How to help young women clients

May 7, 2012 | Last updated on May 7, 2012
4 min read

Women are the driving force behind current household economics and are making up more of the workforce than ever before.

The number of women working has grown by 16% since 1970, and more are attending university and scoring higher-paying jobs.

Therefore, young women will soon constitute more of your book.

Donna Worthington, CFP and EPC at Investment Planning Counsel in Edmonton, says women control 80-to-85 cents of every dollar coming into the home. However, they’re still not being targeted as clients.

Read: Women are Canada’s household CFOs

In part, that’s because they face challenges beyond their control. The Conference Board of Canada finds women earn $0.79 on the dollar compared to men. Anne Hammond, financial advisor at Rogers Group Financial in Vancouver, adds women often take time off to care for dependants. It can take several years to recover lost benefit and pension contributions after taking time off for children, she says.

“Women generally live longer than men and historically, have had a lower risk tolerance,” says Hammond. “As clients, they have less time to save and more retirement years to plan for.”

Hammond says Gen-Y females will have an even harder time. These prospects have entered a workforce characterized by waning retirement support and a lack of quality employment opportunities. Despite this setback, Hammond says young women “can’t afford to be overly conservative when it comes to financial planning.”

Since financial literacy isn’t widely taught in schools, volatility and negative headlines are more likely to affect young people’s decisions. Hammond says, “They’re skeptical about making money in the markets, and are inclined to invest more conservatively than their age and investment time horizon suggest they should.”

While she encourages clients to stick to their risk tolerance levels, she’s found if she educates them about investment types, how they work, tradeoffs, and the long-term impact of inflation, they’re better at defining their tolerances – and often willing to take more risks.

Laurianne Osmak, CLU, CHS at Rudichuk Agencies Ltd. in Wakaw, Sask., says clients should first decide on financial goals that align with their personal goals. Specifically, “after the client has shared their goals and concerns, I help them determine their top concerns and prioritize them.”

Once they have specific goals, a direction and basic plan, clients can then make a comprehensive plan, which considers life changes that will occur between your 20s and 60s. These can include onset of a sudden illness or job loss, as well as more general changes like buying a home, getting married, or getting a divorce.

Planning for partners

Worthington urges women to get involved in planning early and to save 10%-to-20% of their income for themselves. Less than 40% of people celebrate 30 years of marriage and the average age of female widows is 56.

As a result, young women must tread carefully when considering their finances in relation to a significant other. Discussion with partners is key, and advisors should suggest young women wall off assets and funds when they enter into any serious relationship.

Young women should fully control their assets, says Gina Scola, CFP, CIM and managing director for Stonegate Private Counsel in Toronto. She and her husband have a joint account for shared funds, but maintain separate accounts for their personal funds. She urges women to “respect the hard work it took to save their money. Don’t put it at risk.”

If women get an inheritance, they should hold onto it, rather than using it to pay off a partner’s loans or a joint mortgage. If the marriage collapses, clients will potentially be left with nothing.

The same goes for buying a house as a couple. Scola suggests that unmarried women sign a tenants-in-common agreement to ensure the portion of the house they own go to them or their families in case of relationship breakdown.

Scola adds, “Before it’s necessary by law, young clients shouldn’t join assets or bank accounts. Advisors should instruct them to protect their money and have control over their assets to ensure they always have a secure future.”

Hammond further suggests women sit down with their partners and discuss their approach to money, plans for the future, and how they want the family finances to work. Young people often neglect to do this, leading to relationship conflict.

In addition, talk about what’ll happen if things go sour. “Legal documents—wills, powers of attorney—need to be up-to-date, and while cohabitation or marriage agreements aren’t romantic, they protect both parties.”

Read: Love and marriage (and money)

Connecting with young women clients

Young potential clients most often find an advisor through friends and contacts between the ages of 25 and 30, says Osmak. Her clients are great brand ambassadors who connect her with people they know from volunteer groups and workplaces. She’s also found clients through organizations like the Saskatoon Women’s Network.

Female clients will evaluate you based on how well they bond with you and what services you offer.

Read: What kind of planner are you?

And while some advisors aren’t able to help young clients, Scola says they could be valuable clients in the future.

Read: Advisors bypass small households

Advisors can help by providing lists of educational resources in lieu of taking them on as clients. Urge them to look at their cash flow and current financial picture, and “suggest they read [personal finance magazines], check out online tools and even enroll in a [personal finance] course,” Scola says. This will build loyalty, and help them reach your minimum asset level – at which time you can take them on.