It’s not that women are from one planet and men are from another. It’s just that women tend to end up with different life circumstances than men. Top that off with lower salaries, and there’s a greater need for taking a closer look at financial strategies.
In my 25 years’ experience serving women clients, I find that they can multitask far more than men. They make the family’s social plans, maintain relationships, take care of kids, parents and in-laws—all while juggling their careers. This presents enormous challenges to their time.
It’s true that women control about half of household finances. That means they are watching the bank account, paying the bills, making large purchases, putting something in the savings account, and paying off the credit card.
But they often don’t understand the inner workings of investing. Some of them do, but they just have a lot on their plates. Looking from the outside, investing can appear to be a world of complicated strategies and men making deals.
Seeing Things Another Way
Of course having kids changes everything—finances and all the other aspects of your life. But even without kids, women can have cultural biases toward money, who handles finances, and how to save.
When attending financial workshops, our firm has noticed many men often ask about the best tips for investing. Many women, however, ask about balancing saving for retirement, sending the kids to college, and taking care of elderly parents.
They want to enjoy life while their kids are younger. Women feel some of the most precious gifts are right now in the present.
We often see men wanting tips on when to buy and sell. Women want to know how to support their daughter who’s moving home from college, and their elderly father who needs assistance to stay in his home a few more years. They wish to live a richer life, and at the same time successfully manage the relationships that are important to them.
Saving More, Having Less
Women tend to save a larger percentage of their salaries. They also contribute to their 401(k)s in greater numbers than men.
Despite putting more money away, we often see women ending up with less at retirement. Salary disparities can take a toll on investing over the long run.
But for those women who started saving early, the benefits of compounding can help make up some of the difference in the total amount saved.
We have found women who have children might take some time off during pregnancy or after the kids are born. For some families, they’ve had to make the difficult decision of balancing childcare vs. going back to work. Re-entering the workforce can often lower wages and position.
When parents get older and need help, women are often the ones to take on the added responsibility. When kids are also in the mix, that makes those women part of the “sandwich generation.”
Life expectancies are increasing for men and women, but women still tend to live longer. That means women need more money for living out their retirement dreams.
Women also are usually the ones initiating divorce. They’re willing to be on their own, and want to know what they can get for themselves and their children, and can they be happy with that.
Getting help from a professional can help in many situations. Developing a financial strategy is one.
Women are often not as comfortable taking risks with their investments. Sometimes this is because they view money a little differently than men. Other times, they haven’t spent as much time learning about investments.
It’s been our experience that women often take fewer risks with their money. They want to remain in a position of control. They might not mind our assistance, but they want to feel in charge of the situation. Circumstance like being in debt can weigh heavily on a woman’s conscience. She might feel like she needs to get that paid off before taking what she could perceive as the risk of investing.
It can be easy to let a husband take care of the household finances. It can be nice to let someone do the worrying, researching and planning for you. But if something happens and he is no longer there, some decisions will need to be made—and that will fall on her.
Worry More, Plan More
Many women have more control over the well-being of the family. This can make them worry more about finances. The balancing act of life can fall heavily on women.
Seeking advice from a professional can help teach her about investing, planning for retirement, and even saving for the kids’ college education. Seeking help from someone who has been trained can help alleviate uncertainty in many situations—whether the advice is from a financial advisor, lawyer, or accountant.
Getting help from the pros can help women feel like they are placed back in control. They can learn about investing strategies, plan for contingencies, prepare for retirement, set goals, and balance all the financial elements of life.
Despite often being good planners, we’ve seen many women don’t seek advice until something major happens. But once they engage our help, they tackle the plan like the other aspects of their life.
Someone “Gets” Me
You’ve decided you’d like to talk with a financial advisor. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions. When you start your search, you want to make sure it’s a good fit. When a match “clicks,” you feel more confident and ready to take what comes your way.
Don’t be afraid to explore how your relationship with an advisor would work. You may want lots of contact or just a little. You may want your financial advisor to give you a couple of choices to choose from, or a wide range.
See how comfortable you are with the way they explain things to you. Are things clear, or do you need more information?
You are building a relationship, and not just with an advisor but also a team. Make sure it feels good to you. It may be one of the most important decisions you make regarding your family’s future.