In her recent column for The Huffington Post — 5 Ways Women Get Screwed In Retirement — Senior Columnist Ann Brenoff aptly outlines the handicaps women face in approaching retirement, and provides helpful suggestions to address each.

  1. Women live longer than men. Solution: Start early and make a plan.
  2. Women earn less than men. Solution: Learn what you will need to live comfortably and develop a plan to get there.
  3. Some older women remain financially illiterate. Solution: Educate yourself.
  4. Women sometimes confuse investing and saving. Solution: Seek professional help.
  5. Women don’t trust financial advisors. Solution: Get over it. You want the best advice possible. Find a new one if you don’t like the one your husband used.

What Ann doesn’t contemplate is that women aren’t in the wrong because they aren’t getting on board with how the financial industry works, even for something as important as their retirement. I agree with Steve Jobs that customers don’t always know what they want, but when such a large portion of the potential customers in an industry will not engage, it means they know what they don’t want.

Our research at SUM180 shows that women have been staying on the sidelines in the financial services industry because existing products fail to address our primary financial priorities, which are, in priority order:

  1. being a burden to children
  2. security (don’t outlive or even fully spend our savings)
  3. protection
  4. maintaining a standard of living

These are the concepts women care about and relate to.

Yet the industry continues to focus its messaging on “wealth management,” “retirement,” “invest now,” “beat the market.”

What a disconnect! The financial industry doesn’t offer products and features that address our concerns.

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Women know when they are being screwed. Those who have disengaged from the financial services industry have had real reasons for opting out.

Adding fuel to the fire, the industry is interested only in women who have assets to invest, because that’s how it gets paid, and that message comes through in every article, web site, advertisement and tweet.

Finally, if we do engage, the financial industry bombards us with “education,” as if we’ve suddenly become interested in pursuing a finance degree. Women don’t want to learn finance, they want it to work for them, in the same way that I don’t want to learn how my car works when I have a mechanical problem, I just want it fixed.

For providers of financial services, all of this misfiring represents a tremendous missed opportunity. But for women clients, it is a far more serious issue, with far-reaching consequences for their financial well-being.

In short, it’s all wrong. And women know when they are being screwed. Those who have disengaged from the financial services industry have had real reasons for opting out, and these reasons must no longer be ignored.

Women who are not financial experts in their own right need to want to re-engage with their own financial health, and to feel empowered to get the financial advice they need. How? At SUM180, we knew that it would take a radically different approach to get women to “opt in” to the financial industry. One that is built for them. A solution must build trust and communication with women clients. It must meet them where they are, honor their priorities, and above all, listen.

1 thought on “Don’t blame women for their lack of financial security”

  1. I particularly dislike the word “wealth management.” It sounds like you definitely an advanced degree to do that, not to mention huge bank accounts.

    It’s refreshing to see a new conversation that doesn’t focus on how women are “doing it wrong.” People are starting to realize that we need a new system that works for us, instead of adapting to the current system, which as you point out, doesn’t reflect our values or our reality.

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