Retirement-age women represent an attractive demographic to advisors—they live longer than men, and inherit often sizeable pots of wealth. But targeting retirement-age women comes with a unique set of challenges, says Kimberly Foss, president and founder of Empyrion Wealth Management in Roseville, Calif.
Foss, who has run her own practice for the past 21 years, manages $200 million in assets for 85 pre- and post-retirees, knows what she’s talking about: Around half of her clientele is made up of “suddenly single” women, either by death or divorce, who are also suddenly wealthy and frequently have little idea what to do about it. Here are five tips for working with retirement-age women.
1. When you’re meeting with couples, be responsive to the wives’ concerns. After all, she’ll typically live five to seven years longer. She’s typically spent a decade or more out of the workforce childrearing and will anticipate a lower earning potential should she have to return to work. As a result, her primary concerns are often stability of income from assets, safety of investments and consistency of returns, all common factors to those concerned about longevity risk.
2. Be appreciative of the demands of their everyday duties. I have to be CEO of my office, then CEO at home, making sure my kids are fed and the bills are paid. Men tend to be CEOs at work but then they come home to a wife. If an advisor said that to me, I’d melt in his arms. Male advisors tend to focus on investment quality, but it’s important to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
3. Widowed clients especially were normally so reliant on their husband’s opinion that they don’t trust themselves to make a decision or question an investment. Instead, prepare women clients to ask questions because they typically feel afraid, incompetent or intimidated by a man. When I explain the basic concept of an IRA, it’s a bowl in which you put your flour, eggs and water; when you mix it together, it’s a beautiful cake, and that’s your portfolio. Speak like that and they get it.
4. Instill in your female clients that when they make a decision, it’s a good one. They’ll have buyer’s remorse when the value of the investment inevitably dips from time to time, so give them the confidence upfront to believe they made the right choice.
5. If a woman client’s investment has gone down, don’t break out the numbers, reassure her that her portfolio actually relies on the fact that some investments go down, because you’ve hedged those positions with investments that go up when they do. Foss likens portfolio volatility to parenthood—you get some great years, but then the kid hits its teens there’s going to be trouble. Ultimately, though, the rewards of childrearing outweigh the sacrifices. After you’ve framed the concept, now’s the time to break out the numbers to show the client what’s happening now.
Generally speaking, female clients new to independent wealth need more handholding than their male counterparts because they’re more used to discussing options than they are making decisions. Advisors who understand their need for a softer sell will reap the benefits, Foss says. “Empathy is really what we’re talking about here,” she says.