A recent study by Fidelity Investments found that 70% of widows fire their financial advisor within one year of their spouse's death. 

Why would so many women dismiss the advisor who worked so diligently for their family, in many cases for years? Because they thought the advisor as condescending toward them. The advisor only held meetings with the spouse. In joint meetings, the advisor only addressed the husband, or made no eye contact with the wife, as if she had no say or interest in the financial security of the family.  In short, these widows felt overlooked and undervalued, and they had no trust in the advisor.

Besides the host of ethical reasons, there are some very important business reasons why you should never allow any woman client to think of you in this way. Some commonly quoted statistics tell a compelling story:

  • Women will inherit close to 30 trillion dollars in intergenerational wealth transfers in the coming decades.
  • Because women are likely to outlive their husbands, women will control most of this wealth, plus, they will inherit their parents’ wealth.
  • 57% of college graduates are currently women. Female college graduates are currently in control of more than 60% of the personal wealth in the U.S.
  • 22% of women currently earn more money than their spouse.
  • Women make approximately 80% of their family’s buying decisions.
  • 89% of bank accounts are controlled by women.
  • 28% of homeowners are single women.
  • 45% of the millionaires in the U.S. are women.

In short, women are earning more, inheriting more, and controlling more wealth than ever before. This is a huge market awaiting every financial advisor, if he/she understands some key points about working with female clients.
I recently interviewed a female financial advisor, who has enjoyed a very successful career for more than 20 years.  She runs a firm with several other advisors, all of whom are women. This is not a coincidence; it is by design.  She only hires females, primarily because she works exclusively with female clients.  She decided many years ago that focusing on female clients would be a very smart way to build her career.

When she was in her teens, she observed her mother making virtually none of the financial decisions in the family, almost as if it wasn’t her role. Furthermore, her father rarely shared financial investments, insurance plans or any form of estate planning with her mother.  Consequently, when her father died, her mother was frozen with feelings of helplessness, did not understand the details or nuances of her financial situation and felt very depressed and anxious as a result.

As an aside, when I was a psychologist in the U.S. Air Force during the VietNam War, one of my duties was helping the wives and families of servicemen killed, captured or missing in the war.  I was shocked at the high percentage of women who had absolutely no idea about any of the financial plans or arrangements that their spouses had prepared before departing for overseas.  Most didn’t even know where to find the paperwork or the names of insurance companies or brokerage firms that their spouses worked with.

So, this advisor decided early on that she would find a career to help women, so that her clients would never find themselves in the position her mother was in.

Some male advisors have problems dealing with female clients because they have a general problem dealing with women. Sometimes males have stereotypical views of women and finances, such as "women prefer to leave financial decisions to men," "women are too emotional and base financial decisions on their emotions at the time," and "women are impulsive and may make financial decisions they later regret."

To all the men reading this: If you maintain any of these ideas about women, perhaps working with female clients isnot something you should consider - unless you plan to engage in therapy or group sensitivity sessions about the differences - and similarities - in the sexes.

You’ve probably heard that money problems are one the most significant factors that lead to divorce. Dr. Sonya Britt, an Assistant Professor in the Institute of Financial Planning at Kansas State University collected interview data from 4500 couples who had gone through divorce and the data showed definitively that the #1 factor in causing the divorce was money issues.  Many couples exist with money issues as a taboo subject, with women leaving financial decisions to the males in their lives, in order to avoid controversy.

Recently, Allianz Life reported the results of an eye-opening study (The 2013 Women, Money & Power Study) they conducted, where they surveyed more than 2,200 women between the ages of 25 and 75, with a minimum household income of $30,000 per year. There were several remarkable discoveries.

  • Two thirds of married women are concerned about leaving all of the financial decisions to their spouses and 57% of all the women say that they handle major investment decisions and retirement planning themselves.
  • Almost 50 % of all of the women surveyed fear losing all of their money and becoming homeless. Even a third of the highest earners ($200,000+) have the same fear. The authors suggest that this points to a deeply held type of financial insecurity that is not an issue with males, in general.

Perhaps because of their fears and unmet needs regarding financial security, women in general perceive that the financial advising industry is oriented more toward serving men. Large percentages of these respondents feel alienated by this industry and 62% of the women express an interest in learning more about finances and retirement planning, yet the same percentage of women do not have a financial advisor.  Many view the Internet as the most reliable source for making financial decisions.  There is a huge opportunity to educate and help women, who command a such a large percentage of the wealth in this country.
Dr. Jack Singer is a professional sport psychologist, speaker and trainer, primarily for financial professionals. Visit his website at www.funspeaker.com or email him at: drjack@funspeaker.com.

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