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Women are a financial force.


of women will eventually take charge of their family’s wealth.1


of women are their family’s main breadwinner.2


of U.S. millionaires are women.3


(or $39.6 trillion) of the world’s wealth is generated by women.4


increase in the world’s wealth generated by women from 5 years ago.4


U.S. women are self-made billionaires—more than ever before.5

When it comes to investing, women exhibit behaviors that position them as strong and savvy investors—patience, discipline, and a willingness to learn.

  1. "Women's Quick Facts: Compelling Data on Why Women Matter," 2016, STEMconnector
  2. Pew Research Center analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 2013
  3. "Benchmark Producer Research," 2009, American College of Financial Services
  4. "Global Wealth 2016: Navigating the New Client Landscape," 2016, Boston Consulting Group
  5. "The World's 56 Self-Made Women Billionaires," 2017, Forbes

Women Take a
Cautious Approach

Women comprise more than half of the U.S. population,1 but no two women are the same when it comes to managing their money.

And because most women earn less than men—$0.83 on the dollar2—women may feel unprepared to reach their financial goals.


  • More fearful of a market downturn.

  • More likely to expect lower average returns on their investments.

  • More likely to say they are afraid to take investment risks.

Investor Experience Level

42% of women report high investor experience level. 39% of women report medium investor experience level. 19% of women report low investor experience level. 60% of men report high investor experience level. 29% of men report medium investor experience level. 12% of men report low investor experience level.

Source: Wells Fargo Investment Institute Investor Attitude Survey, August 2016. The investment attitudes survey was conducted by TNS for Wells Fargo Investment Institute and asked a series of investment-related questions. There were 547 respondents with investable assets of $500,000 or more.

Fewer women than men say they have a high level of investment experience.

Women say they feel less confident in their ability to invest than men do. This may make them more cautious about making investment decisions.


of women have a lower return expectation than men, expecting to earn 3% or less on their accounts in 2016, while 33% of men expected a similar return.

Source: Wells Fargo/Gallup Investors and Retirement Optimism Index, August 5–14, 2016. The Index includes 1,021 investors randomly selected from across the country with total savings and investments of $10,000 or more.

  1. “Women were 50.8 percent of the U.S. population,” U.S. Census Bureau”
  2. “Women's Median Earnings 82 Percent of Men's in 2016,” 2017, Bureau of Labor Statistics
  3. “Investors and Retirement Optimism Index,” 2016, Wells Fargo/Gallup

What You Can Do

Educate yourself for a better understanding of investing.

  • Talk to an investment professional or financial advisor to learn more about investing.
  • Read Four Steps of Successful Investing, Wells Fargo Investment Institute, February 2017.
  • Utilize online budget and retirement calculators.
  • Visit investment websites.
  • Take investment classes.
See More Investment Insights

How Women Invest

Whether they know it or not, women possess behavioral traits that tend to follow recommended investment principles.

By refraining from excessive trading, seeking educational support, and sticking to their investment plans, women may have better long-term investment results.


Yet only 23% of affluent women believe that time is the most important factor in making investment decisions.2

Investors with a longer time horizon might want to consider incorporating growth assets, like stocks, into their portfolios.


    27% on average that single women traded less than single men.3

    While women may benefit from increased confidence, men may be overconfident in their investment ability.4 Overconfidence can lead to more frequent trading, which can dampen returns.


    6x Women are 6x less likely to make massive allocation shifts—switching from 100% stocks to 100% bonds, or vice versa.5

    Source: Average trades over a five-year period from December 13, 2010–December 31, 2015.


    2x as many women than men were likely to seek education from a financial advisor in order to make more informed investment decisions.6

Despite women reporting a lower investor experience level than men, studies indicate that women outperform men on a risk-adjusted basis.

Women who managed their own investment accounts or shared accounts saw higher returns than men.

Who outperformed other household segments (IN ORDER)?7
  1. 01 Single women
  2. 02 Female-led investments
  3. 03 Male-led investments
  4. 04 Single men

Women's perception that they have less experience or knowledge may cause them to be more cautious about making their own investment decisions than men.

Women's investment returns showed less variability than those of men, despite their tendency toward higher performance.7

Variability of 5 year returns: women 3.28%, men 3.5%. Variability of risk adjusted returns: women 2.99%, men 3.26%.


Note: Barber and Odean studied differences in equity portfolios while the WIM Analytics study compared full portfolio returns.

“Gender Differences in Performance at Wells Fargo Advisors,” WIM Analytics, December 2016.

Variability—a measure of how disperse (spread out) returns are relative to a benchmark.

A low variance indicates that returns are more similar across the data set.

Notes: “Gender Differences in Performance at Wells Fargo Advisors, Wealth and Investment Management,” WIM Analytics, December 2016. The total study included more than 900,000 accounts from December 2010 to 2015 with investable assets of $50,000 or more. Excludes advisory accounts. Five-year time-weighted (or geometric mean) returns net of commissions and fees between December 2010 and December 2015. Past performance does not guarantee future results. Performance results represent only the results of the survey.

  1. “World Health Statistics,” 2015, World Health Organization
  2. “Wells Fargo Investment Institute Investor Survey,” 2016, Wells Fargo
  3. “Investors and Retirement Optimism Index,” 2016, Wells Fargo/Gallup
  4. “Boys Will Be Boys: Gender, Overconfidence, and Common Stock Investment,” 2001, The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Brad M. Barber and Terrance Odean
  5. Findings from Betterment LLC, 2012–2015
  6. “Wells Fargo Investment Institute Wealth Management Investor Attitude Survey,” 2014, Wells Fargo
  7. “Gender Differences in Performance at Wells Fargo Advisors,” 2016, WIM Analytics

What You Can Do

Research your options.

  • Know what retirement benefits your employer offers (e.g., 401(k), 403(b)).
  • Explore individual retirement accounts.
  • Learn the differences between savings and investment accounts.
  • Determine which provider types fit your situation (e.g., full service, telephone assistance, digital advisor).
See More Investment Insights

Make a Game Plan for Investing

By setting clear investment goals and actively preparing for retirement, women will be able to see continued success in their investments.

Key Investment Concepts

STEP 1 | Know yourself.

Identifying your investment personality can help you become a more competent and confident investor.

Click below to learn more about different investment personalities:

STEP 2 | Know your asset allocation.

Manage risk through strategic asset allocation—spreading assets among stocks, bonds, real assets, and alternative investments.


of return variability comes from strategic asset allocation.1

STEP 3 | Don't time the market.

Avoid bad investing habits, such as timing the market, that may lead to poor performance.

“Mutual fund investors who hold onto their investments are more successful than those who time the market.”

— According to DALBAR2

How to Set Investment Goals

Define your financial goals by setting an associated time period to determine the right assets and selecting an appropriate risk level.

Sample investment goals3
  Time Horizon Appropriate
Risk Level
Assets to Consider
Down payment on a house 6–12 months Low Cash alternatives (bank certificates of deposit, bankers'
acceptances, money market accounts, money market
funds, savings accounts, Treasury bills)
Education expenses 5 years Modest Bonds, stocks, public real estate (REITs)
Growth for retirement 15 years Higher Bonds, stocks, REITs, commodities, alternative
Bequest to charity 30 years Very high Stocks, REITs, alternative investments, and certain
types of higher-risk bonds
Risk Considerations

Asset allocation is an investment method used to help manage risk. It does not ensure a profit or protect against a loss. All investing involves risks, including the possible loss of principal. There can be no assurance that any investment strategy will be successful. Investments fluctuate with changes in market and economic conditions and in different environments due to numerous factors, some of which may be unpredictable.

Each asset class has its own risk and return characteristics. Alternative investments trade in diverse complex strategies that are affected in different ways and at different times by changing market conditions. Strategies may, at times, be out of market favor for considerable periods with adverse consequences for the investor. Bonds are subject to market, interest-rate, credit/default, liquidity, inflation, and other risks. Prices tend to be inversely affected by changes in interest rates. Credit risk is the risk that an issuer will default on payments of interest and/or principal. This risk is heightened in lower-rated bonds. If sold prior to maturity, fixed-income securities are subject to market risk. Real assets are subject to the risks associated with real estate, commodities, and other investments and may not be suitable for all investors. Stocks are subject to market risk, which means their value may fluctuate in response to general economic and market conditions, the prospects of individual companies, and industry sectors. Real assets are subject to the risks associated with real estate, commodities, and other investments and may not be suitable for all investors. Real estate has special risks, including the possible illiquidity of underlying properties, credit risk, interest-rate fluctuations, and the impact of varied economic conditions. The commodities markets are considered speculative, carry substantial risks, and have experienced periods of extreme volatility. Investments in commodities may be affected by changes in overall market movements, commodity index volatility, changes in interest rates, or factors affecting a particular industry or commodity.

Preparing for Retirement

Is retirement one of your investment goals? If so, consider your expected income and expenses. Make plans to generate at least 80% of your pre-retirement income once you are retired. Since studies show that women live longer than men, they will likely end up spending more on everything from groceries to health care.

Sources of Income
  • Employment
  • Social Security
  • Pension
  • Health savings account
  • 401(k), 403(b), IRA, Roth IRA
  • Other investments
  • Housing/rent
  • Utilities
  • Groceries
  • Clothing
  • Travel
  • Health care
  • Other expenses

of retired women believe that the stock market is a good place to grow their retirement savings, while nearly half of retired men believe so.

However, among current workers, men and women are evenly split on the question of stocks being a good place to grow retirement assets.

Source: Investors and Retirement Optimism Index, 2016, Wells Fargo/Gallup. The Index includes 1,021 investors randomly selected from across the country with total savings and investments of $10,000 or more.

  1. “Determinants of Portfolio Returns,” 2011, Wells Fargo Wealth Management
  2. DALBAR, Inc., 2017, 20 years from 1997–2016. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. The fact that buy and hold has been a successful strategy in the past does not guarantee that it will continue to be successful in the future.
  3. “Wells Fargo Investment Institute Investor Survey,” 2017, Wells Fargo

What You Can Do

Act to see your financial goals come to fruition.

  • Establish an investment plan.
    • Develop a budget that includes saving and investing.
    • Determine your appropriate asset allocation.
  • Select investment vehicles.
  • Monitor and rebalance your portfolio.
  • Revisit your strategy when your circumstances change.
See More Investment Insights

Wells Fargo Investment Institute is home to more than 100 investment professionals focused on investment strategy, asset allocation, portfolio management, manager reviews, and alternative investments. Its mission is to deliver timely, actionable advice that can help investors achieve their financial goals.

To learn more about how Wells Fargo can help you succeed financially, speak to a Wells Fargo investment professional or visit Wells Fargo Investment Institute’s website by clicking the button below:

Learn More

General Disclosures:

The Wells Fargo/Gallup Investor and Retirement Optimism Index was conducted August 5–14, 2016, by telephone. The index includes 1,021 investors randomly selected from across the country with a margin of sampling error of +/- four percentage points. For this study, the American investor is defined as an adult in a household with total savings and investments of $10,000 or more. About two in five American households have at least $10,000 in savings and investments. The sample size is composed of 71 percent nonretirees and 29 percent retirees. Of total respondents, 43 percent reported annual income of less than $90,000; 57 percent reported $90,000 or more.

Wells Fargo Investment Institute thanks Justin Krieger, CFA, and John Morton, M.S., Ph.D., of Wells Fargo Wealth and Investment Management Analytics Group for the use of their research on “Gender Differences in Performance at Wells Fargo Advisors.” Wells Fargo Wealth and Investment Management, a division within the Wells Fargo & Company enterprise, provides financial products and services through bank and brokerage affiliates of Wells Fargo & Company. Brokerage products and services offered through Wells Fargo Clearing Services, LLC, a registered broker-dealer and non-bank affiliate of Wells Fargo & Company. Bank products are offered through Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.

The information in this report was prepared by the Global Investment Strategy (GIS) division of WFII. Opinions represent GIS' opinion as of the date of this report, are for general informational purposes only, and are not intended to predict or guarantee the future performance of any individual security, market sector, or the markets generally. GIS does not undertake to advise you of any change in its opinions or the information contained in this report. Wells Fargo & Company affiliates may issue reports or have opinions that are inconsistent with, and reach different conclusions from, this report.

The information contained herein constitutes general information and is not directed to, designed for, or individually tailored to, any particular investor or potential investor. This report is not intended to be a client-specific suitability analysis or recommendation; an offer to participate in any investment; or a recommendation to buy, hold, or sell securities. Do not use this report as the sole basis for investment decisions. Do not select an asset class or investment product based on performance alone. Consider all relevant information, including your existing portfolio, investment objectives, risk tolerance, liquidity needs, and investment time horizon.

Wells Fargo Investment Institute, Inc. is a registered investment adviser and wholly-owned subsidiary of Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., a bank affiliate of Wells Fargo & Company.

Wells Fargo Wealth Management provides products and services through Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., and its various affiliates and subsidiaries.

Wells Fargo Advisors is registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority but is not licensed or registered with any financial services regulatory authority outside of the U.S. Non-U.S. residents who maintain U.S.-based financial services accounts with Wells Fargo Advisors may not be afforded certain protections conferred by legislation and regulations in their country of residence in respect to any investments, investment transactions, or communications made with Wells Fargo Advisors.



Entrepreneurial and looking for new ways to make money, acts quickly on investments, comfortable investing large sums of money in hopes of large returns

Financial Strength

Searching for innovative ways to make money

What to Watch

Possible overconfidence and tendency to focus too much on short-term investments

Source: Meir Statman, Ph.D. and Vincent Wood, CFA. “Behavioral Aspects of the Design and Marketing of Financial Products.” The Journal of Investment Consulting. Summer 2004, Volume 7, Number 1.



Prefers to focus energy on things other than money and finances, thinks of money as a necessary evil

Financial Strength

Leaving investments alone to grow

What to Watch

Not matching savings and investments to goals for which they have enthusiasm

Source: Meir Statman, Ph.D. and Vincent Wood, CFA. “Behavioral Aspects of the Design and Marketing of Financial Products.” The Journal of Investment Consulting. Summer 2004, Volume 7, Number 1.



Cautious with money, values financial security over growing wealth

Financial Strength

Understanding the importance of money

What to Watch

Potential for low-risk investment

Source: Meir Statman, Ph.D. and Vincent Wood, CFA. “Behavioral Aspects of the Design and Marketing of Financial Products.” The Journal of Investment Consulting. Summer 2004, Volume 7, Number 1.



Numbers oriented, considered good with money, likes to stay involved with investments

Financial Strength

Taking the time to understand investments

What to Watch

Dwelling too much on previous losses and poor investments

Source: Meir Statman, Ph.D. and Vincent Wood, CFA. “Behavioral Aspects of the Design and Marketing of Financial Products.” The Journal of Investment Consulting. Summer 2004, Volume 7, Number 1.