If I had the power, I would ask the government to take action against any institution that advertises a savings account as “high yield” when the annual interest rate paid to the saver is less than 1 percent. It is like sending an indentured servant up a hill carrying a 300-pound weight.
In all seriousness, the old days of putting your money in a savings account and watching it grow into a big chunk of change is over. Yes, time and compounding work magic, but when you are starting with an interest rate between zero and 1 percent, you can’t expect much. And if the interest rate paid to you is less than the rate of inflation, you are indeed that servant carrying the 300-pound weight up the hill. You will never get to the pinnacle of wealth because you will be losing money over time due to inflation.
The year 2013 was a banner one for the stock market with the S&P 500 index increasing about 30 percent. During 2014, the major indexes have repeatedly reached all-time highs. So why aren’t more women invested in the stock market?
“I’m afraid of losing any money,” is the most common answer I receive when I ask a woman why she keeps all her money in a checking or savings account. Often she will add, “I’m conservative when it comes to money.”
If you haven’t figured it out already, I’m an advocate of the stock market and I invest the vast majority of my savings in it. Those women with all their money sitting in their checking or savings accounts look at me like I’m some daredevil who jumps out of airplanes sipping a cosmopolitan. They may think that, but ask my husband and he’ll tell you I’m one of the most risk averse, unadventurous women he has ever known.
The very reason I invest my money in the stock market instead of leaving it in the equivalent of cash is because I am so risk averse. Based on my education and experience, I believe a woman who doesn’t invest is actually taking on more risk than I do. If that woman loses her job, she has nothing else that generates income for her. She must burn through her savings. If she counts on marrying a successful man, what if that prince never shows up? A few of my friends are waiting on proceeds from a life insurance policy or a large inheritance from their wealthy parents, but I don’t think most women fall in that camp.
Ironically, I’ve even met fellow alumnae from the Wharton undergraduate and graduate programs who excel in the corporate and entrepreneurial worlds but do not pay much attention to their personal investments.
Wharton’s Russell E. Palmer Professor of Finance Jeremy Siegel has written extensively about how—over the long term—the stock market beats the returns of corporate and government bonds, certificates of deposit (CDs), gold and cash. Don’t get me wrong; there are times in one’s life when having six months’ worth of living expenses in cash is prudent, but cash and nothing else is not a sound investment strategy. You simply will not grow your money.
Yes, my portfolio took a hit in 2008, but I stayed in the market and continued to regularly invest money from my paycheck. When in 2009 the Standard & Poor’s 500 index returned 26.46 percent, it turned out to be the biggest wealth creation event in my lifetime. Stocks were virtually on sale. What a fabulous opportunity to buy high quality, dividend-paying stocks at a discount. It was an ice cream sundae for the frugal.
So with 2014 nearing to a close and stocks at historical highs, is there a correction or downturn in store? I can’t predict the future, but if stocks make a pullback, you’ll have an opportunity to move cash in from the sidelines and dig in with a spoon. Don’t forget the cherry on top.
Editor’s note: Historical performance is not an indication of future returns. Investing in the stock market can be risky so consult with a financial professional who understands your personal financial situation.