BREAK FREE OF THE BIAS
Craigs Investment Partners
Published in MiNDFOOD April issue.
Women can be great investors, but sometimes doubts hold us back from reaching our full financial potential. We look at three of the most common money biases and how the right attitude and expert advice can help stop them in their tracks.
We often think we know which schools deliver the best education, which neighbourhood is safest, and which are the healthiest foods on the shelves, and make choices.
They’re common, everyday biases – but are they backed up by facts, research and strategy? Or are they based on what our friends tell us, what we see in the media, or even how we’ve been raised?
When it comes to managing money, our biases often play an invisible role in the stories we tell ourselves about our ability to save, if we choose to invest, and how. Research tells us women can be good, even great investors. We are generally more risk-aware, more likely to seek relevant advice, and tend to demonstrate more self-control than men. Why, then, is investing often still off the table? Perhaps we find it daunting, something we don’t understand and assume it’s not for us... or simply put off getting started.
“Negative self-talk has a much more powerful influence on the brain and our outcomes than we realise,” says Jessie Kendall, internationally qualified Neuro-Linguistic Programming practitioner at Empower Me Now.
“The brain is wired to listen out for what we say to it, then to associate it with the last time we thought that thought or felt that way – and unfortunately, it builds on the negative more easily than the positive. That’s how all those little doubts and lack of confidence can get in the way of us creating the momentum to achieve something.”
In addition, says Kendall, many women feel like imposters – “not worthy of being successful, which can be an underlying bias that we don’t even realise we have. Maybe it comes from our childhood experiences or the influences of those around us, or some kind of guilt around going for what we want. It’s the sort of thing that can stop us applying for that job, or making that phone call.”
LEARN YOUR MONEY STORY
Sara O’Connor sees biases just like these all the time. As a Craigs Investment Partners Adviser, she likes to figure out what makes each new client tick by asking them questions about their own relationship with money – their ‘money story’.
“Often, the narrative that women aren’t good with money starts really early,” she says. “Overseas studies show parents talk to their sons about money more than they talk to their daughters. Girls are taught to be careful, whereas boys are encouraged to take risks and see what happens. Wanting money and talking about money is often viewed as a positive for men but a negative for women. All of this, along with the misconception that women can’t control themselves when it comes to spending on shoes and wine (the ‘shopaholic’ stereotype), feeds into this idea that we’re not good with money. Women internalise that, and with our tendency towards perfectionism we might not give investing a go if we don’t feel we’re going to do well.”
O’Connor and her fellow investment advisers at Craigs work hard to understand each client’s background, their appetite for risk, and any personal biases that might be influencing how they make investment decisions.
With International Women’s Day bearing the theme #BreakTheBias in 2022, let’s address a few biases around money and investing.
“The three biases I see most commonly are bandwagon bias, confirmation bias, and loss aversion,” explains O’Connor.
1. FEAR OF MISSING OUT
O’Connor says bandwagon bias occurs when you’re influenced by what your friends or family are doing and think you need to be doing it, too. It could be that they’re buying the latest phone, or joining a particular fitness activity.
A recent example is the trend towards buying cryptocurrencies and NFTs. “I’m seeing people who fear they’re missing out on this ‘next big thing’, without evaluating whether it’s right for them and their particular situation,” says O’Connor.
2. THE WORLD THROUGH A FILTER
Confirmation bias is also really common and refers to how humans seek out information to confirm an existing opinion. “But the danger comes when we ignore data or evidence that doesn’t match our own thoughts or attitudes,” says O’Connor. “Investors often filter out useful information that they might not agree with, which can give them a really unbalanced view of what’s going on in the world and leave them with a portfolio that is too risky for them.
“We see some investors who will base investment decisions on what they and their friends are wearing or products they are buying, when in reality, these are a tiny example of what is happening in the world. We need to be aware our experience is not that of everyone and is not always indicative of global trends or a preference that would make an attractive investment.”
She adds: “You can’t google companies and expect to get unbiased, balanced information – or independent investment advice. Just because you like a particular brand doesn’t necessarily mean it is a good investment.”
3. EXPERIENCING LOSS
“We tend to feel the pain from a loss more than we enjoy the pleasure of a gain,” says O’Connor. “You might own shares in 10 companies and nine have gone up. But we’ll disproportionally feel upset about the one that has dropped.”
This bias, called loss aversion, can lead to people being reluctant to sell until the share price rises to a number that they have in their mind. “That number can be quite meaningless, really, in the context of the whole market. And actually, what they should potentially be doing is selling earlier and making the gain elsewhere,” says O’Connor.
HERE TO HELP YOU
Partnering with Craigs Investment Partners helps set women up on an investment journey they’ll enjoy. Investing needn’t be overwhelming, says O’Connor, with relatable, honest, unbiased advice steeped in real-world experience.
“There are so many tangible benefits to investing, like growing your wealth, setting yourself up for retirement and improving your financial opportunities,” she says. “But there are also intangible benefits, like peace of mind, confidence in your future, and knowing you’re financially organised, which all improve your wellbeing. Like many things, sometimes it’s easier to partner with someone rather than go at it alone.”
With 44 female investment advisers around New Zealand, Craigs strives to lead the way in the field of women’s wealth, running free education programmes and seminars across the country. “We are seeing a definite increase in women investing outside of KiwiSaver,” says O’Connor. “It’s getting better all the time, but we still have a way to go.”
Kendall agrees. She says women need to let go of any limiting beliefs around money and allow their brains to follow a new and exciting pathway. “I love seeing my clients break down their own biases and fears and to feel safe in achieving something new. Often, our own biases can create resistance to the very thing we want to happen in life – happiness, abundance, success. Seeing that change is amazing.”