Wealth & Financial Planning for women - collaboration not condescension

silhouetted women with sunset backdrop

Wealth & Financial Planning for women - collaboration not condescension

Désolé monsieur, but women tend to live longer than men…

When my husband and I moved to France in 2007, one of the first things we did was to see a notaire to have French wills drawn up.

After establishing that we wanted to leave everything to each other on first death, the notaire then turned to me and said, “Now Mme Gowen, how would you like to leave the estate after you die?”.  We both looked at him, a little nonplussed, and he added, “I am sorry to inform you Monsieur Gowen that, statistically speaking, you are going to die first.”

Trust a Gascon to tell it like it is.  His bedside manner could have done with some improvement but he was right about the statistics.  In spite of higher levels of stress, lower earnings and a higher chance of suffering a chronic illness, the World Economic Forum states that women still – in every country in the world – have a higher life expectancy than men.

Thanks to our longevity – and because we are increasingly educating ourselves about financial matters – women are controlling more of the world’s wealth.

Earlier this year, two reports were published looking at how women are dealing with this wealth, one by RBC Wealth Management and one by Wells Fargo (links to pdf). 

RBC Wealth Management – Women & wealth transfer 

The results of the RBC report were based on online survey responses from just over 3,000 women. 1,235 in the US, 1,054 in Canada and 816 in the UK.  These were supplemented by a number of in depth interviews.  The average investable wealth across the sample was US$4.5m.

There are several interesting points in the report:

    • 84% of women have full or joint responsibility for overseeing the family investment portfolio;
    • 86% have pursued some independent learning on wealth and money;
    • 55% rely on knowledgeable individuals to learn more about wealth;
    • We are more likely to delegate the management of our investments than men – 1 in 3 of us choose to manage our own investments, compared to 1 in 2 men;
    • Most women surveyed are both capable and confident in their financial knowledge;
    • 57% of the women surveyed had received an inheritance and of those who had not yet done so, most expected to do so;
    • 36% received no guidance after receiving an inheritance. 
Wells Fargo – Women & Investing 

This report also unearthed some useful snippets:

      • Women now control $14 trillion of US personal wealth;
      • We tend to invest more conservatively than men;
      • We do not suffer from overconfidence in our investing decisions to the extent that men do;
      • Women are more likely than men to display patience, discipline and persistence with our investment portfolio;
      • On average, we trade less than men;
      • Men are six times more likely than women to make massive allocation shifts – e.g. from 100% equities to 100% bonds;
      • Taking the point above into consideration, it’s perhaps no surprise to learn that, on a risk-adjusted basis, we tend to experience higher returns than men.


Women are gradually controlling more wealth and are happy to collaborate with a trusted adviser.  We want to learn about managing our finances. Generally, we are seeking to understand the advice we receive, rather than wanting to go down the DIY route.  We are risk aware (as distinct from risk averse) and tend to adopt a disciplined approach to our finances.

In short, we display all the ‘ideal’ characteristics which financial planners are looking for in their clients.

The findings above certainly all resonate with my experience in working with our female clients.  To be fair, with our male clients as well. We’ve got pretty good at identifying and declining to work with those who display the less beneficial characteristics detailed above.

Women are not a ‘business opportunity’ 

One thing which I strongly believe should not be inferred from the above data is that women should be regarded as a fantastic ‘business opportunity’. (I wrote about this last year, here)

What I think it does mean, however, is that the investment management industry, which – to many women – comes across as having been created by men, for men, needs to adapt or prepare to be replaced.

Studies indicate that most women are just as happy to deal with a male planner as a female one. Yes, women do face slightly different challenges to men.  We are more likely to take career breaks to have children. We generally earn less than men. Nevertheless, a US study by Pershing found that in terms of financial goals, our top three are the same:

      • A comfortable retirement;
      • Maintaining current lifestyle and
      • Being able to provide healthcare for ourselves and our families.


The one thing which a lot of women lack and which men tend to have (or are good at pretending they have) in abundance is confidence.  Sadly, the public (online) face of many financial institutions does not help. They don’t do anything to make us feel welcome, that we are being listened to or that what they offer is for us.

Sisters are doing it for themselves

Back in early August I came across Moneygirl UK: a social enterprise aimed at helping women under 35 to make sensible decisions about money.  I was so impressed by what they are trying to achieve that I got in touch to find out how I could help.  That led to me taking part in a Q&A session at their launch event earlier this month.

The event was a sell-out. I can’t over-emphasise how fantastic it was to see an auditorium full of engaged young women who really want to be in control of their finances. They are hungry for help in doing so.  These women feel that they are not being represented by the mainstream industry and that it is up to them to try to navigate the maze themselves.  I think the fact that Moneygirl exists as a social enterprise illustrates just how much we are failing the members of the younger generation. We are not providing them with the financial education they need, both at school and in the wider world.

Moneygirl is just getting started and I have no doubt it will go from strength to strength.  It should act as a shot across the bow to the industry as a whole – this is the future and you ignore it at your peril.

Warm regards