There's a Reason You Find Investing So Scary

The Wolf of Wall Street. The Big Short. Glengarry Glen Ross. Equity. Only one of these films shows women running the show in the world of high finance. While it's hard to argue that when it comes to role models, we desperately need an empowering female Gordon Gekko, it is true that investing as both a career and an activity is lopsided and gendered. A new study has some insights into why — and how you can plan around it.

First things first: There's nothing biological about why women are more conservative investors. Rui Yao, an associate professor of personal and financial planning at the University of Missouri, just released a study showing that income uncertainty affects men and women differently. In other words, the wage gap is real, and it really messes with risk tolerance.

Yao found that women not only experience more income uncertainty because of life events, particularly those related to children, but financial planners often give women advice that's less helpful given their circumstances. "Simply telling women to be more risk tolerant is ineffective," she said in a press release. "In fact, it might encourage women to take more financial risks than they can tolerate, which could lead to more problems in the future."

Wealth acquisition and accumulation matter to all genders, but women in particular need to know their way around it. Unmarried women tend to have lower net worth than unmarried men, in part because they play it so safe when it comes to saving and investing. Yet those women are more likely to live longer, which creates a strong need for adequate retirement planning.

There's a way around this, though, and none of it involves going far out of your comfort zone. Yao recommends that women play it safe when they can anticipate disruptive life events, but once they're feeling stable, a financial planner can help build a more potentially lucrative portfolio. Investing may seem opaque and a bit overwhelming, but there's a lot of help available to guide newbies of all stripes through it.