Comparing Search Strategies for Investment Information in America

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1 FUNDED BY THE FINRA INVESTOR EDUCATION FOUNDATION GRANT PROGRAMS Comparing Search Strategies for Investment Information in America This fact sheet explores gender differences in consumer investment behavior by grouping investors according to their information search patterns. This study found that (a) investors engage in five distinct patterns of information acquisition for making investment decisions; (b) highereducated men and those with higher earnings are more likely to practice a high information strategy; (c) a more positive mindset toward investing relates to information search patterns; and (d) investor involvement in making investment decisions is greatest among those practicing a high information strategy. The study Gender Differences in Investment Behavior (Hira and Loibl, 2006) identified a number of significant environmental and personal factors that influence investment behavior in America. This study paid particular attention to the investment actions, attitudes, motivations, needs, and wants of women in high-income households. One way that women differed from men and, at times, were similar to men was the way they searched for information about investments. This fact sheet explores those gender differences (and similarities) and ultimately groups both women and men into clusters according to the ways they carried out these searches. Study background In the fall and winter of 2005 and 2006, the Iowa State University Center for Survey Statistics and Methodology conducted a telephone survey of a representative sample of high-income investors in the United States. The survey s response rate was twenty-two percent. Of 880 completed responses, 65% were men 67% were between 40 and 60 years of age 82% were white 91% were married 76% held at least a Bachelor s degree 75% were employed full time, 68% in professional occupations. The average household had an income of $123,641, total financial assets of $648,850 (including real estate), and total financial obligations of $182,500. Sample composition differences Cäzilia Loibl, Assistant Professor, The Ohio State University Tahira K. Hira, Full Professor, Iowa State University

2 between men and women were found for age, race, marital status, employment status, occupation, and, with marginally significant results, for education, total assets, and financial obligations. Methods Grouping investors into distinct types, or investor clusters, required K-means cluster analysis of a list of thirteen information sources. This resulted in five distinct investor clusters containing both women and men. Factor analysis was used to reduce a set of forty-two psychological questionnaire items to seven factors with an Eigenvalue greater than one. Binary logistic regression analysis was then used to assess the influence of attitudinal and demographic variables on investor clusters. Investor information search patterns Data analysis identified five distinct clusters of investors with unique search patterns for investment information. Each cluster contained a percentage of the analyzed investors, including both women and men. Cluster one: Balanced investors Cluster one, the balanced investor group, comprised 10.8% of the analyzed investors. Balanced investors practice a multi-source, diversified, high-information strategy and are highly information driven. Compared to the other clusters, this group gathered investment information most often and used the highest number of information sources had the highest number of adults in the investors households, the highest annual household incomes, and the highest total financial assets had the highest scores for future orientation, investor discipline, investment interest, financial satisfaction, and investor confidence had the strongest increase in involvement over time and the most diligent investment actions. Cluster two: Online investors Cluster two, the online investor group, comprised 11.1% of the analyzed investors. Online investors practice an internet-based high-information strategy, are highly internet driven, and are self-reliant. Compared to the other clusters, this group had the highest number of male investors, minority investors, and college-educated investors was the second-oldest group of investors expressed the highest risk tolerance Page 2

3 had the least favorable attitude toward financial advisors exhibited the highest decision authority of all clusters had the second strongest increase in involvement over time and diligence of investment actions. Cluster three: Moderate investors Cluster three, the moderate investor group, comprised 24.1% of the analyzed investors. Moderate investors practice a broad but less frequent information search strategy. Compared to the other investors, this group was likely to be male and highly educated was the second youngest group of investors and had the lowest number of adults in the investors households had the lowest financial satisfaction. Cluster four: Workplace investors Cluster four, the workplace investor group, comprised 24.1% of the analyzed investors. Workplace investors practice a selective workplace-based information strategy. Compared to the other investors, this group had the highest number of female investors, the youngest group of investors, the second lowest number of minority investors, and the second lowest educational level had the highest number of full-time employees had the lowest total financial assets and second lowest annual household incomes. Cluster five: Reluctant investors Cluster five, the reluctant investor group, comprised 30% of the analyzed investors. Reluctant investors practice a low-information strategy and their major information source is financial advisors. Compared to the other investors, this group gathered the least information about investing was the oldest group of investors and had the second-highest number of female investors had the lowest number of minority investors, college-educated investors, and fulltime employees had the lowest annual household income and second lowest total financial assets expressed the lowest risk tolerance had the most favorable attitude toward financial advisors Page 3

4 was least likely to have decision authority. The five clusters represent a (1) high information strategy, which includes the balanced and the online investors of clusters one and two; a (2) moderate information strategy, which includes the moderate and workplace investors of clusters three and four; and a (3) low information strategy, which includes the reluctant investors of cluster five. Gender comparisons While each of the five investor groups could be placed into one of three levels of search strategies, there were still some differences between women and men within those groups. High information search strategy The presence and sign direction of significant predictor variables for the balanced (cluster one) and online (cluster two) investors documented that heightened investment interest and diligent prepurchase investment action correspond with a high information strategy for both women and men. The women in the balanced investor group (cluster one) tended to possess large assets, have a high risk tolerance, and have a low interest in passive investing. Men in this group tended to consult with financial advisors. Women within the online investor group (cluster two) exhibit a negative attitude toward financial advisors, while the men in this group had a high education level and high risk tolerance, two measures that were not significantly related to cluster membership for women. Moderate information search strategy As with the high information search clusters, the moderate information search clusters (three and four) showed variations among the genders, primarily in two respects: first, there was no significant relationship with antecedent variables for the women, while a man in this group was more likely to be younger and either employed part-time or unemployed. He was more likely to have a low sense of financial satisfaction and tended to avoid consultation with financial advisors, but he expressed a strong interest in the topic of investing. The women and men in the workplace investor group (cluster four) were more likely to be fully employed, to own fewer assets, and to have been introduced to saving and investing by their parents. In addition, the women in this cluster tended to have a high level of investment interest, but favored a passive investing strategy. The typical man in this group was more likely to have a low level of formal education and to be employed in service occupations. He was also more likely to consult with financial advisors, to be satisfied with his financial situation, and to focus on the present rather than the future in his financial decision-making. Low information search strategy The typical investor in the low information group, the reluctant investors (cluster five), had a low level of formal education, was less interested in investing, showed less diligent investment action, and was less disciplined to meet an investment goal, regardless of gender. In addition, Page 4

5 the women in this group had few financial obligations and tended to show a positive attitude toward financial advisors. Interestingly, they were less likely to consider themselves passive investors. The men in this group were often white and often worked in professional occupations. They showed a low risk tolerance, were less likely to experience investment stress, and had been less exposed to socialization efforts on saving and investing when growing up. These men were more likely to consult with financial advisors. Conclusion Using data about investor information searches, this study has obtained several results about gender differences in information acquisition that are groundbreaking and unique. Specifically, the study found five investor clusters who exhibited distinctly different search patterns for investment information. Women and men differed in their membership in these five investor clusters. Women were generally more likely to practice a lower information search strategy than did men and were unlikely to rely on the Internet and mass media to learn about investing. Our choice of demographic, risk tolerance, and self-confidence measures was best suited to explain the low and high information strategies of the genders. Further investigation is needed to examine the determinants of gender differences for the midpoint moderate investor group (cluster three). Since this cluster comprised about one-quarter of the sample and was the second largest cluster, such an investigation would be worthwhile. In addition, if the gap in antecedent variables for this cluster illustrates a methodological flaw in the design of the variables themselves, such an investigation could also potentially enhance the entire field of information search and shed new light on previous studies. Understanding investor search patterns is of both academic interest and marketing practices. First, the analyses show that information search for investment decisions presents a considerable and unwillingly undertaken challenge for the majority of investors. Investors practicing moderate to low information search strategies comprise more than three-quarters (78%) of this nationally-representative sample of high-income households. Second, segmenting investors according to their search patterns provides the financial services arena with practical, hands-on information. For professionals in the financial education and advising field, knowledge about different information search patterns may be of use for product development, for marketing financial instruments, and for communicating consumer information materials. See two additional fact sheets from this study, Strengthening Investment Confidence of High- Income Women in America and Promoting Investment Involvement among High-Income Women in America, for more information on these subjects. For more information on the methods or design of the study, see the fact sheet titled Studying the Investment Behavior of Women & Men in America. For a broader comparison of women s and men s investment behavior, see Examining the Investment Behavior of High-Income Women in America. Finally, for a cultural perspective on investment behavior of high-income minorities, see the fact sheet titled Exploring Investment Behavior of Minorities in America. Page 5

6 References Hira, T. and Loibl, C. (2006). Gender differences in investment behavior. < Page 6

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