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Straight Talk About Women and Investing

Women earn less, live longer, and invest less than men—making it crucial for women to be better prepared for their financial future.

The Alaska USA Financial Planning & Investment Services program is offered through CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc.*, a broker/dealer focused on serving credit union members. CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. is an affiliate of CUNA Mutual Group. For more information about CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc., please visit


There are many things to consider when investing—your age, your risk tolerance, your objectives…but what about your gender? While many of the golden rules of investing apply to just about everyone, female investors have some unique needs that should be considered.

Here’s what everyone should know about women and investing.

The Dilemma: Women Earn Less, Live Longer, and Invest Less Than Men

The numbers tell a clear story of why women need to approach investing differently from their male colleagues. Women live longer, earn less, and usually receive less in Social Security and private pension payments. For example, for every $1.00 earned by a male, a female earns just $0.83.


Consider the Numbers

  • In 2015, the average woman's earnings were 83% of the average man's.1
  • The average woman's Social Security check is 77% of the average man's.2
  • The average woman's private pension check is 67% of the average man's.3
  • The average woman will outlive the average man by 4.8 years.4


Of course, it’s more complicated than just the difference in lifespan and wages. Women are more likely than men to take a career break to raise children or care for aging parents. Women typically work more part-time jobs which often translate to fewer benefits, such as 401(k) retirement programs with employer matching funds. Women also tend to change jobs more frequently, which limits access to vested retirement programs.

Because of these factors, women should be preparing more for their retirement, but the data shows that they save and invest less than men. Only 72% of women are saving for retirement, compared with 80% of men.5 Just one in four Gen X women (those age 40 to 55 as of 2020) has consulted a financial professional, and almost half of all women who have contributed toward their retirement have less than $50,000 in savings.6


1Pew Research Center, April 2017.
2Social Security Fact Sheet: Social Security Is Important to Women, November 2016.
3National Institute on Retirement Security, "Women 80% More Likely to Be Impoverished in Retirement," March 2016.
4World Economic Forum, "Why do women live longer than men?" March 2017.
5Forbes, "Women and Retirement: Saving Less, Worrying More,” December 2016.
6Nancy Salamone, "The Financial Clout of Gen X Women,” September 2016.

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An Overlooked Reason to Invest: Inflation

Remember the days when inflation was a hot topic? Just because we don’t talk about inflation now doesn’t mean it’s not an issue. While you may or may not have noticed, the things you buy cost more than they did 30 years ago. In some cases, a lot more.


Icon Product



First Class Postage



Loaf of Bread



Gallon of Milk



Gallon of Gas



One Year of College Tuition



New Car



New House



How Compound Interest Helps Overcome Inflation

To help your investments keep pace with inflation, it’s recommended that you begin investing as soon as possible. Here’s why.

Investment returns compound over time. This means there is an exponential increase in the value of your investments. As your investment portfolio earns interest and dividends, these earnings are added back to the portfolio, helping it grow even more over time.

Compounding is time dependent—the sooner you invest, the more time your money will have to earn interest and dividends, and then those dividends and interest can earn more interest.

When it comes to investing, time is your friend and sooner really is better.


Consumer Price Index, U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Jan. 2017,
The College Board, Average Published Undergraduate Charges by Sector, 2015-2016, Annual Survey of Colleges,
US Census,
Kelly Blue Book, April 2016,
Chicago Tribune, 1987,

Understanding Stocks, Bonds, and Money Market Instruments

You have many investment choices. Each has different levels of risk and potential return.


Also called equities, these make you part owner of the company in whose stock you’ve invested; you become a shareholder. As the company grows and earns money, its stock becomes more valuable; it can even multiply in a stock split. Companies can also share part of their profits with shareholders in the form of dividends. Stocks generally have high volatility in price and return; you can earn and lose money with stocks.


Also referred to as fixed income investments, bonds are issued by governments, agencies, or corporations as long-term IOUs. As a bond investor, you earn interest paid by the entity that issued the bond. Bonds generally have less risk, but therefore lower returns than stocks.

Money Market Instruments

Also known as cash investments, this debt security returns a fixed interest over a specific timeframe. Like bonds, money markets are also issued by governments, agencies, corporations, or other entities. Interest rates paid by money market instruments typically mirror short-term interest rates. This low-risk investment has an equally low rate of return.

Finding Your Comfort Level Between Risk and Reward

Remember when we talked about the many things to consider when investing? One of the most important—and one of the most difficult for people to grasp—is the concept of risk tolerance.

Markets can be volatile, and every investment has some level of risk; stocks are riskier than bonds or money market funds. But the potential return for an investment is directly related to its relative risk. Riskier investments hold the potential for higher returns.

How much risk are you willing to take for a return? The key is to find your sweet spot.

  • Your personal risk tolerance—your ability to stick with a strategic investment plan no matter how much the market fluctuates—is key to your ability to earn more than those who panic and sell an investment when the market swings all over the place.
  • Your time horizon—that is, the amount of time you have before you need to begin selling your investments during retirement—is also key. If you have a lot of time before you plan to retire, you can afford to invest in securities that carry more risk, like stocks. This way, if the market swings down, you still have time for it to correct and swing back up again before you need to sell the investment. If you plan to retire in just a few years, you’re better off investing in securities that carry less risk, like bonds or money market funds.
Straight Talk About Women and Investing

Planning a Portfolio for Life

While it might be tempting to be a ‘set it and forget it’ type of investor, there’s a lot to be said for making strategic changes to your investment portfolio over time. This is called rebalancing, which means you shift your investments from riskier to less risky investments as you get closer to retirement.

For example, when you’re young, early in your career, your investment portfolio should include a higher percentage of stocks. Your goal here is to invest for growth using a more aggressive approach with stocks. Doing so also allows you to maximize the value of the compounding function we discussed earlier. As you move closer to retirement, you should rebalance your investment portfolio along the way to shift from stocks to bonds and money market securities, taking a more conservative approach that’s oriented towards investing for a reliable income stream.

The mix of stocks, bonds, and money market securities you have in your investment portfolio is called asset allocation. When you have more stocks than bonds in the mix, your gains and losses will have much bigger swings than if you have more bonds than stocks. If your portfolio has more bonds, you may not have big returns, but your losses could also likely be smaller as well. If you’re nearing retirement, you can’t afford to take a big loss in the value of your portfolio caused by a big market swing, which is why you want to adjust your asset allocation to a more conservative approach as you near retirement.

A Quick Overview of Mutual Funds and Annuities

Investment portfolios can include more than just stocks, bonds, and money market securities. Mutual funds and annuities give you more ways to diversify.

Mutual Funds

These consist of groups of (usually) stocks, bonds, and money markets, combined in a pooled investment. The return on a mutual fund investment is determined by the aggregated return of the individual stocks and bonds that make up the fund. A mutual fund allows you to diversify your investment across different companies and market segments by investing in just one fund. Mutual funds are managed by professional investment managers.


Did you know insurance companies offer investments? An annuity takes the money you’ve invested and converts it to regular payments that you can receive over time during retirement. There are several different types: fixed annuities offer tax-deferred growth of your principal with a regular income stream. Index annuities tie your interest to a market index, and income annuities offer a guaranteed income stream for life. Because they are complicated, annuities are professionally managed.

Like stocks, bonds, and money markets, both mutual funds and annuities balance risk with return. They also have fees associated with them that should be carefully considered.

Take Charge of Your Future and Achieve Financial Freedom

While our goal here is to help women better understand investment options, we understand that investing is a complicated topic. We also know it’s not just about the numbers—we know women want to see the big picture and understand the investment process. We're here for you. We appreciate the unique challenges that female investors face, but we also know how to translate these challenges into a strategic, customized investment plan.

Let’s have a conversation. Schedule a complimentary, no-obligation consultation with an Alaska USA Financial Planning and Investment Services Professional today.

And remember that one of the keys to successful investing is to start as soon as you can.


This article is educational only and is not investment advice. If you need advice regarding your financial goals and investment needs, contact a financial advisor. CUNA Mutual Group is the marketing name for CUNA Mutual Holding Company, a mutual insurance holding company, its subsidiaries and affiliates. Annuities are issued by CMFG Life Insurance Company (CMFG Life) and MEMBERS Life Insurance Company (MEMBERS Life) and distributed by their affiliate, CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc., member FINRA/SIPC, a registered broker/dealer and investment advisor, 2000 Heritage Way, Waverly, IA, 50677. CMFG Life and MEMBERS Life are stock insurance companies. MEMBERS® is a registered trademark of CMFG Life. Investment and insurance products are not federally insured, may involve investment risk, may lose value and are not obligations of or guaranteed by any depository or lending institution. All contracts and forms may vary by state, and may not be available in all states or through all broker/dealers.

Financial advisors are not tax experts. For information regarding your specific tax situation, please consult a tax professional. Asset allocation and diversification do not guarantee a profit or prevent a loss. See your prospectus for details about your investment options and refer to the fund prospectus for information on specific investment objectives.

Securities sold, advisory services offered through CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. (CBSI), member FINRA/SIPC, a registered broker/dealer and investment advisor. CBSI is under contract with the financial institution to make securities available to members.

MGA-851835(CM).4-0718-0820 © 2018 CUNA Mutual Group

Representatives are registered, securities sold, advisory services offered through CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. (CBSI), member FINRA/SIPC, a registered broker/dealer and investment advisor, D/B/A Alaska USA Financial Planning & Investment Services, which is not an affiliate of the credit union. CBSI is under contract with the financial institution to make securities available to members. Not NCUA/NCUSIF/FDIC insured, May Lose Value, No Financial Institution Guarantee. Not a deposit of any financial institution. CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. is a registered broker/dealer in all fifty States of the United States of America. #FR-3313313.1-1120-1222 Exp. 12/02/2022

CUNA Mutual Group, Straight Talk About Women and Investing: Steering Toward Retirement, 2018

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