investing_piggy_bank.jpgAs her surname suggests, Rosalie Manalo is a winner in every sense. She’s a production manager for a music channel, squeezing freelance jobs in between shoots, making good money and making me green with her amazing time management skills. She’s got a husband and a kid and the hyper-extended families that come with them. But ask her where she’s putting her money and you get the usual response: “I put it in a savings account, so that I’m liquid during emergencies.” Credit cards? “I keep three, but rarely use them, except during emergencies,” she smiles. She tried her hand at direct selling once, but her sense of pity kept her from profiting from her fledgling business. “I did it to break even. Nadadaan kasi ako masyado sa awa,” she says.

Me-ann (not her real name) has the same dilemma. Recently, her landlord confronted her for reneging on rent payments for weeks. “I loaned the money to friends, and so I ended up not having enough for myself,” she says, half-amused. The Gaiea instinct at work here. And so, Me-ann did the next best thing: she borrowed money from friends. “I realize it’s a cycle every pay day—I have to pay my debts,” she rues.

Ask any feisty, independent-minded woman about her money, and chances are she will smile and say: I’ve got enough of it to live even without my man. Or: I have my own home business. I’ve got it all covered.

Then ask her again fifty or so years later, when the statistics are once more proven right, and her man dies 8.5 years before she does. Chances are, she will smile and say: At least I still get to eat three times a day.

No Money, No Honey
Ah, women. Ah, money. They elicit the same reaction: either one of disgust or enchantment. Women are to money like fish is to water. Like they say, no money, no honey. The husband remitting the salary to the wife, slashing a little of it for the requisite toma with the barkada, is the stuff of vintage Pinoy domestic lore. No one else is better equipped to handle money than women. Back in the ‘60s, my mother could stretch her 50 centavos into a bayong-ful of meat, vegetables, and bananas, due to her amazing bargaining powers.

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But our culture has also made aggressors out of our men in more ways than one. Men are much more familiar with ever-changing modes of wealth generation than women, and only recently have we begun to keep up.

The comely honey, in fact, has no money, has not been taught to make money. Ask her if she can tell a stock from a bond, and she might end up joking about James Bond.

It’s almost a 007-dominated, all-male floor show in the stock exchanges of the world, with countless housewives and career women as audiences. Indeed, women have been receivers of what they ought to be giving, and givers of thankless sweet little gestures that are cruelly stricken out of the gross national income by a transnational preoccupation with outward appearances.

Investment Ignorance?
In her popular website Cassandra’s Revenge, market analyst Ellen McGirt strikes a painful chord in the domestic ledgers of many women.

“(Women are) more likely to spend a significant amount of time outside the work force—either for child-rearing, to relocate with a spouse, to continue our education. Some of (them) may only work in the home. Real work, hard work, meaningful work, yes, but definitely underpaid. Seventy-five percent of elderly people living below the poverty line are women,” McGirt observes. The situation—and the stats—don’t seem to be any different here in the Philippines.

“I don’t have any investments at all,” says Loretta Medina, a graphic art designer. “I did save up for a camera, and still trying to save for a more expensive one, but that’s about it,” she smiles.

Indeed, women are wary of spending too much. They also tend to invest more in their immediate surroundings than anywhere else. They buy household items, groceries, and other articles necessary in the upkeep of their homes, and perhaps, their home-based careers in dressmaking, catering, etc. But too often do they leave the world outside their homes to their men. And because the world is bigger than most households combined, men get a bigger share of its revenues.

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“Ask 100 women what their financial goals are, and most will undoubtedly say ‘I just want to provide for my children. I just want to have enough money to be comfortable’—very few will say ‘I want to be wealthy, with unlimited choices at my fingertips, and I’m confident I can do it,’” observes McGirt.

McGirt cites a study which reports that male brokers are 45% more “overconfident” of their stocks than women (which means they are more attached to their trades than women). More than investment bravado, McGirt concludes that their overconfidence may actually belie societal pressures: the need to look good to their male peers, the old boy network, and their unwillingness to commit to a strategy.

Women and Wealth
Because women are relatively unaffected by the pressures of a phallocentric industry, McGirt believes women are actually socially predisposed to wealth generation. It’s the “Don’t get mad, get even” philosophy at work here. She wants us to consider the following gender stereotypes that may deepen our understanding of financial markets:

    Women aren’t afraid to ask for directions
    “Forget all those nasty exchanges over badly folded road maps while the gas station attendant looks blankly at your angry mate. You’re driving now. Ask the experts for their favorite routes to wealth. Listen to their answers. Subscribe to newsletters (especially the free ones). Go to investment conferences. Read books. Hit the Internet. Then take your own road.
    Women understand cycles
    Throw in a little delayed gratification (nine months and you get—more work!) and you’ve got the perfect investment mind-set. Investment markets are cyclical. True wealth is created through long-term, strategic planning. You’ve got it made.
    Women understand bargains and love to shop
    How insulting is this one? But just in case it’s true, then you’re in luck: One of the most famous and successful investors out there is a man named Warren Buffet, a Contrarian investment strategist who made value investing the mantra of choice of many stock-market speculators. Fancy talk for buy low, sell high—a strategy which should be obvious, but most people miss it.
    Women know there are no free lunches
    Don’t take stock tips from your mechanic. Don’t buy mutual funds without checking out their prospectus. Don’t buy a gold coin from someone you don’t know. If it sounds too good to be true, it is. When you plan your strategy, be prepared to pay, reasonably, for advice and services. And do your homework.
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