With March coming to a close, when we think about the month, we might conjure up images of melting snow, blooming flowers and hopefully a warmer sea breeze. And it is all of these things. But more important, it’s also a month that we celebrate the contribution of women to US history. It would be hard for me to imagine my life without all of the incredible women who have helped me along the way. I was raised by a strong, single mother who gave me the lifelong gifts of resilience and values, and the intestinal fortitude to never give up on your ambitions. I am married to a wonderful woman, Jill, who has stuck with me through thick and thin as we built a magnificent family and a wonderful business. And I am blessed with three wonderful daughters, Maeve, Phoebe, and Sophie, who keep me open to new possibilities and make sure I stay humble. So this week I’d like to dedicate this column to all of the strong and caring women in our lives, and share my thoughts on their unique offerings and the challenges they face.
As many of you who know me have probably learned, I work alongside one of the brightest and most thoughtful financial advisors I know, Jen Farrington. Our profession has long been a male-dominated field, with women still only making up 15-20 percent of financial advisors. Jen’s invaluable insight and contribution to our business clearly show this number is far too low.
Women clearly play a role of growing importance in the financial world, both on the home front and in the business world. In fact, women now control two-thirds of the household consumer spending nationally. They hold 40 percent of the wealth globally and account for nearly 40 percent of entrepreneurs. They also make up 49 percent of the primary breadwinners in US households.
And while women continue to become a bigger force in business and the economy, they still lag in critical areas. The average retirement account value of women trails those of men by 30-40 percent. In the business world, women still find it more difficult to find money for entrepreneurial endeavors. Studies show they are 30 percent less likely to have good access to entrepreneurial funding. Women also primarily remain the primary caregivers at home. In fact, women are eight times more likely to stay home with a sick child than their male counterparts. In addition, women are far more likely to switch to or seek out jobs that allow for greater childcare flexibility. These often come at the cost of lower pay.
Earlier this month Jen and I sat down and discussed how we could better serve women seeking our help. Beyond our personal interactions, we also looked at recent studies about what women look for in financial advice. Not surprisingly, we found they want what any financially successful person seeks. They look for good performance and comprehensive planning. They want to be encouraged to comfortably share their financial goals and thoughts without fearing ridicule. Like men, they feel a need for better financial literacy and the confidence that comes with it. And most importantly, they need better communication from their advisors.
Broadly “marketing” to or for women is not necessarily the best answer. We find our female clients to be incredibly diverse in everything from investment goals to risk tolerance. One-size-fits-all planning would be too simplistic and complacent.
We do see some different traits in how women approach financial planning vs men, too. Both Jen and I find that women often bring a more humanistic approach to financial planning. They are far more likely to tie their financial success to serving broader life goals rather than being entirely focused on market return. Women’s financial goals often include being of service to others and involve bettering their surrounding community.
Thinking about women and financial planning is not exclusive to single women, either. Numerous studies have shown that finance and money issues can be a large source of stress for married or committed partners. Financially successful couples usually possess a strong ability to collaborate and communicate. In a survey of Millennial couples, fintech firm Honeyfi found that couples who have specific goals and consistently save for them are happier, fight less and feel more secure. Even when couples split financial responsibilities, they sometimes failed to communicate what each was doing.
I have been in the business a long time and cannot deny women still face obstacles in financial planning, both as clients and professionals. I also have a lifetime of personal experience and relationships that prove women deserve equal footing and a bigger voice at the table. And naturally I want my daughters to have every opportunity to follow their own financial dreams. So while you’re enjoying the simple pleasures that Mother Nature brings us as we dive into Spring, be sure to appreciate the women in your life too. I know I do!
And as always—be vigilant and stay alert, because you deserve more.
Have a great week.
Jeff Cutter, CPA/PFS is president of Cutter Financial Group, LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor with offices in Falmouth, Duxbury, Mansfield. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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