Advisors are like financial lighthouses. Their job is to not only illuminate the shore, but also to spot potential risks that lie ahead. With women set to manage 50% of Canada’s wealth by 2028¹, what can advisors do to help navigate the waters of uncertainty for their female clientele?
A female investor sitting across from you frankly declares that she would nearly rather abandon ship than select the high-risk investment you’ve just recommended. It’s not an uncommon confession: only a third of women seek high-risk investments as compared to over half of male investors².
What happened to cause 75% of women to drop anchor when they hear “high-risk”? Are the waters of risk any more treacherous for them because they deal with more unpaid work like household chores and child rearing, stranding them in uncertainty and insufficient information? Or maybe they’re reluctant to raise a hand to ask questions because we’re not giving them the opportunity to?
There seems to exist an unspoken institutional conditioning of women
that has resulted in leaving them on a deserted island of financial
indecision and avoidance. Years of being excluded from the financial
helm – including the retirement and estate planning conversations –
have contributed to disadvantages in comprehension related to
terminology and risk tolerance.
Women have historically had a distant relationship with their finances, particularly at home. This social construct in financial literacy has pushed them to make conservative investment decisions, leading them to lose out in higher future gains.
Some hard facts: in Canada, life expectancy for women is 83 years in
comparison to 79 years for men³. If men make most of the financial
decisions at home but women outlive their male counterparts, women are
not only inheriting wealth, but doing so with an overwhelming lack of
crucial context. This can expose them to serious risks like common
financial scams, leaving their wealth vulnerable.
Because more single women purchasing real estate alone than ever before, more marriages ending in divorce, and differences in life expectancy, the traditional role of men as financial purveyors is changing quickly.
The female investor tends to approach financial risk cautiously. She will opt more for a critical assessment of the what-if’s and what-about’s of a solution.
The presumption that women are generally risk averse stands to be challenged. How many of them are entrepreneurs and have started their own business? How many own properties internationally? How many have kids?!
Access to data and credible research is a contributing factor to
these investors’ risk profile. Advisors need to be able to prove,
using long-standing evidence, that solutions meet their financial
goals. If they can find the strength and confidence to launch an
online retail store, start a family, or bid on their dream condo in
the Bahamas, then they have it in them to invest in more aggressive
Advisors need to know what kind of questions to ask and what council to give. Beware of sticking to a strict script; use active listening to uncover clues in the behaviour of the investor.
1. Wealth Professional Canada. Canadian women control $2.2 trillion but that’s set to double. March 2019.
2. National Bank Investments (data via Bloomberg).
3. Statistics Canada. Health-adjusted life expectancy in Canada. April 2018.
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