American University of Beirut

 Closing the wealth gap: You can do it too!

​​Nadine Mezher, co-founder of online investing platform Sarwa, provided lots of useful advice during the engaging and informative workshop that she led on Saturday, March 6. Mezher’s workshop was one of three alumnae-led workshops that followed immediately after the main AUB4Women – Celebrating 100 years of coeducation at AUB event, which featured keynote speaker Queen Noor.

Although there is some attention these days being paid to women’s education, there is very little notice paid to financial education. Those who attended Mezher’s presentation got a brief and very valuable tutorial. 

Mezher began by presenting some stark numbers: globally, men own 50 percent more wealth than women. Here’s another number: women in the US own 32 cents for every dollar earned by men – and, according to a recent World Bank report, the wealth gap is actually growing, not shrinking. Why is that? “We face a lot of gaps,” explained Mezher, pointing to the existence of well-documented salary gaps, career gaps, and investment gaps. The bottom line: “women own less wealth.” This is not only because they earn less than men, but also because they tend to invest less thereby missing out on money that they could have earned. “If you’re not investing that money, it’s actually losing value” because of inflation, explained Mezher. 

Rule #1: Start Now! Why? Because of what Albert Einstein described as the eighth wonder of the world: compound interest. Mezher noted that although there is a lot of volatility in the market, “the trend is always upward.” She cautioned against attempting to “time the market” and advised that people instead stay “fully invested.” 

Rule #2: Don’t Pick Stocks, Diversify! Mezher explained that investors in the region are most comfortable investing in assets “that they know” and so they are reluctant to diversity. The result is that they are especially vulnerable to downturns in particular asset classes. The smart way to build long-term wealth is through a low-cost globally diversified portfolio of Exchange Traded Funds. 

Rule #3: Lower Your Costs. Just as compound interest “works magically in bringing wealth, costs work the reverse way,” said Mezher. She provided a list of items that investors should keep an eye on including expense ratios, trading costs, and commissions. 

Rule #4: Control Your Emotions. Mezher noted that too many investors will buy when prices are up and sell when prices are down, which is exactly the opposite of what you should do. 

Why invest? “Because,” said Mezher, “investing gives you options in life.”

You can watch Nadine Mezher’s presentation here​.

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