Maximize Your Investing Power
By Mary Snyder
Choosing the right vehicle for your investment dollars is much more than just
checking a box on the 401(k) application. The choices range from the
conservative money market account to the much riskier stock market accounts
and the choices you make will influence your financial future. So how should
you invest your hard earned dollars?
Investing your money is important for all, but women are faced with the
additional factors of living longer, often working fewer years, and earning
less than men. Take the time to educate yourself -- making the right
investment decisions today is essential for a financially secure tomorrow.
Making the Choice
"It is important to think about yourself and your future. Many times moms do
that the least - they put their children's needs above their own. Just five
percent in a tax deferred plan can make a huge difference down the road,"
says Virginia Morris, author of "A Woman's Guide to Investing"
Woman's Guide to Personal Finance."
Reviewing your 401(k) options can often leave you confused and frustrated.
The choices are often limited and the levels of risk are indicated as high
(or aggressive), moderate and low. The first knee jerk reaction most women
have is to put their money in low-risk investment vehicles, but low risk
equals little to no growth and an investment fund needs to grow your money.
"It's not guaranteed, but over the long term stocks have always done better
than any other fixed income investments, such as money markets or bonds,"
To determine your risk level, you need to consider the length of time your
money will be invested. You should have a percentage of your money in stock
market mutual funds, a portion in bond funds, and a smaller portion in money
market funds. The percentage breakdown is directly impacted by the years you
have to invest - the more years the higher risk you can incur. If you have
more than ten years until retirement, an aggressive approach is appropriate,
according to Morris.
Know Your Goals
Before you can begin to map out your investment strategy, you have to
determine your financial goals. Do you plan to retire early? Is travel in
your future? What lifestyle do you envision in your retirement years? These
are just a few of the questions you need to answer to get a clear picture of
your investment strategy.
Consider contacting a financial planner for consultation. Take your company
401(k) options and have the planner aid you in mapping out an investment plan
that includes your needs, wants and desires for the future. The time and
money you spend on the consultation is an investment into your financial
Women as Investors
"The average woman makes a good investor," says David R. Reiser, a
senior vice president of investments at Paine Webber and the co-author of
"Wealth Building: Investment Strategies for Retirement and Estate Planning."
"But women need to get more involved in investment decisions and the
investment processes, whether married or single" says Reiser.
"Women who handle the investments for the family can statistically be more
successful than a man," says Reiser. This success is attributed to four
- Women trust in their choice of a financial advisor. Women take the time
to interview, consult, and select the advisor who meets their needs.
- A woman is comfortable with delegating the day-to-day operations of her
investment strategy to a trusted advisor, while she reviews the monthly or
quarterly updates and keeps a view on the overall package.
- Women have the patience to allow their plan to go to work for them over
the long term.
- Once a plan is set in place for savings and investments, women are more
disciplined to adhere to the plan.
There is No Time Like the Present
Considering the volatile state of the stock market, should you invest your
money in stock market mutual funds? Certainly. We all love a good sale, but
for some reason we are frightened when the stock market goes on sale. This
isn't to say you should run out and buy any stock market fund; you need
to do your research, know what you are buying and how it is performing. Look
at the fund's performance over the past three, five, and ten years. Has the
fund performed well in up periods and down periods? Who is the fund manager?
And how long has this manager been with the fund? A fund's performance is a
direct result of the manager of that fund. Make certain that the performance
you are reading is from that fund manager.
The stock market is never a guarantee, but consider the history of the
market. "Over the past 75 years the average return on stocks is
approximately 11 percent. The return on government bonds is in the five and
a half percent category and the return on money market funds, where many
women put their money, is about three percent," says Morris
A money market account may look like the safest place to put your money, but
with inflation at three percent, investing in a money market account will not
give you the financial security you will need in the future.
Keeping On Track
Once you have made your choices and begin investing your money in your 401(k)
take the time to review your funds annually. "More than 95 percent of the
people who put money in a 401(k) never change their allocations and this is
unwise," says Morris.
How are your funds performing? And how is this performance based against the
market as a whole? You can't expect your funds to do hugely better than the
market, but if a fund is not doing as well as the market find out why and
research your alternatives.
Invest your time and your money in your future today and create a financially
Get out of debt
Estate planning checklist
A Woman's Guide to Investing
Nine Steps to Financial Freedom
Wealth Building: Investment Strategies for Retirement and Estate Planning
Mary Synder is a writer and co-author of "You Can Afford to Stay Home With Your Kids."