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Women, men react differently to market swings

There is a difference in the way men and women see risk and investment results.

That is one of the conclusions of a recent report by Dalbar, the fund research firm based in Boston. In a survey of 1,100 households with incomes of $50,000 or more conducted in December, Dalbar said it found that market volatility in the second half of 1998 - a period Dalbar termed "Turmoil 98" - created a "behavioral gulf between the sexes."

Sixty-six percent of the men saw market volatility last year as a buying opportunity, as opposed to 53 percent of the women surveyed, the report said. In addition, market volatility left 26 percent of the women unsure about their plans for investing in mutual funds, as opposed to only 12 percent of the men.

Also, apparently men saw what they wanted to see when it came to investment results. At a time when many quarterly mutual fund statements were showing losses for the third quarter, 58 percent of the men claimed to have made money through investing while only 36 percent of the women said they made a profit. Dalbar said that the investment mix did not differ significantly between men and women.

It was the first time in 20 years of research that Dalbar found a difference of more than five percentage points between men and women on an issue, said Louis Harvey, president of Dalbar. The survey results suggest that "volatility drives a wedge between the he's and the she's," Harvey said.

The conclusions should lead fund companies to think about different styles of advertising for men and women, perhaps stressing safety or fixed-income products in ads targeted to a female audience, Harvey said. It also may lead fund companies to think about where they advertise, he said.

"This is the first time I've seen any data that suggests you should advertise in (Cosmopolitan magazine) over a gender neutral publication," Harvey said.