One woman estimates she's $40,000 richer now and calls the experience "amazing." But there are risks.

By Catey Hill
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A meeting of the Austin Women's Investing Group.
Courtesy Austin Women's Investing Group

When Leslie Kingston was in her 40s, she didn’t know much about investing. “It was the early 2000s and my husband and I were at a time in our lives when we had college tuition to think about and a mortgage to pay—we weren’t making investments for fun,” says Kingston, now 63. 

But then a friend told her about a local investing club for women, in which roughly a dozen members put in an initial investment (in this case, it was $500), added a small monthly stipend ($50 in this club) and pooled all their money to buy investments. The club, called WEWIN, often had an advisor come in to give advice, but the women decided among themselves how to invest. 

“When I joined, I was clueless about investing and how the stock market worked,” says Kingston, who’s from Bethlehem, PA. “But I figured, I’ll write a check each month for $50 and if I don’t like it, I’ll cash out. Here I am, 25 years later, and I’ve made thousands.” (She estimates that she’s made about $40,000 more than she put in.) And she jokes that she now gives her husband advice on investing, “since I’m more successful with stocks than he is.” 

Across the nation, women’s investing clubs are gaining popularity. There are more than 150 groups on Meetup—a website that helps people meet others with similar interests in their area—focused on women and investing around the world. Attendance in these groups has increased more than 30% year over year for the last four years, says Eileen Gilbertson, the head of marketing at Meetup. Some of the largest women-in-investing Meetup groups are: The Austin Women’s Investing Group in Austin, TX, with more than 2,100 members; Girls Just Want to Have Fund$ in Minneapolis, MN, with nearly 1,900 members (this group is now hosting online events so people can join from anywhere); Finish Wealthy in Atlanta with more than 1,600 members; and Lady Investors out of Montreal with more than 1,300 members. 

Not all women’s investing clubs are the same. Some, like Kingston’s, are more formal: You put in money and actually invest. Others, like the Austin Women’s Investing Group, are places where you simply talk about investing. “It’s a safe space to ask questions,” says Sara Glakas, one of the founders of the group, as well as the founder of investment advisory firm Black Barn Financial. “A lot of people don’t talk about money. Here [at the investing group] you can ask questions and get one, two, three people answering them.”

No matter which investing group you choose, experts say they can help women. For one, the groups may boost women’s comfort with investing: Research shows that women have less confidence in their investing abilities than men—despite the fact that when they do invest they tend to earn higher returns than men. “There is a common theme [among investing groups] of creating a nonjudgmental atmosphere to discuss and ask questions about investing,” says Gilbertson. “Women are learning from other women, bringing in financial and investing experts for discussions and round tables, and sharing their experiences on investing. There seems to be real mentorship and education happening across the board.”

And perhaps most important, the groups can spur women to actually invest, and invest more—something that’s much needed. A 2018 MassMutual study found that just 41% of women invest, compared to 55% of men; among millennials the gap is even larger (26% vs. 43%). That’s key for women’s futures: If we don’t invest, it will be hard for us to ever have enough to retire on.

 Of course, there are risks to investing, and in an investing club, you might end up in investments that you don’t necessarily love. And there’s no guarantee that the advice you’re getting from other women in your group is correct.

That said, members of these groups often say joining was the push they needed to invest more and better. Kingston, who wasn’t investing for fun at all before joining her club, now says that “I read and understand the Wall Street Journal and have great discussions with my husband, who now asks me for advice.” She adds: “I love my investment club—and it’s amazing that I’m doing this with the help of my girlfriends.” 

Want to start your own investing group? BetterInvesting.org has guidelines for creating clubs where everyone puts in money. For a less formal club, Glakas, whose group is organized through Meetup, says the process is pretty easy. “What really struck me about [the investing group] is how many women want to participate. If you have just two or three people who are willing to show up and be interested and learn and share, do it,” she says, adding that it is helpful to have someone who is an investment professional to come talk to, or join, the group. “It’s about building a community and a safe space for women to step into their power for investing.”