About 35% of women report using a financial advisor and another 35% who don't use an advisor would consider doing so, according to a new survey from Prudential Financial. Both camps make attractive clients. The women who do use an advisor generally have higher incomes and are more willing to take on risk to meet their goals. Those willing to consider an advisor also have higher-than-average incomes, and are more likely to have retirement savings.

"Despite their growing earnings power and interest in partnering with a financial professional, women remain relatively underserved by financial professionals," according to Prudential's Financial Experience & Behaviors Among Women report. The study surveyed women's attitudes, behaviors, financial knowledge, goals and confidence in meeting their goals. The survey also polled men, providing a picture of the contrasting views of the sexes on financial topics.

The study also found that women are more receptive to advice than men - with 44% saying they rely on input from their advisor before making their own decision, compared with 54% of men who said they would rather make their own financial decision. But the key barrier advisors must overcome to snare new female clients is perceived expense. That is the top reason women cited for not currently using an advisor, with 53% of women saying advisors are too expensive, compared with 44% of men who cited price as the obstacle. 

"It's about finding the right relationship," says Joan Cleveland, senior vice president of Business Development for Prudential's Individual Insurance. "You should research a financial professional the same way you would a doctor or contractor.  Advisors are compensated in a number of ways, so don't let perceived cost be a barrier." 

The women who do work with an advisor had higher savings and investments, with a median of about $63,000, compared with $10,000 for those women going it alone. Those who worked with advisor also felt more confident about their financial health. They worried less about outliving their savings and keeping up their standard of living in retirement than others.

The one-third of women who do not work with an advisor but are likely to do so are younger, have higher incomes and are more likely to have an IRA or contribute to a defined contribution plan, the report said. They are also disproportionately African American.

Since the last survey two years ago, women have become less confident in their ability to save enough to keep up their lifestyle in retirement and not to outlive their money. Four in ten said they wanted help in specific areas to feel financially prepared.  Only 20% of women considered themselves "very well prepared" to make good financial decisions, compared with 37% of men. Some women 13% of women described themselves as "beginners."

Thanks to the financial crisis, 53% of the women surveyed were a household's main breadwinner, after their male partners lost jobs in the crisis, or divorced and decided to marry later. But just 10% of those female breadwinners feel very knowledgeable about financial products and services. What's more, they are only half as likely to feel well prepared to make smart financial decisions as men.

The survey polled 1,410 American women and 604 American men between the ages of 25 and 68 and across a range of ethnicities. The median age of the women respondents was 46, with a median household income of $51,000 and median savings of $12,400.

Elizabeth Wine writes for On Wall Street.