It’s been more than 25 years since John Gray published his iconic book Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. As much as most of us didn’t want to admit it … our genders think differently, act differently, and make decisions differently.
When it comes to providing sound advice and guidance in 2018, you don’t want to be on a different planet than your clients, regardless of gender.
Let’s face it, guys. She is smarter, more driven, more organized, more thoughtful, more caring, and definitely tougher than we are. It’s OK. Just embrace reality and admire it.
With women holding more and more influence on household spending and major budget decisions, financial professionals can’t afford to hold a gender bias — consciously or subconsciously.
No doubt, you’ve heard this message before. But how do you adapt? Over the past few weeks, Transamerica has talked to registered financial advisors and insurance agents who work with single women, married women, widows, and divorcées.
It was fascinating what we learned from the people in the field.
Seat selection matters
During his seven years working for two female financial planners, Jim Williams, of Williams Wealth Management in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, observed something interesting: Whenever possible, one of the women would choose a round table for client meetings.
“She liked to be alongside her clients,” Williams said. “She wanted to show them she was figuratively and physically alongside them to take them through the different phases of their financial life. When I meet with clients, I try to take a seat that’s right next to them and really share the page of what I’m trying to explain. I think it’s been an effective tool.”
Angela Valvano, a financial professional with The Maddalena Group in Purchase, New York, agrees.
“Being on one side of a desk in your office with the client on the other side is not as helpful,” Valvano said. “It’s the divider between you.”
Plan beyond 100
The average life expectancy in the United States is nearly 79 years, but what happens when clients live beyond 80? Beyond 90? Beyond 100?
Michelle Cortes-Harkins, CRPC®, a partner at Harkins Wealth Management in Providence, Rhode Island, doesn’t believe in taking chances.
“We always plan to age 105,” she said. “Women are generally living longer than men, and they need to save and prepare for that. When you’re 90 or 95, that’s not a good time to run out of money. You can’t go get a job. If you live to 105 and have the resources you need, we’ve done our job. Our clients get that. They want that security.”
Women are willing to pay
As the old business adage goes, price is only an issue in the absence of value. As financial professionals are challenged to justify fees in an era of low-cost robo advice, women seem more willing to pay for financial advice — particularly young female professionals.
“Advisors who are smart are going to get in front of the wave,” Cortes-Harkins said. “I’m seeing many young women between 25 and 37 who are making good money and are hungry for information. They really want to learn, and they’re very comfortable paying for advice.”
Don’t bog down in details
Whether it’s my golf score or the updated sales report, I’ll be the first to admit that I tend to pay close attention to the numbers. This might not be the best approach when working with women clients.
“Women don’t care as much about the specific performance numbers,” Valvano said. “Overall, they just want to make sure they’re going to have enough money in retirement.”
Bill Millico, a registered investment advisor in Scottsdale, Arizona, takes a similar big-picture approach with his female clients.
“They don’t want to know the distinction between large caps and small caps,” he said. “They want to know what is reasonable to expect from their investments.”
Shut up and listen
Being from Mars, men tend to want to fix things. Sometimes our partners from Venus just want a sense of understanding. In financial services, a sympathetic ear remains a highly underrated commodity.
“You can’t emphasize enough the power of listening and being reassuring,” Williams said. “If they understand that you’re their go-to person, you become a trusted source and they stop going to the internet for answers. I tell my clients to call me or email me. Just let me know what’s on your mind.”
Cortes-Harkins shares a story of meeting with a woman who was interviewing potential advisors. After inheriting investments in gas, oil, and fossil fuels from her grandfather, the woman tried to explain to her previous advisor that she wanted to move out of the sector.
“He told her she was making money and asked why she was complaining,” Cortes-Harkins said.
After meeting with Cortes-Harkins, the woman said: “This is the first time I feel like someone’s listened to me and not just told me what to do.”
TLC equals LTC
Whether they’re toting kids to the doctor’s office or taking caring for an aging relative, women tend to be the primary caregivers in the household. This role explains why women may be more apt to think about long term care when creating their own retirement strategy.
“Women disproportionately are impacted by a loved one in need of care,” said Jerry Manning, principal of J. Manning & Associates. “It makes sense that, more often than not, women are going to be the driver of the long term care purchase.”
As our friend Dr. Joseph Coughlin, director of the MIT AgeLab says, the future is female. The demographics say so. The increased spending power says so. The actuarial tables say so.
“Anyone who ignores the financial influence of women is crazy,” said Aaron Harkavy, a Chicago-based registered investment advisor with Lincoln Financial. “You can’t have the attitude that the man is making the financial decisions. Most of the time when it comes to purchasing something or taking a financial action, the woman is leading the way.”
Embrace the reality. Admire it and serve her appropriately.
Transamerica Resources, Inc. is an Aegon company and is affiliated with various companies which include, but are not limited to, insurance companies and broker dealers. Transamerica Resources, Inc. does not offer insurance products or securities. The information provided is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as, medical, insurance, securities, tax, legal or financial advice or guidance. Please consult your personal independent advisors for answers to your specific questions.