Better ways to work with retired women

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A simple perusal of statistics will tell advisors they should expect their retired women clients to live longer than men. According to reports issued by the U.S. Census, put together with statistics from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics and National Vital Statistics Reports, an average woman in her 70s has 16 more years of life remaining and an average man, 13.7 years.

Given those differences in lifespan, advisors need to make sure their female retiree clients understand how to assess their well-placed concerns about longevity and outliving income-producing assets and then balance that against their tolerance for risk.


In doing so, advisors “have to make sure they are not just feeding them the answers,” says Lynn McIntire, principal of Cadent Capital in Dallas, an independent affiliate of Raymond James Financial Services. But rather, letting the clients make those assessments and scale back on expenses if that appeals to them more than taking on more risk in their investments.

Sheryl Rowling, the founder of Rowling & Associates in San Diego, says in her experience, retired women often share a greater fear of running out of money. But advisors should recognize if and when those fears are unfounded and help give clients a more realistic understanding of their situation.

What's more McIntire says, advisors often find themselves working with retired women clients who have been widowed after years of meeting with them as part of a couple. Based on her experiences, McIntire warns other advisors, “Don’t just take ‘Yes’ as their answer.” Rather, she says, advisors should go through each step of what plans they are proposing for income and expect the women to understand “multiple, complex concepts.”


Similarly, Lynn Ferraina, a partner at Ciccarelli Advisory Services in Naples, Fla., warns that dated stereotypes about retired women failing to understand retirement income calculations require shattering.

“I’m not sure I change my approach very much,” whether she is talking to a retired male or female client, Ferraina says. Any imbalance between the genders’ knowledge about retirement income stops with the generation that now is aged in their 70s, Ferraina says.

When a woman client older than that, who may have had little experience with finances during her life, does need more assistance, Ferraina says, she often invites an adult child to participate in sessions to help her explain the retirement-income decisions to their mother. But Ferraina says:

“Most women from 55 to 70 are pretty in tune with finances.”
This, too, is part of what McIntire likes working with retired women clients. “I find they can be incredibly financially savvy if they are they given the opportunity,” she says.

Miriam Rozen, a Financial Planning contributing writer, is a staff reporter at Texas Lawyer in Dallas.

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