Women are the new face of wealth in the U.S. According to Financial Advisors magazine, they control more than half of the country’s personal wealth — an estimated $22 trillion.
That number is poised to grow exponentially in the coming years and decades as women create additional wealth through entrepreneurship, careers, inheritance, divorce and other life circumstances.
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New Perspective Needed on Women and Wealth
Despite women’s prominent and rising role in wealth control and creation, much of the advice, strategies and culture of wealth management and financial planning remains focused on men.
Unsurprisingly, women aren’t men. And therefore, they require — and should demand — different investment guidance and wealth management strategies that cater to their specific needs and desires.
A Woman’s Approach
As a group, women approach their finances differently than men. A few key differences include:
• Communication and advice: Many surveys find that women’s self-confidence in their financial decision-making to be far lower than men’s. As a result, they generally appreciate greater communication and advice regarding how they manage their wealth. Indeed, affluent women are more likely to work with a financial advisor or wealth planner to manage their assets and achieve life goals.
• Risk tolerance: Women often are more risk averse than their male counterparts. With a lower risk tolerance, they tend to prioritize wealth and asset protection over generating the highest return possible.
• Wealth transfer and philanthropy: Women put a greater focus on generational wealth transfer with an emphasis on philanthropic efforts. They want to ensure their wealth makes a difference not only for future familial generations but on a larger, societal scale, as well.
As more women build and gain wealth, these distinctions likely will come into sharper focus and play a role in how wealth managers and financial advisors address their needs.
Best Practices for Successful Wealth Management
Whether they are already following a wealth management plan or not, adopting sound strategies helps women take control of their newfound wealth and ultimately achieve their financial goals.
• Be proactive: Women who anticipate a financial windfall due to a looming life transition — retirement, business sale, inheritance, etc. — should explore the potential impacts of these significant changes before they happen. Going through a divorce? Seek out experts to understand the implications of that life change and any financial settlement or gains that will come from it. Considering the sale of a business? Take time before inking a deal to evaluate what it will mean for you and your loved ones. In other words, prepare before you absolutely must.
• Seek tailored advice: Although as a group women’s approach to wealth and investments differs from men, that doesn’t mean every woman is exactly alike nor should they adhere to cookie-cutter advice. Everyone’s situation is unique and requires customized advice and strategies tailored to their circumstances. Women should seek out trusted advisors and wealth planners who will take their personal situation into account when offering advice.
• Some risk is necessary: To maintain and build wealth, some risk is necessary. There is a risk in not taking some risk. Inflation eats more and more of a dollar’s purchasing power as the years pass, which means at the very least it’s critical to invest and manage wealth in such a way to stay ahead of inflation with a breakeven point between stable assets like bonds and more volatile ones like stocks. It’s also imperative to establish a risk basement that sets a certain percentage one is willing to accept for investments to decrease without making any changes.
Own the Process
In the coming years and decades, more women will come into wealth. They will face numerous decisions and life changes related to how best to invest and manage it. For these newly minted wealthy women, owning the process is critical. In other words, taking necessary action is imperative. Women mustn’t allow a lack of knowledge or confidence to deter them or put off important decisions. Instead, they must be proactive with planning, become their own advocate and surround themselves with a strong team of financial and wealth experts to create and execute a plan that meets their goals.
Kris Yamano is a vice president and market leader, and Louise Goudy is a senior portfolio manager at BMO Wealth Management in Scottsdale.