Every good retailer knows they've got to think like their customers. That same truism applies to financial advisers who want to help women grow their wealth and retire in comfort, too.
But women are a bit of a moving target right now. Gone are the days when high-net– worth women might sit passively on the sidelines while others made all the investment decisions. Today's women, faced with spiking divorce rates on one side and higher career wages on the other, are not only amassing more assets to invest, but they also want to decide how to hold onto that wealth long term.
Taking control is a smart move, says Kelley Keehn, financial expert and author of The Money Book for Everyone Else.
"We live longer, and we're going to be the ones who will be caregivers," she explains. "We're going to need that money."
With this in mind, advisers still have to address a number of challenges to give women what they need to achieve financial success, says Richa Hingorani, senior manager, financial planning support for RBC in Toronto.
"Women can be more concerned than men about maintaining their day-to-day finances and their income levels," says Ms. Hingorani.
In other words, paying off debt and working toward other short-term goals can become the main objectives for many women, while long-term financial planning falls to their partners.
Financial advisers can address this short-term focus by rethinking how they talk about financial matters with women. One RBC poll indicated that, while men are motivated by measuring the progress they're making against their investment targets, women are motivated by life events. By focusing on key life events when discussing financial plans with women, financial advisers are more likely to have an engaging conversation.
"If we're talking to a couple and remain focused on only financial issues, we may not see both people as actively involved in the conversation. But as soon as we talk about life priorities, we see a couple's engagement change. They both lean in," she adds.
Another important consideration for financial advisers: RBC's poll also found that many women tend to be less confident about their investing abilities – only 41 per cent of women agreed they were good investors, compared to 61 per cent of men.
In addition, the poll's findings indicated that more women than men invest in safe and secure investments, with only 10 per cent of women investing in stocks, compared to 22 per cent of men.
On the other hand, women tend to save more, research their investments more and are less likely to chase performance or jump on the latest hot stock tip. Numerous studies have shown that, because women approach their money with more caution – following a long-term plan and avoiding overly risky moves – on average, they are more successful investors. Overconfidence can lead to more trading and increased transaction fees.
The other benefit of being less sure of their investment knowledge is that women are more likely to turn to an adviser for help. But the financial industry, which has traditionally catered to men, has to find ways to educate and enlighten women in a way that works for them, says Ms. Keehn.
"A woman's style is about having a conversation, testing the waters and being comfortable," she says. "Now that women are stepping up and managing more of their money, the industry has to notice a woman's style is different."
Talking about retirement goals before building an investing strategy around them is a start. Women see their financial picture in a more holistic way, agrees Ms. Hingorani. While women care about portfolio performance, they really want to know that the money will be there when they need it.
"There's a great opportunity here for advisers to be more hands-on, communicate and build comfort so they can provide the information women need to make investment decisions," she says.
This content was produced by The Globe and Mail's advertising department, in consultation with RBC. The Globe's editorial department was not involved in its creation.