Women-Focused Financial Planning
By Eric Hutter
Many women, especially those in their 60’s and 70’s, grew up with the idea that managing household finances is a man’s responsibility. And, while the world has certainly changed, I have found that a lot of women’s attitudes toward money have remained mired in the past.
The average woman likely realizes she may outlive her spouse by nearly five years. However, she may have been conditioned to avoid considering what would happen should she need to become financially independent or take on multiple caregiver roles. These same women enter retirement woefully unprepared and, to a certain extent, ignored or marginalized by the financial services industry.
Until recently, the typical financial advisor didn’t think much about the unique challenges facing women who are trying to plan their financial futures.
In addition to living longer, for example, women also spend less time in the workforce. That often means that their retirement income stream is less than that of their spouse. Also, since over half of all marriages end in divorce, women are more likely than not to be faced with role reversals, becoming the primary manager of family finances.
It’s been estimated that as much as $15 trillion will be inherited over the next 20 years The lion’s share of that money will go to Baby Boomer and Gen-x women.
It’s obvious, then, that women need to take a more active, educated role in their finances to gain the clarity and confidence needed to be successful in retirement. They soon will control the majority of the wealth, not only in the United States but across the globe. This emerging financial clout hasn’t escaped the marketing departments of insurance companies. In recent years they’ve generated all kinds of “woman-centric” material including special seminars, books, and social media sites catering to the female marketplace.
But, is the trend toward “pink” financial services a good thing or a bad one? Do women need a firm that focuses solely on women’s money issues? Are gender-specific advisors a good idea?
While I enjoy working with women retirees and pre-retirees and focus much of my practice on helping them, I do understand the fact that some women see the shift as a marketing ploy that directly takes existing solutions and ties a pink ribbon around them to make them more “feminine.” In my opinion, women deserve a lot more than girly approaches to finances and generic advice they find on a website claiming to be a woman’s finance site. They need advisors who treat them respectfully as individuals and will listen to them when they discuss all aspects of their lives.
So, if you’re a woman looking for solid financial advice and expertise, you do well to ignore most of the marketing geared exclusively toward women. Focus instead on looking for these qualities in any advisor with whom you wish to establish a relationship.
Choose an advisor who:
• Has a verifiable track record of success
• Is educated and experienced as well as product and process-savvy
• Reports your investment performance in writing regularly
• Meets with you at least once a year in person.
• Discloses precisely how he or she is getting paid.
• Summarizes all costs associated with products recommended
• Takes a holistic approach to financial planning
• Builds plans that meet your specific needs instead of trying to shoehorn you into their own “system.”
• Listens to your questions and concerns and is empathetic
• Is pleasant and comfortable to get along with
These are the qualities that anyone, man or woman, should look for when considering a financial advisor. Just putting “woman-focused practice” on a website or business card isn’t enough to ensure that your advisor is someone who will help you avoid making serious mistakes with your finances from which you may never recover. Like all important decisions, make sure you work with a licensed and authorized advisor.
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