A new report about the sundry ways American men and women nurture their personal finances suggests that women aren't daring enough with their investment portfolios. Financial prudence may seem like a virtue, but some money wizards would really like to appropriate Sheryl Sandberg's "lean in" phraseology and see women become more aggressive in the giant conceptual casino we benignly call "the stock market."
According to data from nearly 20,000 site users provided by savings and debt-management rewards program SaveUp.com, the average man with a savings account boasted a balance nearly twice that of the average woman. More discrepancies: men are taking greater advantage of high-yield tax-deferred instruments, maintaining an average IRA balance 72 percent more than the average woman's balance and filling their greedy little palms with 30 percent more in taxable investments. On the other hand, the average American man is saddled with almost $10,000 more in debt than the average American woman, and men also usually carry 32.3 percent more in car-loan debt.
Women would seem, based on this report, to be more prudent about personal finances than men, but has such enviable financial restraint earned them any respect from SaveUp.com's CEO Priya Hajii? Hajii thinks it isn't so much prudence that keeps women from taking investment risk so much as it is a natural female "timidity":
I'm not saying there aren't women who drive racecars or skydive. There are. But it's broader than just money. This is an aspect of our nature.
First of all, women are awesome at investing, or, at the very least, being a woman doesn't, in itself, somehow disqualify someone from figuring out clever ways to shuttle money from one hot stock tip to another. The other thing that Haji points out is that the gap between sexes' account holdings might have a little something to do with the persistent wage gap, or the fact that women have to shell out a lot more money just to own a vagina.
Haji's point that women need to become more aggressive investors has been made before, and it will probably be made again and again, each new bit of investment advice including some variation of the phrase, "It's in women's/men's nature." Investing, however, isn't really in anyone's nature, sort of like the way playing ten straight hours of Xbox isn't in anyone's nature, or painting one's fingernails isn't intrinsically gendered.
"Nature" arguments are cheap and lazy, and they often rely, ironically, on cultural stereotypes. Men don't have an inherent edge in the investing racket because their genitals are more likely to dangle, and women aren't more likely to refrain from blowing their savings on a shitty new Corvette just because nature has molded them into resourceful investment robins that build nests out of money. Nature hasn't dictated who's gotten to play the stock market for the better part of its existence — men have, or at least they did until reasonable people realized how dumb that was. All nature has equipped people to do is make more people, walk upright, and consider our own mortality. Everything else is just extra work we've made up for ourselves.
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