Woman + Man = A Healthy Portfolio

It’s official. Warren Buffet has a feminine side. Not that the billionaire investor parades around in drag. He doesn’t. But the investment patterns of men and women show that Buffet has apparently, over time, tuned into his feminine insight when making investment decisions.

You Say Potato…
According to Dr. Ellen Peters, a research psychologist at the University of Oregon who co-directed a survey of 800 people beginning in late September 2008 when the economic meltdown was just heating up, men and women have very different approaches to investing. Men get reactive and angry; that rage takes the edge off any obvious risk, making them feel more bulletproof. (How else would our ancestors have had the guts to take on a woolly mammoth armed with just a spear and a loincloth?) Men are more competitive and more aggressive. And because they tend to be in the thick of it, trading frequently, they are also better at anticipating – and taking advantage of – the soaring highs of a bull market.

Women, on the other hand, approach the stock market with more patience, deliberation and caution. Over time, it’s a good way to ensure dependable, risk-adjusted returns on investments, but it probably won’t yield any jackpot surprises. Women wait to see how things shake out and then act – or not. It’s just part of their natural behavior, according to Dr. Peters.

Complementary Styles
What does all this gender-specific investment-speak really mean? Really, that the two investment approaches need each other, like a yin and its yang. Of course, it could also indicate that the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange – as well as your own investment portfolio – needs a healthy combination of testosterone AND estrogen to flourish in the good times and ride out the bad ones.

Consider these complementary investment factoids:

  • Men are confident investors. They flip their stocks 45% more often than women.
  • Men aren’t afraid to take risks for a potentially big score, while women are less apt to climb out on a financial limb in search of the mother lode.
  • Female investors tend to incur fewer dramatic losses in their portfolios than men – and fewer dramatic wins, too.
  • Women aren’t as confident in their stock-picking abilities. According to a 2014 survey by BlackRock, only 38% of women said they had their financial future in hand. Moreover, only 34% of women felt good about their investment and savings choices.
  • In a 2015 report from Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch Wealth Management division, about 55% of the women surveyed agreed that they knew “less than the average investor about financial markets and investing.” Among the men polled, only 27% said they didn’t feel good about their investing ability. 

Spirit of Cooperation
What are investing couples to make of all this? Probably that working together, listening to each other and choosing funds or stocks in a spirit of cooperation will ultimately make everyone happier – and richer. Here are few more ideas for you and your significant other to consider:

  • Get advice. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. So if all you know is a little, talk to an investment professional, such as a financial planner.
  • Look your limitations in the face – and then find a way to work around them.
  • Draw from your spouse’s investment experience or insight.
  • Don’t do nothing. The fear of risk can be paralyzing, but sometimes the risk is worth it. You wouldn’t stand still in the middle of a thunderstorm, would you?
  • Get educated. If you feel like you don’t have a handle on your portfolio and how your investments are allocated, learn more about them. Find out how many shares you own in each company, study those companies and follow their stocks’ movement in the market.  

The bottom line here is that cooperative investing probably yields the best results. Banking on the strengths of your spouse’s or partner’s investing style should strengthen your portfolio – and even your relationship.

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Pajama Party

For years, I have pitied my friends who work in an office. They have to get up earlier than I do. They have to shower, dress presentably—if not in a power suit—and get out the door with enough coherence to last the entire day, or at least until they can come home and shed the office costume. Now, thanks to Skype, Google Hangouts and various other all-too-accessible video chat platforms, I’m feeling sorry for myself, too.

Not only has the whole workplace dress-up-or-down, Casual Fridays, dress-to-express revolution made going to work a lot more comfortable for many of us (unless you work in a law firm—and then, well, what can I say?), but the advent of webcams and video chat technology has also made it so I really can’t go to work looking like I just rolled out of bed – even if I have.

Of course, I can do what I want. I work at home, I have an office with all the technological bells and whistles, and I make my own schedule. In theory, total freedom. Except when one of my editors or clients decides, on a whim, that eight o’clock is the perfect time for a face-to-face. Do I really want to chance getting caught in my fuzzy blue-fleece bathrobe festooned with sheep appliqués, crusty drool in the corner of my mouth and sleep still in my eyes? Not so much.

wear shoes   And there’s the rub. It used to be that pajamas and pillow hair were fine. More than fine. They were a badge of honor. They were a telecommuter’s way of saying, “See, I can look like doo-doo, work in my jammies and still be as productive as the woman in the cubicle wearing a Prada pantsuit and matching Bluetooth.” (Memories of Jane Jetson…) Now, sadly, it’s makeup and stain-free clothes all over again. As another work-at-home friend puts it, “We may as well be going to a goddamn ball.”

But messing with my right to dress like a slob isn’t the only disaster video chat has wrought. A few weeks ago, my mother – who discovered the wonders of video calling when we lived in England – decided to reach out and touch someone. Namely me. Skype called, I answered, despite wanting to curl up in my office with a cup of coffee and my iPhone.

And there was my mother, leaning so far into her computer screen that I was sure her head was going to pop out on on my end and get right up in my face. She’s leaning and squinting; I’m cranky and suffering from back-to-school-itis. So instead of commiserating with me or asking me how it feels to have one boy in college, she cocks her head and says, “Oh my God, you look like hell!”

So long, yoga jammies. Hello, Bobbi Brown…

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