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NZ Herald - What makes women better investors than men

Scared of Sharesies and intimidated by investing? Same.
These days it seems like every blazer and boat shoe-wearing commerce major is talking about stocks and funds and the NZX 50, craft beer in hand.

And if like me, you've sat through more conversations about the NZ stock exchange than you can count and come away none the wiser, maybe the thought of investing your money scares you too.

This isn't a new thing - women have been left out of the investing conversation for decades. But Victoria Harris, a 30-something portfolio manager with over 10 years of financial experience behind her, is on a mission to close that gap.

Along with business partner and content creator Sophie Hallwright, she's launched an investment education platform for women called The Curve.

"I've been wanting to do this for so long," Harris tells the Herald. "The idea has been simmering for a while and it's been a massive learning curve for us as well. There just isn't one place you can point women to learn about finance. So I saw an opportunity to create a one-stop-shop for females, by females."

The Curve offers in-person workshops for women breaking down all sorts of financial concepts, from compound interest to Kiwisaver to what the heck a "fund" actually is.
So why should a 22-year-old young female professional like me care about investing her money - and where do I even start?
"They might think they're not ready to invest, and they might feel at the same time that it's too late for them to learn about finance because they didn't learn about it at uni or at school.

"We now have a more balanced workforce, but now women need to be across finance even more than men. Often we just put it in the too-hard basket because we don't know where to start.

"But if you think about retirement, women tend to live longer than men. We often earn less and thus contribute less to Kiwisaver. We tend to take more time out of the workforce to raise families and have children. So it's important for us to be on top of all of that."
And Harris says studies have shown women are actually better investors by nature because they're more risk-averse than men.
"Women tend to do their research more thoroughly and don't get as emotionally involved with money. It can become a bit of an ego thing for men. But women are often better at spotting trends. Who else would have predicted that Lululemon would become so popular? A good rule of thumb is, if you're buying it, chances are 99 per cent of other people will be too."

In 2021, platforms like Sharesies and Hatch have helped equalise investing, enabling people who might have just a spare $20 to start investing. You don't need to be able to give $10,000 to a fund manager to get started, Harris says.

And while fear of failure might hold you back, it's important to accept that you will get some investments wrong.

"That's why you shouldn't invest all your savings in one place," Harris advises.

"Pick three or four to spread it out. Kiwisaver is really good for this - you can learn a lot from your Kiwisaver provider. Learn about where your contributions are going, see which of those is doing well, and then you can invest in those companies yourself."

It's safe to say that at my age I don't spend too much time worrying about saving up for retirement. But Harris says it's important to find a balance between what I want now and what I want in the future.

"There's little changes you can make now that will be hugely beneficial in the future, even if that's just changing to a high return Kiwisaver provider."

Another reason to invest is that it's a lot of fun - according to Harris, more fun than buying that pair of shoes.

"We're a generation that's used to buying stuff now and paying for it later. But when you realise that you could invest that $100 instead of buying the shoes, you could end up with $200 - and then you can buy more shoes."

But there's always the risk factor to consider when it comes to investing.

"There's always a risk of losing your money. And it is intimidating. But it's like everything else in life, whether it's a business idea, or a relationship, it may not work. But if it does, it's worth it, and if it doesn't, you've learned something."

And it takes practice - the more you're investing, the more you realise what does and doesn't work.

"You find your edge and find your niche. Part of it is knowing what to look for and asking yourself when something sounds too good to be true."

Developing these skills starts with education. Harris knows first-hand what a difference it makes when people have the resources they need to learn new skills.

"I see it all the time in my industry, what a difference it makes when someone takes the time to explain things to you."

And she sees it in the conversations among women who attend her workshops and now listen to their brand-new podcast called Raising the Curve.

"They realise they're in a safe space where no men are going to interrupt and tell them they're wrong. And there are women of all ages. Mothers bring their daughters along, we're teaching the next generation about how to grow their money and how it can be used in real life.

"People will message me a week after coming to a session and tell me they've changed their Kiwisaver provider to a growth fund and they've really noticed the difference. That's why we do this, it's literally changing someone's life."

Harris hopes to eventually take those conversations into schools. "The earlier women learn about this stuff, the better. When I was starting uni, I barely knew what finance was.

"Money is powerful. People like to sound like they know what they're talking about when it comes to money. But your Uber driver and your hairdresser and the guy at the barbecue going on about investing, they're not telling you about their bad investments.

"The more we talk about it, the better."