I’m sure many of you are familiar with the recent research in the financial services industry which shows women to be better investors than men. On aggregate, women still invest less than men, but apparently when we do invest, we fare better. Among the reasons noted are:
- women tend to trade less during market upheavals;
- women tend to tie their investments to their particular goals;
- and finally, women are less likely to take unnecessary risks.
I wasn’t too surprised by this news, for something in the Torah had cued me into this female investment acumen.
In this week’s Parasha, Ki Tisa, we learn about the biggest investment blunder the Jewish people made in their history. Driven by volatile emotions and the influence of “market noise” (instigated by the erev rav, or the mass multitudes) the Jewish men fell into what the financial experts would call “reactive investing.” Overtaken by a sense of panic, since Moses had not (yet) come down from the mountain, the men “hedged” by investing their gold in an idol. This was no Ponzi scheme; they knowingly invested their gold in the making of a golden calf. Hard to believe, right?
This reminds me of the joke about the anxious investor who asks his financial planner whether he’s worried about the markets’ volatility. The planner replies, “I sleep like a baby …” The surprised client says, “Really? With all this upheaval and market fluctuation?!” The financial planner replies, “… I sleep for a couple of hours, then wake up and cry for the rest of the night!”
The ups and downs in my investment accounts never kept me up at night. (My four wonderful kids did, though.) And that’s not because I’m not in the market. I’ve held some investments since my early 20’s, and expanded my portfolio over the years. I’m no Warren Buffet, but I’m no amateur investor either.
We can’t help but note the female response to the market panic, which led to the golden calf “investment.” Not only did the Jewish women not panic, they refused to pay heed to the hot investment tip of the day. They refused to contribute a penny to their husbands’ investment scheme, one that was sure to tank. And tank it did. Big time!
The women’s stronger faith protected them from falling prey to the men’s feverish gold rush. G-d rewarded the women with the holiday of Rosh Chodesh, the day that marks the reappearance of the new moon. Rosh Chodesh parallels the Jewish women’s understanding that, despite the ups and downs of life (or, of the market, for that matter), renewal will always come, and a full moon awaits. Always.
Now, don’t assume women avoided this faulty investment scheme because women were less inclined to investing. For, in the same Parasha, the Torah mentions a notable investment where all the women did chip in. The women contributed their valuable copper mirrors to make the water basin for the holy Tabernacle that was used by the Kohanim before starting their daily service. Investing in G-d and holiness? A long-term, goal-based investment, with guaranteed returns … Even Wall Street might agree this was pretty savvy on the ladies’ part.
While men and women suffered through two centuries in idolatry-steeped Egypt, only the men were quick to trade at the hint of a downturn. The women knew when and where to invest their valuables, demonstrating their unshakable faith and trust in the only One who guarantees returns: G-d A-mighty. And that, my friends, is how women invest.
This article first appeared on The Jewish Herald Voice on March 16, 2017