SAN JOSE, CALIF — SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Women are increasingly attuned to the stock market and are making investment decisions for themselves and their families, according to a recent poll by Oppenheimer Funds.
This is good news because many companies are discontinuing traditional pension plans and replacing them with "self-directed" retirement plans, requiring employees to be their own pension managers.
At least 40 million Americans already have invested at least $1 trillion in 401(k) and related plans.
Although the Oppenheimer poll shows that women in general don't have as firm a grip as men do on investment specifics, such as the relationship between interest rates and bond prices, they are eager to learn more.
And other polls suggest that women have a better sense than men of where the economy is headed, and more common sense about investing.
The Oppenheimer poll's most telling conclusion is that 90 percent of 1,018 women surveyed said investing isn't only a man's job. And 85 percent of the 1,003 men surveyed agreed.
"The cultural barriers are falling," said Bridget Macaskill, president of Oppenheimer Management Corp. "Men no longer consider investments their exclusive domain, and women no longer believe some knight on horseback will come along to sweep them off their feet and take charge of their finances forevermore."
Men are more likely to know the level of the Dow Jones industrials and other investment details, but financial planners say thatisn't the most important knowledge. What count, they say, are basic investment instincts, and women seem especially strong on this score.
Take, for example, a poll conducted by Fidelity Investments and the Gallup Organization at the end of 1991 on the stock market and the economy. Fewer women than men thought the stock market would rise this year -- 35 percent vs. 54 percent -- and more women than men expected the recession to persist -- 68 percent vs. 48 percent. Women have been more accurate on both counts, perhaps a reflection of how much they grasp about economics as the dominant consumers in most households.
Women also tend to approach investing more conservatively, investment professionals say.
"Men tend to swing for the fences," said Kurt Brouwer, president of Brouwer & Janachowski, a San Francisco money-management firm. "Women are more content to hit singles and doubles and get on base. That's a lot smarter than trying to hit home runs, because you strike out much less often."
Larry Krause, a San Francisco financial planner, added that women are more inclined to research prospective investments more thoroughly, ask more questions and have specific investment goals in mind.
Men, too, have their own special investment strengths. Planners say they are far less inclined than women to keep their savings in a bank, for example, which means they are more likely to build a sizable nest egg.
Working together as investors, men and women are more likely to prosper -- and benefit the economy overall.