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The Biggest Concerns of Affluent Women
Thursday, October 18, 2012
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Affluent women live complicated, busy, and stressful lives. They are major economic players and will continue to be in the coming decades. These women are changing the landscape at work and at home. They are inheritors, wealth creators, and often both. They represent a challenge for traditional, transaction-oriented financial advisors and are now speaking up more than ever about their dissatisfaction with how the financial industry perceives them.

While affluent women present a unique challenge to you as the advisor, they also represent a big opportunity as well. Over the next several decades women will inherit approximately $28.7 trillion in assets as a result of intergenerational wealth transfers.[1] Others will accumulate wealth through their own professional and business accomplishments. In fact, women-owned businesses are growing at twice the national rate and account for 40 percent of privately held entities.[2] Women also make approximately 80 percent of family household buying decisions, including those related to banking and financial services.[3]

One of the best ways to connect with your female clients is to try and understand what keeps her up at night. Let’s take a brief look at some of the most common apprehensions.

Healthcare Costs

One of the top concerns for affluent women are healthcare costs. According to a Merrill Lynch Affluent Insights Quarterly Report, 40 percent of the affluent women worried about healthcare expenses, second only to concerns related to maintaining their families’ standard of living.[4] Women make 60 percent of all visits to the doctor, spend two out of three healthcare dollars, and in wealthy homes make 48 percent of the household healthcare decisions.[5] It is no wonder why they are preoccupied with healthcare expenses.

There are no easy solutions since even Congress cannot come to a consensus about how to fix our healthcare system. Some women of wealth are choosing to hire concierge doctors to care for their families’ healthcare concerns. While this helps ease their anxieties, it is a costly option and only accessible to some affluent women.

Your female clients need assistance in reviewing and selecting healthcare plans, planning for and managing the increasing expenses related to their health, and coming up with solutions to alleviate their fears. Being a resource for information on this topic and having referrals to concierge physicians in your area is important. Work to develop plans for mitigating this risk for them and their families. Validate them on how difficult this part of their financial life is, even if there are no good solutions, because having someone to discuss these concerns with is of great value.

Retirement Planning

According to a 2009 report, “The Impact of Retirement Risk on Women,” women tend to be preoccupied with immediate life concerns and fail to look ahead at retirement. The survey found that 63 percent of women are anxious about retirement, compared to only 52 percent of men.[6] Although you may believe that women with adequate financial resources are free from this concern, they are not.

Affluent women realize they are likely to live longer than their male partners and understand that this could be a real financial concern. They often react to this information in one of two ways: they hyperfocus on retirement planning and possibly miss out on some of life’s current pleasures or they put their head in the sand and decide they will worry about it later. Either coping strategy is not ideal. Your job is to help your female clients plan for the uncertain future by asking how they feel about retirement and what they envision for themselves, and by helping them take steps today to plan for tomorrow.

It is important to remember that women tend to be more emotional when it comes to retirement, and many female clients fear ending up destitute in their old age. Don’t make the mistake of assuring a woman that she has enough assets to live on, yet neglect to explore the feelings she has about retirement. This will result in her feeling unheard. Instead, find out more about her underlying concerns by asking many open-ended questions. Coach her on ways that this anxiety is helpful, that is, how it motivates her to save more for the future. Also talk about how it is unhelpful— for example, how it raises her blood pressure. Often she needs a neutral party to talk about these fears and to develop a plan for addressing them from both a financial and an emotional standpoint.

Raising Affluent Children

(4) Comments
Carol H.,

It sounds like you are a great advisor as you truly meet your clients where they are and don't make assumptions.

I also agree that the behavioral research to date indicates that women are better longer term investors than men as they don't chase market returns and stick to a long term strategy more than their male counterparts.

What I disagree with is that advisors know what to do to effectively attract and retain affluent female clients, individually and in couples. I am not sure if you are male or female, as your name can be either but I do know that for many of the male advisors I speak with having a window into the affluent women's world is useful.

I am glad you are not one of those advisors as women need more professionals like you.

Kathleen Burns Kingsbury Author, How to Give Financial Advice to Women

Posted by Kathleen B | Thursday, November 08 2012 at 10:11AM ET
Nice well written post. I would like to say here is that health care and retirement planning issues are the concerns of both men and women alike although according to your post the percentage varies.
Posted by Jim P | Saturday, December 01 2012 at 1:26PM ET
After all womens are women they are the best managers managing home economy to nations economy now everything belongs to there hand great to be a women especially a working women who play a key factor in economy.
Posted by jane g | Friday, April 26 2013 at 7:10AM ET
This article captures the deep rooted fears of many a female.Whether voiced or not, women are always afraid of money running out and ending up destitute. This is also coupled with the fear of children not being financially literate and financially responsible. Again, it would be better not to have a pre conceived notion, that this is the way all women think. However it is a good indicator and one which an advisor should bear in mind while dealing with female clients.
Posted by tasha123 s | Sunday, October 27 2013 at 1:41PM ET
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