Women With Children Shouldn't Trade Stocks (But They're Not the Only Ones)

Women with children playing in Central Park, New York City
Women with children should not trade stocks ... at least, not according to Paul Tudor Jones.

Last week, the billionaire founder of hedge fund management company Tudor Investment set the Internet rant-o-sphere on fire when a video of him speaking at an investment symposium at the University of Virginia leaked out.

Paul Tudor Jones
Paul Tudor Jones (Getty Images)
Among other impolitic statements caught on tape, Jones was heard to have...
  • Called children a "killer" of one's ability to focus on trading stocks.
  • Declared, "You will never see as many great women investors or traders as men -- period, end of story."
  • Regaled other members of his discussion panel with the story of two former colleagues at EF Hutton, and what happened to their skills as traders after they had children: "As soon as that baby's lips touched that girl's bosom, forget it. ... Every single investment idea ... every desire to understand what is going to make this go up or go down is going to be overwhelmed ..."
  • Warned that "once you get past 30 ..." you've either learned how to trade or you haven't. The implication being that a woman's best child-bearing years can be spent rearing kids, or working -- but not both.
Then, in a moment of self-reflection, Jones added: "I've probably said too much and gotten myself in trouble."

Gee, Mr. Jones, Do You Think?!

Well, yes, Mr. Jones. In all honesty, you probably did get yourself in a bit of hot water with the PC crowd.

But that's OK. Because in the course of "opening mouth, inserting foot," you also opened the way for us to make another important observation: Maybe in the 1970s, when you first started trading stocks, people believed that women with children shouldn't trade stocks. Here in the 21st century, though, it's probably more accurate to say that no one should trade stocks. No humans, at least. Emphasis on the word "trade."

These days, a person -- man or woman, childless or parent -- who wants to trade in and out of stocks isn't just competing with his fellow man (etc.). He's competing with professional traders at multinational megafirms, armed with limitless manpower, servers full of historical data to draw upon, and ranks of Bloomberg terminals to crunch the data. Any lone individual who thinks he can compete with all that, and win, is just plain crazy -- and it gets worse.

You also have computers to worry about. Hedge-fund-run, turbocharged supercomputers, loaded with high-frequency trading algorithms that see a stock move and promptly execute 10,000 micro-trades on the Nasdaq at light speed ... all while you're still mousing over to the "buy it now" button.

Trying to beat those odds -- whether you're a young new mom or a rich, middle-aged white guy with no kids and a degree from Wharton -- isn't just egotistical. It's downright suicidal.

Play to Your Strengths

So what's the average investor to do when faced with such long odds? Give up, log off, and resign yourself to having your savings earn 0.01 percent interest in a checking account? Hardly. Even if you can't succeed by trading stocks, you can still beat the market bigwigs by investing in stocks for the long-term.

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Remember: Research shows that despite all the manpower, data, and computers at their disposal, the average U.S. hedge fund still underperforms the S&P 500 over both three- and 10-year historical time periods. While the "professionals" are scrabbling for pennies on the NYSE trading floor, focused on their performance minute-to-minute, they're ignoring the bigger picture.

And that's where you have an advantage.

If stock traders have an edge over the small investor in the short term, then over longer periods of time they're as likely as not to give up their short-term gains. Simply by buying and holding a basic S&P 500 index fund or ETF -- the SPDR S&P 500 (SPY), for example -- you can short-circuit the supercomputers' advantages, and outperform the majority of hedge funds.

When you get right down to it, Mr. Jones was more right than even he knew. Women with children shouldn't trade stocks. No one should trade stocks. But we can all do pretty well by investing in stocks.

Motley Fool contributor Rich Smith does have kids, and doesn't trade stocks. He does, however, invest in them.

The $849,000 Penalty for Being Born Female
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Women With Children Shouldn't Trade Stocks (But They're Not the Only Ones)

Women live longer than men by an average of five years. If one needs $3,500 per month (in today's dollars, no less) to cover costs, then that means a woman will need an average of more than $200,000 in extra retirement savings compared to a man purely due to statistical longevity.

Women take more time out of the workforce to raise children, care for sick or elderly parents, and tend to other family matters. Immediately, this results in lost income and depleted savings. For a hypothetical job with a $40,000 annual salary, just two years out of work means she's already $80,000 (minus taxes) in the hole versus her male counterpart. And less time in the workforce leaves women fewer dollars for Social Security, pensions, and other retirement income.

The gender bias also exists in health insurance, where women typically pay 30% more than men in premiums. According to a report cited in The New York Times, "more than 90% of the best-selling health insurance plans charge women more than men." For example, a $300-per-month premium policy for a woman might cost a man $210 per month (30% less). This difference adds up to roughly $44,000 over a lifetime spanning from post-college age to the time one is eligible for Medicare.

Women often get paid less for the same work. In some cases, women get paid 66 cents for every dollar their male counterparts make; for some occupations, this figure is closer to 77 cents per dollar. At best, women receive equal pay for equal work. But a 23% wage penalty due to one's gender -- approximately $10,000 per year over a working life (again assuming a $40,000 annual salary) -- translates into $400,000 over the course of a 40-year career. And those lost dollars could be the difference between being able to save enough for retirement or not.

A woman has a 1-in-2 chance that at some point in her life, she'll need long-term care -- meaning a period of at least 90 days when she requires assistance with activities like dressing, eating and bathing. Those odds are greater than her male counterpart's. And a woman typically spends twice as many years needing long-term care as a man, statistically three years longer. At a national average rate of $3,477 per month for assisted-living long-term care, this equals roughly $125,000.

As if these staggering added costs weren't enough, due to divorce or death of a spouse or partner, 90% of women who at one time had a second household income to help them get by will be left to handle the entire burden on their own later in life.

All of these reasons make it absolutely critical for women to understand money, investing, and personal finance in order to take control of their financial lives.

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