Seven ways to knit your portfolio: Is investor communication neutral?

The concept of familiarity has been used in finance theory to explain apparent paradoxes in people’s behavior, such as the home bias in portfolio choices. This study investigates whether (lack of) familiarity with the language of financial consumers may contribute to an explanation of the well-documented gender gap in financial decision-making. Using an interdisciplinary framework that combines insights from Behavioral Economics, Finance, Social Psychology and Applied Linguistics, we analyze the metaphors used in websites that target beginning retail investors in three different languages; Dutch, Italian and English. We find that in all three languages the
metaphors used come from the same conceptual domains; namely, war, health, physical activity, game, farming and the five senses. As these domains refer to worlds that are predominantly masculine, we conclude that the language used to address financial consumers may give rise to feelings of familiarity and belonging among men, while creating feelings of distance and nonbelonging among women.

Netspar, Network for Studies on Pensions, Aging and Retirement, is a thinktank and knowledge network. Netspar is dedicated to promoting a wider understanding of the economic and social implications of pensions, aging and retirement in the Netherlands and Europe.

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