By Jennifer Marcontell
Trust, reliability, and a deep understanding of clients’ needs and challenges are imperative for growing one's practice as a financial advisor. That said, advisors must be tenacious when looking to successfully grow and retain a clientele. Women represent a large portion of investable assets in America, but are often underserved as men often dominate the financial-advisory industry. Women encounter unique challenges in their lives and require a different perspective to forge connections with financial advisors. It is now more important than ever for financial advisors to better engage with female investors so that we may work through an established process to build personalized strategies to help achieve their financial goals.
According to a report by Center for Talent Innovation, women hold about 39 percent of the estimated $28.6 trillion in investable assets in the U.S., creating the largest market opportunity for financial advisors to make a difference in the lives of their clients. Additionally, according to a survey conducted at Edward Jones’ Annual Women’s Conference, 57 percent of female advisors feel their female clients are less knowledgeable about planning and investing relative to their male counterparts. Although this trend has been shifting as younger female investors are becoming more empowered to educate themselves about financial planning and investing, it’s important to keep this learning curve in mind going into any meeting with female clients. Be mindful that women want advisors who can not only educate them but who can validate them as intelligent and competent investors.
On average, women spend about seven years out of the workforce, according to a 2009 report by the Department of Labor. Many advisors report that whenever women come in with an issue that affects their ability to work, it’s usually not about them but about caring for others. This includes caring for children and/or elderly parents. This results in women accumulating less money in employer-sponsored 401(k) plans than men over the course of their careers. Not to mention, we still haven’t cracked the gender-pay-gap issue in America and, according to a 2016 Bureau of Labor Statistics report, women made 81 percent of what men did in 2015. This presents a real need and opportunity for female investors to get a better understanding of additional ways to generate retirement income outside of traditional 401(k) plans and savings generated during their working years.
It’s also important to have a pulse on some of the most prevalent challenges women may face during their “golden years.” On average, women are living more than two years longer than men post-retirement and, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, are more likely to need long-term care. Although that doesn’t seem like a huge difference, with the rising costs of nursing homes, in-home care and health care, this certainly can have an impact on retirement needs. Preparing early on is essential for ensuring a client’s savings last. Advisors should discuss solutions such as long-term-care insurance, critical-illness riders and annuities, which can help to offset major health care expenses that could potentially derail retirement plans. As an advisor, you’re aware that the older or less healthy you are, the more these types of solutions will cost, so having these issues top of mind early on can help you save your client money, and show that you’re thinking about their long-term financial plan.
Finding a Solution
It’s important to let female clients know you’re aware of the challenges they might face throughout their lives. In many cases, investors are unware of the various life hurdles that will impact their financial strategy over the long term. Make it a point to proactively communicate these challenges and begin thinking of solutions to keep them on track to meet all of their needs. Bringing this information to the table initially will improve your chances of signing on new female clients.
Be personable. When advising female clients, it’s important to understand what is unique about them. Perhaps your client is an entrepreneur. Maybe she is seeking management advice on newly inherited wealth, or perhaps she recently has gone through a divorce, or is now widowed. As an advisor, it’s very important to connect with all clients on a personal level, especially during these life-changing moments. Whatever connection you can make, be empathetic to what your client is going through at this point in time. This will help foster a more meaningful connection, and ultimately help build a level of trust that will be mutually beneficial as this relationship evolves.
Women have specific challenges that need to be addressed in order to reach their financial goals. Understanding these challenges, and how best to communicate solutions, will ultimately improve your chances of attracting and serving female clients and their families.
Jennifer Marcontell is a financial advisor at Edward Jones.