When Sally Krawchuk was an executive at Merrill Lynch, she raised the need for the "thundering herd" of the firm's financial advisors to ensure that discussions with clients meant not just ones with the husbands, but the wives as well.To drive her point home, she pointed out that when male clients died, the firm loses about 50% of those assets when the wife decides that the advisor was only talking to, and focusing on, her husband and decides to find an advisor who finally listens to her and her needs and objectives.Sally left Merrill Lynch and now runs a firm that focuses on the growth of professional women, called Ellevate . We've also seen many female financial advisors leave the old model of focusing on the average affluent client — the 60-year-old male — to focus on the needs of those like them: women who haven't received the respect or focus of their male counterparts.
But is it just a case of lack of respect and focus for female clients that has been the issue, or are there really differences in the financial needs that women have that's significantly different from those of men?Marcia Mantell, author of " What's the Deal with Retirement Planning for Women? " believes that not only do women have different financial planning needs, but they require an approach to that planning process that's significantly different from men.Marcia points out in her book the reality "that 90% of women will be solely responsible for managing finances on their own at some point in their lives."When you add in divorce and the likelihood of outliving a spouse, it becomes very clear that avoiding a direct discussion with the wife could be the "kiss of death" for the financial advisor's ability to maintain and retain those assets when the husband passes on.However, Marcia believes that this not only points out the need for the advisor to think differently, but it requires that the wife think differently as well. Many wives have fallen into the trap of allowing their husband to control and maintain the relationship with their financial advisor. Marcia says that "women are completely comfortable talking about many 'M-word' topics: their marriages, motherhood and their mothers, merlots and martinis, mammograms and menopause. But bring up money and the conversations screech to a halt. Ask how prepared a woman is for retirement and she can tell you the exact date when she wants to retire, but not how much money she'll need for a 30-year retirement."She feels that this has to change. The realities of living longer, and potentially on their own in retirement, requires that women take a much more proactive approach to planning for their retirement. This includes not only being more active with their financial advisor, but also playing a role in how financial accounts are structured, addressing their credit history and credit score, and creating a "freedom fund."Marcia believes that women have to pay more attention to their financial plans and needs than perhaps they have in the past. She points out some easy ways in which women can do this in her book, while also reminding them of the reasons why it's so necessary.Whether financial advisors will pay particular attention to the financial planning needs of women will be up to them. But the success of their practice may depend upon their ability to do so.