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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Want Your Portfolio Managed Well Give It to A Woman...

...or someone that thinks like one with regards to investing

Jason Zweig in the WSJ

It is worth pointing out, this Mother's Day weekend, how different things might be if the financial world were female.

Finance professors Brad Barber and Terrance Odean have found that women's risk-adjusted returns beat those of men by an average of about one percentage point annually. In short, women trade less frequently, hold less volatile portfolios and expect lower returns than men do.

On the other hand, in the testosterone-poisoned sandbox of the male investor, the most important thing is beating the other guy; the second most important: bragging about it. The long term is somebody else's problem, and asking for advice is an admission of inferiority. Worrying about risk is for sissies. Leverage is good, since it raises returns -- while the market goes up. Is it any wonder the male-dominated world of Wall Street has boomed and busted every few years for more than two centuries?

The results of a nationwide survey of hundreds of investors conducted in March, just days after the Dow bottomed at 6547, show how anger and fear in the minds of men and women can affect their financial decisions. Men were far more likely than women to say they were "more angry than fearful" about the financial crisis. And one in eight men, but only one in every 40 women, had "made riskier investments looking for long-term growth" in the previous week. Female investors were twice as likely to expect the return on stocks over the coming year to be zero or negative and to think stocks will return 5% or less per year over the next 10 years.

"The women were more concerned but took fewer actions," said psychologist Ellen Peters of the University of Oregon, who co-directed the survey. "They were also more pessimistic -- or realistic? -- about what to expect from the market."

Stocks are up 35% since March, so the women's fears haven't yet come to pass. But their inaction already looks wise. And their realism can't hurt, either. "The essential traits and qualities of the male," H.L. Mencken once wrote, "are at the same time the hall-marks of the numskull. ... Women, in fact, are the supreme realists of the race."

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