Today’s senior women are faced with unique realities that illustrate the need for all women to accumulate sufficient assets and make certain that those assets are protected.

Women, on average, live longer than men. That, plus the fact that the divorce rate in our country has risen significantly over the years, means more women than ever are living out their senior years alone. About 85% of women die alone. Currently, more than half of women over age 75 who don’t have a spouse are living in poverty.

For most of these women, Social Security is not the answer. Many of them have either never worked, or have not worked for enough years to receive the maximum Social Security benefit. Studies show that women have only half the personal savings of their male counterparts.

These statistics illustrate how important financial planning is for women. Producers not only have an opportunity to boost business but to provide a much needed service by seeking female prospects and educating them on preserving income for their futures.

Fortunately, female baby boomers have an opportunity to plan adequately for their retirement and beat the grim statistics of the current generation of senior women. Many baby boomer women, having had a career, possess a greater understanding of retirement and financial planning, and can appreciate and understand their unique paradigm. Advisors can add value by addressing their needs:

Sustained Income. Because of their forecasted longevity, women need to find ways to make their money last as long as they live. This means careful analysis of their resources and asset allocation, as well as providing insurance products to ensure their assets are not eroded in the event their spouse requires expensive medical care.

Leaving a Legacy. For some of the more affluent, leaving a legacy to children or to a favored charity also will require professional planning. Charitable giving can provide both tax advantages and emotional gratification to clients. If you are not experienced in this area, align yourself with other professionals who can co-advise clients.

Estate Planning. Whether extensive estate planning is a factor or not, there will always be a need to reserve assets to settle the miscellaneous expenses associated with death. Be prepared to discuss these items with your clients at the beginning of the fact-finding process.

Personal Savings. You also should be certain to address the form of Social Security that will be available to younger boomers. Changes in the system are inevitable and will likely include modifications. One thing you can be sure of is that clients will want to maintain their standard of living.

The only way they will achieve this is through personal retirement savings. Again, the need to protect those savings is crucial, especially in light of the current uncertainty respecting Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.

Modify Your Selling Style. Women make decisions differently than men, so it’s important to approach them differently. Women want advisors who can teach them what they need to know about planning for retirement income.

Compared to men, women generally take longer to make decisions; the “hard close” works less effectively with them. They are seeking an affinity with an advisor and trust is an element that is very important to them.

Women don’t like aggressive tactics, but they can be motivated to take action once they have been informed sufficiently. If you can be the one to provide them with this education, then you will likely earn their trust and their business.

What is a good age to begin marketing to senior women? Usually, women are beginning to think about retirement as a reality at around 50 years old. Although they aren’t actually “seniors” at that point, they are starting to worry about this next phase of their lives. And, because of health issues and costs that may be important considerations, it’s a much more auspicious time to look at the need for life insurance and long term care insurance.

Seminar Selling

If you choose to host a seminar for women, avoid the impulse to throw it together at the last minute. Women can spot bad planning and it will detrimentally impact their decision to work with you as a planner.

You can achieve the best results when you work with an organization such as a church, employer or country club. As sponsor of the event, the organization can be relied on to set everything up and send out the invitations.

As the advisor, you can be billed as a guest speaker. The focus of the workshop should be to educate, not to sell products. If you do use seminar selling, be sure to tailor the presentation to their needs. There are several excellent presentations available that specifically address women’s issues.

Referrals

Almost all of the women going through retirement planning will at some point ask another person for guidance and advice. The person they turn to likely will be someone whom a friend, employer or family member has recommended. Make certain that you have positioned yourself through seminars, good relationships and professional credentials.

Seventy-five percent of the nation’s wealth is currently owned by people age 50 and older. Most women, however, don’t believe they have adequately taken care of their finances. If you can help them bridge this gap and avoid using a cookie-cutter approach, you will be much more likely to have success in this market. It will require patience, but the benefits of waiting can be rewarding because women are loyal and, if they are pleased with your guidance, they will refer others to you.

Whether they’re married or single, women currently play a very important role in managing household finances. A recent study revealed that 9 in 10 have sole or joint charge of their household finances. Their voice in purchasing products such as mutual funds, annuities and long term care insurance is very influential.

Women realize that they need to secure their retirement. Most have witnessed the serious financial impact as their parents have managed health crises, struggled to keep pace with inflation and market risk, and live on reduced incomes. They have a desire for retirement security and are conditioned to value expert advice.

The senior women market is abundant. If you haven’t considered positioning yourself to tap this market and enhance your business, there’s still time. This demographic isn’t going anywhere. As you think of your mothers, grandmothers, sisters and daughters, I’m sure you will agree that this can be a very important and rewarding segment on which to focus your efforts.

Shelley Kostrunek, CMFC, CRPC, CLTC, is a senior investments products consultant, advanced markets, at Mutual of Omaha, Omaha, Neb. You can e-mail her at Shelley.Kostrunek@mutualofomaha.com.

Women are beginning to think about retirement as a reality at around 50 years old