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Women and Financial Planning

Each time I’m asked to write or speak about women and financial planning I do so with a mix of pleasure and hesitation.  This is a complicated topic for me.  

I enjoy it because I love the women who I have the pleasure to deal with.  I have a tremendous respect for each of them and the unique paths they travel.  I am diligent not to paint the topic of women’s financial needs with the same brush because no two are alike.  Just as no two men are alike.

I am also guarded by the notion of generalizing women investors relative to men.  So herein lies my challenge; we need to represent women and their finances appropriately but sometimes by broad based differentiating, we somehow create a separation in ways that aren’t necessary.  I find both my male and female clients typically want the same things at a high level. Personal differences unique to individuals are far greater than any differences by gender.  I would be remiss if I didn’t make this point.

We need to represent women and their finances appropriately but sometimes by broad based differentiating, we somehow create a separation in ways that aren’t necessary.  I find both my male and female clients typically want the same things at a high level.  Personal differences unique to individuals are far greater than any differences by gender.

So why do I tell you all of this?  The reason is to illustrate the background for my frame of reference. I cannot speak about women and financial planning without getting this part out of the way.

If you know me, you know I am about equality.  I like the saying, “Equal rights for another person does not mean less for you, it’s not pie.”  This sums it up for me.  Men and women can both be equally financially savvy, or anything else for that matter.   It’s just that simple as far as I’m concerned.  This is the lens through which I see.

Throwing away old paradigms

There have been many surveys over the years which study how women view financial planning relative to their male counterparts.  And while there are some legitimate gender differences, I have grown tired of articles that paint women as the underdog or less-than.  I have grown tired of the notion that women are somehow a little less adept than men when it comes to finances.  

I have grown tired of notions that pit women against men.  Again.

And please remember I have been in financial services for over 26 years and I have navigated my way through the boys club of yester-years.  I know very well the environment I am speaking of.  I have also seen the tides start to turn in the waters where I spent years travelling up stream.  I have seen my small voice be joined by the voices of many and for that I am thankful.

I have grown tired of the old assumptions where the husband takes care of the finances and the wife just goes along.  Does this happen?  Yes of course.  But it goes the other way too.  It’s good for both spouses to know their finances, but one usually takes the lead, and I certainly wouldn’t assume it is the husband.  I may professionally see more clients where the wife takes the lead rather than the husband, but we must consider this may also be because I am a female financial planner.  It’s indeed possible.  There are many layers to this topic.

Some of my sharpest, brightest clients are women.  These are beautiful fierce human beings who take charge of their lives, their finances and in many cases their businesses.  They are some of the most financially savvy investors completely in tune with what is going on in their financial world.  Any woman can become her own powerhouse and take charge of her own financial planning needs.

Yet, in a recent survey published by New York Life Investments a shocking 40% of women surveyed felt financial professionals still treat women differently.  Seriously?

What’s good for the goose

In many of these cases what’s good for one gender is also good for the other. For example, in many surveys women indicate they would like to see less financial jargon being used and more teaching than telling from their advisor.  Which are both great points, but I would suggest that many men might appreciate this approach also.

Unique challenges

On the flip side there are some unique realities for women to contend with on the financial front which creates a definite validity for some discussion around financial planning for women.  The following points from TDAM Women and Investors 2018 and IPC Private Weath: Women and Wealth – Financial Confidences comes with finding the right advice 2018 help to illustrate.  It’s important to note these are indeed averages to their research but they are something to take stock of.

  • Women on average have more intermittent work histories spending of average of 12 years out of the workforce caring for family in one way or another (children, sandwich generation, household)
  • There is an earnings gap on a couple of fronts, one has to do with a pay gap for full time work and the other has to do with increased chances a part time employee will be female
  • Women tend to have a longer life expectancy then men which means they need to plan for their financial resources to last longer
  • Due to life expectancy and other variables 90% of women will be required to play the role of sole decision maker at some point in their lifetime

I have so much to say on each of these topics. So very much.  I could just keep going.  Through my eyes, we’re just at the tip of the iceburg on this topic.  I could write a book.  Hmmm … maybe I should do just that.

Column appeared in the September 2019 edition of This Month In Elgin

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Stephanie Farrow, BA., CFP., Stephanie has over 26 years' experience in the financial services industry, a diploma in Financial Planning from the Canadian Institute of Financial Planning and Certified Financial Planner designation.  Stephanie has been writing a financial column for local business magazine Elgin This Month/This Month in Elgin since 2010.  Stephanie and her husband own Farrow Financial Services Inc.  About our Farrow Financial Team.

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