Your Brain Can Only Take So Much Focus

The ability to focus is an important driver of excellence. Focused techniques such as to-do lists, timetables, and calendar reminders all help people to stay on task. Few would argue with that, and even if they did, there is evidence to support the idea that resisting distraction and staying present have benefits: practicing mindfulness for 10 minutes a day, for example, can enhance leadership effectiveness by helping you become more able to regulate your emotions and make sense of past experiences. Yet as helpful as focus can be, there’s also a downside to focus as it is commonly viewed.

The problem is that excessive focus exhausts the focus circuits in your brain. It can drain your energy and make you lose self-control. This energy drain can also make you more impulsive and less helpful. As a result, decisions are poorly thought-out, and you become less collaborative.

So what do we do then? Focus or unfocus?

In keeping with recent research, both focus and unfocus are vital. The brain operates optimally when it toggles between focus and unfocus, allowing you to develop resilience, enhance creativity, and make better decisions too.

When you unfocus, you engage a brain circuit called the “default mode network.” Abbreviated as the DMN, we used to think of this circuit as the Do Mostly Nothing circuit because it only came on when you stopped focusing effortfully. Yet, when “at rest”, this circuit uses 20% of the body’s energy (compared to the comparatively small 5% that any effort will require).

The DMN needs this energy because it is doing anything but resting. Under the brain’s conscious radar, it activates old memories, goes back and forth between the past, present, and future, and recombines different ideas. Using this new and previously inaccessible data, you develop enhanced self-awareness and a sense of personal relevance. And you can imagine creative solutions or predict the future, thereby leading to better decision-making too. The DMN also helps you tune into other people’s thinking, thereby improving team understanding and cohesion.

There are many simple and effective ways to activate this circuit in the course of a day.

Using positive constructive daydreaming (PCD): PCD is a type of mind-wandering different from slipping into a daydream or guiltily rehashing worries. When you build it into your day deliberately, it can boost your creativity, strengthen your leadership ability, and also-re-energize the brain. To start PCD, you choose a low-key activity such as knitting, gardening or casual reading, then wander into the recesses of your mind.

But unlike slipping into a daydream or guilty-dysphoric daydreaming, you might first imagine something playful and wishful—like running through the woods, or lying on a yacht. Then you swivel your attention from the external world to the internal space of your mind with this image in mind while still doing the low-key activity.

Studied for decades by Jerome Singer, PCD activates the DMN and metaphorically changes the silverware that your brain uses to find information. While focused attention is like a fork—picking up obvious conscious thoughts that you have, PCD commissions a different set of silverware—a spoon for scooping up the delicious mélange of flavors of your identity (the scent of your grandmother, the feeling of satisfaction with the first bite of apple-pie on a crisp fall day), chopsticks for connecting ideas across your brain (to enhance innovation), and a marrow spoon for getting into the nooks and crannies of your brain to pick up long-lost memories that are a vital part of your identity.

In this state, your sense of “self” is enhanced—which, according to Warren Bennis, is the essence of leadership. I call this the psychological center of gravity, a grounding mechanism (part of your mental “six-pack”) that helps you enhance your agility and manage change more effectively too.

Taking a nap: In addition to building in time for PCD, leaders can also consider authorized napping. Not all naps are the same. When your brain is in a slump, your clarity and creativity are compromised. After a 10-minute nap, studies show that you become much clearer and more alert. But if it’s a creative task you have in front of you, you will likely need a full 90 minutes for more complete brain refreshing. Your brain requires this longer time to make more associations, and dredge up ideas that are in the nooks and crannies of your memory network.

Pretending to be someone else: When you’re stuck in a creative process, unfocus may also come to the rescue when you embody and live out an entirely different personality. In 2016, educational psychologists, Denis Dumas and Kevin Dunbar found that people who try to solve creative problems are more successful if they behave like an eccentric poet than a rigid librarian. Given a test in which they have to come up with as many uses as possible for any object (e.g. a brick) those who behave like eccentric poets have superior creative performance. This finding holds even if the same person takes on a different identity.

When in a creative deadlock, try this exercise of embodying a different identity. It will likely get you out of your own head, and allow you to think from another person’s perspective. I call this psychological halloweenism.

For years, focus has been the venerated ability amongst all abilities. Since we spend 46.9% of our days with our minds wandering away from a task at hand, we crave the ability to keep it fixed and on task. Yet, if we built PCD, 10- and 90- minute naps, and psychological halloweenism into our days, we would likely preserve focus for when we need it, and use it much more efficiently too. More importantly, unfocus will allow us to update information in the brain, giving us access to deeper parts of ourselves and enhancing our agility, creativity and decision-making too.

By: Srini Pillay

Srini Pillay, M.D. is an executive coach and CEO of NeuroBusiness Group. He is also a technology innovator and entrepreneur in the health and leadership development sectors, and an award-winning author. His latest book is Tinker, Dabble, Doodle, Try: Unlock the Power of the Unfocused Mind. He is also a part-time Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School and teaches in the Executive Education Programs at Harvard Business School and Duke Corporate Education, and is on internationally recognized think tanks.

Source: Your Brain Can Only Take So Much Focus

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Srini Pillay, M.D. is an executive coach and CEO of NeuroBusiness Group. He is also a technology innovator and entrepreneur in the health and leadership development sectors, and an award-winning author. His latest book is Tinker, Dabble, Doodle, Try: Unlock the Power of the Unfocused Mind. He is also a part-time Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School and teaches in the Executive Education Programs at Harvard Business School and Duke Corporate Education, and is on internationally recognized think tanks.

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Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnoses of Gifted Children and Adults: ADHD, Bipolar, OCD, Asperger’s, Depression, and Other Disorders

Updated European Consensus Statement on diagnosis and treatment of adult ADHD

Pediatric Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Differential Diagnoses

Cognitive Psychology and Its Implications

Stimulus-Driven Reorienting Impairs Executive Control of Attention: Evidence for a Common Bottleneck in Anterior Insula

Functions of the human frontoparietal attention network: Evidence from neuroimaging

Bottom-up saliency and top-down learning in the primary visual cortex of monkeys

The extent of processing of noise elements during selective encoding from visual displays

Testing the behavioral interaction and integration of attentional networks

Perceptual Load Affects Eyewitness Accuracy and Susceptibility to Leading Questions

wo Polarities of Attention in Social Contexts: From Attending-to-Others to Attending-to-Self

Selective attention and serial processing in briefly presented visual displays

Why Brands are Failing To Listen To Customers and How To Fix That

As terabytes of consumer data are collected every day, companies have more information than ever about their customers. But that doesn’t mean they understand what those customers need—or how best to serve them.

Without a clear understanding of what customers are experiencing, executives put their brands at risk, according to Andy MacMillan, CEO of UserTesting, which helps companies collect video feedback from their customers. As the COVID-19 pandemic illustrates, a company’s survival in challenging times often requires a strong, meaningful audience connection and swift action to meet customer needs.

So, what can companies do to more effectively tap into customer experiences and build lasting relationships? Here, MacMillan and Rick Reuter, a principal in the financial services industry practice for consultant Deloitte, discuss what’s preventing companies from listening to their customers, the importance of human connections, and how companies should be thinking about the customer experience post-COVID-19.

Companies have access to tons of customer information. So what are companies missing? Why isn’t that data enough?

Andy MacMillan: We’ve become really algorithm dependent. Data and algorithms are useful. But they also mean we aim for the average: What does the average buyer want? We don’t ever learn about the exceptions. It’s become very sterile, and I think we all sense and feel that. The challenge for companies is how to get real feedback from people outside the company, and how to use that feedback to put the team in the shoes of the customer.

How do companies get that real feedback from their customers?

MacMillan: I think you have to be deliberate about the idea that you can’t just stand entirely behind the technology. You have to decide it’s important for people in your company to talk to customers.

If you’re a bank, go out and get 10 or 15 people without deep technology backgrounds to walk you through what it’s like for them to bank online. Then we pull that video in-house and let the teams watch and see what it’s like to be that customer. Or for an airline, it means asking a premium flyer who is not very tech-savvy what it’s like to book travel for his or her family. How do you get your tech team to understand how to alleviate some of those flyer’s concerns, when your team is not the demographic we’re talking about? That’s the personal aspect I’m talking about that’s missing.

Rick Reuter: And sometimes it’s just having a real person pick up the phone. So, it’s not 15 menus of connecting through a call-center app. It’s “Hello, Mr. Reuter, how can we help you? We saw that you did this today. Is that what you’re calling about?”

How is COVID-19 changing the landscape for how companies are expected to interact with customers?

Reuter: I think companies now are getting more and more connected with the human experience than they have in the past decade, and I think it’s refreshing that we have this technology infrastructure to adapt quickly. We just need to continue to make that a priority.

MacMillan: The question, even six months ago, was “How do I squeeze out more margin for myself as a company?” Now for the first time in a while, we’re seeing companies actually thinking about customers and taking measures to keep us safe. This situation has caused us to go back to a time before we relied on the algorithms. We’re saying, “Hey, let’s go talk to some customers. Let’s find out what their needs are and figure out how to service those needs.” It’s a remarkably simple formula, but I would say that hasn’t been the heart of what we’ve been doing for the past decade.

When the COVID-19 crisis ends, what’s going to happen to these customer-centric changes? Will they continue? 

MacMillan: It’s going to be difficult for businesses to just snap back to the assumptions we had six months ago about how everything works.

One of the changes companies should keep is how they’ve empowered employees on the front lines. A coffee chain I go to, each [outlet] had different ways of implementing carryout-only procedures to keep people safe. It was very smart. It was like all the rules had been thrown out the window—instead of a uniform corporate policy, the company trusted employees to make some rational decisions on how to keep themselves safe, how to keep our customers safe, how to adapt to this unprecedented situation.

Reuter: That’s a culture where employees feel empowered and they feel ownership of the problem, which creates opportunity. I think that’s a great example of a large enterprise creating some local angles to be successful.

How can companies empower individual employees in a smart way?

MacMillan: It’s about culture and values. You hear front-line retail workers say, “I wish I could do the right thing more often for people.” And often it isn’t really about the money. It’s just trying to treat people the right way, trying to solve a problem in a restaurant, in a store, whatever that might be.

There’s also something to be said for hiring good people, conveying your shared values as a company and empowering those people to make good decisions in line with your values.

As companies rise to the challenges posed by COVID-19 and try to meet customer needs, what’s the biggest thing they can do to improve their listening?

MacMillan: I think the issue isn’t for or against technology. I think it’s how do we layer in perspective and actually care about the customer in an authentic way? We talk about an empathy gap, and what we mean by that is, it’s not like people go to work every day and don’t care about the customers; it’s that they don’t have the perspective. They don’t actually get to see these customers and talk to them to know that they’re not hitting the mark.

The lesson companies can take away from this crisis is the way it’s caused us to go, “Hey, wait. I need to find out what the customers really need, and then go figure it out.” And as customers, we’re delighted that they seem to care.

By:Taylor Smith for FastCo Works

Source: Why brands are failing to listen to customers—and how to fix that

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“Revisiting the relationship between marketing capabilities and firm performance: The moderating role of market orientation, marketing strategy and organisational power”

Godovykh, Maksim; Tasci, Asli D.A. (July 2020). “Customer experience in tourism: A review of definitions, components, and measurements”.

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Braze Begins The IPO Process Amid Pandemic-Era Growth In Digital Marketing

A decade after its founding, the marketing tech startup Braze is beginning the process of becoming a publicly traded company.

Today, the New York-based company filed its Form S-1 with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to go public on the Nasdaq stock exchange under the ticker symbol “BRZE.” Braze is part of the growing industry of marketing campaign management software companies, a market sector that the research group IDC says could reach $15 billion in 2021 and $19.4 billion in 2024.

The customer engagement company provides technology for brands to interact directly with consumers through various channels. By using Braze’s platform, companies can use data from email, apps and other digital platforms to better understand their customers before targeting them with personalized messages. Well known brands that use Braze for their marketing include Burger King, Anthropologie, Birchbox, Grubhub, IBM, Hinge, Nascar, PayPal, HBO, iHeartRadio, Sephora and Rosetta Stone.

According to its SEC filing, Braze reported large revenue growth in the past two years with $150.2 million in fiscal-year 2021 and $96.4 million in 2020. While the company has experienced momentum in 2020 and 2021, it’s still not profitable: Net losses totaled $31.43 million in 2021 and $31.36 million in 2020. Braze also reported annual recurring revenue passing $200 million in 2021, up from $100 million in 2019.

When Braze was cofounded in 2011 by CEO Bill Magnuson, Jon Hyman and Mark Ghermezian, it wanted to build a business that was mobile-first to help companies adapt to changing consumer behaviors. At the time of publication, the company was unavailable for comment about its IPO plans, but in a letter included in the S-1 Magnuson wrote that the “goal was to build a company that would capitalize on new technology to help the world’s best companies grow by trusting us with their most valuable asset: their customer relationships.”

“While technological change drove us forward, we knew that humanity should always guide us,” Magnuson wrote. “Great human relationships are built on mutual understanding, engaging communication and shared experience. It’s thus no surprise that the secret weapon of exceptional, enduring companies is the quality of their customer engagement.”

In the past two years, Braze has continued to grow its customer base from 728 in January 2020 to 890 January 2021 and 1,119 as of July 2021. The company has also continued to scale its cloud-based platform and now reaches 3.3 billion monthly active users through its customers’ applications, websites and other digital platforms—up from 2.3 billion in January 2020 and from 1.6 billion in January 2019.

Issues around privacy are also something Braze listed as a risk factor, citing international, federal and state regulations including newly passed legislation in California, Virginia and Colorado and existing laws such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation. Several pages of the S-1 detail many of the laws and provide a glimpse into the various ways rules around data privacy could impact the company both legally and financially.“The laws are not consistent, and compliance in the event of a widespread data breach could be costly,” according to the SEC filing. “In addition, while we contractually limit the types of data our customers may process and store using our platform, we cannot fully control the actions of our customers. The failure of customers to comply with their contractual obligations may subject us to liability, and we may not have sufficient recourse to cover our related liabilities.”

Braze’s S-1 filing comes just a day after the advertising technology company Basis Globally Technologies—formerly known as Centro—confidentially filed its own S-1 with the SEC, further adding to the string of ad-tech and mar-tech IPOs that have taken place this year. Companies that have either gone public or begun the IPO process in 2021 include the content recommendation company Taboola, ad measurement firms DoubleVerify and Integral Ad Science and other marketing tech companies such as Zeta Global and Sprinklr.

Over the past decade, Braze has raised $175.1 million, according to Crunchbase. It raised an $80 million Series E round led by Meritech Capital Partners in 2018, just a year after raising a $50 million Series D round led by ICONIQ Capital. Other investors have included Battery Ventures, InterWest Partners, Rally Ventures and Blumberg Capital.

While Braze was growing quickly even before the Covid-19 crisis began, the company said the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital and mobile usage. Braze is also betting on the increased reliance on first-party data, especially as companies adapt to finding ways to reach people without as much third-party aggregated data.

“Modern brands know that when a customer is intermediated by a third-party aggregator, ad platform or distribution channel, it’s not really their customer relationship,” Magnuson wrote. “The highest value customer relationships are informed by first-party data and cemented through direct engagement.”

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Send me a secure tip.

I’m a Forbes staff writer and editor of the Forbes CMO Network, leading coverage of marketing and advertising especially related to the ever-evolving role of chief

Source: Braze Begins The IPO Process Amid Pandemic-Era Growth In Digital Marketing

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Is Your Relationship With Money Holding You Back?

Mel H. Abraham, the host of The Affluent Entrepreneur Show, often hears clients tell him, “I’m having some money issues because …” What follows “because” could be any number of reasons, but in Abraham’s book, money issues are often a symptom and not the actual problem. “The fact is your current financial situation is a result of your past decisions,” he explains.

So, when his clients take a moment to honestly examine their decisions and habits surrounding money, he often sees some of the seeds of where they are today — things like how much they did or didn’t save, what they typically spend their money on, and whether their relationship with money is toxic.

The reality, says Abraham, is that we are often conditioned to have limiting beliefs about money from a very young age. Money is not something we talk about or are taught about in school. And unless you intentionally seek to learn about money, your primary source of learning is observation. “The question, though, is: Who are you observing?” Abraham asks.

Most of our money education comes from our surroundings, aka parents, friends, and neighbors, as well as conversations we’ve overheard or what the media has told us. “Were they the best source of financial information and financial education?”

Based on these observations, we unconsciously create beliefs about money, and these beliefs form what Abraham refers to as our “money identity.” That identity could spur from things as simple as hearing a parent say, “We can’t afford that,” which could lead you to start believing that money is scarce and that you need to be afraid of spending any money at all.

You could have grown up hearing that “people who have money are greedy,” which might make you not want to work as diligently, or that “money is not important,” which can lead to brushing off the financial side of your life.

As you get older, these limiting beliefs can intensify. And Thomas Creel, the founder and owner of Creel Financial LLC, says these common toxic money thoughts can lead to everything from preventing you from asking for a raise you deserve to overspending, putting off saving for retirement, or staying in debt. He shares the following as examples of limited money beliefs:

• “I’ll never be good with money, so why even try?”

• “My friends seem to be doing well with money; something must be wrong with me.”

• “As long as I can pay my bills every month, I can spend the rest on having fun.”

• “Life is too short; I’ll worry about retirement when I get older.”

• “Only going out with my friends and spending money is when we have fun.”

• “My friends wouldn’t want to hang out with me if we did something for free.”

• “My parents never talked about money, so I guess I won’t talk about it either.”

• “If I lose all my money, then my parents will just give me more.”

• “Money is the cause of all the world’s problems; therefore, I never want to be wealthy.”

When it comes to money conversations, Dr. Elizabeth Dunn, the chief science officer for Happy Money, sees many parallels to the evolving conversation about mental health. “In the past, there was more of a stigma that kept many from sharing openly about their mental health struggles,” she says.

“Thankfully, that is changing, but when it comes to conversations about debt, income, and other money topics, it seems that we are still very reluctant to discuss our finances.” Getting in tune with your financial beliefs is one of the very best ways to start repairing your relationship with money.

Here are some expert-backed ways to begin repairing your relationship with money:

View money as just a tool

Creel likes to look at money as a tool in the same way that you would view a hammer as a tool. “You can either use the hammer to build a useful shelf for your home, or you could use the hammer to break things. It’s the same thing with money,” he explains. And just like how you have to learn how to swing a hammer, you have to learn how to use money to build the life you want.

Let go of the belief that “money is complicated or confusing”

“This often leads to not trying to learn about money because you believe it is beyond you — which it isn’t,” says Abraham. But if you don’t do anything to increase your understanding of money, you cannot feel better about your relationship with money. “All money skills are learnable, but without effort, we can fall into complacency, and complacency with money, which is the first step toward crisis,” Abraham explains.

Creel says it’s likely that you weren’t ever formally taught how to handle your money, and this is probably the reason you aren’t managing it correctly. “No one is taught how to use their money, and that’s what gets us into trouble,” he explains. “So, give yourself grace and know that wherever you’re at in your journey with money, there’s always something you can do to get better with it and improve your situation.”

Challenge your upbringing

Creel asks clients to take inventory of their childhood perceptions of money and question any limiting beliefs that they may have formed about it. “Ask yourself, ‘When it came to how my parents handled money, what did I learn from them?’ Talk with close friends and see what answers come up,” he says. This will likely bring up some common themes, like “money is hard to save” or “only people with X type of job have the ability to have a lot of money.” Next, ask yourself, “Am I sure that these beliefs are true?” “What are some other possible outcomes that could be true?” asks Creel.

Create some positive money affirmations

Come up with several empowering affirmations that you can say to yourself every morning that can help change your thoughts around money. Creel suggests the following:

• “I am capable of overcoming any money obstacles that stand in my way.”

• “I’m not poor; I’m just low in wealth right now. That is changing.”

• “I can conquer my money goals.”

Realize that your money situation can change

You might be strapped for cash at the moment, but a new job, a period of diligent saving, or a raise could change all of that, and quickly. “Remembering that much of what feels overwhelming in life, and with finances, is temporary is a good first step to overcoming anxiety when managing your finances,” explains Lauren Anastasio, a certified financial planner at SoFi. Try to shift your mindset and remind yourself that debt doesn’t have to last forever. “Keep your eyes on the light at the end of the tunnel,” Anastasio says.

Find a budget buddy

Understanding that the emotions you are going through are very real, and most likely have been felt by people you know, can be a comfort. “Talking to your partner, a close friend, or family member about what is going on may help you let go of guilt, shame, and financial anxiety,” says Anastasio.

Your budget buddy can be your cheerleader when you need it and motivate you whenever you get frustrated or discouraged. “Whether this person is a financial professional or a trusted friend whose financial choices you admire, he or she can also offer tips to help you be savvier with your money,” Anastasio adds.

Don’t compare yourself to others

Nobody is perfect, and comparison, says Anastasio, is the thief of joy. “It can be difficult to avoid making assumptions about how others are faring financially based on our social-media intake, but just because a friend is posting about their exotic vacations or a neighbor seems to be doing one luxury home renovation after another does not mean they’re experiencing success while you’re not,” she says.

Find the joy

While making money technically involves work, it doesn’t have to be a miserable, nonstop hustle. “Part of healing our relationship to money is not only believing that we are capable of making it, but believing that pursuing money and pursuing happiness, balance, and peace are by no means mutually exclusive. In fact, they’re mutually constitutive,” says Rachel Rodgers, the author of We Should All Be Millionaires and the CEO of Hello Seven.

While it’s true that “money can’t always buy you happiness,” it can definitely fund things like travel, new classes, and other passions you may have, enriching your life, and it can ease stress and increase your freedom. So, as you work through your limiting beliefs and grow throughout your financial journey, Rodgers says to remember to have fun and enjoy yourself along the way.

Tune in to your spending emotions

“Track what you spend and how it makes you feel so you can decide what’s worth it to you and what’s not,” suggests Dunn. Pay attention to how purchases affect your mood in order to identify what Dunn refers to as your “happy and sad spends.” By understanding how your money choices impact your mental and emotional well-being, you can start to shift your spending toward what makes you truly happy — such as paying down debt, savoring a treat, investing in an experience, or helping another person. “This mindfulness approach will help you get even more joy from your happy spends,” Dunn says.

Focus on your goals, not the dollars

When it comes to priorities, money can help you get there but shouldn’t be your primary focus. Robin Saks Frankel, a personal finance expert at Forbes Advisor, says it’s important to take time to evaluate what your goals are, not just with money but also with your life as a whole. “If you want to have a partner and children, for example, or you want to make a career change, those goals cannot be attained or measured by how much money you do or don’t have in the bank,” she says.

Nicole is a freelance writer published in The New York Times, AARP, Woman’s Day, Parade, Men’s Journal, Wired, Emmy Magazine, and more. Keep up with her adventures on Twitter at @nicolepajer.

Source: Is Your Relationship With Money Holding You Back?

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Desjardins, Jeff (December 15, 2015). “Infographic: The Properties of Money”. The Money Project. Ret

You May Have Always Known Women Are Good With Money , Now Research Confirms It

A growing number of women are increasing their investing prowess and financial education, research shows. The ladies are stepping it up. I love this kind of news.

I admit I am a sucker for a study that shines the light on women and money in a positive way. And the key findings from Fidelity Investments “2021 Women and Investing Study” do just that.

I know, I just did this happy dance with the MIT “Freak Out” report, but more to enjoy here.

The bold headline: two-thirds (67%) of women are now investing savings they have outside of retirement accounts and emergency funds in the stock market, which represents a 50% increase from 2018, according to the research. What’s more, 52% are planning to create a financial plan to help them reach their goals within the next year.

This is noteworthy since women typically get the bad rap of being nervous and cautious investors, who probably would find investing in stocks uncomfortable. Women are also notorious for saying financial planning is boring, or they aren’t good with numbers. Neither which is true, but an excuse for not understanding investing terminology perhaps and being intimidated by the seemingly macho world of Wall Street.

Where are they putting those extra savings funds besides individual stocks and bonds? The study found that women also socked money away in mutual funds and ETFs (63%) and money-market funds or CDs (50%): ESG/sustainable investments (24%) and get this: 23% in cryptocurrencies. I had to look at that last statistic twice, but that’s what the report says.

The age brackets by generation for those investing outside of retirement account–a whopping 71% of female millennials—ages 25 to 40; 67% of Generation X—ages 41 to 56 and 62% of boomer women ages 57 to 75. All good numbers.

But as anyone who has been reading my column knows, this is the nugget that made a smile spread across my face: When women do invest, they see results: new scrutiny of more than 5 million Fidelity customers over the last 10 years finds that, on average, women outperformed their male counterparts by 40 basis points, or 0.4%. That’s not a heap mind you, but a win is a win.

I’ll take it.

“Over the last few years, we were already seeing an increasing number of women investing outside of retirement to grow their savings, but the pandemic really lit a fire under that momentum,” Kathleen Murphy, president of Personal Investing at Fidelity Investments, told me.

“It’s driven many to reflect and re-prioritize what’s most important and focus on making greater progress toward those goals. We’re seeing that motivation in the record numbers of women reaching out for financial planning help and opening new brokerage accounts, as well as advisory accounts.”

The data was drawn from a nationwide survey of 2,400 American adults (1,200 women and 1,200 men). All respondents were 21 years of age or older, had a personal income of at least $50,000 and were actively contributing to a workplace retirement savings plan, like a 401(k) or 403b. This survey was conducted in July 2021 by CMI Research, an independent research firm.

The overall findings are certainly promising.

Yet when you get into the weeds you find that only a third of women canvassed see themselves as investors, according to the study. Only 42% feel confident in their ability to save for retirement and a mere 33% say they feel confident in their ability to make investment decisions.

Most women (64%) say they would like to be “more active in their financial life, including making investing decisions,” but 70% believe they would have to learn about “picking individual stocks” to get started.

I like that awareness of the need to get educated. (One of my favorite authors for this topic is Jonathan Clements, the founder and editor of HumbleDollar and the author of many personal finance books, including From Here to Financial Happiness and How to Think About Money.)

As Fidelity’s Murphy mentioned: Half of the women say they are more interested in investing than they were at the start of the pandemic and want to learn more — not just about how to start investing — but how to evaluate and select different types of investments to align with specific goals, and how to manage an existing portfolio to ensure they are on track.

These findings are in step with what Catherine Collinson, chief executive and president of the nonprofit Transamerica Institute and Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies told me when I interviewed her for this column: What’s Behind the Surprising Gender Split for Boomers’ Retirement Saving?

Her firm also found that “early indicators are that the pandemic has prompted both men and women to engage in their finances and pore over their financial situation to a degree that they may not have previously.”

Finally, here’s the nagging fear many of us (me too) can relate to: 32% of women say not earning enough money keeps them up at night, according to the research. For 37%, it’s managing debt that’s their night sweat. And more than half of women say it’s worries about long-term finances that has them tossing and turning.

Age is an indicator of whether money woes keep us up at night, but not the way you might expect, or at least what I did. Overall, it’s the millennial women who are the most troubled when the light goes out: 77% say finances have kept them up at night as compared to 73% of Generation X and 59% of boomers.

Here’s to sweeter dreams ahead.

By: Kerry Hannon

Kerry Hannon is a leading expert and strategist on work and jobs, entrepreneurship, personal finance and retirement. Kerry is the author of more than a dozen books, including “Never Too Old to Get Rich,” “Great Jobs for Everyone 50+,” and “Great Pajama Jobs: Your Complete Guide to Working From Home.” Follow her on Twitter @kerryhannon.

Source: You may have always known women are good with money — now research confirms it – MarketWatch

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