Editors' pick: Originally published Nov. 10.
Women in the workforce will need to work until April 4, 2017 to earn what men will have made during 2016. Put another way, for every dollar men make, women get only 79 cents, a 21% differential -- according to U.S. Census Data.
When it comes to women of advanced age who are in or approaching retirement, the gender wage gap is greater still.
The gender earning difference peaks to 44% among those 65 and up, meaning women earn 56 cents for every dollar men do.
That means an older woman today earns less than the typical woman did in 1963, the year of the Equal Pay Act was enacted. At that time, women earned an average of 59 cents for every male dollar.
Inequality will not change overnight. But women can try to overcome the long-term disadvantage they may face from the gender wage gap through savvy investing strategies that are tailored for them in particular.
In fact, the female-focused robo-advisor Ellevest launched this May with this purpose in mind.
"Ellevest's mission is to close the gender gap," says Charlie Kroll, co-founder and president of Ellevest. "Women live longer, have more breaks in their career and face more problems in their peak salary".
The main distinctive feature of Ellevest's product is that it is goal-based. All is done in the context of client goals instead of asking about risk tolerance. The robo-advisor expects its customers to achieve their long-term goals, instead of focusing only on the returns. There are 21 asset classes over a variety of portfolios available through Ellevest, and it focuses on low-cost ETFs.
Sallie Krawcheck, co-founder and CEO at Ellevest, is particularly suited to shaping the needs of female investors given that she is considered one of the most successful women on Wall Street with a pedigree including stints at Merrill Lynch, Salomon Smith Barney and Citi Private Bank as CEO. Ellevest raised the total amount of $19 million on two rounds of venture investments. Among the investors, there are famous names like tennis player Venus Williams.
To join Ellevest, there is a waiting list that Kroll said "has grown well into the tens of thousands of users." On that list, there are mostly mid-career professional women who are finishing paying off their student loan and seeking to invest for the long-term. "For most of them, this is the first time that they are investing," says Kroll.
Haley Foydel, 25, fits squarely within Ellevest's desired userbase. Based in Boston, she works as general manager for a restaurant group. In 2014 she finished paying her student loan and started to think about retirement. "My grandparents had financial problems during retirement," says Foydel. She didn't want the same trouble.
It was back then, at the age of 23, that she started an IRA plan from Vanguard, encouraged as she was by her parents' advice.
But the communication with her financial advisor was not easy. "They treat you different, like a 'little girl,'" she said. "I'm not a CEO, but I have my money to invest."
For young women like Foydel, female-focused communication can be game-changer. She now is following a podcast called Bad With Money, created by the writer and comedian Gaby Dunn. Listening to one of the episodes, she realized that understanding the stock market is easier than it seems.
"My dad always had stocks," she says. "But I didn't know that it also could be something for me. Now I feel more excited." One of her 2017 goals is to invest money in the stock market beyond her retirement portfolio -- maybe via a robo-advisor platform.
Kathleen Burns Kingsbury, wealth psychology expert and founder of KBK Wealth Connection, says that when it comes to investments, financial advisors must understand that gender differences require varied approaches. For example, female investors prefer to steer clear of too much jargon. "Overall, the industry needs to be more female-friendly," says Burns Kingsbury.
To some extent, financial advisors need to have an empathetic approach to advising that takes into account mindsets most women face when it comes to investing, One of the challenges of the industry, for example, is that in general women see themselves as savers rather than investors. The Investor Pulse 2015 research, from BlackRock, indicates that only 22% of women consider themselves investors, compared to 69% of the general population.
But as much as women would like communication to be geared toward them specifically, it's not a one-size-fits-all proposition for the entire gender.
"How can I put myself in the client's shoes?" says Burns Kingsbury. That is what financial advisors should ask and be more curious about a client's needs in general -- especially when it to female investors. And it means that the gender wage gap, the career trajectory or other issues that affect women financially must be considered during the profile analysis.
"Know about the gender wage gap," Burns Kingsbury adds. "Know if a woman is having trouble negotiating her salary raise -- or having other financial issues, like taking care of elder parents."
Of course, not everyone sees a distinct divide between the investing needs of men and women. Monica Sipes, wealth advisor at Exencial Wealth Advisors in Frisco, Texas, doesn't see that Mars/Venus distinction in her daily work. "It is about different people," she says. According to her, women usually have a stronger negative response to volatility, but it happens more because of a lack of information about the market than because of "the nature of the gender."
"In a period of high volatility, as seen during Brexit, twice the number of women called me just to talk about it and to make sure that was everything on track," Sipes says. Men, on the other hand, failed in planning long-term, focusing on "the stock of the day" and trying to succeed on market timing.
Though women may be more prudent investors and may want to consult with advisors more frequently, they are certainly up against an industry that wasn't necessarily built with them in mind.
"The symbol of the financial industry is a bull," says Ellevest's Kroll. "There is not a better indication that the industry is made for men, built by men." That explains the rise of advisories geared toward women and their investment needs.
But a female-focused investment industry has plenty of room to grow -- and necessarily so. A report from Center for Talent Innovation estimates that women in the U.S. manage, alone, $5.1 trillion from the $28.6 trillion of assets in the market. Another report, from The Boston Consulting Group, indicates that women control about 30% of the world's wealth (from 25% five years ago) and predicts that in the next years women's wealth control will grow faster than men's.