With women making more money today than ever before, there is a growing need for them to seek professional financial guidance to safeguard their future. According to a Pew Research Center study released this past February, a record 40 percent of all households with children under the age of 18 include mothers who are either the sole or primary source of income for the family.
Yet despite their growing financial importance, women still remain an underserved group in the financial world. A 2010 Council on Asset and Investment Management (CAIM) study shows that 70 percent of women are unhappy with their financial planner or the advice they are given. That statistic needs to change.
We in the industry need to realize that women’s needs in this area are significantly different than men. Women’s approach to problem-solving comes from a completely different perspective than men and so our approach must reflect that.
Female clients want to be more included in the financial discussion and to be given the respect they are due in the process. The CAIM study shows that women don’t want to be told what to do. Instead, they want to be given information and options on the best course to take. I see this nearly every day in my practice.
Because women and men have such different needs, their process in choosing a financial planner should also be different. Here is my five-point plan to find the right one for you.
- Do Your Homework – It’s important to know the options you have available. Make a short list of qualified planners nearby and schedule face-to-face interviews. I highly recommend asking friends or colleagues for referrals. The Internet is a great source for secondary research but a personal recommendation speaks volumes.
- Be Prepared to Ask questions – You should go into each interview ready for an in-depth conversation. Your financial well-being is extremely important. Nothing should be too trivial to discuss. You should ask questions about your retirement, children’s college funding and your career plans. A good planner will answer your questions thoughtfully and should ask you plenty in return.
- Have an Ear for Patience – Women feel comfortable with someone who listens and is willing to invest time with them. I think it’s important to find a planner who demonstrates patience. The CAIM survey concurs, noting that most women want to have an ongoing relationship with their planner, and they want someone who will take the time to teach them financial skills. The smart planner who recognizes the growing importance of women will embrace this line of thinking and change accordingly.
- Be Ready to Learn – The right financial advisor will have a wealth of knowledge to transfer, but you must be ready to receive it. Go into your first appointment armed with a basic understanding of financial terms so that your time together will be more productive. Savvy planners are aware that their clients have limited knowledge and generally take care to ensure that they understand fully. Good planners love to teach, so you should take full advantage of that.
- Trust your gut – Women are typically very perceptive when it comes to assessing other people. This should apply to your financial advisor as well. She states that your planner should not only be someone who is qualified on paper, he or she should also be someone who makes you feel comfortable. They should definitely be someone you trust and you feel will understand you. If you feel even a little uncomfortable or hesitant, I say trust that feeling.
There is no single approach to choosing a financial planner that will work for everyone, but that her steps are a good starting point. At the end of the day, it’s all about finding a business relationship that will last over time. There is no overnight solution, but it’s a step that many women will find that they need to take. Ultimately, finding a planner you can trust to help you build a successful financial future can be a rewarding experience that could pay off handsomely down the road.
Michelle Perry Higgins is a financial planner and principal of California Financial Advisors in San Ramon, California. She specializes in wealth management, and has built a successful practice advising executive professionals into retirement. Michelle was featured as a 2012 Five Star Wealth Manager Award winner by Diablo Magazine, and was also ranked as one of the Top 40 Under 40 Registered Investment Advisors for 2012 and ranked in the Top 25 Women RIAs 2012, by WealthManagement.com.For more information please visit www.calfinad.com. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/MichellePerryHiggins. Follow her on Twitter: @RetirementMPH.
Originally published in August 2013 Lioness