Women, Investing and the Pursuit of Wealth‑Life Balance

Japanese Women Are Empowered and Wish to Invest.

It has been seven years since the Japanese government launched its “Womenomics” initiative, hoping to revive the country’s struggling economy by tapping into the potential of women. While Japanese women have responded with increased participation in the workforce, success has been hindered by employment status and pay inequality. These women are also bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 led recession, accounting for a significant number of jobs lost during the pandemic. When women earn less, they save less and invest less, reducing their overall wealth and their ability to impact Japan’s economy.

Nonetheless, Japanese women are having an increasing impact on the economy and have the potential to become an even more powerful economic force. Understanding their attitudes toward money, wealth and investing will be critical for financial institutions hoping to better serve the needs of these women.

PIMCO sought to understand this further by commissioning a large-scale market survey of Japanese women. The survey collected data from close to 1,500 Japanese adults on their motivations, preferences and concerns related to wealth. Each of the respondents has either sole or joint responsibility for financial decision-making and has investible household assets over ¥10 million.

While this investible asset level is above the national mean (4 million JPY1), it represents the portion of the population most likely to require services from the financial industry. All results quoted in this report attributed to “Japanese women” will be referencing this market segment.

Our findings show that Japanese women are leading demanding, time-starved lives, but they are driven to be financially successful – and they believe that investing can help them get there. And yet, they remain heavily allocated to cash.

The primary reason women are sitting on cash is their skepticism of the Japanese economy, which will likely increase due to the economic impact of COVID-19, but it is not the only reason. Women investors are being held back by a lack of accessible, straight-forward financial education and by the industry’s slow response to their unique goals and performance standards.

In this report, we provide details on the wealth goals of Japanese women and the obstacles they face, knowing that these insights can help PIMCO and the financial industry overall better support women investors.

How Japanese Women View Wealth


As of December 2019, 71% of Japanese women aged 15-642 worked outside the home, an increase of more than 1.6 million women over the course of four years2. At the same time, these women remain largely in charge of household responsibilities. Specifically, women report seeing themselves as taking the lead across primary duties (financial, operational, executive and childcare), while men tend to characterize themselves as solely either CFO or CEO of their household.

The combined responsibilities of work and home have created a challenging, time-starved reality for Japanese women, leading three out of every five women aged 18-44 to say that lack of time is often the biggest challenge of their day. Doing less or doing some jobs poorly isn’t an option. 50% of women aged under 45 consider themselves perfectionists. While more than a third of women feel under constant pressure to perform across their roles, they don’t let the competing demands overwhelm them. Instead, these women are driven by their perfectionist nature, with close to 70% saying their multi-faceted role actually motivates them to perform across all areas of their lives.


Women’s drive to succeed extends to matters of money. Nearly 80% of women say they “want to be rich and are not apologizing for it,” and an even higher percentage say they consider financial success important. These numbers that are consistent across generations and represent a stronger zeal than comparable women investors in the U.S. Japanese women are also confident in their ability to achieve their financial goals. More than half of women expect their overall wealth to increase over the next five years. Younger women are even more convinced, with 68% of those aged 18-44 forecasting increased wealth.

Despite their hectic lives, three out of four women consider money management one of their responsibilities. That means that achieving greater wealth is going to be more than a pipe dream for Japanese women, it will come with a plan and execution. Without counting on an economic recovery, 72% of women aged 18- 44 expect to increase their wealth in part by increasing their savings over the next five years and 63% by increasing investing.

The figure shows a series of bar graphs to show the breakdown of women versus men among how they view their positions in the household, according to PIMCO’s Women in Investing survey. Pie charts are used to show five-year wealth expectations of each gender. The bars show 31% of women best classify themselves as the chief child caretaker, versus 14% of men, and 23% of women see themselves as the home’s chief operating officer, compared with 18% of men. Conversely, 26% of women best classify themselves as the home’s chief executive officer, versus 41% of men. And 31% of women see themselves as home’s chief financial officer, versus 36% of men. The pie charts show women 18 to 44 have greater expectations compared with all women regarding savings, investing and wealth, generally 15 percentage points higher for each.

A Profile of Women as Investors


For Japanese women, financial success isn’t simply about accumulating funds, it’s about having the ability to achieve lifestyle goals, and they believe investing is a tool to do that. In fact, 69% say they see investing as an important tool for creating life choices – a number that climbs to 77% among women aged 35-44.

Women approach investing with a strong commitment to purpose. When asked to choose their top financial goals, 42% of women included creating a financial plan that meets short-term and long-term life goals. High on the list of long-term goals is securing the financial future of their children, with nearly 60% reporting that they often think about how to accumulate and pass down wealth to their children.

While women are goal-oriented, they are not focused on beating the market. 76% say they would forgo better returns and assume less risk, even if it takes more time to meet their goals. Overall, they are more interested in improving the quality of their lives than beating the market.


Women are redefining performance. Rather than focus on target returns, women are goal-oriented and more interested in a “Return on Lifestyle.” 62% prioritize moving toward their personal and financial goals in the long-term over beating the previous year’s performance or the market. Women are also not competitive about investing performance, with less than 10% saying they judge their performance relative to the portfolio performance of a spouse, family or friends.


Japanese women across ages and income levels are interested in generating a reliable stream of income, with 60% saying steady income is a top indicator of portfolio success. A desire for income is not related to retirement, either, with 62% saying they agree or somewhat agree that investing can be used to create a source of steady income before retirement.


Retirement is a much-discussed topic within the financial industry but it is not a high priority among women in Japan, where only a third say when they think about investing they primarily think about retirement. Concentrating on long-term goals is always challenging, especially when faced with more immediate financial demands. In addition, Japanese retirees have been able to rely on company-sponsored pension plans to finance their retirements in the past. But, life expectancy is increasing and companies are cutting back on pension plans, prompting the Japanese government to introduce a retirement plan system for the private sector in 2001. There is still a need for more education on this topic, as evidenced by the fact that only 7% of women listed retirement among their top investment goals – a concerning state given that the median age for Japanese women to start saving for retirement is 40, leaving them little time to accumulate the necessary funds.


Japanese women have a positive view of investing and many of the attributes of an ideal investor and yet they are not living up to their potential as investors. Japanese households in general hold over 50% their assets in cash accounts and the level of cash assets has increased further during the pandemic. Women fall in line with this trend, but they recognize they are missing out on opportunities to grow their money. 71% say they feel the need to invest (rather than put funds in savings) because of low / negative interest rates. That number jumps to 80% among women ages 45-54.

The figure shows two bar charts. The first shows how 60% of women say generating a steady income indicates strong investment performance, more than any other factor. 28% said comparing performance against the cost of financial firm fees indicates strong performance. And 25% said seeing their portfolio progress toward life goals. A second bar chart shows assets held by household in Japan, Europe, and the United States. Japan has the highest percentage of their holdings in cash, at 53%, compared with 34% in Europe and 13% in the United States. U.S. households have the most allotted to equity, at 34%, compared with 19% for European and 10% for Japanese households.

Obstacles Holding Women Back


The primary reason women are sitting in cash is skepticism of the Japanese economy, which has been struggling for nearly three decades, weighed down by little-to-no growth and deflation, and now the COVID-19 led recession. These conditions have discouraged women from investing and may continue to do so, but the cash they hold is not earning them anything either with interest rates below zero.

Even before pandemic, when Japan’s economy had begun to show tentative signs of life, three out of four women predicted the economy will stay the same or decrease over the next five years.


Beyond the state of the economy, women cite a lack of education about investing as a reason to keep their money in cash. The majority believe that “the financial system feels like it is set up to be confusing,” with 87% saying it’s their perception they need to become an expert to invest in the markets.

Unfortunately, women don’t have a trusted source for the information they need. When asked about their opinions of financial institutions, 56% of women say they feel like they are being sold to rather than counseled and 69% say that there are few options for “fair” financial advice.

In the absence of unbiased assistance, 75% of Japanese women who are committed to investing have turned to their family for financial guidance or taken matters into their own hands, with 85% saying that even if someone recommends an investment to them, they will always do research on their own.


Japanese women do not believe the financial industry is structured to meet their needs. This attitude is tied to many issues, including logistics, accessibility and approachability, with 60% of women agreeing that the current system doesn’t reflect their lifestyle realities. Japanese women also have difficulties trusting industry representatives, leading nearly a third of women to say that financial institutions could improve by providing greater transparency about where their money is going and why.

The figure is a bar chart showing what women think about where financial institutions should improve to better meet their needs. 29% said greater transparency is needed, more than any other suggested improvement. Work around schedule and lifestyle came in second at 28%. Aligning with personal values ranked third, at 24%.

Industry Changes to Better Serve Women Investors

How can the financial industry address the investment needs of Japanese women? Structural changes can be slow, but there are steps that asset managers and financial institutions can take now to gain the trust of women.


Japanese women are juggling demanding schedules at work and at home, leaving them little time and mind space for managing investments. As a result, nearly four in 10 women say they are comfortable paying someone to manage their investments – if it would save them time. Industry representatives who can give women more opportunities to engage on their own time and terms will garner favor. This could include offering flexible hours and scheduling, as well as online meetings. The flexibility of online meetings are convenient for working women racing between the job and home, and, in a COVID-19 world, they are now widely accepted as an alternative to in-person meetings.


The majority of women are looking for the industry to adjust to their purposeful versus cumulative investment goal. Especially in this challenging environment, sales representatives who can shift from a sales-based approach to a goals-based approach, share investment tips and help women investors navigate the uncertainty will have a greater chance of building a relationship based on understanding and shared objectives.


Women are eager to move out of cash to increase their return potential but they worry about the economy. Present cash alternatives that focus on what women want: stability and steady income. These options may include financial products and services that offer stability and steady income may better serve women’s needs.


Only time will tell where the Japanese economy, which has been further weakened by recession, will go and how long it will take investors to feel confident in a recovery. However, industry representatives can help investors find strategies that are not dependent on the Japanese economy.


When asked which securities come to mind when you think of investing only 28% of Japanese women say fixed income. This is in contrast to the fact that 60% say steady income generation is a priority for them. Educate women on how fixed income strategies can offer growth opportunities with typically less risk than equity strategies. Fixed income strategies can also be an attractive option for women investors looking for a reliable stream of income.


As 60% of the women we spoke with say generating a steady income is a top priority for them when judging a portfolio’s success. They see investment income as a catalyst for choice and flexibility, so it will be important to address these investment objectives when building a portfolio.


It is important to share with your clients the challenges of generating income in a low yield environment and the potential advantages of selecting an actively managed investment with a broad universe.

Start the process by ensuring these clients understand the role that different asset classes can play in generating income, as well as the relationship between yield and risk. It is too easy, especially in current environments, to be drawn into higher yielding options that expose investors to more risk than they are comfortable with.


There are a host of cognitive and emotional biases that influence our behavior. And, particularly during challenging times, we tend to lean more on these biases to make decisions, which can lead to less-than-ideal outcomes, especially when it comes to investing.


Avoid jargon and high-level concepts to provide information women can easily embrace. Professionals will create lasting bonds with women investors by making this education accessible in a variety of formats (i.e., small group discussion groups, online platforms), and keeping the content brief and digestible.


Japanese women have a life expectancy of 87.32 years3. Covering expenses during these extended post-retirement years is going to take a substantial nest egg and significant planning. Financial professionals should introduce this important topic and offer counsel on when and how to get started.

Learn more about Women & Investing here.

1 The Central Council for Financial Services Information, “Public Opinion Survey on Household Financial Assets and Liabilities.” (2019)
2 Source : Japan Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Labour Force Survey 2019
3 Source: Japan Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare 2018
The survey results contain the opinions of the respondents and not necessarily those of PIMCO. The data contained within the report may not be related to any PIMCO product or strategy and should not be relied upon for any investment decision
Focus groups
In October 2019, three salon discussions were conducted in Tokyo among women investors across varying age ranges and life stages.
Financial decision-maker survey
This survey was conducted within Japan by The Harris Poll on behalf of PIMCO in December 2019 among 1,506 Japanese adults ages 18 and older, including 682 women and 824 men. All respondents had at least 10 million JPY in assets and at least some financial decision-making responsibility within the household. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.
The investable asset level is above the national mean (4 million JPY*) but represents the portion of the population most likely to require services from the financial industry. All references to “Japanese women” in this report refer to this segment.
*The Central Council for Financial Services Information, “Public Opinion Survey on Household Financial Assets and Liabilities.” (2019)



Past performance is not a guarantee or a reliable indicator of future results. All investments contain risk and may lose value.

This report is provided for informational purposes and should not be considered as investment advice or a recommendation of any particular security, strategy or investment product, nor construed as a solicitation or offer to buy or sell any securities or related financial instruments in any jurisdiction.

The survey results contain the opinions of the respondents and not necessarily those of PIMCO. The data contained within the report may not be related to any PIMCO product or strategy and should not be relied upon for any investment decision.

PIMCO does not provide legal or tax advice. Please consult your tax and/or legal counsel for specific tax or legal questions and concerns. The discussion herein is general in nature and is provided for informational purposes only. There is no guarantee as to its accuracy or completeness. Any tax statements contained herein are not intended or written to be used, and cannot be relied upon or used for the purpose of avoiding penalties imposed by the Internal Revenue Service or state and local tax authorities. Individuals should consult their own legal and tax counsel as to matters discussed herein and before entering into any estate planning, trust, investment, retirement, or insurance arrangement.

This information is summary in nature and not intended to be all inclusive. This material does not take into account the objectives, financial situation or needs of any specific investor or class of investors. There is no guarantee that these investment strategies will work under all market conditions or are appropriate for all investors and each investor should evaluate their ability to invest long-term, especially during periods of downturn in the market. No representation is being made that any account, product, or strategy will or is likely to achieve its objectives, generate profits, or avoid losses. Investors should consider the investment objectives, risks charges and expenses of any investment product before they invest or send money and consult an investment professional prior to making an investment decision.

This material contains the current opinions of the author but not necessarily those of PIMCO and such opinions are subject to change without notice.  This material is distributed for informational purposes only and should not be considered as investment advice or a recommendation of any particular security, strategy or investment product. Information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but not guaranteed.

PIMCO as a general matter provides services to qualified institutions, financial intermediaries and institutional investors. Individual investors should contact their own financial professional to determine the most appropriate investment options for their financial situation. This is not an offer to any person in any jurisdiction where unlawful or unauthorized. | Pacific Investment Management Company LLC, 650 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach, CA 92660 is regulated by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission. | PIMCO Europe Ltd (Company No. 2604517) and PIMCO Europe Ltd - Italy (Company No. 07533910969) are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (12 Endeavour Square, London E20 1JN) in the UK. The Italy branch is additionally regulated by the Commissione Nazionale per le Società e la Borsa (CONSOB) in accordance with Article 27 of the Italian Consolidated Financial Act. PIMCO Europe Ltd services are available only to professional clients as defined in the Financial Conduct Authority’s Handbook and are not available to individual investors, who should not rely on this communication. | PIMCO Europe GmbH (Company No. 192083, Seidlstr. 24-24a, 80335 Munich, Germany), PIMCO Europe GmbH Italian Branch (Company No. 10005170963) and PIMCO Europe GmbH Spanish Branch (N.I.F. W2765338E) are authorised and regulated by the German Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin) (Marie- Curie-Str. 24-28, 60439 Frankfurt am Main) in Germany in accordance with Section 32 of the German Banking Act (KWG). The Italian Branch and Spanish Branch are additionally supervised by the Commissione Nazionale per le Società e la Borsa (CONSOB) in accordance with Article 27 of the Italian Consolidated Financial Act and the Comisión Nacional del Mercado de Valores (CNMV) in accordance with obligations stipulated in articles 168 and  203  to 224, as well as obligations contained in Tile V, Section I of the Law on the Securities Market (LSM) and in articles 111, 114 and 117 of Royal Decree 217/2008, respectively. The services provided by PIMCO Europe GmbH are available only to professional clients as defined in Section 67 para. 2 German Securities Trading Act (WpHG). They are not available to individual investors, who should not rely on this communication| PIMCO (Schweiz) GmbH (registered in Switzerland, Company No. CH-, Brandschenkestrasse 41, 8002 Zurich, Switzerland, Tel: + 41 44 512 49 10. The services provided by PIMCO (Schweiz) GmbH are not available to individual investors, who should not rely on this communication but contact their financial adviser. | PIMCO Asia Pte Ltd (Registration No. 199804652K) is regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore as a holder of a capital markets services licence and an exempt financial adviser. The asset management services and investment products are not available to persons where provision of such services and products is unauthorised. | PIMCO Asia Limited is licensed by the Securities and Futures Commission for Types 1, 4 and 9 regulated activities under the Securities and Futures Ordinance. PIMCO Asia Limited is registered as a cross-border discretionary investment manager with the Financial Supervisory Commission of Korea (Registration No. 08-02-307). The asset management services and investment products are not available to persons where provision of such services and products is unauthorised. | PIMCO Australia Pty Ltd ABN 54 084 280 508, AFSL 246862. This publication has been prepared without taking into account the objectives, financial situation or needs of investors. Before making an investment decision, investors should obtain professional advice and consider whether the information contained herein is appropriate having regard to their objectives, financial situation and needs. | PIMCO Japan Ltd, Financial Instruments Business Registration Number is Director of Kanto Local Finance Bureau (Financial Instruments Firm) No. 382. PIMCO Japan Ltd is a member of Japan Investment Advisers Association and The Investment Trusts Association, Japan. All investments contain risk. There is no guarantee that the principal amount of the investment will be preserved, or that a certain return will be realized; the investment could suffer a loss. All profits and losses incur to the investor. The amounts, maximum amounts and calculation methodologies of each type of fee and expense and their total amounts will vary depending on the investment strategy, the status of investment performance, period of management and outstanding balance of assets and thus such fees and expenses cannot be set forth herein. | PIMCO Taiwan Limited is managed and operated independently. The reference number of business license of the company approved by the competent authority is (107) FSC SICE Reg. No.001. 40F., No.68, Sec. 5, Zhongxiao E. Rd., Xinyi Dist., Taipei City 110, Taiwan (R.O.C.), Tel: +886 2 8729-5500. | PIMCO Canada Corp. (199 Bay Street, Suite 2050, Commerce Court Station, P.O. Box 363, Toronto, ON, M5L 1G2) services and products may only be available in certain provinces or territories of Canada and only through dealers authorized for that purpose. | PIMCO Latin America Av. Brigadeiro Faria Lima 3477, Torre A, 5° andar São Paulo, Brazil 04538-133. | No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form, or referred to in any other publication, without express written permission. PIMCO is a trademark of Allianz Asset Management of America L.P. in the United States and throughout the world. ©2020, PIMCO.



Women, Investing & the Pursuit of Wealth-Life Balance
XDismiss Next Article



Please input a valid email address.