At Retirement Income Symposium, Hirshman on Women in Retirement

As women gain more control over wealth, ways for advisors to speak, and listen

Women control 60% of the wealth in the U.S., yet, on average, they stay with their advisors for only five years. Moreover, the average length of time that a newly widowed woman stays with her advisor is less than a year. Two-thirds of long-term care insurance (LTC) policyholders are women. They also outnumber men in nursing homes and other assisted-living facilities, and tend to be caregivers of older parents rather than their brothers, and often their husbands.

At the Retirement Income Symposium in Chicago on Monday, Susan Hirshman, formerly a consultant and wealth manager at JPMorgan Chase, spoke to 120 advisors—mostly RIAs and independent BD reps—about what those disparate pieces of data might suggest about the opportunity, but also the special approaches necessary, to better serve women as clients. Since women are, in general, less financially literate than men, and since they are looking for education to make them more literate, advisors can play a key role.

To do so, however, Hirshman argued that advisors—of both the male and female variety—must become better listeners to clients in general. They must also stop referring, as she has heard many advisors say, to “my client and his wife.” That might help those advisors retain women clients after they become widowed, and since women still tend to outlive men, that makes even more sense.

Hirshman, a longtime contributor to Investment Advisor magazine and Wealth Manager, recently published her first book, Does This Make My Assets Look Fat? (St. Martin’s Press; Sept. 2010), that’s meant to improve women’s financial literacy. The book uses dieting as a metaphor for financial planning—a metaphor that nearly all American women are intimately familiar with. “My idea,” says Hirshman, was that “If you’ve ever been on a diet, you know how to invest.”

(See an interview from Investment Advisor with Hirshman on her new book.)

Reprints Discuss this story
This is where the comments go.