save for their retirement, while about half of both sexes said they are more generally trying to build a financial nest egg.

The Scottrade poll found 64% of men and 69% of women listed retirement as their primary savings goal, while 50% of men and 47% of women said their investment activities were designed to build up a financial reserve/nest egg. Although women are generally less confident of their investing ability, the number of men’s versus women’s portfolios where the value stayed the same or increased in the last 12 months was equal at 48%.

The Scottrade research found that while there were many attitudinal and behavior similarities between the sexes, there was one key exception—women are more likely to want more education.

Thirty-two percent of women said that they’ve become more familiar with their own personal financial situation in the past year, compared to 24% of men. And, 22% of women indicated that they have taken steps to learn more about the economy, compared to 15% of men.

“The economy seems to have spurred many women into action, and we are very pleased to see a trend that women are taking more of an active role in their own investments,” Moloney said. “Education and empowerment are important steps toward achieving the financial health and stability that will ultimately help people—both men and women—reach their goals and alleviate some of the stress they feel about their finances.”

The study was commissioned by Scottrade and conducted online among members of Survey Sampling Inc.’s SurveySpot consumer panel. It was fielded with a nationally representative sample of 1,143 respondents (627 men and 516 women) between July 15 and 29.