Jayson Forrest is the managing editor of Money & Life Magazine.
Closing the gap on financial inequality for Australian women is still a work in progress. Financial planners have an important role to play for women seeking professional advice to realise their own financial goals and objectives.
Question: With financial inequality continuing to be an issue for many Australian women, what are you doing to engage with women in order to help them better realise their financial goals and objectives?
Reaching female clients on a more personal level is essential to the success of the relationship. By sharing my experiences – my story – I’ve been able to encourage them along their own way to improved financial literacy. I feel strongly that this will have two benefits: Firstly, it will empower women and this confidence could spill over into other areas such as their career and relationships.
And secondly, helping mums manage their family’s financial future. Although we might be the actual bill-payers – the one who opens the mail, runs the household, manages the utilities – we often neglect our own financial planning, especially long-term planning like retirement. When you are financially secure, or at least on track and working towards that security, it makes the juggle and the time away from your kids a little easier.
As a working mum myself, the juggle is all too real – anything I can do to make my clients’ lives easier, benefits both of us. This includes being available for after hours (sometimes late night) appointments and making the advice process easy through clever use of technology.
I’ve found my female clients appreciate values-based and strategic financial planning much more than the product-focused comparisons many advisers push.
When advising couples, it’s important that both understand all aspects of their financial plan. In order for women to feel empowered to work on those financial goals, they need to understand the strategies and terms, so a good adviser should be able to break down the complexity into something they can relate to.
The most common scenario that I deal with (that presents engagement challenges) is couples where the wife is taking time out of the workforce to raise children.
Most of these women are full-time mothers and part-time employees. It can sometimes be difficult to engage them, as their priorities are elsewhere at this stage of life and they don’t always think it’s necessary for them to attend meetings. However, with our approach, I tend to make it compulsory for both parties to attend. I don’t think financial planning is that effective unless both clients are engaged and have equal input.
I believe that the key to engagement is focusing on what is most important to the ‘individual’, especially when it comes to couples. I attended a course with Jim Stackpool back in 2017, which really got our firm’s discovery process refocused on clarifying our clients’ individual ‘lifestyle aspirations’.
With this approach, both clients get a chance to speak separately (allowing the less dominant person to speak first) about what is important to them. That’s because it’s sometimes easier to let the dominant party control the conversation and set the goals for both members of the couple. However, this can lead to one party becoming disengaged.
If both members of a couple get a chance to express themselves and participate, they will be more engaged in the planning process.
Financial inequality is a major issue facing current and future generations and in my experience, it largely boils down to financial literacy and engagement with finances. A great way that we can address this is by running seminars at community groups.
For women who are seeking advice for themselves, I have found that talking about their experiences to date with money and getting to the heart of their concerns or frustrations, can provide them with a safe environment to start to form goals for the future. Being accessible and flexible for these clients is important, as they tend to be quite time poor (due to career and/or family). Digital solutions can assist here, such as video meetings and online signatures.
For women who are a part of a couple, it is imperative to have both parties in the discussion and, most importantly, to ensure that both voices are heard. By fostering an inclusive discussion, we ensure that all concerns are put on the table. This provides planners with the opportunity to educate both as required.
Consider having both parties complete their goals and objectives separately, and then bring these goals and objectives together to compare and contrast. This avoids having one person drive the goals and the other confirm them. In running this exercise, it fosters great discussion with clients, ensuring that their needs and objectives are treated seriously and addressed.
When it comes to engaging with women, my goal is to change their lives and my mission is to guide each individual client on their unique money journey with patience, love and care.
My clients are mainly women who are going through a traumatic life event like divorce, widowed, redundancy or early retirement due to illness, who need help with their finances and their future.
My observation from talking to hundreds of women is our ability to achieve goals starts well before they’re set. I almost always find myself talking about mindset, behaviours, choices and habits to really get to the heart of who they are, what they want, their blind spots and how their objectives align.
These three things are top priorities:
– Know your audience and get social: For me, that means getting lots of targeted content out. It also involves talking to people, including women in corporate and life centred businesses, as well as building relationships, so that they engage in the advice process or begin considering their future;
– Sharing insights: This is all about helping clients to upgrade their life. Illustrating that a brighter future awaits them is important; and
– Engaging with allied professionals: This involves being respectful, dealing with challenges like inertia, poor decision-making and other blockages. Often in a financial settlement, both parties want the trophy, so funding, valuations, research and asset assessment are key. Patient small steps to release limiting behaviours usually paves the way for bigger success.
By raising my profile and influencing client behaviour through mentoring, coaching, speaking and writing, I’m aiming to help women improve their financial literacy.
By helping them plan for the present and the future, I am endeavouring to prevent my clients from unwittingly making financial mistakes. I want women to be very comfortable in the knowledge that they’re fully informed and making the right choices. Every dollar counts!
With four young daughters, I do feel strongly about this issue and feel part of my role as a father, as well as a financial adviser, is to help tackle this issue of financial inequality for women. As a father and financial adviser, I really have two main objectives: to educate and to initiate smart financial practises sooner rather than later.
In my experience, the biggest issue has been that people have a fear of the unknown. They haven’t had any education in financial management and don’t know where to start when it comes to financial matters. At Scarlett Financial, we are doing our best to tackle this with a digital advice service that has been significantly discounted to help young women take control of their finances sooner. Our program provides a substantial amount of information on managing finances, investment education and ultimately, creates a financial plan.
Similar to the ‘barefoot investor’, it is about low costs and instigating smart financial habits but on a personal level with a tailored plan.
Our digital advice program has helped many women build deposits for property purchases, construct investment portfolios and regular investment plans, as well as having someone to keep them accountable.
Playing an important role in helping women build financial security, witnessing them take control of their finances and indeed, extinguishing any financial inequalities, is some of the most rewarding work we do.
Being a specialist in the SMSF field in the areas of accounting, tax and advice, for the last 15 years, I’ve mostly met with male clients. This is despite the fact that their spouses are usually members of the SMSF.
Over the last couple of years, in particular, I have actively sought the engagement of women superannuant clients by requesting to meet them at the completion of the annual compliance and tax work. Contacting clients and requesting all members attend meetings regarding their SMSF has been a great relationship builder!
I work alongside women in improving their financial literacy by walking through the 30 June financial reports in order to teach them how to interpret and disseminate the information being presented. This always forms the basis of a robust discussion regarding superannuation, how it works, and fielding the questions they have, sometimes questions they have held onto for years! This inevitably evolves into an exploration of what opportunities are available, with superannuation being one of the means to reach their retirement goals and objectives.
Approaching my conversations from a factual accounting/tax perspective fosters trust and is a great avenue to deep dive into both the woman’s and a couple’s goals and objectives. This sets a great foundation for advice in the future, or the realisation that advice is needed now to get to where they aim to be.
Within our practice, engagement can come in different forms depending on the circumstances:
– Within a couple, we may discuss the shared contribution to the household of a stay-at-home partner and their forgone work/super for the family’s benefit. From this discussion, we look to undertake super splitting of the working partner’s employer contributions to attribute a tangible financial benefit to the hard work being undertaken at home, and that both partners are valued for their different roles.
– For women actively seeking advice, we have two specialist advisers in place; a same sex couple specialist and a female independence specialist. With significant experience and resources dedicated to these areas of advice within the practice, we want to give confidence to all women we meet that they are not alone and that there is tailored support to assist them with the realisation of their goals.
– For those just starting out or inquisitive, we look to build confidence through education. We provide tailored workshops, webinars and social media videos to help engage on areas such as family law and understanding different money mindsets.
Personally, having grown up with three younger sisters, I have learnt so much from their input and feedback of their own financial experiences. I will forever have them front-of-mind when looking to engage with, and improve the opportunities of, women in realising their future goals and objectives.