MONEY matters

Mark Zaifman's thoughts on money, global economic trends and politics

Financially Empowering Women, The Journey Continues

Mark Zaifman   |    Sat, Nov 03, 2012 @ 10:27 AM

financially empowering women

If you’re a baby boomer, you most likely grew up with the notion that men are born with a natural ability to be good at managing money and investing.

Fast forward to 2012, and that notion has been turned on its head. Not only are women becoming the primary breadwinners in many households, but women are becoming financially empowered as well.  More often than not, women are the ones managing a family’s personal finances and very often actively involved and making the major decisions around investing.

What a change a few decades can make on the perceptions and realities of the role money plays in people’s lives, especially women’s lives. And what a welcome change it is.

Yet even with all the change that has and will continue to occur, much still needs to be done to assure that women feel like they have the tools and knowledge necessary to make smart financial decisions. For far too long, the financial services industry has treated women as second class citizens. “Don’t worry your pretty little head, Mrs. Smith”, we’ll take care of everything, just sign here and here”. That common refrain left over from the Mad Men era was still the prevalent theme running through the financial services industry up until just recently.

So what’s changed to make this old boy’s club wake up and pay attention to women? You guessed it - money, and lots of it. Women now control more money than men in terms of investable assets. That alone is a big change. In addition, women are finding their voices and are not willing to be patronized or treated as idiots that don’t know anything about money.

As a result, you have classes, workshops, seminars, coaches, trainers, consultants; basically a cottage industry has emerged teaching male financial advisors how to talk with women clients. I’m not kidding, there’s not a month that goes by where I’m not receiving an unsolicited email, sales call or brochure in the mail touting the latest ‘strategies’ or ‘techniques’ on how best to talk and connect with women in order to attract them as clients. Crazy stuff if you ask me.

Leveling the Playing Field for Women Since 2003

Perhaps growing up with two older sisters allowed me to gain an advantage when it comes to working with women? Or maybe my prankster prone sisters taught me the ‘secret’ language of how to connect with women when I was little and I don’t even know it?  But seriously, I discovered early on in my practice that women were going to make up the core of my financial planning practice.

It was a little over ten years ago when I held my first series of workshops at the Integrative Medical Center in Santa Rosa. This medical practice, run by Dr. Bob Dozor, MD, is devoted to practicing holistically, with MD’s, Naturopaths, Acupuncturists, Psychotherapists and Chiropractors all working in harmony with each other. A better place to offer a series on ‘Financial Wellness’, I could not find.

As it turned out, over the course of three financial wellness workshops, close to 70% of those that attended were women. Aha! So holistic based financial planning with an emphasis on education and empowerment was more appealing to women than it was to men.

Fast forward again to right now and guess what? Close to 70% of my clients are women. Many are boomer women that have built highly successful businesses, some are recently divorced, some have sadly lost their life partners too early, others are single moms and quite a few are just getting their careers launched and are seeking financial guidance.

Paying it Forward

One of my favorite clients decided last year that she didn’t want to continue working with the financial advisor her husband enjoys working with, as she felt him to condescending. She also wanted her money aligned with her values, and that was not happening.

Although that caused some initial conflict for them as a couple, once we transferred her accounts over to Schwab, and she started doing the homework I gave her to increase her financial intelligence, we were off to the races. Together we designed an investment strategy that aligned her money with her core values, even choosing a Pax mutual fund called The Pax World Global Women’s Equality Fund as part of her portfolio.

From there, she wanted her two daughters, both in their twenties, involved so they could see how their Mom was handling this as well as being a role model for them. Talk about paying it forward…this is beautiful stuff.

Overall, in my ten plus years of working with women I’ve learned this golden rule; When women like someone, they will tell just about everyone they know.

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