Affluent women live complicated, busy, and stressful lives. They are major economic players and will continue to be in the coming decades. These women are changing the landscape at work and at home. They are inheritors, wealth creators, and often both. They represent a challenge for traditional, transaction-oriented financial advisors and are now speaking up more than ever about their dissatisfaction with how the financial industry perceives them.
While affluent women present a unique challenge to you as the advisor, they also represent a big opportunity as well. Over the next several decades women will inherit approximately $28.7 trillion in assets as a result of intergenerational wealth transfers. Others will accumulate wealth through their own professional and business accomplishments. In fact, women-owned businesses are growing at twice the national rate and account for 40 percent of privately held entities. Women also make approximately 80 percent of family household buying decisions, including those related to banking and financial services.
One of the best ways to connect with your female clients is to try and understand what keeps her up at night. Let’s take a brief look at some of the most common apprehensions.
One of the top concerns for affluent women are healthcare costs. According to a Merrill Lynch Affluent Insights Quarterly Report, 40 percent of the affluent women worried about healthcare expenses, second only to concerns related to maintaining their families’ standard of living. Women make 60 percent of all visits to the doctor, spend two out of three healthcare dollars, and in wealthy homes make 48 percent of the household healthcare decisions. It is no wonder why they are preoccupied with healthcare expenses.
There are no easy solutions since even Congress cannot come to a consensus about how to fix our healthcare system. Some women of wealth are choosing to hire concierge doctors to care for their families’ healthcare concerns. While this helps ease their anxieties, it is a costly option and only accessible to some affluent women.
Your female clients need assistance in reviewing and selecting healthcare plans, planning for and managing the increasing expenses related to their health, and coming up with solutions to alleviate their fears. Being a resource for information on this topic and having referrals to concierge physicians in your area is important. Work to develop plans for mitigating this risk for them and their families. Validate them on how difficult this part of their financial life is, even if there are no good solutions, because having someone to discuss these concerns with is of great value.
According to a 2009 report, “The Impact of Retirement Risk on Women,” women tend to be preoccupied with immediate life concerns and fail to look ahead at retirement. The survey found that 63 percent of women are anxious about retirement, compared to only 52 percent of men. Although you may believe that women with adequate financial resources are free from this concern, they are not.
Affluent women realize they are likely to live longer than their male partners and understand that this could be a real financial concern. They often react to this information in one of two ways: they hyperfocus on retirement planning and possibly miss out on some of life’s current pleasures or they put their head in the sand and decide they will worry about it later. Either coping strategy is not ideal. Your job is to help your female clients plan for the uncertain future by asking how they feel about retirement and what they envision for themselves, and by helping them take steps today to plan for tomorrow.
It is important to remember that women tend to be more emotional when it comes to retirement, and many female clients fear ending up destitute in their old age. Don’t make the mistake of assuring a woman that she has enough assets to live on, yet neglect to explore the feelings she has about retirement. This will result in her feeling unheard. Instead, find out more about her underlying concerns by asking many open-ended questions. Coach her on ways that this anxiety is helpful, that is, how it motivates her to save more for the future. Also talk about how it is unhelpful— for example, how it raises her blood pressure. Often she needs a neutral party to talk about these fears and to develop a plan for addressing them from both a financial and an emotional standpoint.
Raising Affluent Children
One of the top concerns of affluent parents is rearing financially responsible children. A Merrill Lynch Wealth Management report stated that nearly twice as many affluent investors said teaching their children “financial know-how” was a higher priority than teaching them about “choosing the right spouse/partner. Clearly, wealthy parents are worried about raising children with affluence and preparing the next generation to receive and manage family wealth prudently. This is both an area of interest and a fear for your female clients. It also presents an important opportunity for you to strengthen your advisor-client relationship with them by coaching them on how to raise financially thoughtful children.
Affluent women have competing priorities in life, care for more than just themselves, and financially face many different challenges than men. A female-friendly advisor listens to her female client as she slowly uncovers the multidimensional layers of her life. The goal is to help her organize her thoughts and goals, plan for the various ups and downs in her life, and provide her with the expertise she needs to enjoy the journey. And if you make a good partner, she is likely to be a client for life.
 J. Havens and P. Schervish, “Why the $41 Trillion Wealth Transfer Esti- mate Is Still Valid: A Review of Challenges and Questions,” Journal of Gift Planning, vol. 7, no. 1, January 2003, pp. 11–15, 47–50.
 H. Pordeli and P. Wynkoop, The Economic Impact of Women-Owned Busi- nesses in the United States, Research Report, Center for Women’s Business Research, McLean, VA, October 2009; and Key Facts About Women-Owned Businesses (2008–2009), http://www.womensbusinessresearchcenter.org/ research/keyfacts/.
 B. Brennan, Why She Buys: The New Strategy for Reaching the World’s Most Powerful Consumers, New York: Crown Business, 2009, p. 4.
 A. Slomski, “Women and Money,” Merrill Lynch Advisor Magazine, Spring 2011, pp. 6–11.
 “Silver Bridge Advisors, A Woman’s Perspective: Health and Wealth,” Presentation, Boston, MA, April 12, 2011.
 The Impact of Retirement Risk on Women, Research Report, Washington: Society of Actuaries and the Women Institute for Secure Retirement, December 2010.
 Slomski, “Women and Money.”