By Lisa Strohm, Founder & CEO, The Athena Network
Women’s Disengagement with Money
Early Observations. As a young woman I felt the world was my oyster — I did well in school, loved learning, and relished a challenge. As a result, I could never understand why so many of the women in my family depended on the men in their lives to make every decision for them. Time and again I saw these women end up in financial and personal crises after the relationship ended. I became determined to never let that scenario play out in my life.
Societal Issue. After getting an MBA and spending several years in corporate finance, I pursued my passion and became a financial advisor. Working primarily with married couples, I immediately observed that many of my female clients opted not to be engaged in their financial life, leaving those decisions to their spouses. It became clear to me that this was not just a problem for women in my family — it is a societal issue. The research upholds my observations; a 2015 Fidelity study that found that 80% of women “hold back” when it comes to dealing with their money or discussing it with others.
Challenges: Women & Wealth
Increasing Economic Power. Disengagement with our financial lives is a problem for women because we continue to gain economic power. According to the Bank of Montreal’s Wealth Institute, in 2015 women controlled over 51% of the personal wealth in the U.S, and that percentage is growing. And according to a 2011 Prudential Research Study, 95% of women will, at some point, be their family’s primary financial decision-maker.
Time, Knowledge, & Confidence. While we are controlling more of the wealth, many women don’t have the time or knowledge to feel confident making sound financial decisions. Today’s women are juggling many competing priorities, including careers, family, childcare, and eldercare. In addition, many suffer from lack of financial confidence; 90% of women respondents to a 2006 Allianz Life Insurance study on women reported feeling insecure about personal finance.
Cultural Factors. The masculine culture of most financial advisory firms doesn’t help the cause of engaging women with their wealth. The industry’s marketing strategies, communication styles, and investment protocols were developed primarily by men, to attract male clients, and feel downright foreign to most women. This lack of a balanced approach by these firms often hampers women’s efforts at being more involved with our financial lives. In fact, 70% of women polled in a well-known survey said they were displeased with their wealth management experience and would fire their current financial advisor if their spouse passed away.
Call to Action
Failing to Plan. Women owe it to ourselves to become involved in our financial lives. We can’t depend on life to play out as we plan; as the statistics show, at some point we will be responsible for managing our own future. If we don’t develop the skills and confidence and get involved with our money now, we’re setting ourselves up for a potential financial and life crisis that is totally avoidable.
My Crisis. In fact, not long after launching my financial advisory career, I had to deal with a crisis of my own. I was widowed at 34 years old. Thankfully, I had known early on how important it is to be financially astute and self-reliant. Life after my husband’s passing was incredibly difficult; had I not had a handle on our financial affairs, it could have been much worse. In the years following this tragedy I not only survived financially – I thrived. This experience powerfully reinforced my conviction that women need to be engaged in their financial lives sooner rather than later – before crisis hits.
Take Charge. If you know you need to get off of the sidelines and take charge when it comes to your money, it’s time to stop procrastinating. Here are some suggestions to help you get started:
- Search the internet for articles, blogs, and other resources that you can use to familiarize yourself with the basics of savings, debt management, investing, and other financial topics.
- If you currently work with a financial advisor, and their communication style is not conducive to your engagement in the process, discuss your concerns and expectations with the advisor. After all, you’re paying them to do a job for you. If they are unwilling or unable to meet your needs, look for another advisor.
- If you’re not currently working with a financial advisor, interview several and consider working with one whose model involves educating, coaching, accountability, and support, all aimed at building your financial competence and skill set.
Lisa Strohm, MBA, CFP®, is Founder and CEO of The Athena Network . Lisa has over 20 years of financial industry experience and earned a BS from Bucknell University and an MBA from Cornell University.
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