One of our major goals for 2016 was to start taking ownership of our finances. But breaking bad money habits and trying to save money is tougher than we originally thought — even with all the awesome millennial-focused finance podcasts we queued up in our iPhones.
While creating a budget (and sticking to it!) is important, cofounder and CEO of Ellevest Sallie Krawcheck has another way to help us get more bang for our buck. Yep, we’re talking about investing! We sat down with the #girlboss entrepreneur to get the deets on how us everygals can start taking charge of our finances.
B+C: In an interview with Forbes, you said, “This is my Gloria Steinem moment.” Why did you choose to create a women-only investment platform as your passion project?
SK: I never really considered myself much of a feminist until I left Wall Street. I did all the right things — such as put together gender-diverse teams — but feminism wasn’t deep in my bones. It wasn’t until I took some time off and had some space that I realized that the investing industry has been, frankly, “by men, for men” — and that has historically kept women from achieving their financial goals.
We all know money is power. And we women won’t be equal with men until we are financially equal with men. Given my background on Wall Street (and how very few women there are there), if I’m not going to work to fix this issue, who is? So I’ve made it my life’s mission to unleash women’s financial power and close the gender investing gap.
B+C: Can you explain the concept of the “investment gap?”
SK: Women don’t invest to the same extent that men do. Fewer of us have started saving for retirement, we have saved less overall and we park about 70 percent of our money in cash. This can cost us hundreds of thousands — for some of us, even millions — of dollars over the course of our lives. For some women, this can cost them more than the much-more-discussed gender pay gap.
B+C: Many women, including myself, haven’t seriously thought about investing their money. Why should the everygal consider getting into investing?
SK: Let’s take “Elle” as an example: Elle earns $85,000 a year currently. If she invests 20 percent of her salary in a diversified investment portfolio instead of keeping it in cash, in 40 years “Future Elle” may have a real reason to thank her. That’s because our calculations show that, based on historic markets, Future Elle could have anywhere between $565,000 to $2.1 million more money at that time than if “Today Elle” had kept that money in a savings account.*
You should invest because, quite frankly, investing can be life changing. That doesn’t mean that investing won’t involve some ups and downs (some of which can be stomach-lurchers!), but historically, the risks inherent in investing have resulted in superior returns, over time.
B+C: Why do you feel that women need their own investing platform? How does being gender-exclusive help bridge the gap?
SK: For years, I argued that women absolutely did not need their own investing platform. I thought the concept was vaguely insulting and, for whatever reason, I automatically equated the idea with a “junior varsity” offering. But the very fact that the gender investing gap exists is evidence that something different is needed.
Dig a little deeper, and you can note that the investing industry and most of its tools have been created by men, for men. So the “gender-neutral” investment industry implicitly has defaulted to men’s product preferences and men’s financial characteristics. (One big hint: The industry symbol is a bull — a phallic symbol if one ever existed.)
B+C: When many people think about investing, they picture a long and complicated process that only people with experience and/or education in the field should even attempt.
SK: We know! There are all kinds of myths that keep women from investing. One is that it’s all about math and guys are better at math. (Not true!) Another is that women need more financial education before they can become investors. Well, that’s pretty hard to argue with — almost everyone should be more financially literate. But men will often invest regardless (and have profited from it), while women are less likely to.
When you dig into this issue, it’s that men are more likely to invest through jargon, while women are more likely to slow down, research what the jargon means… and then not invest. That’s why we’ve outlawed investing jargon on our site and built an investing plan that you can complete in less than 30 minutes. Not 30 hours, 30 minutes.
B+C: Say you’re out for coffee with a 20-something woman who wants to start investing but has absolutely NO idea where to start. What advice would you give her?
1. Pay off all high-interest debt. That means if you can’t afford to buy something without putting it on your credit card, don’t buy it. Do not start investing until you do this.
2. Start an emergency fund. Your just-in-case fund should be three to six months of take-home pay, squirreled away in a bank account. Do not start investing until you have some cushion built in the event of an emergency.
3. Start a retirement account. This is particularly the case if your company offers a 401(k) match… in other words, free money.
4. Invest for your goals. Experts say to save or invest up to 20 percent of your salary for all your long-term goals including retirement, buying a home, starting a business and so on. Can’t do 20 percent? Then start with 1 percent, move it up to 2, then 3… you get the picture.
5. Invest regularly. That means something out of every paycheck, if you can. This may help to offset the ups and downs of investing. If you invest regularly, sometimes you’ll be investing when the market is expensive and sometimes when it’s cheap, but historically, it has evened itself out.
Are you investing a portion of your paycheck? Tweet us @BritandCo!
(Photos via Ellevest and Getty)
*See 8 Myths That Hold Women Back From Investing. The projections of various investment outcomes are hypothetical in nature, do not reflect actual investment results, and are not guarantees of future results. Information was obtained from third party sources, which we believe to be reliable but not guaranteed for accuracy or completeness. The information provided should not be relied upon as investment advice or recommendations, does not constitute a solicitation to buy or sell securities and should not be considered specific legal, investment or tax advice. The information provided does not take into account the specific objectives, financial situation or particular needs of any specific person. Diversification does not ensure a profit or protect against a loss in a declining market. There is no guarantee that any particular asset allocation or mix of funds will meet your investment objectives or provide you with a given level of income. Investing entails risk including the possible loss of principal and there is no assurance that the investment will provide positive performance over any period of time.