By Veronica Dagher
Nov. 27, 2020
The pandemic has helped propel the growth of group chats as people seek ways to connect and ease feelings of isolation. The continuing economic stress and stock-market volatility has also inspired women to join such groups to talk to peers about emergency funds, investing and financial goals.
Money-focused text-messaging groups range in size but are often small, around four or five friends or peers who might text weekly or more, usually through iMessage or WhatsApp.
According to an April study by research company eMarketer, this year U.S. adults will spend an average of 24 minutes a day on mobile-messaging apps, up four minutes from 2019 estimates.
Stefanie O’Connell Rodriguez, the 34-year-old founder of Statement Cards, is part of a group text with fellow small-business owners and freelancers who debate about real estate strategy and theorize about what to do with a windfall or when faced with a financial loss.
Earlier this year, the group had a lengthy text exchange about how much to save in an emergency fund and if that amount should now be more or less because of the pandemic.
Ms. O’Connell Rodriguez’s husband likely isn’t returning to work until June 2021. The couple had a six-month rainy-day fund, but she was worried about an eventual shortfall. She asked her chat group to weigh in.
“It had started to become clear that given the uncertainty around Covid-19 and the extended nature of the crisis, we could come out the other side of this with absolutely no savings if we didn’t make drastic changes to our life,” she said.
After messaging with the group and discussing the matter with her husband, they terminated the lease on their Manhattan apartment. She also increased their emergency savings goal to 12 months of expenses.
Emma Pattee, who is part of the same group as Ms. O’Connell Rodriguez, wanted to find out about asset allocations.
Ms. Pattee, a 30-year-old writer in Portland, Ore., hired a new financial adviser earlier this year who wanted to invest her family’s portfolio into mostly bonds. She texted the group.
“What I love about our group text is that we deal with money questions with nuance, with emotional context of the person’s feelings and needs and with an open mind,” she said.
The ease of texting, which doesn’t require sending an invite like a Zoom meeting, might appeal to some women who are busy with additional family responsibilities amid the pandemic, said Jean Chatzky, chief executive of HerMoney.com. The less-intimidating nature of texting compared with in-person discussions about finances might also be attractive, she said.
“We feel empowered to say things we might be shy to vocalize,” she said.
To be sure, it appears that many women might still have a way to go in taking ownership of their financial futures.
A June study by UBS, one of the biggest U.S. brokerages, found that 88% of single millennial women envision participating equally in long-term financial decisions with their spouses or taking the lead after marriage. However, once they are married, millennial women are more likely than other generations to defer to their spouses on long-term financial matters.
Women cite a variety of reasons, from a lack of confidence to a desire to keep the peace, to entrenched roles—a dynamic further complicated by Covid-19, the report found.
Since the pandemic, Cindy Scholz, a 34-year-old New York City-based Realtor, has joined a handful of text-messaging threads to discuss investing. Her most active chat in WhatsApp includes 12 women from different industries discussing real estate, equities and venture capital.
In early March, Ms. Scholz pulled two of her venture-capital investments against the advice of the group. She regrets it now.
“I couldn’t stomach the uncertainty, and with New York City real estate looking grim I wanted to make sure I had liquidity,” she said.
Come March 23, the group encouraged one another to double down in equities. Feeling they timed the bottom of the market gave the group a “great sense of confidence,” she said.
At the time, they “thought they were all day traders,” exchanging stock tips and trying to seek out the next opportunity, she said. After more weeks of volatility, however, some of the women concluded that it was best to leave the equity trades to their adviser, Ms. Scholz said.
She said the text group has given her something to look forward to during quarantine.
“Learning how others approach investments and get comfortable with risk is fascinating,” she said.
Write to Veronica Dagher at email@example.com
Dow Jones & Company, Inc.