While men consider themselves prepared, their habits argue otherwise. Forty-six percent manage their 401(k) solo, compared to 34 percent of women. They often fare badly. UC Berkeley’s legendary Boys Will Be Boys study found men’s financial overconfidence caused them to trade securities 45 percent more often than women, reducing their returns by 2.65 percentage points annually.
Women’s greater caution contributes to their higher average returns – and to a greater tendency to seek professional help. Also good, the vast majority report wanting to learn more about financial planning and investing. Still, only 47 percent feel confident discussing details with a financial pro.
Blanket statements don’t apply to everyone. But knowing if you match the average male or female retirement investor means knowing yourself. And that’s as important as financial savvy.
Regardless of gender, get help
If you have a 401(k), your plan’s fees probably already cover advisory services – take advantage. If not, find a fiduciary retirement adviser and get their insight on how much to save and how to invest.
Men: know when to get advice
Since men are prone to overconfidence and excess trading, they should focus on self-discipline, seeking help and admitting they could be wrong. When your gut tells you to trade, talk to a good adviser. Tell them what you’re contemplating and why. Have a conversation. Make your goal to learn something. After meeting with an adviser, if you don’t much feel like tinkering with your portfolio, congrats – you’re the far wiser exception.
Women: Push for better advice
Meanwhile, while these studies suggest women want more guidance, they should focus on getting better advice. If you find your adviser conversations are one-sided – them talking, you going “uh-huh” – talk more. Ask open-ended questions. Make your goal to stump them. Learn everything you can. If they blather with indecipherable finance jargon, cut them off – demanding they speak plainly.
Remember, slow and steady wins
Stay the course. Men’s returns weren’t lower because of their gender – it was their excessive trading. Stay disciplined. Don’t react to yesterday’s price movement and scary headline news. Don’t chase heat. Remember, slow and steady wins this race.
Don’t make excuses
Don’t let income be an excuse for not saving. Though Transamerica’s survey shows men claim to save more, Vanguard’s analysis shows women are actually winning the savings race. Women earning less than $100,000 annually have a 20 percent higher 401(k) participation rate than male counterparts. Across all income levels, women enrolled in defined contribution plans saved 7 to 16 percent more than men.
Overall, women aren’t outearning men. So how do they find the extra cash to save? Could be good old-fashioned budgeting. Here’s a quick video on budgeting tips, for those interested in a crash course. Female self-awareness may also help. If overconfident men presume they’re saving enough and can manage their own investments just fine, they may not feel the need to save more.
So know yourself, save more, stay disciplined and find a trustworthy professional to consult with. Your future retired self will thank you.
Ken Fisher is the founder and executive chairman of Fisher Investments, author of 11 books, four of which were New York Times bestsellers, and is No. 200 on the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans. Follow him on Twitter @KennethLFisher
The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.