Four easy tips for women to get investing

by Katherine Baker, Co-Founder, Congress London

When the topic of “Managing Your Finances” was first proposed as one of Congress London’s monthly talks, I was filled with horror.  I hate managing my finances and talking about money. Interestingly, it seems that my dislike for this topic is not uncommon; especially among women. Most women seem to pass their money onto their husbands, partners or fathers to manage for them.  Which is exactly what I have done.

But why are we doing this?  Research shows that women are wiser when it comes to investing. They research more before making decisions and admit when they have made an investment mistake.  They make less impulsive decisions and plan more long term.  

Perhaps due to women’s less risky appetite, the other tactic women seem to use when saving their money is to save cash.  But while watching our savings account steadily increase each pay check might feel like you are being financially responsible, we are losing out over the long term. We must accept that just keeping money in the bank is not doing us any favours and here is why...

Cash is NOT king.

Very low interest rates have depressed the return on cash which means cash savings are now eroded by inflation over time.  So, saving your cash means losing your money.  This was a shocking revelation to me personally.

We obviously shouldn’t rely on men to manage our finances but if we can’t just rely on cash increasing in our bank accounts what should we do?  We have all seen first-hand the horror stories of people losing all their money in 2008.  Markets go up and down and there is a chance you can lose a huge percentage of those hard-earned savings.

So how can we get over the fear of investing and start on this journey towards financial security and independence.  Kitty Bhaman and Graeme Taylor with UBS gave us the following tips and advice

Small smart steps + time + consistence = radical difference of savings

      1. Invest Regularly

First, know your current financial situation and invest regularly. How much money do you need in the short term to live on and how much can you save? Whatever you determine you can save, do so by continually investing not leaving it in a savings account.  By continually investing you will be buying when the markets are up and down which in the end evens everything out.  In other words, if the markets crash and you keep investing you are getting a good deal with what you are buying now despite losing a bit with the crash.  

       2.  Stay Invested

When the economy dips and you lose money, your gut tells you to run and save what you can. But this is when you need to trust reason over emotions. Markets are volatile; they don’t continually rise as much as we all wish they would.  But the good news is, in the long run, as the global economy continues to rise so does global wealth.  There may be dips but overall the world economy has grown in 55 of the last 56 years.  Think of just the last two decades, we have experienced the Russian / Asian Crisis in 1998, the dot.com bubble in 2001 and the Great Financial Crises of 2008.  

Kitty showed how leaving the market over the last 20 years for even just a few days would have dramatically decreased your savings:  

  • If you had stayed fully invested across those 7,200 days your investment increased by 7.4% despite the troubles.  

  • If you missed 10 of the best days in those two decades your investment would only have increased by 4.2%.  

  • If you missed 50 of the best days your investment would have lost about 3%.  

As you can never know which are the best days, stay invested!

        3.  Diverse Portfolio

No one can be 100% sure of what will happen.  There will always be risk with investing money so the best way to mitigate this risk is to have a diverse portfolio.  A diverse portfolio may include cash, equities, hedge funds, real estate and commodities.  

One asset class will always outperform another in any one year and one asset class is rarely the best performer consistently over many years.

Ask yourself what are you trying to save for and how long do you want to invest.  Are you trying to save for a house, children, retirement? Figure out your end goal and that can also help you when organizing your portfolio.

       4. Start Now: Compound Interest

While compound interest is your worst enemy when it comes to paying off loans or debts, it is an incredible ally when getting your money to make money.  Compound interest means that the interest you earn from your investment is added to your savings which results in your balance not just growing but growing at an increasing rate.  

For example, if you invest £100 pounds at 5% interest at the end of year one you will have £105 pounds earning £5 that year.  The next year you will earn more than £5 you will earn £5.25 because you now get 5% of £105.  

This means the sooner you can start saving the more money your money will make.

If you annually invest £5000 from age 35 at 5% growth, at age 65 you will have £353,803.

But if you annually invest £5000 from age 25 at 5% growth by the time you are 65 you will have £639,199.  Compound interest has earned 25 year old you £235,396 more!  

Also make sure to take advantage of allowances including ISAs, pensions schemes and dividend allowances so you don’t pay away your growth in taxes.  

Remember companies that are well managed are likely to be able to increase their profits in the long term.  So why not get a piece of the action?  By demystifying investing money, one can secure financial independence which enables female independence and confidence.  

Talking to an independent financial advisor can help you to begin this journey but also please visit www.congress-london.com or contact info@congress-london.com for other tips, advice or resources.  

 

The Importance of a Network

Achieved Wisdom from Driven Women

by Katherine Baker, Co-Founder, Congress London

Recently with Congress London, I hosted a panel discussion centred around Achieved Wisdom with the impressive, successful women, Birgitta Elfversson, Erica Allen and Deirdre Walters. Birgitta is Director of Organisational Transformation with Unilever having previously worked at McKinsey and Company.  Erica Allen is COO of Allbright, has an MBA at INSEAD and experience of working all over the world.  Now a Founding Partner at Untapped Innovation Consulting, Deirdre Walters was previously a Principal Scientist at Procter & Gamble (P&G).  

These women have overcome many challenges, for as Birgitta said, “If I try to talk about specific obstacles in my career, I don’t even know where to start.  They are everywhere all the time.”  

It is true, these women would not be where they are today without overcoming obstacles, being resilient to change, and fighting for what they wanted. Their advice on how to do this centred around building a great network, a sisterhood and surrounding oneself with supportive friends and family. Here are some tips from their fascinating panel discussion:

Building your network

Deirdre accredited her network to her love of talking to people, “I guess personality-wise, I am really nosey so I want to know what is going on.”  Her three business partners in Untapped Innovation worked in completely different sectors at P&G but she wanted to know what was going on in their units.  She has found that people are incredibly generous with their time and advice so ask them questions and be genuinely interested in them.

Birgitta has created a vast network of colleagues and friends from all areas of her life. She says, “If you are generous, your network will build itself. One of the most important things that I have done is to figure out how I can help others.”  And Birgitta does go out of her way to help others whether it is career advice, emotional support or helping with a connection.  Because of her generous nature, she now has many people willing to help her should she ever need it.  

Erica approaches creating her network slightly differently.  Getting an MBA from INSEAD also helped her to build her network but she shared with us that she is not a natural networker and hates entering rooms and speaking to tons of people.  She realises this is just not her, so instead she focuses on a small network of 30-40 people whom she relies on a lot.  Erica said, “I have a tough time having hundreds of people in my network, so I just work on my smaller group and really get to know them.  But networking is different for everyone and you need to find what works best for you.”  

Relying on your network

Deirdre wouldn’t be running her company with the women from P&G if it wasn’t for her ability to build a network.  But her network has also helped her to be a better mom.  When talking about family, Deirdre says, “The roles you have to play expand exponentially when you have kids but you have to look after yourself.  You have to get enough sleep and remember there is only one of you.” Her mother and her friends helped her to remember to take care of herself.  This sisterhood of support helped her stay sane and be there for her family.  

Having the right people in your network

While Birgitta has a huge network, she stresses the importance of having the right people close to you. She says, “The most important choice is the person you decide to spend your life with.” Advice that is also echoed by Sheryl Sandberg in Lean In, having a partner in life who supports you and shares the responsibilities of taking care of the home including the children, allows you and gives you the time to go after your career aspirations.

 Birgitta shared stories about when it was her husband’s time to take care of their baby daughter, he would come to the office so she could leave meetings to feed her and then return to work.  It was a joint effort.  The second most important person in your network is your boss.  Birgitta’s advice in this department was not to necessarily work for the nice guy who was enjoyable to work with, but rather find yourself a risk-taking boss.  This type of boss is much less likely to be a victim of unconscious bias and much more likely to push you and take a chance on you.  So, go find someone possibly a bit rough around the edges!

Don’t be afraid to ask for support

Erica shared how her network helped her to overcome a gender pay gap.  One day she realised that all the other general managers who happened to be male were getting paid 50% more than her.   She really struggled with the confidence to go and talk to her boss about it because she didn’t want them to think she was trouble or a money grabber.

She said, “The entire team was men and I didn’t want to be just this bitchy woman who is asking for too much.”  But then she looked to an internal support network of women who said they would back her up and that she had to do this because if she didn’t all women in the company would continue to suffer.  This support helped her to see she wasn’t a money grabber and enabled her to speak up about this inequity, enacting positive change for the company.

Personal, internal and external networks are integral to leading a fulfilling, supported, successful life. As David Sole writes in 21st Century Networking, “We rely on relationships for support and help, to enable us to get things done.”

 

The Art of Influencing - getting them to say 'yes'

by Katherine Baker, Co-Founder, Congress London

Mastering the ability to influence or persuade someone means understanding the art and science behind getting other people to say yes. A key part of this is grasping the real reason someone is saying no.

It is a basic truth to say we are all different, but many people forget this simple fact. Yes, race, age, gender and culture make us different, but we are also vastly different from the other members in our family or close friends.

So, if this is true, why do we assume that if something makes sense to us, then that line of reasoning must make sense to other people? To influence someone, you need to be creative in how you position your request and make sure it is tailored to your audience.  

The successful influencer uses a creative approach that speaks to the psychometric make up of their audience.

 

You should also consider personality traits and how someone likes to receive information. If your audience fully understands your request or your presentation, they are more likely to agree. For example, if the person you are trying to influence is extroverted, direct, organized, decisive and results-orientated, when you approach them you should be business-like and factual while focusing on the expected results.

On the other hand, if the person you are influencing is a team player, cooperative, easy going, sensitive, values working in a group and doesn’t like confrontation, you should begin with some chitchat, don’t push or rush, be relaxed and don’t argue. It is up to you as the influencer to change your style of communication to match the other person’s.

If ever in doubt, a good trick is to mirror their style and energy.

However, even after you have created a sound message and understood the personality of your audience, the answer may still be no. They will give you a reason, but is this the real reason? To figure this out, have you considered their personality, personal goals and aspirations, or what is going on in that person’s life?

We assume people make decisions for ration reasons like price, quality, quantity or timing, but in fact people make decisions based on emotional reasons like trust, habit, politics, fear or prestige. Unfortunately, when people say no they usually give us a rational reason.  

Think about it. If your colleague asked you to go for drinks after work but you didn’t want to, you would come up with the excuse that you didn’t have time. A perfectly rational excuse, but the real reason is probably that you don’t really like that colleague and therefore would rather not spend more time with them after work.

So, next time someone says no, try to discover why they are really saying no. It is human nature to move heaven and earth for the things we emotionally want to do even if they do not rationally make sense.   

Getting someone to agree is not pushing useless information at them and continually bullying them into submission. It means coaxing, asking questions, building trust and pulling out the real reason for a yes.  

  • Katherine Baker is Business Development Director at School for CEOs - check out www.schoolforceos.com for more info