Men, Move Over, Investing is Not for the Faint of Heart.

Photo by Burak K on

Women Make Better Investors than Men. 

Recently, I read some things that shocked me about women and investing. One article indicated,” Women are more risk averse than men and less likely to invest in the stock market.

Another article reported only “ 26 percent of American women invest in the stock market.”

How could this be the case when, “WOMEN control 51% of the wealth in America?”

To me, this all reads like one, great big challenge; I knew it was high time to learn how to invest in the stock market. As an entrepreneur for twenty-five years, with two businesses under my belt, I already knew how to manage money. So, how hard could it be to hoist my pants like a man, throw caution to the wind, and pick some stocks?

My husband, who works in the financial sector, has always done our investing for us, and he’s done it well. That is, until this past February, when I started investing money from my own SEP-IRA that was just sitting in a cash position with TD Ameritrade. For about four months now, I’ve been investing my own money and I’m now “up” a whopping 40% overall on my stocks.

I was two months into investing, and my husband turned to me and said, “Wow! You know how to pick them! You’re good at this. Maybe you should start investing more of our money.” I’ve been married for 26 years, and in that time the only interest I’ve ever shown in investing has been with real estate. Because women love houses, right?

In any case, it felt good to hear my husband say I was capable of putting our hard-earned money to work for us for the long haul, even if not in real estate. But the reality is, women need to know how to invest even if we don’t want to, because as we age our partners may not be around to keep our hard-earned money working for us. Some 80 percent of married women outlive their husbands, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That information alone fueled me to learn how to invest. And since then, I’ve realized nice gains on my own investments.

I agree that women are more risk averse than men. But I also think that risk aversion is the very thing that could make women better investors than men, once they learn how to invest. I also attribute my own newbie stock market success with making financial decisions with both my heart and my head. Men, from my experience, tend to make financial decisions with just their noggins.

Still, my timing for learning the ropes couldn’t have been worse. I entered the stock market just before the COVID-19 pandemic entered the United States, and I lost (gulp) 30% of the money I invested, almost overnight. But only on paper. Luckily, I held my positions when the stock market plunged and didn’t have to lick my wounds later.

Why did I hold? My head told me to sell before the losses were too big to recoup, but my heart said, “Wait! That is my hard-earned SEP-IRA money we are talking about! I’ve already risked some of it by putting it into the stock market. If I sell…it’s gone forever. If I hold, I should be able to gain at least some of it back, right? Even if it takes me a couple of years?”

And then my head said, “The stock market always comes back. But, what if it doesn’t?” My head kept saying SELL! SELL! SELL!

My risk-aversion to losing my hard-earned money, once I invested it, is what ultimately saved me from being reactionary. In the end, my heart won the debate, and that turned out to be my first real lesson in investing money. Ladies, the real trick is getting past your aversion to risking, at least some of it, in the first place.

Simple Rules to Investing:

Rule #1: Get financial advice if you need it. Invest.

Rule #2: Stick to your guns.

Rule #3: When it’s time to cut your losses or take your gains, do it, and don’t look back.

There’s this thing about women people should know: We don’t like to fail, and we are diehard once we put our hearts and minds to something. If we do fail in the end, you can trust we gave it our best shot.

I started picking stocks with both my head and my heart. Those “feel good” investment decisions were the ones that got me investing in the first place. Sure, I did my research and used my noggin too, but when I started believing in where I was putting my money to work, investing felt like less of a gamble and more like a payday for my research.

I stood back and watched my stock picks rebound, and almost overnight they not only recouped, but I was suddenly watching my investments grow. I was making good decisions along the way. Like, I always kept a significant position of my money in cash. I didn’t invest it all. I also bought DexCom (DXCM), held it for a while, and sold it at its peak. I made out like a bandit on that stock (I gained almost $50 a share), but I had a feeling it was time to sell. Why? There was just too much happening with that company all at once. Sure, I got into the weeds on why I thought the stock was going to fall, but in the end, I followed my heart. I sold my shares just as DexCom earned Fortune 500 status, cashed out on my gains, and watched as my instinct proved to be right; the stock took a sharp decline, and I never looked back. I moved some of my gains into cash and invested in more stocks. (I love DexCom and hope to ride that stock again. It’s a great company.)

But, Moderna, for instance, is a different matter entirely. I bought stock in Moderna (MRNA), early on, from a sea of potential COVID-19 vaccine players. (I’ve talked about this stock before in a past blog post.) I’m die-hard with this stock, and I will be hard-pressed to let it go in the same way I did DexCom. Despite the news surrounding Moderna, which pivots almost daily, I’ve been holding on and acquiring more of it, even though my head has tried to get me to pull back from it more than once.

Moderna is an American biotech company focused on drug discovery and drug development based exclusively on messenger RNA.” And they are a major player in the COVID-19 vaccine game.

What I’ve come to realize is that Investors are like kids in a sandbox. They dump stocks like schoolyard children dump friends in a tantrum. Investors get too emotional and overly reactionary. As a mom, I want to tell them to take a five-minute time-out. Think about things. Cool off. And, I want to pat them on their tushy butts and tell them to get back into the sandbox with the rest of their friends, the other investors who picked the same stocks for the same reasons.

But I get it. This is your hard-earned money we are talking about, and no one wants to lose it. But, it’s my sandbox too, and as a woman, I still want to send the reactionaries into a big time out to save them, and me, from some unnecessary panic and potential heartache.

I bought Moderna before the US government announced they were a major player in COVID-19 vaccine development. Why? Because, with or without a COVID-19 vaccine, this company is working on some pretty awesome breakthrough science with something called Messenger RNA. And, Moderna just very well could be on the brink of success despite COVID-19 vaccine outcomes. Plus, they are working on preventing diseases. What’s not to like about that? I picked this stock with my heart, not my head.

Picking the winner of a vaccine stock is, I’ve read, like picking the winning numbers in a lottery. It’s practically impossible. Did I pick the winner? Time will tell, but I picked Moderna out of all of the other companies, because I liked their story. I liked what they do. I believed in them. And, believers don’t cut and run when things get tough.

Rule #4: You very well could lose your money. Be smart about when you buy and sell. Get more financial advice if you need it.

Not long after I picked Moderna, the government gave the company a huge thumbs up on their Covid-19 vaccine work and, even I couldn’t believe it. I sat back and watched as my stock pick began to soar.

Federal government pledged up to $483m to speed Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine.

And, I watched the stock go up even more as they entered a Phase 1 Clinical Trial on their vaccine. After that, Moderna announced Phase 1 success, and folks, we were up again!

Fauci then announced he was optimistic and “bullish” about Moderna because their vaccine seemed to work. And, the stock takes another walk in the clouds.

Then a vaccine expert screams (and, I extrapolate,) “Whoa! Hold your horses. There’s not enough data yet and too few people were tested to really know if this thing works.” And with that piece of news, the stock moves in the opposite direction. Quickly. People were afraid they would lose their big gains, and an investor sell-off was evident. I was losing my big gains every day. On paper.

Vaccine experts say Moderna didn’t produce data critical to assessing Covid-19 vaccine.

But, I held the stock and my heart reminded my head that if Fauci says he’s “BULLISH,” heck, I could be too, and after all it’s only Phase 1 of a Clinical Trial. It’s new, and we don’t have enough data on the vaccine yet. Plus, I believe in the company, right? Even if they don’t hit the nail on this head this time, they are working on critical vaccines, and at least one of which has the propensity to maybe end a global pandemic. My heart held the stock. And, my head bought more.

Rule #5: Remember why you bought the stock in the first place.

My ride with this stock suddenly felt like 7 seconds on a bucking bronco, but I was learning lots about the stock market, but most importantly, I was learning about my own tolerance with my own investments in the stock market. Someone from the Phase 1 Clinical Trial speaks out and says (and again I extrapolate here), “I got 24-hour flu like symptoms from the trial vaccine, at the highest dosage, but I’d do it all over because the vaccine seems to work. And, vaccines are good for the population.” 

Moderna coronavirus vaccine tester fainted, had high fever during trial.

That piece of news causes another selloff; I watched as the stock took another nosedive and approximately 60% of my paper gains by now have bitten the dust. #SMH

What? There’s a stock sell-off because a trial patient, who received the highest dosage possible, got lightheaded and fainted from a possible global pandemic-ending vaccine, and says he was back to normal after only one day? I’d invest in that news every day!

I held and bought more stock while it was low. It may not be a lot of stock, by most investors’ standards, but by now I’ve acquired 300 shares in the company. And the Phase 2 clinical trial commences just today, and I watched as the stock surges upwards again with this news:

A COVID-19 vaccine has passed its first human trial. But is it the frontrunner?

For this woman, watching investors pivot with every little piece of news feels a bit like watching a kid land a little too hard off the playground slide and then goes off wailing to his Mama, looking to be coddled. Except every Mama I know would dust their kids off, give him a smooch on the head, tap his bottom, and tell him to get back on that slide! What they don’t do is race him right off the playground, the minute he takes a bit of a fall.

Then it occurred to me, since most women do not invest, is it fair to say these reactionary investors were mostly men? Perhaps women do make better investors than men, because we are risk averse to losing. Sure, we may not be so quick to invest in the first place, but we likely won’t be so quick to cut our losses and run when things get tough. We don’t know how to lick our wounds; we do everything in our power to prevent them in the first place. Maybe we make better investors because we know how to lead with both our hearts and our heads.

I can’t explain it, and I certainly could be proven wrong on my instincts in the end, but my heart has a huge crush on Moderna. And, I’m willing to take the gamble that good things comes to those that wait.

Investing is not for the weak of heart.

Rule #6: Start small, learn the ropes, gain confidence, and don’t get cocky. But, consider riding the highs and be prepared to take some hard knocks at the lows if you are a long-term investor.

Rule #7: Revenues in our businesses are down due to lockdowns and a global pandemic. Investing at least some of the money we have managed to save before now may be the only way to fully rebound financially. Put your money to work for you.

Happy Investing!

My stock chart

Tonia Allen Gould

Into the Fear of the Unknown

The flight home from Indianapolis to L.A. was half empty. Everyone on the plane wore masks, scarves, or respirators. No one spoke. No one dared to cough, much less clear their throats for fear of causing alarm from someone seated next to them. Masked passengers, like nervous bank robbers in their getaway car, dotted the seats in the dimly-lit cabin. Everyone was eager to make their way home. COVID-19 USA version was just getting started.

I was sitting in an upgraded, First Class seat on a mileage award, and unsurprisingly, no one in First wanted food or beverage service. The flight attendant seemed relieved that she didn’t have to spend too much time, up close and personal.

We were flying through a modern version of the Twilight Zone and into the unknown. For me, the experience underscored what surreal really means, by its very definition: “seeming like a dream or fantasy.” A global pandemic, certainly felt like a very bad dream, one seemingly conjure up by a writer’s creative mind in a Hollywood fantasy.

In case you are grappling with the concept of surreality, this should help: Surreal is a tsunami that engulfs parts of Japan and causes a nuclear disaster. Surreal is Mount Saint Helen’s erupting, and blanketing 250 homes in molten hot lava and ash. Surreal is watching a space shuttle, with living/breathing astronauts in it, fly to a place in the sky, and explode. Surreal is the 1989 San Francisco Earthquake leaving a pancaked Bay Bridge in its wake. Surreal is also finding yourself smack dab in the middle of a global pandemic where it’s not only socially acceptable, but mandated, that you wear a mask into a bank, and no one hauls you away, in handcuffs, when you do so.

Two months ago, I got off that plane, drove home from LAX in a daze, and joined my family already on lockdown. The date was March 17, 2020, and I won’t ever forget it. I was 1989 San Francisco Earthquake shook.

Once I arrived home, I discovered my husband was already sick with symptoms that matched COVID-19. We’ve been married 26 years and nothing, in all those years, took him down quite like that. We didn’t quarantine from him, or he from us, and he turned out to be sick for almost three weeks. When I say sick, I mean DOWN for the count and lethargic, check his pulse, and see-if-he’s-breathing-kind-of-sick. I’m pretty sure he had “it,” and he tried to get tested to confirm our suspicions, but he was turned away.

This thing was still too new.

I’m pretty sure I also had “it” back in January after a trip to Vegas when a tele-doctor diagnosed me with the flu. (I later learned that someone traveling into McCarran from Wuhan, on the same day as me, was hospitalized. And, many people in my industry reported a strange “Vegas flu” after returning home. My symptoms began with a sore throat, with some stomach upset in the first couple of days. What followed was lethargy, rolling fevers, and a mad cough. I didn’t have a runny nose, or nausea. But, I was knocked down and rolling in and out of fever for two solid weeks, with THAT wicked cough. Our industry trade show also had legions of attendees flying in from China. Plus, “The Woz” was our industry’s guest speaker, and he claimed he was the first American who brought the virus to the U.S. as patient zero. People laughed at the joke, but it was reported that he was so sick, during his talk at the PPAI Show back in January, he had to sit down on stage to catch his breath. Yah. By then Vegas was crawling with “it.” And, as you know, Vegas is already a cesspool of disease and regret.

I’m pretty sure my son got “it” from me by early February when he was coughing so hard, he was retching blood. His doctor said he had bronchitis. My doctor said I had the flu, just 10 days earlier. By March, my husband became ill, and my son and I were both on lockdown with him, but we both never got sick with whatever my husband had. We assumed that’s because perhaps my son and I already had “it?” Three people were living under the same roof, over a two month timespan, and each of us were diagnosed with separate, although seemingly the same, illnesses. We had the same symptoms, but different responses. My son’s cough was the worst. My husband’s lethargy was the worst. My fevers were the worst.

Have we each already had COVID-19?

So, let’s assume for a minute that all three of us have had it. That’s three people living in the same house on lockdown. Each of us has the propensity to help drive the economy back to where it was in some way. I own a couple of businesses. My husband is a partner in a mutual funds company. And, my son is a student. If all three of us have had COVID-19, and I realize that is a big IF, shouldn’t we be with other’s like us back out in the world, helping to rebound the economy?

That got me thinking about how important the Antibody test is to our nation’s economy. The Antibody test shouldn’t only be about finding the cure to this deadly disease, it should be about putting members of society, maybe even entire households, back into the workforce as soon as we have answers about the likelihood of the possibilities of contracting the disease more than once, or catching a newer, rogue strain.

Since I can’t be sure that I had COVID-19 back in January, I forked over the $129 to Quest Diagnostics to get tested for antibodies. The rest of my family may follow suit. I simply gotta know!

Positive results won’t make me feel impervious from catching it again or resistant from catching a new strain, but it might give me courage to join civilization again, as a front seat driver in this economy, with the proper heath mandates put in place.

Here’s hoping the Antibody test also becomes as readily available as the COVID-19 test has become. Perhaps through it, we can jumpstart the economy again by putting people with antibodies, one-by-one, back out into the workforce and into schools, while we continue to fight the disease.

In any case, I miss my old optimistic self, so I’m going long on my Moderna stock. I incidentally bought in at $39.89 a share, back when they were just one of the numerous potential vaccine players in a sea of possibilities. If I sold today, I’d be a winner, winner chicken dinner. I don’t know about you, but it feels good to invest in hope, even if I lose my shirt. I’m going long! Goooooo Moderna! See us clear through to the finish line and end this pandemic.

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