New Study Reveals the Truth About How Men and Women Invest

A young woman uses her phone at the airport

A young woman uses her phone at the airport | bernardbodo/ iStock/ Getty Images Plus

How do women and men differ when it comes to investing? A new study conducted by Stash, an investing app, reveals some surprising results. The Cheat Sheet spoke with Alexandra Phelan, q data scientist at Stash, to learn more about the study.

The Cheat Sheet: What survey results surprised you most?

Alexandra Phelan: A lot of stereotypes persist when it comes to women and money. On the one hand, women have been historically left out of the finance industry, so it’s not surprising that they approach financial services differently than men. That said, to see nearly identical investing behavior among our female and male users was surprising, albeit encouraging. Women may perceive themselves as having lower risk tolerance, but the reality is that men and women have extremely similar portfolio breakdowns, which includes tolerance for higher-risk investments.

CS: Why do you think women believe they have a low risk tolerance?

AP: For so long, society has maintained that money was a man’s issue, and in some cases, women were shut out from the conversation completely. We’ve absolutely made strides since then, but the historical trend likely speaks to why women err on the side of caution when it comes to self-identified risk tolerance.

CS: In what ways do women invest differently than men?

AP: While portfolio breakdown is nearly identical—with a roughly 85% to 15% breakdown of ETFs and stocks respectively—women do tend to invest in more cause-driven investment options, such as companies that promote women in leadership roles, organizations that support the LGBTQ+ community, along with businesses that are dedicated to sustainability, human rights, and giving back.

CS: How can women and new investors gain more confidence when it comes to investing?

AP: Today, tech has completely disrupted the investing landscape, empowering anyone and everyone, regardless of net worth and background, to get off the sidelines and start investing in their futures. On Stash, for example, you only need $5 to get going. Start by evaluating how much risk you’re willing to take on (based on things like your age and income), and then focus on building a diversified portfolio.

CS: Can you tell our readers a bit about Stash and how it works?

AP: Stash is one of the fastest-growing consumer investing apps, focused on making investing and saving more accessible to the millions of Americans who have been historically underserved. With a focus on education, our more than 2.5 million users have access to fractional shares of over 170 ETFs and stocks—giving them the opportunity to buy into their favorite companies regardless of full-share price—as well as personal, retirement, and custodial accounts. There are no additional or add-on trading fees, and with just $5, anyone can start investing, whether in causes they care about or the brands they’re excited about.

CS: Anything to add?


  • Nearly 90% of female users self-identify as having a low or medium risk tolerance vs. roughly 75% of male users. However, both men and women hold an average of five different investments in their portfolio.
  • Roughly 50% of women have invested in higher-risk investments (such as stocks and/or “aggressive” ETFs), just as men have.
  • Volatility:

Dates looked at:

2/5/18 – S&P dropped 113.19 points

2/8/18 – S&P dropped 100.66 points

On the day and day after the market dropped, on average, men were 87% more likely to sell an investment. In the week following the two drops, men were still more likely to sell with 76% of men, on average, selling an investment. In the two weeks following the drops, on average, men were 50% more likely to make a withdrawal from their account.

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