If you walked into the average bookstore, you'd think that women rule the roost when it comes to personal finance. From Suze Orman's now-classic Women and Money to the more recent (and more colorfully titled) Bitches on a , there's no shortage of do-it-yourself financial advice tailored to women.
Apparently, though, when women make the momentous move from self-help to seeking professional advice about investing and retirement, things go rapidly downhill. A recent study by the Boston Consulting Group revealed that women perceived themselves as receiving wealth management services at a level of quality that is inferior to that received by their male counterparts.
According to the study, women are the key decision-makers when it comes to 27% of the wealth worldwide: that's $20 trillion! But despite the massive chunk of power they wield, 55% of the women surveyed in the study said they felt their wealth manager could do a better job of advising them. Almost a quarter of the respondents said private banks needed "significant improvement" in the services they offer to women.
"The dissatisfaction stems from the unshakable perception that men get more attention, better advice, and sometimes even better terms and deals," according to study co-author Peter Damisch. "We heard this sense of subordination time and time again in our interviews."
This perceived disparity in service arose from several key disconnects in the relationships and communications between women and their financial advisers. Manisha Thakor, Chartered Financial Analyst and women's financial literacy advocate, offers some steps savvy female investors can take to avoid being under-served by their wealth managers and investment advisers:
1. Find your adviser and get your financial education from women-run resources.
The financial services industry is dominated by males and therefore the "DNA is structured around the male experience," Thakor explains, adding that she sees many firms making an effort to change this. Most financial advisers are men, who may not inherently understand the whole-life nature of the average woman's financial plans and needs. They also may have very different communication styles than their women clients.
Thakor recommends women use women-created resources like LearnVest and DailyWorth to educate themselves in order to avoid the intimidation factor when talking about investment products with their advisers. She also encourages women to consult Garrett Planning Network, founded by Certified Financial Planner Sheryl Garrett, to locate a local certified financial planner who works on an hourly-fee-only basis. Taking these steps, Thakor explains, may alleviate the concern expressed by many women in the BCG study that they were not being taken seriously or talked to on the same level as male clients by their financial advisers.
2. Expressly state your ideal career trajectory, then ask how you should alter your investment plans accordingly.
In the BCG study, women stated that their investment advisers fundamentally misunderstood what was actually important to them, and recommended a too-narrow range of inappropriate investment vehicles as a result. Many said their advisers assumed they had a lower risk tolerance than they actually did, or that their advisers focused on short-term results and disregarded their long-term goals, which often included time out to care for a child or parent.
Thakor offers women a script of sorts to remedy this communication disconnect. "Go in and say: "I want to be a mom and I may take X amount of time out of the work force," she advises. Then ask, "How do we adjust how much I need to save and how I should invest to compensate for this?"
3. Start saving early.
"Assume Jane starts saving at 45-years-old, because she spends her money on grooming in her 20s and on her children in her 30s. Joe, on the other hand, starts saving at 25 years old," Thakor posits. "Each saves $5,000 a year, with an average 7% annual growth until they are 65 years old. Joe will have a million dollars at age 65, while Jane will only have $200,000 -- the head start gives Joe five times as much cash as Jane!"
Women live longer, make less and, the BCG study found, are more likely to have their financial priorities rearranged by a life event, like giving birth, divorce, or the death of a spouse. Nevertheless, many felt that their advisers offered them one-size-fits-all financial advice that did not account for their unique life needs. According to Thakor, "it's just important for both genders to start saving as early as possible, but because women have the extra headwinds, its especially important for them to start saving early on."
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