You may (or may not) know that, for the last year, Kristen Visbal’s statue Fearless Girl has been facing down the famous Charging Bull statue of Wall Street. While she has certainly created her share of controversies, the depiction of a girl fiercely standing her ground has always resonated with me personally, but the recent news that she will moving to a new home facing the New York Stock Exchange struck an even deeper chord. Why should anyone stand in the way of a roaring bull market? I’d much rather her take a stand and say, “Wall Street, you don’t scare me.”
As a child, I was very lucky to have two grandmothers that loved following the stock market. I have very fond memories of sitting in my maternal grandmother’s lap watching the stock ticker on tv, and in college, I bonded with my paternal grandmother by helping her navigate her first online brokerage account. It was a great way to connect with two important women in my life, but it wasn’t until I was much older that I realized this experience had done something else that was equally important. Exposing me to investing at an early age demystified the idea long before I knew that most people were intimidated by it.
I got a few hints about how some of my friends felt about the world of stocks and bonds in high school, but it didn’t really strike home until college. A good friend mentioned that she wanted to invest some savings in a mutual fund, but her father told her “not to bother.” I remember telling her it was absolutely worth it to try and was shocked when she shrugged it off as too complicated because she wasn’t “good at math.”
At a recent party (yes, I take ANY opportunity to talk to people about their money if they let me), I was stunned when an incredibly smart and driven woman shared with me that she really just wanted to get married so someone else could take care of the money for her. This woman works with students studying science, and I asked her what she would say to a female student who said science just wasn’t something she could do. I was really glad to see that the question gave her serious pause.
I don’t think anyone intentionally sets out to make women (or men) scared of investing and money, but finances inevitably get lumped in with images of painful equations, overwhelming algorithms, and basic powerlessness. If you plan on starting a hedge fund or doing high frequency trading, intense math may be in your future, but for most of us, investing is truly about understanding basic concepts, making a plan, and sticking to that plan, even when everyone else starts running for the exits.
This process of learning the basics and crafting a plan can be fundamentally simple, but don’t think for a second that simple is the same as easy. It takes courage to face something you don’t know or understand and effort to learn the basics. It also takes confidence to turn those ideas into action. Lastly, you have to stick with your plan in the face of the market’s (and life’s) inevitable disruptions.
That is what I love about Fearless Girl’s new home. For me, she can be a symbol of someone staring down a potentially intimidating symbol, one that shouldn’t inspire anxiety but often does anyway, and refusing to be swayed. For those of you who have hesitated to face down a similar financial fear, I hope she can inspire you to push through.