My mission, and my life's passion, is to enable people to know beyond a shadow of a doubt how good, how powerful, and how necessary to the world they are — and to help them create lives that thrill and fulfill them. Many of my clients are women. Over the nearly 20 years that I've been conducting workshops, giving speeches, writing books and providing coaching to help women design and live those thrilling, fulfilling lives, I've learned a lot about what moves them to action — and what keeps them focused.
Women instinctively know that it's vital to have the financial resources necessary to bring their dreams to life. I've learned that if a woman has a "dream" that's so good, so powerful and so tantalizing that she can taste it, then she'll be motivated to stay the course and make it happen.
As a financial professional, you're likely encountering more and more female clients. My goal, with this article and others to come, is to pass along some of the things I've learned over the years that should help you deepen your relationships with those clients.
Start by Asking the Right Question
You may have learned in your career that women, unlike men, aren't interested in amassing money for its own sake. Psychologists tell us that women are interested in what the money is for, what difference it will make, and what joy it will bring to others — or what it could change from bad to good, as a woman whom I coach puts it.
Financial and wealth advisor, Jeffrey Stoffer, wrote recently on dailyworth.com that "men tend to view money as a game, as a way to keep score...he who dies with the most toys wins." In the past, Jeff says he was driven by the "will it be enough?!" mindset. His fear and insecurity about money took over his life. He remembers going into a grocery store and agonizing over whether he should buy organic lettuce for $2.50 or non-organic for $1.50. "I'd stand there with my colon in a knot," he told me. "All to save a buck."
Interestingly, Jeff (whose clients consist of 40 percent women, 40 percent couples and 20 percent men) has actually adopted what he calls a "more feminine perspective" (i.e., "what joy will it bring?") in his practice. He says that perspective has enabled him to focus on what matters most in his own life as well as to serve others in a more powerful way. As a result, he says he makes more conscious choices and has more satisfaction with money, a greater appreciation for what he has, less stress, and more happiness.
In my book, In My Wildest Dreams: Living the Life You Long For, I challenged women to answer one of the most important questions they could ever ask themselves: "If absolutely anything were possible, what would I love to make happen in my life?" The book, and that question, struck a powerful chord not only with in general, but also with Oprah, who invited me to be on her show.
On the show, we asked audience members to consider "if absolutely anything were possible," and what that looked like in their own lives. One woman said she'd provide college educations for her grandchildren. Another envisioned buying a house in Tuscany where her whole family could come for vacations. Still another talked about starting a non-profit organization to help change the world.
These marvelous women let go of the constraints they'd put on themselves, got in touch with their "wildest dreams," and embraced an unshakeable determination to turn them into reality.
Asking your female clients to answer the question, "If absolutely anything were possible..." will focus their attention on the future: a future of their own design, where they, with your ongoing encouragement and positive reinforcement, can actually accomplish their wildest dreams.
Going Further in Understanding Female Clients
Wendy Brown, a financial advisor with Merrill Lynch, has a client base that is approximately 50 percent women. She offers related, and solid, advice for how advisors can connect with and inspire their female clients:
- Let them speak! Women connect better when they're allowed to voice their thoughts, fears...and dreams.
- Women want their concerns to be acknowledged, and they want to be spoken to with respect and compassion.
- Women prefer a collaborative approach. Some female clients have chosen to work with me over previous male advisors because the male advisor made them feel dumb and that their opinion was not important.
- Women need to be convinced that they should drop their old theories and beliefs that they are not good with, and don't know how to handle, money. Encourage them to take pride in the fact that they are embarking on the first step (teaming up with a financial advisor) toward becoming both knowledgeable and secure.
One more tip from Wendy that I particularly love: "Invite your female clients to monthly birthday lunches." Wendy invites her female clients who have birthdays in the same month to come together, share their investment and life experiences, support each other and celebrate what's going well in their lives. "They love it!" Wendy says.
In my work, I know that when women feel comfortable and at home with a situation or a person, they're much more likely to stick with them.
Don't Discount the Financial Acumen of Women
A friend of mine, Jeanie Knigin, a financial advisor with Morgan Stanley with a practice comprised mostly of women over 50 who are divorced or widowed, sent me some fascinating research from the Center for Talent Innovation (CTI). A key finding is that women have a high level of financial acumen. They're virtually as knowledgeable as men: 35 percent of women and 39 percent of men passed the CTI financial literary assessment. But only one in five women felt confident in their financial knowledge, whereas four in five men felt confident.
Clearly, helping women's "financial self-esteem" be commensurate with their "financial knowledge" is key to increasing their comfort with, and ongoing interest in, investing.
Jeanie also suggests that when you're meeting with women, it's important to begin with a conversation, not a sales pitch or a list of what they need to do. "Warm them up," she says. "Look around at the pictures on their desks, know about their children and other family members; know their dogs' names! Get involved!"
"In the end," she says, "advising women clients isn't as much transactional as it is personal." By the way, she adds, "This type of easy relationship works well with men, too."
- To inspire a female client to action and to persuade her to commit, encourage her to think about a powerful "wildest dream" that she's committed to bringing to life.
- Be mindful of how best to communicate and connect with women when talking about financial issues and investing. As we all know, they are wired differently and respond differently than men do.
- Work with your female clients to create a step-by-step financial plan. That means creating an actionable list of the "whats" and "by whens." These are the things that need to be done over the next weeks and months (or years) to deliver the dream on time and on budget.
In my next piece, I'll introduce you to a simple, compelling visual device to use with your female clients. Called "The Mountain Top," it will help them stay focused on their goals — and celebrate their ongoing progress.
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author, who is not affiliated with Hartford Funds. The information contained herein should not be construed as investment advice or a recommendation of any product or service nor should it be relied upon to, replace the advice of an investor's own professional legal, tax and financial advisors. Hartford Funds Distributors, LLC.
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