Welcome to the Money Maven's Financial Blog

Money Maven Blog by Sheryl Sutherland, Authorised Financial Adviser and Director of The Financial Strategies Group

Recommended Reading

Recommended Reading by Sheryl Sutherland: Girls Just Want to Have Fund$ - Every Women’s Guide to Financial Independence, Money, Money, Money Ain't it Funny - How to Wire your Brain for Wealth, and Smart Money - How to structure your New Zealand business or investments and pay less tax.

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Thursday, 9 November 2017

Musings and Amusings

Don’t Lean In. Opt Out

Manifestoes for working women, much like working women themselves, are often held to an impossibly high standard. Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In was a best-seller, but critics – male and female – tore it apart because it asked women alone to fix their broken work environment. The criticism is valid; Sandberg has since admitted that it would be hard for a single mother to follow her advice. And yet male-authored advice books hardly get torn apart for failing to address intersectionality, privilege, and structural racism and sexism along with tips on how to climb the corporate ladder.

Sallie Krawcheck wants us to know, even before we open Own It: The Power of Women at Work, that she excels in the face of such impossible standards – in heels, no less. The cover features Krawcheck, the co-founder and chief executive officer of Ellevest, an online investment service for women, perched atop a stepladder in black stilettos. Krawcheck gets how difficult it is for women to break into the executive class. She worked her way up in the banking industry, only to be let go from C-suite jobs at Citigroup and Merrill Lynch. 
Reflecting on her tenure at Citigroup, which ended about nine years ago, she says she believes gender played a major role in the tensions she experienced. The final straw, Krawcheck writes, came when she made an unpopular suggestion that she believed was in the company’s best interest: reimbursing some Citigroup customers for losses they’d suffered in the early days of the 2008 financial crisis.

Given how she frames her experiences, you wouldn’t expect Krawcheck to write that “being a woman in the business world is not a liability: it’s power.” The liability, she says, manifests primarily when women try to affect a masculine demeanor around the office: when women speak up, as she did, they’re judged more negatively than men. Women who negotiate the way men do are considered too pushy. So throughout the book, Krawcheck scatters tips on how to successfully leverage feminine traits. In a chapter titled “The Obligatory Ask-for-the-Raise and How-to-Negotiate Chapter (With a Twist),” she suggests that women pretend during salary negotiations that they’re at a PTA meeting. Research shows that women perform better when they’re fighting on behalf of someone else, such as their kids.
Her approach makes sense, but does it work? Here, Krawcheck runs into some trouble. She argues that companies resistant to women-friendly policies and practices will fail – but they haven’t, even as inhospitality remains the norm. The pay gap persists. The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission got almost 13,000 complaints of sexual harassment in 2015, a number that’s held steady since 2011. Women enter corporate America at near-parity with men but occupy only 19% of C-suite positions, according to a recent survey by McKinsey and LeanIn.org. Sandberg’s nonprofit. In another recent survey, by MWW Public Relations and Wakefield Research, three-quarters of respondents said they believe women are worse at delivering financial returns for companies. The opposite is true: Numerous studies say that organisations with female managers perform better on average than those led by men. Whatever Krawcheck’s hopes, women tend to get penalised no matter how they act on their way to the top. Those who get there are often set up for failure, tapped to lead only in moments of crisis, when the odds of succeeding are slim to none, a phenomenon known as the glass cliff.

Ultimately, Krawcheck argues, there may be no way for women to work within the system and win, no matter how often they transform perceived liabilities into assets. Her most useful – and radical – advice comes in chapters that urge women to opt out. In “Literally Own It: Start Your Own Thing,” she encourages women to start businesses. When that happens, “there’s no playing by the boys’ club rules,” she writes. “No asking permission.” Since the system isn’t working for us, it’s time for us to build our own.

Source: Bloomberg.com

Thursday, 2 November 2017


Why Put a Ring on It?

In America, women are waiting longer to wed than ever, and many are choosing not to do so at all. The freedom to pursue high-powered careers and sexually diverse lives without fear of pregnancy or stigma has turned marriage into a choice, not destiny. By 2009 nearly half of all American adults younger than 34 had never married, a rise of 12 percentage points in less than a decade. Unmarried women outnumber married ones for the first time ever.

Single women are reshaping politics. As women tend to worry more about reproductive rights and fair pay, they have favoured Democrats for president since 1988. But the overall women’s vote hides a divide: in 2012 Mitt Romney narrowly carried married women, while the unmarried rushed to Barack Obama in their millions, giving him a 36-point margin. Single women cast almost a quarter of the votes, nearly guaranteeing his re-election.

Delaying marriage is also having economic effects: women aged 25 to 34 are the first generation to start their careers near parity with men, earning 93% of men’s wages. Single women now buy homes at greater rates than single men, a big step in independent wealth-building.

These trends have some conservatives fretting about the decline of the family. The divorce rate rocketed in the 1970s and 1980s, as women who had rushed into unhappy marriages discovered they could make their own way. The boom in divorce encouraged many in the next generation to abstain from marriage rather than enter a flawed one. Now that marriage is simply one option among many, fewer women are exchanging vows, but those that do tend to be in happier, more co-operative relationships.

The divorce rate, now falling, has plunged fastest among those who stay single longest. Despite the stereotype that high-achieving women are doomed to spinsterhood, the truth is that these women are now the most likely to tie the knot, and can afford to hold out for the right match.

Not all women are celebrating. For some, singlehood is less a choice than bad luck. Outside big cities, women who are unmarried into their late 30's are often pitied. For those who hope to become mothers, biology imposes harsh deadlines – though breakthroughs in fertility treatments have raised the number of women giving birth after age 35 by 64% between 1990 and 2008.

In particular, poor single women face a different landscape. Not all are unmarried by choice: America’s high incarceration rate has shrunk their pool of men. Single parenthood is strongly correlated with poverty. Conservatives duly push marriage as the antidote: the federal government has spent almost a billion dollars on pro-marriage programmes, to little avail.

Source: economist.com

Friday, 27 October 2017

Frame and Investment

Women Are Owning More and More Small Businesses

Owning your own business is often touted as the ultimate coup in the working world. You set your own hours, pursue projects you’re interested in, and maybe work in your pajamas.
About 29% of America’s business owners are women, that’s up from 26% in 1997. The number of women-owned firms has grown 68% since 2007, compared with 47% for all businesses.

The progress for minority women has been particularly swift, with business ownership skyrocketing by 265% since 1997, the report says. And minorities now make up one in three female-owned businesses, up from only one in six less than two decades ago.

Why have minority women had such an apparent breakthrough in the world of entrepreneurship? It’s partially a numbers game – in 1997 minority women represented such a small number of owners – less than one million – that even moderate growth would have likely helped them outpace the growth of the broader field of women-owners. But Jessica Milli, a senior research associate at IWPR, says that the characteristics of minority women who opt to open businesses may also play a role in the runaway growth.

“Women of colour are more likely to be younger when they first found their business,” says Milli. “Given today’s climate – when a lot of purchasing occurs online and social-media usage can really make or break a business this can mean that those businesses might have a competitive advantage.” 

The growing prevalence of female entrepreneurs of all races didn’t happen by accident. Instead, it may be proof that legislation targeted at women and minority small-business owners are having an effect.

Women business owners still face a significant wage gap and continually have smaller amounts of start-up capital than their male peers.

For one, women-owner businesses make only about 25 cents for every dollar their male counterparts earn. That’s a much larger gap than the one that exists in the overall labour market, where the median earnings of women were about 83% of men’s.

Although challenges like access to capital and wage equality persist having more women entrepreneurs may be helpful in and of itself when it comes to boosting the successfulness of female owners. Researchers who studied the effect of peer relationships on female entrepreneurs in India found that women who received business training with a friend were more likely to take out business loans, and more likely to report higher business activity and household income than peers who received training without a peer. And though equality on all fronts is still a long way off, the field of entrepreneurship is “moving toward equality in terms of representation, which is a great thing,” Milli says. “Overall, the picture is optimistic.”

Source: theatlantic.com

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Everyday Money

This is One Inheritance You Don't Want

You may have received a big inheritance, even if you're not aware of it: how you handle your money.

Economics professors at the University of Copenhagen have found that if a parent was in default on a loan at the end of the year (their study looked at data from 2004 to 2011), the chance of default for their children was more than four times as high as for those whose parents were model financial citizens. And that’s across all levels of parental income, loan balances and other measures, including that of intelligence.

The study analysed about 30 million personal loans held by some 5 million Danes ages 18 to 45. It linked that information to government data, including income level and education for the borrowers and their parents.

The key finding: The share of 30 year olds in financial trouble – narrowly defined in this study as being at least 60 days late on a loan at the end of the year - was 5 percent among those whose parents showed no similar sign of financial trouble. It was 23 percent for kids whose parents’ records showed financial trouble.

The study follows other research concluding that risk attitudes seem to be handed down by generation. It couldn’t rule out the chance that long-lasting health shocks had an effect on income that carried over to the next generation, but it did find evidence that shared common shocks tied to the business cycle, such as a parent and child unemployed at the same time, weren’t likely causes for the correlation.

An earlier study that lends support to the Copenhagen work found that adoptees with parents who take on more investment risk in their portfolios tend to make financial decisions for their own portfolios that reflect similar levels of risk. It concluded that nurture plays a substantially larger role than nature in financial risk-taking among parents and children.

That’s not to say our hard wiring plays no role. A 2015 study of identical and fraternal twins in Sweden concluded that “genetic differences explain about 33 percent of the variation in savings propensities across individuals,” finding that parenting plays a part in the differences in the twins’ savings behavior early on but that the effect waned over time.

Even if some of our attitudes toward money are hard-wired, no one wants to pass along a legacy of financial instability. There are many ways to nurture self-control and highlight the difference between “wants” and “needs.”

If you’re able to be a smart saver and shopper and make the tough budgeting tradeoffs – and if you let your kids see all that at the grocery store and when you’re paying the bills – they’re likelier to adopt these behaviors as adults.

Source: Bloomberg.com

Wednesday, 18 October 2017


Men Aren’t the Smartest When it Comes to Credit

The majority of men – 61% - describe their knowledge of how credit scores work as good or excellent.

They might want to take a refresher.

More than 40% of men and women questioned in a new poll think a person’s age, marital status, and ethnicity are among the components that determine a credit score. Of course, none of them are. On all three of those questions, a significantly higher percentage of men thought those things played a part in a credit score, according to the annual survey of credit understanding.

The biggest gender-knowledge gap was about whether marital status affected your credit score. Additionally, fewer men correctly choose three ways a consumer could improve a credit score, or maintain a high one.

Rather than a knowledge gap, what women may suffer from in the credit arena is a confidence gap: Even though they largely outdid men on the questions, fewer women – 54% - rated their knowledge of credit as good or excellent.

These figures replicate those relating to both genders, however, showed a decline in their understanding of credit compared with last year’s survey. Fewer people had success with a multiple-answer question about how much more a person with a low credit score could pay on a 60-month auto loan, as well as with more basic facts such as how everyone has more than one credit score, and that credit repair companies rarely wind up actually repairing your credit understanding and confidence for women in investment – read Girls Just Want to Have Funds for more on this. You can order from our website www.strategies.co.nz.

Source: Bloomberg.com

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Musings & Amusings

The gender pay gap persists almost everywhere – and has done so since pre Victorian times.

On average, women earn 18% less than men, according to analysis by Korn Ferry Hay Group, a consulting firm which looked at more than 8m employees in 33 countries. The pay gap is largely explained by a lack of women in highly paid roles. Women make up 40% of the global workforce for clerical jobs but only 17% of executive roles.  However, the pay gap shrinks when comparing males and females working at an identical level and function within the same company (but still favours men by 1.6%).

In Britain, more than four decades after the equal pay act was introduced, the headline difference between men and women’s pay is still high. A pledge made in 2015 by David Cameron, Britain's prime minister, to “end the gender pay gap in a generation” is an ambitious one. Women only make up around a third of senior management roles there. Workers at the same level but in different companies still face an average pay gap of over 9%.

The United Arab Emirates, on the other hand, has a reverse pay gap. Women at the same level, company and function actually earn 2% more than their male counterparts. This is partly because fewer women participate in the labour force, and those that do tend to have higher levels of education. In 2014 women made up 13% of the labour force; in Britain the share was 46%.

Source: The Economist

Everyday Money

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Investors

These are the basics of running your financial life.

In a recent study, just 8 percent of college students taking a recent survey gave themselves an A for how well they manage their finances. In a larger, 2014 survey of U.S. adults, 18 percent gave themselves the top grade for their personal finance knowledge.

Many people get stressed even thinking about managing their money, seeing it as just too complicated. But Harold Pollack, a University of Chicago professor, famously fit the basics of good personal finance on an index card.

Here are seven simple ways to increase the odds of getting in and staying in good financial shape.

Once you’ve got these covered, you can explore investment opportunities. 

1. Save early, and automatically
The point is just to get in the habit of saving. Even if you start small, it’s a start. And seeing your money grow can be very motivating.

2. Expect financial emergencies
About 47 percent of respondents wouldn’t be able to cover an emergency $400 expense without selling something or borrowing money. So when you start saving, you may want to set aside money for an emergency fund before saving for retirement. That’s because, in a financial emergency, many people just tap into a retirement fund early and pay a penalty.

3. Set an asset allocation, and diversify
Asset allocation is an investor’s most important decision, said Bernstein. Research by numerous finance professors has shown that the vast majority of returns over time come from asset allocation rather than picking the right security or the right time to invest in the market.
One rough rule of thumb Bernstein uses for setting a stock-bond allocation is that your age should equal your bond allocation. A 50-50 or 60-40 split is a good starting point, he said, but then you need to figure out your risk tolerance and tweak your portfolio to reflect that.

4. Keep fees low
With many people expecting future stock market returns to be muted, it’s more important than ever to keep fees low. Situations in which a retirement saver gets conflicted advice—meaning an adviser gets fees and commissions if the client buys a particular product—lead to returns roughly 1 percentage point lower per year, according to a report from the White House Council of Economic Advisers. The council estimated the aggregate annual cost of conflicted advice on Superannuation assets at about $17 billion a year.

For most people, keeping investments simple is the most cost-effective strategy. Warren Buffett is a longtime fan of investing in low-cost index funds, and in his 2013 Berkshire Hathaway shareholder letter, Buffett shared the advice he gave to his estate’s trustee: 

5. Use a qualified adviser
Late-night television isn’t the place to find financial wisdom. 

6. Spend less than you earn
Spending more than they earn is a pattern for 23 percent of millennials and 19 percent of Gen Xers, according to a 2014 study by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s Investor Education Foundation. So it’s not surprising that only about a third of each demographic has an emergency fund in place.

Part of what can make it tough to build an emergency fund is lifestyle creep. As we (hopefully) earn more, we often ratchet up our spending—we upgrade phones or cars, or take fancier vacations—rather than increasing our superannuation  contributions by 1 percent, or setting a higher amount of savings to automatically be taken out of pay.

7. Maximise employee benefits
Ensure your KiwiSaver contributions match those of your employers.

Source: Bloomberg

Who's Counting?

Gender pay gap in children's pocket money as boys get 12% more than girls.

There was also a gender gap last year but it was just 2%. It’s reasonable to assume that the New Zealand situation reflects that of the UK.

Boys received almost 12 per cent more weekly pocket money compared to girls, according to the Halifax’s annual pocket money survey of more than 1,200 children and 575 parents.

The gender gap grew from only 2 per cent the year before.

In 2016, boys between eight and fifteen received an average of £6.93 per week, compared to girls who got an average of £6.16.

“The big increase in the pocket money pay gap doesn’t bode well for the future. If we’re ever going to get pay equality in the workplace girls need to be empowered with the confidence to drive a hard bargain and learn to be unafraid to ask if they think they should be ‘paid’ more; this needs to start at home," said Hannah Maundrell, editor in chief at Money.co.uk.

"Teaching your kids the value of money and the importance of negotiation when they’re young will really set them up for success when they enter the real world," she added.

On average, eight year olds receive £5.06 with 15 year olds receiving £7.85 - the highest level recorded since the onset of the financial crisis in 2007.

Giles Martin, head of Halifax Savings said it is “reassuring” to see that the average pocket money amount has reached a nine year high.

“Some parents are clearly not feeling the pinch in the same way as they have done in recent years, when weekly pocket money dipped as low as £5.89”, Martin said.

“It’s likely it’ll be a few more years until we reach the dizzy heights of £8.37 in 2005 though, when we saw the highest average pocket money since our records began ,” she added.

Despite the pocket money pay rise, 42 per cent of children still believe they should receive more cash than they do, up 1 per cent from last year.

Children living in London receive the highest amount of pocket money with youngsters in East Anglia getting the least.

Source: Independent UK

Finance & Investment

Finance industry fails to attract female investors

Women savers alienated by ads for ‘older rich men.’

The finance industry is failing to attract cash from female investors who feel “alienated” by jargon-filled marketing campaigns designed to appeal to wealthy older men, given my experiences in that industry can’t say I’m surprised.

Advertisements used by the investment industry are confusing women rather than inspiring confidence, a new study has claimed, citing this as one reason women are more likely to hold their savings in cash rather than invest them in funds.  Read Girls Just Want to Have Fund$ for more on this.

“In a workshop we held, women were literally shrieking at the investment and financial services advertisements we showed them,” said Deborah Mattinson, founding director of Britain Thinks, the consultancy that conducted the research for the Financial Times. She added they were described as “alienating, overly complicated and riddled with jargon”. The least successful ads assumed a level of knowledge that women did not have, including the “profit hunter” campaign by Artemis Fund Managers, which women thought was aimed only at “older men” who had a “substantial amount to invest”. If women were featured in adverts at all, they tended to be “yummy mummies with idealised lives” which women felt “did not reflect their reality”, Ms Mattinson added. Previous studies have found only 10 per cent of British women have a stocks and shares Isa, compared to 17 per cent of men, meaning they are missing out on long-term growth potential. Women were more likely to describe themselves as “less knowledgable about investing” than men, and rely on their male partners to come up with investment ideas, according to a survey of 2,000 male and female investors conducted on behalf of the FT by Britain Thinks. Personal Finance Why do most women fear the stock market? Why women lack the confidence to invest — and what to do about it Senior women in the asset management industry believe a substantial marketing makeover is needed to help address this, with new methods — such as videos and online tools — as well as a broader message. “Asset managers are extremely good at talking to each other, but extremely bad at talking to anyone else,” said Diana Mackay, chief executive of MackayWilliams, the research house. Recognising that many women tended to sit on cash as they were “terrified at the thought of investment”, she urged fund managers to “start talking in a language the end investor can understand” adding that this would benefit both sexes. Sue Noffke, a senior fund manager at Schroders, said she believed it was a lack of confidence, rather than competence, that was holding women back. The investment trust she manages is using videos to broaden its appeal. “There really is a market opportunity for financial services firms,” Ms Noffke said. “Women are a large part of the market. Financial services firms are not doing what is required to access that market opportunity.”

Source: Financial Times


Women bosses boost female places in boardroom

Having a female boss makes it more likely that there will be more women on your board, according to new research.

Headhunter Spencer Stuart, which compiles an annual report reviewing governance at the UK’s largest listed companies, found that boards have significantly more female directors where the chief executive or chairman is also a woman. The proportion of women serving as non-executive directors at the UK’s top 150 public companies has reached 29.9 per cent, up from 17.5 per cent in 2011. On the six boards where there is a female chairman, such as Shire, led by Susan Kilsby, Land Securities and St James Place, just under 40 per cent of non-executives are women. In companies where there is a female chief executive, 35.4 per cent of executive committee members are women. In 2016, 30 per cent of non-executive directors were women, but only 8 per cent of executive directors. The data support persistent concerns that appointing more women to boards has had little effect on the gender imbalance at senior management level. 

“This reflects the fact that the majority of companies at the top of the FTSE have a truly global footprint and boards have long understood the importance of having directors with knowledge and experience of strategic markets,” the research said. A quarter of chief executives are foreign, as are 17 per cent of chairmen. Fifteen companies have both a foreign chairman and a foreign CEO. Mr Dawkins said the Britain’s exit from the EU was unlikely to diminish the international scope of FTSE 150 businesses, and thus the need for foreign expertise on domestic boards. “The signs are, from the thinking we see among nominations committees in the FTSE 150, that the proportion of non-UK directors will continue to rise, in line with the businesses’ increasing foreign exposure, possibly spurred by the weakness of sterling,” he said. Only 23 directors at the top 150 FTSE companies are black, Asian or from another minority ethnic group, representing just 1.6 per cent of all directors. Fifty other directors were from BAME backgrounds, but were not British citizens. The question of broader ethnic representation has come under greater scrutiny with the release of Sir John Parker’s review into board diversity this month. Just nine people of colour hold the role of chair or chief executive at FTSE 100 companies and more than half have no minority ethnic directors at all.
New Zealand boards still have a long way to go.

Source: Financial Times


The struggle of women in science is written in the stars.
In her 1968 poem, Planetarium, the poet Adrienne Rich wrestles with the crisis of female identity through the lens of astronomy. Rich wrote the poem after learning about the case of Caroline Herschel, an astronomer born in Germany in 1750 who discovered eight comets and three nebulae, and drew praise from the King of Prussia and London’s Royal Astronomical Society. Yet Caroline remained obscure compared with her brother, William, who discovered the planet Uranus.

To this day, astronomy remains one of the only scientific fields that relies so heavily on ancient Greek and Roman mythology for its naming conventions. Cosmology and mythology have been interwoven throughout human history, so it’s not surprising that modern-day astronomers have inherited this tradition. But classical mythology is deeply misogynistic, and using it to identify celestial bodies contributes to a scientific culture that diminishes the achievements of women like Caroline. Male deities and figures reign with nearly unlimited power, while their female counterparts suffer violence and humiliation.

Among the myths we have used to name and claim the heavens is Cassiopeia, a constellation in the northern hemisphere. It is named for a mythical queen of Aethiopia, whom Poseidon punished for her vanity by lashing her to her throne. Cassiopeia’s daughter, Andromeda, was also made to suffer for her mother’s sins by being chained naked to a rock, where she waited for the sea monster Cetus to rape her. In the myth, Perseus saved Andromeda and took her as his wife, but as a constellation, she still waits chained to her rock.

The Pleiades, also known as the Seven Sisters, is a cluster of stars in the Taurus constellation. The Seven Sisters were once women who danced together under the night sky, but Orion desired them, so he hunted them for seven years. To help the sisters escape, Zeus turned them all into stars – but Orion, another constellation, still chases them night after night.

Male astronomers, when they look at the sky, can find more uplifting role models. The constellations named after men tell stories of heroism and conquest, not submission and subjugation. Even today, NASA continues to recycle the names of mythological figures and great men of history when naming spacecraft and missions. Orion, a crewed spacecraft meant to facilitate travel to Mars, is named for the same Orion that hunted the Seven Sisters. Kepler, Galileo, Copernicus, and Cassini – names pulled from the scientific establishment that excluded women like Caroline – are all unmanned spacecraft sent to explore the cosmos. Even spacecraft with seemingly gender neutral names are coded male: Voyager and Pioneer evoke the men who heroically left home and hearth on voyages of exploration.

There are exceptions. Sojourner, a Mars rover, was named after Sojourner Truth, the escaped slave who became a women’s rights activist and abolitionist. But it’s telling that this name was suggested by a 12-year-old girl in an essay contest, rather than originating in the scientific establishment. ARTEMIS, a spacecraft in orbit behind the Moon, is named for the Greek goddess of the hunt, virginity and childbirth. Yet this too has gendered implications, since Artemis is associated with purity and motherhood, two features of classical femininity. Juno, an unmanned spacecraft, is currently observing the planet Jupiter; in Roman mythology, she was Jupiter’s wife, and had the ability to see through the clouds of mist that he used to conceal his infidelities. Juno the spacecraft will attempt the same thing – and so even now, when we send a female-named spacecraft to investigate the cosmos, the mission invokes a domestic metaphor. (Alice Bowman, NASA’s Mission Operations Manager for the New Horizons’ mission to study the outer edges of the solar system, is commonly referred to as ‘MOM’.)

Today, the skies are still filtered through this tradition of mythic misogyny. Naming conventions for spacecraft and constellations are a subtle but significant way that the discipline of astronomy perpetuates a male-dominated culture. Simply giving more celestial bodies female names is not the solution. Rather, change must begin with the recognition that astronomy’s self-image is built upon an age-old habit of telling stories about the abuse of women.

Source: Aeon