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5 ways women can become confident investors

Alyssa Pry
Personal Finance Reporter

The idea of investing may seem daunting, but women should recognize their earning potential and make their money work for them, says Marshay Clarke, a certified financial planner with Betterment.

“Women today have amazing earning potential,” she says. “We’re graduating from college at record rates, we’re leading organizations, we are sometimes even the breadwinners for our families, so it’s extremely important that we invest.”

Clarke says that while investing is often perceived as a man’s realm, women shouldn’t feel excluded.

“It’s been socialized that investing is a male-dominated industry and that you have to have [a certain] amount of money to get in, but just like our male counterparts, we’re earning a lot of money and at the end of the day, it’s important that our money grows just as fast as anyone else,” Clarke says.

Clarke shared five ways women can become confident investors and grow their wealth.

#1: Get started early

Clarke says there’s no perfect profile for what makes a good investor.

“If you are a female and you’re looking to invest, there’s no perfect time,” she says. “You don’t have to be married, you don’t have to have $100,000 in the bank.”

The most important thing: starting as early as possible.

“The earlier you invest your money, the longer amount of time you have for that money to compound in the market and earn more for you,” she says.

#2: Set goals

Clarke says a lack of confidence is often what holds women back when it comes to investing. But women can gain the confidence to invest when they have a specific goal in mind.  

“Instead of saying, ‘I want a million dollars in 20 years,’ what is your million dollars going to be used for,” she says. “I like to talk about goals: Are you saving for your child? Are you saving for education, or are you saving for retirement?”

Once you identify what you’re saving for, it’s much easier to save and invest.

“Then you have something to align your investment with and you know how much you need to make,” she says.

#3: Use an investing app

Investing apps can be a good gateway to investing, because the stakes are relatively low and women can learn about investing without much risk, Clarke says.  

“The applications we have today, like Stash or Betterment, are making investing accessible,” she says. “It makes sense especially when you’re just getting started.

“A lot of these companies do not have minimums, and they have very low fees, so you’re not putting much on the table if you just put a little bit of money in that account just to understand how investing works,” she says.

#4: Take advantage of your 401(k)

Another easy way to grow your wealth: a 401(k) plan.

A 401(k) is an account you fund with money  taken directly from your paycheck (pre-taxed) and put into an investment account for retirement. Your H.R. department can help you set it up and a third party – the plan administrator – manages the details. You select the particular funds (most plans typically have 10 or 20 funds to choose from) and how much of your salary you want to contribute.

Clarke also recommends taking advantage of your company’s match.

“If you put a certain percentage into your 401(k), they will give you that percentage back. It’s a great place to start and it’s also free money,” she says.

#5: Ask questions

Clarke says women should never think they don’t know enough to start investing. The solution is simple: ask questions.

“You should never be nervous or scared to ask a question if you don’t know the answer to it, especially if it can help you reach your financial goals,” she says.

In working with her clients, Clarke says men ask plenty of questions, as do her female customers.

“No good adviser or person that you’re working with or friend that gives you advice will look down on you for asking questions to try to get your finances straight,” she says.

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