Breaking the fear of investment

Why it’s no longer a “boys’ club”. 

Have you invested before? Maybe in property, the share market or cryptocurrency? Chances are, if you answered no and you’re female, you’re not alone. 

Research shows that women have always been behind in the investing game, and not necessarily through our own fault. Societal conditioning meant that in the past, women were less than likely to be the breadwinners or have an income of their own and therefore tended to be left out of the financial discussions.

But this isn’t a depressing story about women’s inequality. In fact, it’s rather empowering. While we may have started on the back foot, studies show that women are beginning to have more say in their finances. With more women in the workforce and having financial independence, paired with growing educational resources and easy to invest platforms, it’s simpler than ever for women to take steps towards building their wealth.

According to a Forbes article, women investors consistently outperform men. Studies show that women spend more time researching their investment choices and take a more level-headed approach to investing. When it comes down to it, women are more likely to play the long game, rather than chasing trends and constantly trading shares. Historically, these make for better investing outcomes. 

So we’re better investors, but why else should we start thinking about investing for our future? Victoria Harris, co-founder of The Curve, points out that women are known to live longer, some take time out of the working field to have and raise children and women also earn less (thanks to the gender pay gap). So we’ve got more life to live and less money to live off. 

When we look at managing money we also need to consider our emotional attachment to money. And this isn’t just women, it’s everyone. If you type “emotional attachment to money” into Google, endless articles on the topic pop up. There are so many reasons why we build attachments to money, whether or not they’re healthy – from societal conditioning, to our parents’ financial circumstances growing up, to patterns we carry from our early childhood.

An article from the late spiritual influence Ram Dass says, “Some people come through life with a lot of anxiety about starvation and hunger, passed on from their grandfathers two generations back. And so they need a certain security before they’re free enough of their neurosis or that panic or that fear to be able to be free to do inner work and be productive. Other people can go right along the edge with no savings whatsoever and seem to ride along with it, there’s no general rule.”

What we can all most likely agree on is that times are a-changin’, and the time to start taking control of your finances, for freedom and empowerment is now. 

We spoke with four inspiring women to hear about their journey in the investment world and what they’re doing to help others.

Victoria Harris, co-founder of The Curve

Victoria Harris, left and Sophie Hallwright, co-founders of The Curve

“Money and sex, they’re two taboo topics that no one wants to talk about. And it’s like, the more you can talk about them, the more you can learn.”

Victoria Harris, co-founder of The Curve, an investing education platform for women, is here to talk about the taboo of money. As someone who grew up with
a mother who taught her and her sister about money and investing from a young age, Harris is returning the favour by bringing this education to as many
women as possible. 

The Curve was founded on the basis of Harris’ own experience with her friends and family. Women around her were constantly asking for advice. Harris thought, if her circle of women were wanting to know more, surely there were more out there? She was right: support for The Curve has been overwhelming, so much so that Harris is kicking herself that she didn’t start it sooner. 

Harris has found being in a male-dominated landscape challenging, particularly when it comes to self-confidence. When you’re a minority, it’s easy to sit back and not participate. But Harris sees now that women bring a different set of skills. “We can spot trends that men can’t and we have a more considered approach to investing. We’re not as gung-ho about it.”

Harris recommends starting to invest conservatively, with the learn-as-you-go model. Which bears on question of the role of cryptocurrency in the investment world. Crypto is known for its boom-bust style of making money, and it’s tempting since everyone wants to make a quick buck. That’s not to say there isn’t a future for cryptocurrency, but its volatile nature makes it something that typical investors generally steer clear of. 

“I just think Bitcoin is so hard to comprehend in terms of how it works and what drives it… Whereas when you invest in a company, the share price is usually a reflection of the earnings. So the earnings are growing and the share price is growing.”

What about ethical investing?

Alongside The Curve, Harris leads the sustainability fund at the company she works for and says it’s people like you and me who really create the change of where money goes. There has been a big shift towards ethical investing (also known as investing in ESG – environmental, social, governance – funds), which has pushed not-so-ethical companies to shift gears to keep up with market trends.

Where can we go to learn more about investing?

Not surprisingly, Harris recommends The Curve, which offers free and easy-to-digest information through its workshops and podcast. Fund management companies such as Fisher Funds and Milford also provide updates on the sharemarket which are easy to understand.

Harris also recommends an “invest in what you know” approach. Look at trends and companies your friends are buying products from and begin there.

Harris is also a big advocate of Kiwisaver, seeing it as a really easy way to start your investing journey.

If there ever were a time to feel optimistic about the future, it’s now. Harris dreams of a future where investing is more openly talked about by both women and men, and children are educated in schools about spending, saving and investing. This would flow down generation to generation, changing the shape of society. 

With The Curve, Harris wants to reach as many women as possible so there’s not a woman out there who feels like there’s somewhere she can’t go. 

Kristen Lunman, co-founder of Hatch

Kristen Lunman, co-founder of Hatch

Kristen Lunman, one half of investment platform Hatch, is making it easier for your everyday Joe – or Jill – to invest. 

Hatch is a straightforward and simple way to dip your toes into the investment world. And it breaks the barrier of feeling like you need to have a certain amount of money to begin with.

Lunman never considered herself good with money. Having grown up in a single-parent household, money was always scarce, and Lunman says there was a sense growing up that they had less than others. 

How did this influence her financial outlook growing up? Lunman says it instilled a sense of defeatism, that investing wasn’t for her and was something rich people did.

“Research has shown that the scarcity effect on people growing up is that they develop really unhealthy attitudes. And it’s like, if you get that paycheck you automatically want that buzz of a reward and you deserve it. So you tend to spend a lot more than you should because it’s that feeling of self-sabotage, of frittering money away because you get that endorphin hit.”

Through Lunman’s own journey with money and investing, she wanted to make it more accessible to people, so she co-founded Hatch. 

The investing platform is for everyone from any walk of life; however, Lunman herself is passionate about growing support for women in particular.

Lunman says it’s about getting women over the confidence gap. “We know that women are better savers than men. But the problem is that we don’t invest that money. We just have it sitting in the bank. It’s like the safety net that we’ve been socialised to have.” 

So what makes a good investor? Lunman says a good investor does two things. One is paying yourself first and the second is avoiding the big mistakes: panic selling (when the sharemarket starts to drop) and FOMO, also known as hype investing. 

Hype investing can be seen in the cryptocurrency world, where you hear of someone making a lot of money and you want in. Lunman says to be wary of this because “more often than not, by the time you hear about someone making a lot of money on something, it’s too late”.

What if we don’t have enough money to invest? Lunman believes there is a bit of a fallacy around that, that we are conditioned to feel like we never have enough. “You can start with as little or as much as you want,” she says. 

Lunman’s practical tips for saving more money:

  • Spend less. Don’t feel like you have to cut the coffee, because life’s too short, but learn where your money is going and work out where you can cut costs.
  • Earn more. Recognise the value that you bring to something and demand what you’re worth.
  • Have an emergency fund before you invest.

Amelia Wong, investment adviser at Craigs Investment Partners

Amelia Wong

Amelia Wong has a wealth of experience when it comes to managing money. In 2000, she took the leap and moved to New York, where she ended up working
at Morgan Stanley, one of the largest investment banks in the world.

It was a pretty surreal moment for her, but she believes people should chase their dreams, no matter what their background is. Looking back on her time in New York, during which she experienced the end of the Dot-com Boom and the Global Financial Crisis, Wong says it instilled a sense of resilience in her which she still values today. 

Part of the reason she enjoys investment advising is being able to connect with people. 

Talking about money can bring up some raw emotions, as our connection to money usually has strong ties to feeling worthy and successful.

Wong says it’s great that people have a choice these days as to who they want to advise them on money. For so long it has been just white men and now you can see a diverse range of people with different backgrounds.

“You want to feel a connection, comfort and trust with your advisors, especially when it’s something like money, which can be quite emotional for people… We’re here to help people every step of the way,” she says.

She mentions sunset industries, warning me that they’re not for the fainthearted. Sunset industries are declining industries that experts may look to invest in. Doing so can be very technical and require a lot of knowledge, so instead, we’re better off using sunset industry awareness as a way to avoid dying industries. 

“Usually, when people are thinking about making an investment, they’re interested in buying something that is growing rather than dying. With every generation there are always going to be certain businesses that get left behind because things change.” 

You don’t have to know all the ins and outs of the share market, that’s what an adviser can do for you. Instead, it’s about understanding what you want to do with your money, and how it can help you in the future. 

“It’s never just about money. It’s about what it can do for you. Using it as a tool for people to have a good financial base, or to go on that holiday, or to give the kids the education you want, and to allow people to choose all those things. 

“That’s what we’re about, helping people grow their money and reach their financial goals, whatever they may be.”

Lisa Dudson, investor, author and entrepreneur

Lisa Dudson

Lisa Dudson is one of New Zealand’s leading personal wealth educators and financial adviser at Acumen Consulting Group.

What were you doing at 16? I, for one, was not thinking about investing. But Dudson was making her first investment, a move for which she credits her upbringing and personal belief system. She firmly stands by her stance of wanting to be financially independent as a woman, saying she was not your typical girl who wanted to get married and have babies. 

“I wanted to have the freedom to choose what I wanted to be able to do, and to have that independence,” she says.

Her parents instilled a strong work ethic in her from a young age, with her father gifting her a book about the New Zealand sharemarket when she was 16. Dudson invested all her savings just before the market crashed in 1986, so her first foray into the investment world didn’t offer a lot of return in terms of financial gain. But it did allow her to understand the market a bit better. 

It’s clear that money and emotions are closely linked, with Dudson even admitting her fear of dependence drove her to being so financially independent. For too long, she had seen women in relationships they didn’t want to be in but stayed in for financial reasons. The idea of that terrified her. 

Another emotion-money connector that Dudson sees is people buying into consumerism, because they’re on their own and buying something can temporarily fill the void of loneliness.

So where to begin when it comes to investing?

Dudson’s book The Money Guide covers the basics of money management. Dudson believes that’s where it begins. Because unless you can get the basics of money management right, you’ve got nothing to work with. 

One of those basics is consistency over time. It’s not about huge chunks of money but more about slowly chipping away and building extra money, because time is incredibly powerful. 

Dudson also recommends taking an educational approach and managing your mindset. Always try to learn, while trying to take a step forward and keep positive. 

Dudson says it really comes down to choices. She wants to create choices for her clients for today but also for the future. “Being able to help my clients and seeing them become more empowered is what drives me. The personal satisfaction is so high, because I’ve been able to make a lot of changes in people’s lives over time, and it’s lovely to be able to see that,” she says. 

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