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Mary-Jo P. Noren-Iacovino, a financial planner with AXA Advisors, New York, says her women clients are not much different from her men clients, except in one respect. She finds that women are less reluctant to discuss personal issues than men are early in the client/advisor relationship.

“Women are a little easier sometimes to get comfortable with faster,” she says. “Sometimes men are a little more reticent about having an open, easy discussion about whats important to them.

“I think men often think they need to have all of the answers. I think women are more willing to ask questions. So, its easier to have a one-on-one with a woman than a man, men are just a little more closed initially.”

Noren-Iacovinos clients defy the widely held belief that women earn less than men do and consequently save less for retirement. Most of her clients are single women in their 40s and 50s who have never left the workforce to bear and raise children.

“A lot of women who havent gotten married put a good deal away for retirement,” she says.

Noren-Iacovino finds that her women clients, both married and single, typically have two primary needs: to own a home and prepare adequately for retirement.

“All women want to own a home and be able to retire,” she says. “But when they have children, they have the cost of raising kids and education.”

Despite a long-held, popular belief, Noren-Iacovino finds that her women clients are not more emotional than her men clients when discussing finances.

“Women speak on a much more emotional level to each other than men do, but theyre not more emotional about money,” she says.

A trend Noren-Iacovino suspects has existed for years but is changing among male advisors of women clients is that “male advisors have tended to give conservative, paternal advice to women clients. “

“I think women are willing to take more risk than men traditionally have encouraged them to take,” she says. “Women are not more conservative than men.”

Jeffrey La Gro, a certified senior advisor with CNA, Chicago, does tend to suggest to his women clients that they place money into conservative vehicles, but his women clients are primarily elderly with long-term care insurance needs.

Throughout his career, La Gro has had women clients whose spouses have been under life-insured and who have not accrued enough assets on which they can comfortably retire.

Its not uncommon to be faced with elderly women who have no pensions and are living on Social Security payments or a small IRA fund, he says.

La Gro says this is “a big concern” when allocating money for long-term care, should the need arise.

“For pennies on the dollar, long-term care insurance protection is a lot cheaper than what the cost is going to be,” he says. Women have “earned less and are probably living on less so we need to have a protection tool to keep them from being a Medicaid victim.”

La Gro often finds that an older woman will leave the workforce to tend to her ailing spouse. When the spouse dies, the caregiver is left with no one to care for her, he says.

This scenario opens up the discussion to “how dually important a long-term care conversation can be,” he says. “Marketing those facts to women really does open up a lot of interest.

“I would be sure there are enough assets in conservative vehicles, equity index annuities, even using annuities to fund LTC” he says. “A lump sum grows at a conservative return and provides more than enough each year that could go toward premium for LTC, and theres still enough growth to leave a nest egg that you can never deplete that can be left to a beneficiary.”

Unlike Noren-Iacovino, La Gros experience with women clients is that they do tend to be more emotional regarding finances than men, perhaps because his clients are the products of a different generation who might not have had as much control over their own finances as do baby boomers or wealthy women.

“And thats not a slight against women,” he says. “I think theyre more mature in what the future holds, theyre more concerned about it.”

James Cotto, managing director, Cotto and Padovani Financial Strategies Group of First Union Securities, Mt. Kisco, N.Y., works with high-net worth clients and business owners, a number of whom are divorced or widowed women over 50.

Their highest priority is usually consolidating their finances, he says.

Their concerns revolve around whether they are borrowing correctly on their mortgage, whether they should take a home equity loan to consolidate debt, whether theyve saved enough to retire well and whether they will be able financially to help their children, he says.

“My women clients are astute investors, theyre well read,” Cotto says.

Although Cotto does find his women clients to be more conservative than his male clients, he does not find them more emotional when it comes to their finances.

“Their priority is to maintain the lifestyle they have and not take unnecessary risks and make sure theres a remainder for their heirs,” he says. “Theyre very business-like about it.”

The main difference Cotto finds between working with women and men clients is that men business owners tend to know their business so well, they assume they understand the financial services business just as well and consequently can be somewhat difficult to work with.

While equally adept at handling their business, Cottos women clients tend not to project their business acumen onto his line of work.

“Women like to have a sounding board, they like advice,” he says. “They really seek out information.”


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, April 22, 2002. Copyright 2002 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.