The number of widows and female divorcees is on the rise, which means financial advisors need to be better prepared to deal with the problems facing these clients who are in the throes of major life transitions.

 According to a new survey by Spectrem Group, 7% of millionaire households (with $1 million to $5 million in net worth) and 9% of ultra-high-net-worth households (with $5 million to $25 million in net worth) are divorced. Moreover, approximately 7% of millionaires and 12% of ultra-high net worth women are widows.

And those two groups will only grow larger. Approximately, 41% of first marriages end in divorce and between 700,000 and 800,000 women become widows each year. That ability to meet the needs of these women will become even more important in coming years as baby boomers age and women take on a greater role in financial planning, the report said.

"With the likelihood of a large number of widows becoming part of the advisor's client base as baby boomers age, practice management and communication must develop to appropriately serve these individuals. At the same time, exploring opportunities with divorcees also remains an important niche as females become increasingly important in making investment and financial decisions," Spectrem reported.

Those two groups each require their own individualized investment advice based on where they are in their transition. Widows, for example, tend to be more tempered in their investment strategy. Given that the average age of millionaire and ultra-high net worth widows is slightly over 70, a vast majority, more than 80%, are retired and have set finances, so many are focused on making their money last.

Almost twice as many widows (31%) said they were conservative compared to 17% of divorcees. Along those same lines, 58% of widows answered that it was more important to protect their principal than grow their investments.  More than two- thirds of widows considered taxes to be one of their primary concerns over their level of debt and ability to maintain their standard of living.

 "Widows face the challenge of being constrained, in many cases, to a lifetime with a specifically outlined amount of available assets. Taxes, falling property values and market downturns eat quickly into these funds, increasing their concerns," Spectrem's report said.

Compare that to divorcees whose average ages are 62 for millionaire women and 63 for the ultra-high net-worth. They tend to be more aggressive investors than widows and even men. Only 45% of divorcees reported that preserving principal was more important than growth compared to 51% of men.

"Their investment risk tolerance is somewhat greater than that of widows because they are often younger and many are still working," Spectrem said. "Often in the middle of a busy life, their concerns include educational expenses as well as greater concern over debt and saving for retirement."

The major challenge advisors may face with divorcees, according qualitative data from Spectrem's focus groups, may be winning them over and earning their trust. Many divorcees are often just beginning a relationship with a new advisor after splitting with their husband's advisor and may be more skeptical.

"They tend to be far more cautious - not investment cautious, but cautious in general - and therefore far more tuned into having to do things on their own because they're starting anew, and so they tend to be much more suspicious if anything. They tend to be cautious relative to entering into an advisor relationship with someone who would be new," Spectrem's president, George Walper, said in a telephone interview.  

Both groups were still likely to be more dependent on financial advisors than men. Among widows, 21% said that they were advisor-dependent compared to 16% of divorcees and 13% of men.

"Women overall are more focused on planning-oriented services or needs as opposed to men, first of all," Walper added. "So this is pretty consistent with women in general in terms of their characteristics. They're a little bit more- I might use the word humble- relative to acknowledging their level of investment knowledge versus men who might not be quite as humble."

Spectrem found that the best ways for establishing contact through social media with widows and divorcees differed from the initial hypothesis. Widows, as it were, were more into Facebook than anticipated, 69% reported having used it compared to 64% of divorcees.

"The traditional belief would be that widows do not use channels such as Facebook, but the desire to communicate with the younger generation specifically grandchildren, has pushed widows to experiment with new platforms," Spectrem said.   

Linkedin ranked higher among divorcees, 40% of whom reported using the networking service, a statistic that the report attributed to their still being involved in the workforce.

"If older female investors are using these channels, it can be assumed that younger female investors have similar or greater expectations. Advisors should use Facebook and Twitter as platforms for highlighting expertise and proactively suggesting financial behaviors," the report stated.