During the Covid-19 pandemic, Ms Rachel, 34, made one of the most uncharacteristic financial moves in her life: She started trading and investing in cryptocurrency.
Yet she claims to be a risk-averse investor. So why did she take the plunge when introduced to a cryptocurrency trading platform by a friend?
“Out of boredom,” says the real estate agent, who asked that we not use her real name as she does not want clients to know about her investments.
“I decided to invest based on his advice and set aside a budget of $5,000 simply to ‘play around’ with the trading app and various cryptocurrencies.”
But “playing around” does not mean reckless. Ms Rachel is like most women investors in Singapore. “I made sure that I practised self-discipline. I only put in money that I was okay with losing, and the moment I broke even, I cashed out.”
The latest UOB Asean Consumer Sentiment study, conducted in June 2022, found that men put more of their money in securities (such as stocks and bonds), funds and digital currencies over the past six months compared with women.
The study surveyed more than 3,500 consumers between the ages of 18 and 65 from five Asean countries, including Singapore.
Ms Jacquelyn Tan, head of group personal financial services, UOB, says: “When making financial decisions, women tend to become more risk-alert and prefer to review their options and have the right information before coming to a decision.”
In UOB alone, 64 per cent of its fixed deposit accounts (which are low-risk financial instruments that provide a higher interest rate than regular savings accounts) are held by women; men hold 36 per cent.
The bank’s numbers also indicate that it has a larger female customer base for unit trusts (which pools investors’ money and are managed by a fund manager) at 57 per cent as at January 2023.
Experts say there is nothing wrong with being prudent in taking risks. But access to credible information on investment trends and products can help to further empower women as they work towards financial security and their greater financial aspirations, says Ms Tan.
This will give them the assurance they need to help them make well-informed investment decisions, she adds.
Ms Rachel, who is single, agrees. About 75 per cent of her investments are in property, she says. “Due to my work as a real estate agent, this is an investment product that I am proficient in. So I’m much more comfortable in (investing and taking risks) in this area.”
At the age of 21, Ms Rachel, who was then working in the advertising industry, invested in her first property – a one-bedroom plus study condominium unit – with support and guidance from her family.
She explains: “My relatives were very active in property investments. Growing up, I saw first-hand how they make money from it.
“Along the way, they influenced and taught me the ropes for a start, and even helped me kickstart my property investment journey through financial support.”
Years later, she grew so confident in property that she decided to make a career switch. “Now, armed with knowledge I gained from my job, I am able to employ a much more research-driven approach,” she says.
Even as property prices were rising last year, she bought a one-bedroom condominium unit, her second property investment.
UOB’s Ms Tan notes that increasingly, more women are taking a proactive approach towards building their wealth and financial planning, with the rise of online platforms.
The bank has digital solutions such as SimpleInvest (which can be accessed via its mobile banking app UOB TMRW and provides investors with three funds to choose from) and Portfolio Advisory Tools (an in-depth digital investment advisory platform used by UOB advisers) to help customers reach their financial goals.
When interest rates spiked in the second half of 2022, the bank saw a higher number of female customers taking up new fixed deposit accounts or placing their money in Singapore Government Securities like Singapore Savings Bonds (SSBs) or Treasury Bills (T-bills).
They’re also more willing to invest for the future. “In 2022, we saw a 212 per cent year-on-year increase in the number of female customers opening new Supplementary Retirement Scheme (SRS) accounts, compared with the year before.”
For male customers, the year-on-year growth was 152 per cent.
Ms Jasmine Chye, 34, who is a digital marketing manager in the hospitality industry, has portions of her investments in SSBs, fixed deposit accounts and exchange-traded funds (ETFs).
Ms Chye came across online resources in 2017 that shared about how easy it was to kick-start investments in ETFs (investment funds that track the performance of a specific index), and that encouraged her to give it a try. “Compared to investment products like properties, the barrier to entry for ETFs is relatively low.”
Ms Chye, who is married, says: “I felt that with a full-time job and a two-year-old toddler to look after, I don’t have the time to research and manage my stocks and bonds on my own. So I tend to ‘play safe’ and stick to lower-risk products.”
“When my first child was born, I created a portfolio on my robo-adviser app specifically to save up for his education,” Ms Chye shares.
With baby number two on the way later this year, she intends to do the same. “I believe in starting as early as possible, starting small, and being consistent with putting aside money for unexpected circumstances or expenditures."
Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower data shows that more women are joining the workforce. The country’s female labour force participation rate (which is calculated by dividing the number of people in the labour force by the total working-age population) rose to 61.2 per cent in 2020, compared with 56.5 per cent in 2010.
“Women are transforming workplaces today, and many are working professionals who have to juggle both work and family commitments,” says Ms Jacquelyn Tan, head of group personal financial services, UOB. “This means that many are time-starved and could neglect taking care of themselves as they focus on providing for their families and advancing in their careers.”
The latest study by the Life Insurance Association in 2017 showed that an average working adult in Singapore has critical illness coverage of just $60,000 – well under the recommended coverage of about $316,000.
The UOB Lady’s Savings Account was launched in 2020 to address this gap in protection needs for women. It offers account holders complimentary coverage for six critical female cancer types of up to $200,000.
“This helps to encourage our lady account holders to save regularly, as well as receive sufficient coverage in the event of unfortunate circumstances so that they can continue to protect themselves and their loved ones,” Ms Tan says.
“They are also reminded to take care of their greatest asset – themselves, with the suite of exclusive dental and medical benefits, including complimentary basic health screening annually,” she adds.
The savings account is part of a suite of women-focused offerings that the bank launched to empower women to make well-informed savings, investment and purchasing decisions, she adds. This includes the UOB Lady's Card, which lets customers choose their preferred reward categories every quarter depending on their lifestyle needs.
The Future of Finance series explores how digital solutions and insights can empower individuals and businesses in a rapidly changing world, to create a more sustainable future.
This article was originally published on The Straits Times and was written by Kareyst Lin, Content STudio.
Source: The Straits Times © SPH Media Limited. Permission required for reproduction
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