Principal Principal

What Women Do More Than Men, And How It Helps Set Them Up For A Secure Retirement

Kathryn Tuggle  |  February 19, 2024

What being future-focused means for your money, your retirement, and meeting all your financial goals.

History shows that investors who choose not to sell during market turmoil and downturns fare much better in the long run than those who pull out of the market. In other words, hanging on tight when times get tough is one key to finding long-term financial success. 

And according to new data, women tend to behave this way more than men do. The 2023 State of Women survey from HerMoney Media and Principal Financial Group showed that the majority of women (55%) would choose to hold their investments during an economic downturn, compared to just 40% of men. Additionally, just 16% of women said they would rebalance or sell stocks during an economic downturn, compared to one-third of men.

Turns out, this is just one way women are more disciplined at playing the long game with their money. But what does it really mean to be truly “future-focused” when it comes to your finances? And how can it work to your advantage — or disadvantage? We break it down. 

How To Play The Long Game 

The key to playing the long game is not only knowing where you’re headed financially, but also creating a plan that can help get you there, explains Heather Winston, certified financial planner and director for Retirement and Income Solutions at Principal Financial Group. “But you can’t just craft a plan and be done. You have to take action and make changes along the way while being OK with the fact that there is never a ‘perfect’ plan,” Winston says. “We all want that state of perfection, but this is an example of where it’s far more important to have progress.” 

That need to make progress rather than “win” at playing the markets is something that women keenly understand, explains Jennifer Lawson Griffis, a Certified Financial Planner at Integrity Wealth Management in St. Joseph, MO. “Women are better investors just because of our nature — men tend to be overconfident in their investment choices, and over-traders. But you need to be focused on long-term goals rather than day-to-day performance.” 

The Advantages Of Being Future-Focused 

Even though people who stay glued to investing news and track market movements daily may think they have a leg up, none of us can accurately time the markets, Winston says. No one has a crystal ball that can predict the right time to get in or get out of investments. And trying to micromanage your portfolio based on market moves is fraught. “People who experience a downturn and then immediately sell everything, rarely go back and say, ‘When am I going to get back in again?’” she says. Unfortunately, these are the very same people who miss out on market rebounds when things recover. 

“We all have the inclination to say ‘I don’t like risk,’ but the adage of: ‘It’s not timing the market, it’s time in the market,’ should keep us in check,” Winston explains. “Assets will go up and down, and we will have good years and bad years. But when we stay invested, our money has an opportunity to grow exponentially.” 

The most successful investors are those who, even in the face of a recession, continue adding to their investments, she continues. “They will say, ‘I’m going to increase my contribution rate to my 401(k),’ ‘I’m going to make an IRA contribution.’ Whether you do it $20 at a time or $2,000 at a time, that action is the critical piece,” Winston says. 

The Downside Of Thinking Only Long Term 

While the ability to look ahead is typically an asset, there is a flipside. It is possible to “overzealously” save for retirement and cost yourself joy in the here and now, Griffis cautions. “None of us know how long we have, and wouldn’t it be a shame if we only lived for retirement, and for whatever reason, we never got there?” she says. “Try to strike a healthy balance between what feels good to enjoy right now versus what you need to save to reach your future goals.” 

You also don’t want to be so laser-focused on retirement that you never question whether your current saving and investing habits are taking you where you need to go. “Some people look up one day and see they have six figures in their checking account, and that is not the best use of those dollars. But they never reassessed it, so they had a lot of opportunity cost over time,” Griffis says. 

Lastly, it’s also possible to worry so much about the future that we do… well, nothing. “We get paralyzed with the fear of making the wrong decision, so therefore we don’t make any decision,” Winston cautions. “But there are no perfectly right or wrong decisions, only better decisions. Nothing is irreversible. It may take more time or more effort, but we have to move away from our natural inclination of, ‘If it’s not perfect, I’m not going to do it.’”

Striking The Balance Between Saving For Retirement and Enjoying Life Today 

So, how do we ensure that we, like Goldilocks, have a “just right” amount of focus on the future? 

Step 1: Have a personalized roadmap. It’s one thing to save and invest for the future, but it’s entirely another to do so in a way that follows a goals-based plan. A personalized plan can ensure we’re able to reach all of our short- and long-term financial goals — including taking a big vacation in the next two years, buying a house in the next 10 years, or retiring in 30 years. 

“A plan forces you to sketch everything out and look critically at your annual savings number, so you’ll know if you’re on target or not,” Griffis says. “You wouldn’t get in a car and start driving from Kansas City to Birmingham, following random highway signs and just taking your best guess as to how to get there. You’d end up taking a lot of wrong turns and probably hit a few speed bumps along the way. Instead, you’d have a roadmap and a plan laid out for the journey. That’s exactly what people need for their financial lives.” 

You may find that your path will meander and take turns — and that’s okay. Even if your route along the journey changes, your roadmap is still giving you a sense of direction and accountability, Winston says. “You’ll have validation that your goals are achievable, and you’ll know how long it’s going to take to get there.” 

Step 2: Work with a professional. There’s a common misconception that working with a financial professional is something reserved only for people who are extremely wealthy. But that’s not so, Winston says. Everyone — whether they have $10,000 or $10 million — has access to professional guidance. You can do that on your own, but one low-cost way to do so is often through your work-based financial wellness program or retirement plan. 

“You need to have someone who is aligned to your goals, who can help you chart a course to make your goals attainable,” Winston says. For example, someone would never consider performing surgery on themselves if they needed medical care — they’d go to a qualified physician who was experienced in helping people heal. It’s the same thing with our money — not only do we need to work with a professional, it’s also a great idea to get a second opinion, Winston adds. 

Step 3: Keep your emotions in check and remember that consistency is key. Dips in the market don’t feel good — but we must manage our emotions that come along with them. 

“I encourage my clients to look at their accounts as frequently as they want to, they just can’t see those swings as a call to action,” Griffis says. “They can revisit their goals to make sure they’re on the right track, but they have to remember that if the markets have an exceptionally poor day or week, it doesn’t matter.” 

Investing consistently and sticking to your plan also serves to make you a much “saner” person, Griffis says. “Your goal should be to be a consistent investor, not someone who tries to outthink the world or make wild shifts with their money. If you do that, you’re going to fail most of the time, and your plan is not going to work.” 

Learn more ways to stay future-focused when the markets are bumpy at

This story was sponsored by Principal Financial Group®

About Principal Financial Group®

Principal Financial Group® is a global financial company focused on improving the wealth and well-being of people and businesses. In business for more than 140 years, Principal® helps customers plan, protect, invest, and retire, while working to support the communities where they do business, and build a diverse, inclusive workforce. Learn more about Principal at


Editor’s note: We maintain a strict editorial policy and a judgment-free zone for our community, and we also strive to remain transparent in everything we do. Posts may contain references and links to products from our partners. Learn more about how we make money.

Next Article: