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Meeting the Unique Financial Needs of Women

Advisors who understand these unique circumstances will be best positioned to build this important client segment.

Women, throughout their lives, will likely face a number of circumstances unique to being a woman, each with financial implications. Advisors who understand their distinct needs and can help them manage their wealth and plan properly will be best positioned to build this important client segment. 

Five Unique Characteristics of Women

In general, compared to men, women:

  1. Have less retirement savings.
  2. Live longer and will, therefore, need greater retirement savings, to plan for future healthcare costs.
  3. Often care for both children and parents.
  4. Are more conservative investors.
  5. Look at wealth in terms of impact on family and community.

Planning for Wealthy Women

Women in general often need advice in the following areas:

  • How to become a more confident investor.
  • How to plan for possible time out of work and costs to care for family when working on budgets.
  • How living a potentially longer life might impact retirement and healthcare needs.
  • Planning for financial impact of outliving a husband.
  • Planning for divorce.

Planning for Ultra-Affluent Women

Ultra-high-net-worth women tend to have concerns regarding the multigenerational stewardship of wealth and how to make wealth a tool for empowerment versus a source of demotivation. To help form bonds with female clients, you should:

  • Be a resource/mentor for educating children about wealth;
  • Demonstrate how to use philanthropy to engage the family’s values;
  • Address how to protect the wealth from the potential divorce of a child; and
  • Provide solutions to cover a surviving spouse’s expenses should the spouse who passes be a trust beneficiary.

Making Strides

Women have made much progress in their pursuit of gender parity since American Suffragette Elizabeth Cady Stanton declared, “A woman will always be dependent until she holds a purse of her own.” They now control 51 percent of the total wealth in the United States. They earn the majority of college degrees, including 57 percent of bachelor’s degrees, 60 percent of master’s degrees and 52 percent of doctoral degrees, according to National Center for Education statistics. And, when it comes to their households, 44 percent of women are the primary breadwinners for their families.

Despite the strides they have made, women often receive less of the wealth pie.

When Family + Work = Less Savings

The arc of a woman’s work life compared to that of a man’s often includes taking on more part-time work without retirement benefits. In fact, only 46 percent of working women have participated in a retirement plan, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Additionally, women more frequently take breaks from the workforce to care for children and their parents. Thus, they’re more likely to have lower lifetime retirement savings than men.

When working on budgets, it’s important to factor in the cost of caregiving, for both children and parents if that’s an anticipated expense. Women between the ages 45 and 56, on average, spend $10,000 and 1,350 hours each year helping their children and parents, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

For many women, getting out of their investment comfort zone will be essential to achieving the wealth they will need. Simply put, as the DOL notes, “Women invest more conservatively than men. Choose carefully where you put your money and learn how to improve your investment returns.” 

Planning for a Longer Life

Not only will women likely have less savings for retirement than men, but also, they’ll likely need more savings than men. People are living longer lives in general and women are living longer lives than men.

For women with husbands, it’s highly likely that at some point they’ll need to oversee wealth plans, as they’ll likely outlive their husbands. The statistics tell us that women outlive men by five to six years, and by age 85, there are about six women to every four men. It’s important that women understand their husband’s wealth plan and how it might impact any plans they may have so they can plan in a coordinated fashion.

Due to their longer life expectancy, women should also look into addressing future healthcare costs. This includes both the emotional and dollars-and-cents aspects of long-term care, for themselves, their partners and their parents.

When Happily Ever After Isn’t

Unfortunately, life is too often not happily ever after. With just over half of all marriages in the United States ending in divorce, it’s crucial for women to be as financially independent as possible. They need to understand how any joint wealth is managed.

Advisors with a divorce designation can be positioned to help through this often challenging process. 

Additionally, remarriage and blended families can complicate planning. Prenuptial agreements, Social Security benefits and estate planning for children from a current or previous marriage may all need to be addressed.

Stewarding Wealth

Women tend to take a holistic approach to how they feel about money. They often look at money in terms of how it can be used to help achieve the things that are important to them. This can include material possessions and experiences, but can also extend to providing support to their community, causes, organizations and their families.

At higher wealth levels, women are often highly concerned about the potential negative impacts of their wealth on their children. They worry about the appropriate age to tell their children about wealth and how much detail they should provide. These women may seek ways to provide their children with the benefits that come with wealth without being demotivated by it.

Advisors can address these concerns by articulating in an easy-to-understand manner the benefits of flexible planning strategies that can be used to pass wealth to children in a way that protects assets and don’t give too much too soon. They can provide resources to educate children about wealth and/or act as mentors.

Incorporating strategic philanthropy into the wealth planning conversation can be quite beneficial to building relationships with women. For example, donor-advised funds, private foundations and certain trusts can be used to work with multiple generations of a family to build values, gain greater understanding of each other and give back to their community.


Mindy F. Rosenthal is Senior Vice President and National Managing Director, PNC Center for Financial Insight.


The views expressed in this article are those of Mindy Rosenthal and shouldn’t be construed to be the position of PNC Bank, N.A. or any of its affiliates.

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