Women, Money, and My Holiday Beach Read

Women, Money, and My Holiday Beach Read

The following article was written by Leith Wheeler Principal, Portfolio Manager Stephanie Hickmott and first included in the program for the Canadian Alternative Investment Forum. It has been reprinted here with permission.

In March I was invited to join a ladies’ holiday at a friend’s time share.

As many women may attest, one of the best things about a ladies’ trip is the freedom to enjoy your days however you please – whether grazing on apps, crashing at 9pm, or simply never leaving the beach. I decided to take the opportunity to catch up on some reading.

I selected two books for my carry-on: The Silence on the Shore, a 1962 Canadian novel borrowed from a dear client, and Morgan Housel’s The Psychology of Money, published in 2020 and hailed as one of the best and most original finance books in years for its entertaining stories that simplify how to think about wealth and investing.

I planned to start with the novel and indulge in a few days of uninterrupted fiction. Alas, when I arrived at the beach, I found the old typeface and yellowed pages illegible through my oversized shades. Hence, while my holiday companions dove into novels such as The Vanishing Half and When We Lost Our Heads, I turned to the bright white pages of the money book.

I gave it a proper go. I appreciated Housel’s message that our unique backgrounds, personal views and life experiences shape our attitudes towards money and financial decisions. I was impressed with the research that must have gone behind the countless anecdotes and real-life examples, ranging from JFK, Bill Gates, Ben Graham, Warren Buffet, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, George Soros, among others. However, by chapter eight’s ‘Man in the Car Paradox’ the purpose and pace of my reading changed. Having gone through eighty pages that exclusively starred men, I began speed reading every next page in search of some diversity.

One might argue that the book’s shortage of financial insights and investment lessons from women is understandable, as men have historically dominated the industry. In fact, the percentage of female fund managers remains stuck at 12% globally, and research shows that a disproportionate number of women exit the financial services industry as they progress up the career ladder. Given this perpetuating inequality, and the industry’s limited progress at fixing it, shouldn’t financial writers be prioritizing the documentation of women’s perspectives?

I finally came to a story about a woman’s experience by the ninth chapter about spending. Housel uses Rihanna’s brush with bankruptcy to support his proposition that people mistake spending money with having wealth. He quotes a patronizing rebuttal by her ex-accountant, whom she sued, and he encourages us to laugh about it (“You can laugh, and please do”). He does not mention that Rihanna hired this accountant on her rapid rise to teenage stardom from a painful childhood of poverty, or attempt to connect the unique circumstances of her background to her early financial mishaps. If Housel wanted this story to be a lesson, he should have explained how the artist learned from this setback and went on to become a successful entrepreneur with a net worth exceeding $1 billion.

In Beyond Power, feminist writer and historian Marilyn French argues that history has been recorded and researched with limited scope and perspective, often focused on singular events and powerful men. To expand our approach to documenting the people and events that shape history, we need to consider the broader social, political, and cultural contexts that influence those events, including the experiences of marginalized groups, particularly women.

Why is this important? The way we document past events shapes our understanding of history, which, in turn, influences our thinking and approach to the future. Research conducted by McKinsey suggests that women will become a major economic force by 2030, controlling much of the US $30 trillion in financial assets that baby boomers will possess. If the industry continues to focus on male-dominated historical narratives, it will never fully understand the experiences of women, and it will hinder the development of nuanced strategies and offerings to meet women’s needs.

As I finished reading The Psychology of Money, I encountered a handful of quotes from women later in the book. I shared Housel’s closing line “History is just one damned thing after another” with my beach partner. We couldn’t help but roll our eyes at this simplistic, linear perspective. However, unlike Housel, I am not encouraging you to laugh. Rather, I am encouraging you to challenge the power structures that have dominated our societies, cultures, and institutions, and make sure a woman has authored your next investment book. For suggestions, you can drop me a line, and meet me standing under my umbrella.