Partner Patti Black, CFP® was interviewed in the Birmingham Business Journal’s Table of Experts: Women in Finance. The full version can be found here: BBJ Table of Experts Women in Finance. The following is an excerpt.
BBJ: What are some of the unique considerations for women when it comes to planning their financial future?
Black: Women are busy. We wear so many hats: wife, mother, professional, caretaker, volunteer, and sometimes Uber driver and personal chef for non-paying fussy customers. We don’t feel like we have time to go to the bathroom, much less look at our personal financial goals and whether we are on track to accomplish them. But when women do stop and focus on their financial lives, we are great clients. Women understand that money has a purpose, and that purpose is not just to accumulate more of it. We want to make sure our money and our values are in alignment. For example, we value financial independence and want to make sure we have enough money to avoid our top fear of becoming a bag lady.
BBJ: What are some of the top challenges and opportunities facing the financial planning and wealth management world? What do they mean for clients and customers?
Black: So much information and research are now available online that technology is commoditizing basic investment advice. As a result, clients should expect more out of their financial advisor than recommending ABC mutual fund or XYZ exchange traded fund. Clients should expect a discussion of their goals and values, as this information is the building block of the financial plan, which outlines where you want to go. Do you want to change careers to reduce stress? Help to pay for your grandchildren’s education? Retire early to have more time to volunteer? Once you know where you are going, an investment plan can be designed to help you get there. Progress should then be measured by whether you are on track to meet your goals, not just how your investment accounts performed.
BBJ: How do men and women approach wealth management and financial planning differently?
Black: Women are willing to ask questions when they don’t understand. Men may think they are supposed to know the answer already and don’t want to risk the embarrassment of asking a dumb question. Of course, the only dumb question is the one that is not asked. Women also have a greater desire for financial security. That desire may be reflected in having a large cash balance in their checking account for emergencies or having a larger bucket of money for retirement in order to have a greater likelihood that they won’t run out of money.
BBJ: What are some financial/retirement considerations for small business owners?
Black: The largest asset the small business owner may have is likely her business, so this asset needs special attention in the financial plan. The business owner and her advisor can work together to develop a Goldilocks scenario for the financial plan – reflecting a high value, a low value, and a just-right value for the business – in order to see how each one impacts the ability to meet goals. The results of these projections may drive the business owner to work harder to increase the value of the business so her likelihood of financial success increases, or gives her peace of mind that her hard work has paid off and she does not have to squeeze every penny out of the sale.
BBJ: How are the nation’s shifting demographics affecting the wealth management/financial planning industries?
Black: The greatest generation and the baby boomers have an opportunity to transfer both financial wealth and family stories and values to the next generation. For example, parents making annual exclusions gifts to their adult children have an opportunity to tell the story of how Mom went back to college and how that education opened doors for her to start a business. The adult children may not remember how little Mom slept during that time or how she had to dye her own hair during the early years of the business, but Mom does. She can remind them of all the years of hard work and saving that now allow her to make these gifts. And then encourage her adult children to use some of the money she is giving them to save for their children’s college fund, because of how important education was in her success.
BBJ: Women generally have a longer life expectancy than men. How does that affect their financial strategy?
Black: Because statistics show that women are likely to outlive their husbands and end up being the sole financial decision maker, it is important that women get involved in their family finances earlier in life. It is common for husbands to be the family’s Chief Family Officer. But women should participate in meetings with their husbands and the financial advisor and ask questions about whether they are on track to accomplish their financial goals: what they own and why; what debt they have; how much they are saving and whether they are saving enough. And if she feels the advisor is not really listening to her or taking her questions seriously, then find an advisor who will.
BBJ: A high percentage of the financial world is comprised of men. What does that mean for women as they search for advisors?
Black: The gender of the advisor matters less than the advisor’s willingness to listen and to educate about financial matters. The client needs to have confidence that the advice she is being given is in her best interest.
BBJ: I’m worried that I didn’t start saving for retirement early enough. How can I determine where I stand, and if necessary, get my financial plan back on track?
Black: You’re not alone if you feel this way, but just because you have plenty of company does not give you a pass to bury your head in the sand. Start by asking what retirement means to you. What would an ideal week in retirement look like? What are you most looking forward to? What are your biggest fears? What are your top goals you want to accomplish? Once you have visualized how you want to live in retirement, these pictures can help you set your goals to get there. Next, use a tool like Mint.com to give you clarity on where your money is going. Then ask whether your spending is in line with your values. Actions speak louder than words, so the way we spend our time and money speaks volumes about what we value.
BBJ: What do financial professional need to do better to attract women as clients?
Black: Advisors need to ask questions to get women thinking about what really matters. Questions like, what would you do if you had more time? If you had more money? What responsibility would you most like to give up? Then give them some time to think about those answers, preferably while eating some chocolate. These answers will be the first step in developing a very personal financial plan. Advisors should also work on their listening skills and be willing to spend time answering questions and educating women about financial matters.
BBJ: What are some of the questions I should ask when choosing a financial advisor to make sure they can meet my needs?
Black: Are you a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™? How are you compensated? What is your experience? What should I expect from this professional relationship? A good financial planner will help you better organize your finances, keep you accountable to your goals, offer an objective source of advice, educate you, and be a trusted partner on your journey to accomplish what is important. Women can also ask their estate attorney and CPA for recommendations of a financial advisor.
BBJ: What are some factors women should consider when building their retirement plan? Are there any particular considerations for women?
Black: It goes back to goals and values. Once women have a clear picture of what is important to them – financial independence, charitable gifts to give back to the community, travel to make memories with children and grandchildren – then it is easier to create and implement a plan to get there. Of course, the process won’t be easy, just easier. Because what comes easy won’t last, and what lasts won’t come easy.
This material is not intended to be relied upon as a forecast, research or investment advice, and is not a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investment strategy. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.