Women are not a niche market as far as planning goes, and advisors should actively seek to develop and improve relationships with them, according to panelists at a recent Pershing presentation.

Females control roughly two-thirds of annual spending in the U.S., amounting to about $12 trillion, and 80% of women will be solely responsible for household financial decisions at some point in their lives, the panelists said, citing findings from a recent Sullivan Trust Study. Pershing unveiled a new guidebook “Women Are Not a ‘Niche’ Market. They Are a Significant Business Opportunity,” at the event.

Spending by women is likely to continue on an upward trajectory, considering that women comprise two-thirds of the working population, and are expected to dominate the legal and medical professions in 25 years, according to Pershing.

“Advisors should focus on the needs of women,” Kim Dellarocca, head of practice management at Pershing, said during the presentation. “Women who are single, professional and the breadwinners of the family have a need for wealth management and financial advice.”

Despite their educational and professional strides, women are less satisfied than men with the performance of their investment professionals. About 46% of women said their advisors focused on “making me a smarter investor,” compared with 60% of men. Although a majority of women, 57%, said their advisors “clearly articulate downside risks of investments,” they still lagged the percentage of men, 66%, who said the same. 


Also, an overwhelming 92% of women retirees have not done the financial planning necessary to live comfortably for their full life spans, Pershing found. About 70% of widowed women stop working with their financial advisors shortly after the death of their spouses.

“Women will leave an advisor of there is no trust in that relationship,” Dellarocca, says.

Financial advisors, regardless of gender, can change that dynamic by communicating differently with women. Mind the body language, like the pats on the back associated with male camaraderie, Dellarocca says. Set up follow-up meetings with the family, especially considering that women tend to be very concerned about their family’s well being. 

Advisors don’t have to do all of the heavy lifting, and women can take four simple steps to master their financial situations, according to Susan L. Hirshman, president of SHE Ltd., a consulting firm specializing in increasing women’s financial literacy. Hirshman, who also spoke at the Pershing event, is also author of “Does This Make My Assets Look Fat?”

Women should assess their present situations, identify goals for the future, ask themselves what the plan is to meet those goals and understand how they are doing.

“This is about education and not leaving [their] future up to chance,” Dellarocca says.

Donna Mitchell writes for Financial Planning.