Making investing more approachable for women

Posted by on November 30, 2011 @ 11:42 am in Personal finance

I recently attended the Pennsylvania Conference for Women with a group of Vanguard colleagues. The conference featured an impressive array of speakers who focused on a broad range of personal and professional development topics for women. Sessions were offered on building a small business, leveraging social media, cultivating mentor relationships, and seemingly everything in between. But given that I work in the financial services industry, and that my area of focus at Vanguard is investment advice, I was most interested in the breakout session led by money coach Farnoosh Torabi, author of Psych Yourself Rich.

I’ll admit her book’s title gave me pause. We’ve all seen investment guides promising “ten steps to becoming fabulously wealthy,” or something to that effect. Given that this was a conference for women, I braced myself for what I thought might be an overly cute or watered-down approach to encouraging women to save and invest. I was wrong. While Ms. Torabi’s investment concepts weren’t new, they were specific and sensible (similar to Vanguard’s style). She shared clear, actionable guidance for investors—particularly younger women—in an unintimidating way. I have to hand it to Ms. Torabi—she offered no-nonsense investment guidance for nearly an hour, all the while making her audience feel like they were chatting with a savvy older sister or best friend. In a word, she made the topic of investments approachable.

We all know at least one smart, accomplished woman who avoids dealing with her finances because she finds it boring, time-consuming, or flat-out overwhelming (and sometimes all three). Can we really blame her? Frankly, it’s tough to make saving sound more fun than spending. The latter offers instant gratification, while the former requires faith and patience…sometimes for decades.

But, we know the majority of women—as students, single professionals, divorcées, or widows—will find themselves solely in charge of their financial destiny at some point in their lifetime. We’d all like our sisters, mothers, and girlfriends to be up to the task when that time comes. Some women (and men, for that matter) will never find investing particularly interesting, but we can at least make it more approachable. That’s what struck me about Ms. Torabi’s ability to engage her audience. Her success in connecting with a room full of eclectic women had nothing to do with bold investment concepts or gimmicky “girl power” messages. It had everything to do with her plain-talk, “you-can-do-this-too” approach.

And she’s right. Common-sense, long-term investing isn’t rocket science, but it does require commitment. To develop a plan, many investors (both men and women) need a gentle push in the right direction. To ensure they stay on track with their plan, they may need a dedicated “coach” to cheer them on—whether that’s a trusted friend, knowledgeable family member, or professional adviser.

At Vanguard, we remain committed to lowering the cost and complexity of investing for all investors. We’re equally committed to better understanding the needs of women and to helping them achieve their personal investing goals. Making investing and personal finance more approachable for women seems like part of the answer. But, please, tell me what you think. How can we make the topics of saving and investing more accessible and less overwhelming for time-starved investors?

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