Enlisting a financial advisor for investing and retirement planning is only the first step in securing your financial future as a couple. Staying engaged in the planning and execution is as essential as it is tedious, and like most tasks in a relationship, one party may take the lead. But this could be a mistake for women as well as advisors, who see 70% of their female clients leave for new advisors after their spouses die or after they divorce.
Financial advisors typically focus their attention on the “man of the house” – the husband – when dishing out financial advise to married clients. That's no great sin, as men have traditionally taken the lead in family finances. But times are changing and more should be done to ensure wives are engaged in decision-making and up-to-date on plans. (For related reading, see: How Financial Advisors Mistreat Women - And What Women Can Do About It)
Married financial advisor clients – both male and female – would be best served by making sure retirement planning is a team effort. That means both spouses are present for meetings or are included in all communications and correspondence. In turn, advisors can help their clients – as well as their client roster – by reaching out to wives. That could be as simple as making contact with these women during conversations with their husbands.
Helping "Women in Transition"
Some advisors have taken the concept one step further; refusing to work with a couple unless both spouses take part in the discussion. That stipulation isn't as drastic as it sounds; women are increasingly becoming their family's primary financial decision-maker and most report little preference in the gender of their advisor. If that’s not enough reason to include women in the conversation this key statistic might be: about 80% of women die single, with age 59 being the median age at which women become widows. (For related reading, see: What Women Want From A Financial Advisor)
There are other ways that advisers can also be of service to women in transition. Unsurprisingly, surviving spouses often find themselves having to navigate emotionally difficult terrain once they are on their own. An adviser may want to provide a list of professionals from other fields who could help these women during this difficult time. For instance they may want to suggest a mental health professional who has expertise in helping people going through a divorce or loss of a spouse.
At such a time, advisors should mind the numbers but not focus on them entirely. Clients tend to feel overwhelmed right after they lose a husband. Advisors should give their clients a chance to talk but should be direct in helping them take the small steps they need to get back on track.
The Bottom Line
Married women need to be engaged in their retirement planning, as they're likely to be single later in life due to divorce or the death of a spouse. Similarly, advisors need to do more to ensure female clients are engaged and informed – for their clients' benefit and the benefit of their own businesses.