How women can kickstart their investment journeys
Endowus Insights

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How women can kickstart their investment journeys

Updated
18
Sep 2023
published
27
Jun 2023
Jasmine Chong, Founder of Lab Studios, and So Sin Ting, Chief Client Officer at Endowus, speaking at a financial literacy session as part of Endowus Empower
  • Investing can be simple, low-cost, and suited to your risk appetite — it doesn’t have to be complicated or intimidating. One way is to take a goal-based approach to financial planning.
  • You don’t need a large amount of money to start investing. Gradually build your nest egg by investing small sums — from just $100 every month. This process can even be automated, to make life easier for yourself.
  • Consider applying the 50-30-20 rule to your monthly income — setting aside 50% for your needs, 30% for your wants, and 20% for savings and investments. 
  • To explore our curated section of investing articles dedicated to women, follow this link. To get started with Endowus, click here.

Kickstarting your investment journey

Women's wealth journeys, investment needs, and life goals often differ from those of men. Reasons for this include the gender pay gap, caretaking responsibilities, and career breaks. Family commitments are a commonly cited obstacle to begin investing. Besides, women on average have a longer life expectancy than men — this makes it even more important for them to begin preparing for retirement as early as possible.

To empower more women, especially younger working professionals, to start their investing journeys, Endowus recently collaborated with Lab Studios to conduct a workshop on the basics of financial planning and investing. The discussion was followed by a Barre Signature class for all participants at Lab Studios Stanley Street. This in-person event is part of our community impact initiative, Endowus Empower.

Watch the replay of the financial literacy session as So Sin Ting, Chief Client Officer at Endowus, and Jasmine Chong, Founder of Lab Studios, chat about how you can better organise your personal and family finances, and offer actionable tips for you to take charge of your wealth journey. In this article, we also recap the highlights of the discussion below.

Watch the replay

Chapters

  • 00:00 – Introduction
  • 00:58 – What is holding women back from investing? 
  • 02:34 – Women are risk aware, not risk averse
  • 04:28 – What challenges have you faced in your investing journey?
  • 09:24 – Why start investing? Inflation eats away at your savings
  • 11:05 – Retirement is even more challenging for women
  • 11:52 – Many women defer long-term financial planning to their spouses
  • 13:45 – Basics of financial planning
  • 15:46 – Can we invest our CPF savings?
  • 18:25 – What is goal-based investing?
  • 22:09 – Avoid trying to time the market
  • 24:57 – How Endowus constructs our investment portfolios

What deters women from investing?

Sin Ting (00:58): Among women who plan to invest less this year, most cited market volatility as their primary concern, according to the Endowus Wealth Insights Report 2023. Compared to men, women are also more conservative investors — our study found that more than half of women investors (59%) in Singapore are currently invested in fixed deposits, as compared to just 41% of men. Moreover, about six in 10 women are likely to preserve capital by taking minimal risk.

It’s not to say that women are bad at investing. In fact, the opposite is true — it’s been proven that women actually make better investors than men. These findings show that the financial and investment journeys might look different for women given these behavioural characteristics.

So what makes investing and financial habits more challenging for women? Women are risk aware, and not risk averse. The conventional wisdom is that men are risk takers, while women are not — but the truth is more nuanced. Unfortunately, the gender pay gap and the disparity in the level of financial knowledge are part of what make women less willing to take risks when investing. That’s why financial literacy is so important.

Another factor is that women tend to wear multiple hats in life. We have dependents such as our children, parents, and sometimes even our spouses. Family commitments are a commonly cited obstacle to begin investing.

Furthermore, women are sometimes deterred from starting their investment journeys early. There’s a misconception that you need a huge nest egg before you even take the first step. But that’s not true — there are many more options today for you to start investing with small amounts of money.

What challenges have you faced in your investment journey?

Jasmine (04:28): When I first started work, investing wasn’t something I was comfortable doing. At the same time, the investment products introduced to me back then were tied to insurance, so it was too complicated and overwhelming for me. Later, when I started my business (Lab Studios), a lot of the money went into the business and I kept the rest for rainy days; I didn’t want to touch the money because I believed all investments were too “risky”.

I’ve since learnt that’s not necessarily true. I just didn’t have the right information on how I should be organising my finances and how much money I can actually put into investments. There is actually a lot of information out there on investing — the issue was, who do I listen to? How do I get the information I need? That was my biggest struggle.

As a result, many women find comfortable ways of investing. That was me, too — if there was any fixed deposit that could give me an okay interest rate, and I could get my money out in six months, I would just put my money there.

What changed my mind about investing was when I met Endowus and learnt about goal-based investing, how to think about your own and your family’s future, and the concept of putting my money into buckets for short-term and long-term needs.

Chart: Putting your money in buckets - with the appropriate amounts of compensated risk based on your needs. For example, cash management in one bucket (rainy day savings, short-term cash flow needs); conservative multi-asset portfolio in another bucket for a 2-5 year horizon; balanced multi-asset portfolio for the next 5-10 years in another bucket. For illustrative purposes only.

Why should I start investing?

Sin Ting (09:24): Life in Singapore has gotten more expensive. Take bubble tea for example — a drink from Brand X used to cost S$4.50 in 2021. The same drink now costs S$5.30 in 2023. It’s gone up by almost 20% in the last two years. Inflation in Singapore also applies to essential expenses such as mortgages. 

Inflation eats away at our purchasing power — if your money is left in a savings account, is the deposit rate enough to cover inflation? It’s important that we not only save, but also grow our savings meaningfully through investments. Just a 2% difference in inflation can deplete your retirement savings. 

The importance of retirement planning for women

Sin Ting (11:05): As women, we’re going to live longer than our partners; women have longer lifespans than men. That means we have a longer retirement to think about, which means we actually need to save more money than our spouses when it comes to our retirement.

Unfortunately, women in Singapore generally have lower CPF balances as compared to men, due to various reasons. This really drives home the message that we have to plan for our own retirement — it’s crucial for us to take the first step, and not just depend on our spouses for financial planning.

As the average Singaporean woman lives longer, the likelihood of being widowed (or divorced) increases. Women who take charge of their finances are better prepared for such possibilities.

What are some basics of financial planning?

Jasmine (13:45): What are some tips to manage our personal finances?

Sin Ting: Personally, I try to keep it simple and stick to the 50-30-20 rule. So 50% of my monthly income I spend on necessities such as my mortgage repayment, utilities, phone bills, and so on. And then 30% is for my wants — things that I can probably do without, but make my life better, like barre class, bubble tea, ride-hailing, or dining out. The remaining 20% is then for my savings and investments.

For investments, I automate them every month so that I don’t have to think about it. I don’t have to worry each month whether it’s a good time to invest or not, or think about how much to invest. So I’ve set up a monthly recurring investment on the Endowus platform, and that amount gets deducted from my bank account every month. Also, I don’t see that money so I can’t even spend it. With this, I’m also dollar-cost averaging into the market and slowly building up my investment pool.

In goal-based investing, your goals form the centre of your portfolio. You’re investing to reach certain goals in life, whether it’s to retire a certain way, to buy a house, to provide for your children’s education. When you can define what these goals are, it makes it a lot easier to think about the right asset allocation, how long your investment horizon should be, and what kind of risk you can take.

What is goal-based investing? Understand your future priorities, determine risk tolerances for each goal, and every dollar you invest must have a reason and be attributed to a future goal. Cashflows may include retirement, education, rent, healthcare; lump sums may include asset purchases, housing downpayment, wedding; continuous includes rainy day savings, wealth accumulation

Jasmine: Goal-based investing really helped me think about when I will need the money and how I can align the risk I can take with each bucket of money. If in five years I need this sum for the business, then I will not put it into anything too risky. The only thing I need to think about is how much money I need and by when, and then work backwards from there.

Also, the automation feature on the Endowus app honestly changed my life. You just click a button and every month it automatically deducts from your account. You don’t even need to think about how to invest, which is what I feel intimidates us when it comes to investments.

Can I invest my CPF savings?

Jasmine (15:46): How about CPF? I know that Endowus is one of the platforms where we can invest our CPF savings.

Sin Ting: Endowus is the first digital advisor for CPF investments. Your Ordinary Account (OA) savings can be used for housing and investments, among other things. If you leave your money in OA, that will give you a guaranteed 2.5% per annum, which is pretty decent. But your CPF OA is super long-term money, because you can’t touch it for the next 25 to 35 years or so. So if you can take some risk and invest it for the long term, you may be able to get market-type returns. 

And we’re not talking about taking the crypto level of risk for your CPF money. The financial markets have returned high single digits per year over the past decades, and I think that’s very decent; you don’t have to take a lot of risk. But you do have to be comfortable that your investment portfolio will go up and down over time. That’s in contrast to your money steadily gaining 2.5% p.a. if it’s left in OA.

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As part of our community impact initiative, Endowus Empower, we have established a Women & Investing community to empower women with the choice, confidence, and community to kickstart their investment journey and work towards their life goals. More exciting partnerships and engagements are to come in the following months.

To explore our curated section of investing articles dedicated to women, follow this link. To get started with Endowus, click here.

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Jasmine Chong, Founder of Lab Studios, and So Sin Ting, Chief Client Officer at Endowus, speaking at a financial literacy session as part of Endowus Empower

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