Ok, I give up (again): Why do women not buy stocks (directly)?

From a blog:

Also, I watched the movie “Boiler Room” where they said only sell to men, don’t “pitch the b!tch”, because women will keep calling their stockbrokers everyday, bothering the brokers too much to make it worth it (presumably the womenfolk are too worried to be able to deal with the uncertainty and risk, and do not have the hunter/warrior spirit of Dow Jones himself.

Ok, so I give up: Is this true? I’m of course referring to buying stocks directly, such as through a stockbroker, not passive investing in some automatic 401k program.

  1. Do stockbrokers deliberately avoid selling to women?

  2. If they do try to avoid it, why? Is it based on actual differences in behavior of women, or just prejudice?

It’s my understanding that according to studies on the matter, women really do prefer much more cautious investments than men. But I’ve never heard of any studies claiming that they don’t invest at all. So, assuming there’s any truth to #1, I suspect it’s because women are less prone on average to invest in high risk stocks, or in investment schemes they don’t understand. In other words, they are harder to fleece (that way, at least).

Brokers will sell to whoever has the money. If a woman wants to invest, then they invest. When I worked in the industry, I never knew anyone speak of any blanket issues with women investing.

I figured that phrase had been made up for that particular firm in the movie, implying men were more likely to be dumbasses who would buy stock on the spot just because a stockbroker questioned their intelligence/in-the-loop-ness (and other such tactics that they were using). Didn’t occur to me that it’d be a real stockbroker thing.

I work with stock (although not a broker) and one thing I notice: Men HATE showing any ignorance. A woman will ask you to explain something from the ground up. Men call and they are actually extra work since I have to get their defenses down so that I can figure out what they are trying to ask. I can picture the stock broker being able to pump them up very easily.

I work for a financial institution and spent 3 years looking at marketing our services to women.

We did a lot a research that suggested the problem is partly related to a lack of confidence in their own financial knowledge (regardless of education level, women self-reported as significantly less confident than men), in general less appetite for risk, a greater awareness of broken employment (time taken out of the workforce for childraising and more time working part-time), meaning they had less 100%-income earning time than men, and felt they needed to be more cautious with the decisions they made.

FIs also don’t make it easy in general for women. Women tend to like to do a little more research and browsing, and won’t make a decision until they have felt they have explored all the options, but FIs tend to want to close the sale ASAP - which puts women off. And even in today’s age (and in my own company!) financial planners have an expectation that the men in the relationship are the final decision-makers. One of our agency account directors mysteryshopped a FP as part of our work, who didn’t want to have a conversation with her until her husband arrived (note: he wasn’t invited!)

This makes it all very intimidating, and they tend to go the easier route of savings, property etc. Note that none of this seemed to play out in terms of actual skills - women are completely capable, they just lack confidence. Women in general were excellent at budgeting and managing a household - they just need to get a lot more encouragement from day 1. Boys go with their dads to buy cars and learn the ropes early; girls get taken grocery shopping with mum.

Anecdata from the other side:

after I’d been in graduate school for 2 years, I’d managed to tuck away a couple thousand dollars; since I could afford to lose them, I figured I’d invest. I wasn’t looking for direct investment (I simply had no idea how to access such services, plus I had the notion that they would have required more money than I had), just financial products from banks.

There were 25 bank branches within walking distance of the university. I went to each and every one asking about investing 1K. In most of them, I was told that there were no investment products for 1K. Oh, I’m not talking about directly buying stocks, but CDs, bonds, funds? Nothing for 1K? Oh, no no (uh… that ad behind you says you have CDs from $100, I guess you’re too busy trying to send your nose to the stratosphere to bother read it, I’m sorry my clothing isn’t posh enough for you dear but if I spent money in fancy clothes I wouldn’t have been able to save what I have; I work in a lab, fancy clothes are not just not required but kind of discouraged).

Of those 25 branches, I was treated like a valued customer only once, on the first day. I went back two days later with the brochure, saying “I’d like to put my money in this investment fund.” The broker said he was surprised, he’d thought he’d lost the sale. I explained I simply wanted to look at all the options before picking one and thanked him for having been the only one who’d actually bothered for “a mere thousand dollars”.

If that guy hadn’t been a human being, my thousand dollars would have ended in the equivalent of a sock under the bed…

My dad bothers his brokers every day. He sometimes forwards me the emails. I feel kind of bad for his brokers…