Women often make better investors – fact. So why do so many of us shy away from investing? Mum of two, Tanya Rolfe, gives us the lowdown...
Put your hands up if you’ve ever thought about investing? My hand is half up; though I’ve definitely considered it, I’ve never followed through. Why? Maybe it’s the risk factor, or because I’m not fully clued up (it always moves down my to-do list), or the one I feel most embarrassed about… because I leave it to my husband. Turns out I’m not alone. There’s a huge gender investing gap, put simply – women invest less. Tanya Rolfe knows all about it. After spending years making a career in investment, she’s decided things need to change. Along with co-founders Nicole and Christine, she set up financial education platform – Sophia.
We caught up with Tanya to ask why women invest less, what we can do to change that, plus how we can help our kids (especially the girls!) get a head start when it comes to investing…
LET’S HEAR IT FOR THE GIRLS – HOW THESE WOMEN ARE SHAKING UP THE INVESTMENT SCENE IN SINGAPORE
Hi Tanya! Thanks for chatting with us. So let’s start with the issue – why are women in Singapore less likely to invest compared to men?
I think this starts early in our lives – we aren’t socialised as children or young women to discuss money. So, it becomes a more unfamiliar topic compared to men. Men become comfortable with the topic at a younger age and therefore start compounding earlier – the gap between men and women just widens as we age. In many cultures, discussing money, particularly for women, is taboo and uncouth. This stigma likely plays a part in the reason for the gaps.
There is also fear around the lack of knowledge. When you’ve not been taught something, it is left to you to educate yourself, but if the finance world is so male-dominated, it is hard to navigate or break into. It’s also less appealing with a sea of men and male-focused financial products and services. Very few financial institutions think about women as a market for them, so they target men as their customers.
Now onto your new startup – how are you hoping Sophia will help address the gap?
As a new learning platform in Asia, we aim to provide much-needed financial education for women to increase financial freedom and increase diversity and inclusion in early-stage investing. We believe education along with community is what is needed. A third of the world’s wealth is under the control of women and is expected to reach $93 trillion globally by 2023, and yet we have so few female investors. We believe that women have the financial means but are largely overlooked when it comes to managing money and don’t really know where to start.
Tell us more about your background before setting up Sophia?
Sophia’s three co-founders come from investment backgrounds and have seen first-hand the gender gap. Women receive less than 3% of all venture capital dollars for their businesses, meaning women as consumers and customers are often underserved. This is likely to do with the fact we have so few women in financial roles making decisions to drive capital towards women. We hope to educate women about investment and, at the same time, direct money towards women-led startups who are building businesses for us all and are often better for the future of our planet.
What if someone doesn’t have significant funds to invest – is it still useful to be clued up?
Firstly, I think one of the misconceptions around investing is that you need millions of dollars to invest, and this simply isn’t true. The art of compounding is very important – you can start small and conservative and grow over time. That said, Sophia wants women everywhere to be in control of their basic financial wellbeing, and this does not have to include investing. It could just be managing your day-to-day expenses in a smart way.
Being ‘clued up’ on something like investing does not necessarily mean you have to do it, but it is good to know what your options are because there are likely more options than you realise.
What if you’re risk-averse – is it still worth exploring?
We all have different risk appetites, and being thoughtful over risk is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, women are well known for their prudence with risk management, and it serves them rather well as investors – often outperforming men. If you really feel paralysed by fear, then a community of like-minded people will no doubt assist you in decision making. Being in the ‘same boat’ as others is very reassuring when we are navigating uncharted waters.
HOW WE CAN HELP OUR KIDS WITH THEIR KNOWLEDGE ABOUT FINANCE AND INVESTMENT
As well as our own knowledge, how can we help educate our kids? At what age should we start talking to them about finance and investment?
As young as possible – my children are five and six, and we recently did a brainstorming session around how to start a business, and their comments and thoughts on making money were hilarious but also smart and thought-provoking. They actually started a shop after that session and began to manage small amounts of money.
Any advice for how we start these conversations?
Make it fun. If I had taken out the excel spreadsheet and started asking them about formulas, I would have lost them in seconds! Instead, we had the huge whiteboard to draw on, they took control of the writing, and I let them take the lead on the direction. They were hooked, they had fun, and they owned it.
TOP TIPS AND TAKEAWAYS FROM TANYA WHEN IT COMES TO WOMEN INVESTING…
I know nothing about finance. Where should I even start? For instance, is it all about old-school stocks, or should we be looking to crypto and beyond now?
Great question! If you literally know nothing, then education is your foundation. Do you have a good grasp of your income and outgoings? Do you understand basic investing terms and asset classes? There are a lot of free resources out there, but Sophia recognises that community is what matters to women.
Also, remember, it is never too late, and you are also not alone. Financial education has been lacking for women the world over, and it touches nearly all of us. When we start to think about the subject like that, we stop thinking about us as the ones left behind or embarrassed to seek out support because many of us are in this together!
If you had to give one piece of advice to women when it comes to starting investing, what would it be?
Don’t rush; educate yourself, surround yourself with others and start conservatively – but just start!
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