By Laura Hanichak Gregg
Director of Practice Management and Advisor Research
FlexShares Exchange Traded Funds
MacKenzie Bezos left her marriage recently as one of the richest women in the world. At first glance, many people might have assumed she'd married, rather than earned, her way into the global top 1% of wealth builders. However, Bezos, a Princeton University graduate and daughter of a financial planner, had served as co-founder, and the first accountant in what would become the world's second-ever trillion dollar company: Amazon.
Likely as a result of gender stereotypes, Bezos' integral role in helping create the world's largest private household fortune went unnoticed by the media until her divorce. The financial industry has also long ignored women wealth creators while clinging to assumptions based on stale preconceptions. To help advisors avoid this trap, FlexShares set out to study HNW women – and men -- who are primary earners (contributing at least half of the income) for their households. Our findings and research challenge three pervasive myths about women in particular.
Myth #1: Women Don't Have Any Money of their Own
Contrary to long-standing beliefs, women do have and control wealth. In March 2018, The Economist reported on research data which reveals women globally are on track to control at least $72 trillion in private wealth by 2020, a 29% jump from 2015 figures. There is a growing number of women who are creating wealth as they take responsibility for the financial security and future of their families.
The FlexShares study included 211 women (and 250 men), across nine targeted U.S. markets, who brought in at least half of their household income. The minimum household income required for study participation was $200,000. Participants also had to have liquid assets of at least $1 million (excluding 401k and primary residence) or at least $250,000 if aged 35-39. Responses from this group of stereotype-busting women allowed us to glean insights that dispelled other myths.
Myth #2: Women Aren't Interested in Investing
FlexShares asked the HNW primary breadwinners in our study to rate their abilities on a 10 point scale (10 highest) to gauge their interest in financial management tasks. Women rated themselves between 7-8 out of 10 on almost all categories, including:
- Create and manage a household budget (8.9)
- Plan for retirement (8.3)
- Appropriately balance contributions (8.2)
- Effectively manage debt for optimal tax benefit (7.9)
- Effectively manage own investment portfolio (7.7)
Despite historically facing social stigmas that discourage or demean their interest in key concepts related to wealth management, women take enough interest in financial management to cultivate confidence in their skills.
Myth #3: Women Are Risk Averse
Given the pervasiveness of this myth, the results from our study of wealth creators were quite surprising. 86% of women versus only 69% of men expressed comfort with taking on a higher than minimal degree of risk in exchange for higher returns.
The results also show that women value the importance of managing the delicate relationship between risk and return. Risk management scored a 7 out of 10 or higher in an importance ranking of portfolio management tools for 77% of women.
Pink is a Color Not a Service Model
Whether they rose up through the corporate ranks or helped launch the next unicorn, HNW primary income earning women bring a multifaceted perspective to the advisor-client engagement. Women defy gender bias to create their wealth. Relying on stereotypes or taking the “think pink" shortcut, therefore, won't produce amazing outcomes.
Instead, offer the expertise, perspective, and respect needed to enable women to make decisions based on their goals. HNW female clients may then come to see you as trusted advisor for their financial planning goals and objectives. Download our white paper and follow our weekly posts to learn more about what women wealth creators want from advisor service models.