Women’s Financial Confidence

Two recent stories got me thinking (again) about women’s financial influence – one of my favorite topics. 

Christiana Cefalu’s July article on Female Insecurity, Female Strength talked about the gap (at all income levels) between a woman’s financial goals and her belief that she can reach them. And this month’s story by Barb Berggoetz’ entitled Older Women More Generous in Charity Donations shared what we may have already known about women giving more than men.

So do we assume that women are confident in their giving, but not in the rest of their wealth management? As we heard in the Princess Bride, inconceivable!

Women have significant experience with money. We make 85% of spending decisions, including as primary consumers of electronics and cars. Women make most of the charitable giving decisions. And with women owning 51% of equities and 60% of personal wealth in the U.S., we also make most investing decisions.

As Marya Stark, expert on women, investing and governance, describes it: women want a revolution… in financial services. “Studies show that women are not satisfied with current offerings for managing their wealth. 70% … [want] a more female-centric approach … 84% feel misunderstood by investment marketers. Considering that 75% of the nation’s wealth is controlled by women over age 50, this seems … dumb.”

For women, these are not separate pots of money – they’re integrated decisions that bring our values into wealth. So is it that we don’t understand others’ descriptions of financial goals and investments, or that others don’t understand our goals?

Thanks to the Boston Consulting and Fidelity studies, we know is that women do not receive the services we seek from financial advisors. Could this have something to do with our “lack of confidence”?

Good advice should be gender neutral. Men play an absolutely critical role in educating women about financial options. But women really do want information in a different kind of way.

A number of large wealth management firms have talented advisors trying to shine the light on the interests of women clients. I’ve had the pleasure of working with professionals from US Trust, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, JP Morgan, BNY Mellon, and many others. For those who’ve created Bay Area programs such as the Smart Women Series and Women’s Intelligence Trust, they’ve been a result of the initiative of a single advisor, not the larger firm. Could this have something to do with a largely male-dominated field? The two programs I mention were created by female advisors. A coincidence?

There are a number of online communities that focus on financial literacy for women. GoGirl Finance and LearnVest offer multifaceted platforms. Some of the big firms are making important contributions, such as Beyond Today by Wells Fargo and Women & Co. by Citibank. Special kudos to LPL Financial for launching NestWise, focused on financial well-being for women who are not high net worth (but may want to be).

At Catalytic Women, we see and hear from lots of women – and their financial advisors. What we know is that women want a different experience in engaging around their wealth. There’s no more powerful connection than face-to-face, where we can get to know others who share our interests and perspective.

What are you doing to create experiences focused on women? We’ve got some ideas…


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