If you want to have a successful practice serving affluent boomer women, then you have to educate first through the heart. This was a key theme of a presentation given at the Society of Financial Service Professionals’ 2008 Forum, held here recently. Titled “Boom-Generation Women: The 21st Century Tsunami Catalyst for Effective Intergenerational Planning,” the talk was given by Margaret May Damen, a certified financial planner and the founder and president of the Institute for Women and Wealth, Lake Worth, Fla.
“This is the only generation where the four seasons of their life–spring, summer, fall and winter–align directly with the four seasons of our nation’s socio-economic cycle,” said Damen. “Boomer women are taking full advantage of the time convergence of their psychological, emotional, economic and age-related dynamics as they reach maturity.”
These seasons–a “spring” (childhood) lasting from 1943 to 1960; summer (young adulthood) lasting from 1961 to 1983; fall (midlife) period from 1984 to 2007; and winter (elderhood) from 2008 to 2025–dovetail with the nation’s own historical experience, observed Damen. These include, in relation to the same time periods, an “American high;” an “awakening” or “consciousness revolution;” an “unraveling” during a period of “culture wars;” and a “millennial crisis.”
The sweet spot for advisors who cater to boomer women–a “tsunami” totaling 43 million individuals ranging in age from 48 to 65–are business owners and entrepreneurs who boast a net worth of $1 million to $25 million. Approximately 10.6 million of these women generate $2.6 trillion in annual sales and control 60% of the nation’s wealth, said Damen.
Though affluent, many of these women have changed their lifestyle from one of “conspicuous consumption” to “conspicuous compassion.” They are, in the main, women who invest their retirement dollars in companies deemed to be “socially responsible;” and who desire to positively impact their communities through planned giving and other philanthropic initiatives.
Yet while desiring to make a difference, millionaire boomer women tend not to be on advisors’ radar because, they don’t talk openly about their money in public, preferring to “fit in.” Advisors need to cultivate such women as clients because, said Damen, they’re good stewards of their money, make their own decisions, stand by their values and “dream big.”
There are, of course, differences among women that advisors need to be mindful of when meeting with prospects. Damen identified a “constellation” of 4 archetypes: idealists, reactive, civic and adaptive. Boomer women who tend to the idealist mode are driven by a vision. Their key values include optimism, autonomy, self-esteem, independence, quality of life, and simplicity.
To win their business, said Damen, advisors need to be attuned to the desire of such boomers to be “empowered” to make a difference with their investments, to engage in “authentic” and “meaningful” planning that will leverage creative solutions. Conversely, they should take care to not undermine their efforts by subscribing to certain stereotypes.
“Many advisors don’t realize that they view boomer women through gender lenses that preclude them from doing the best job they can for these clients,” said Damen. “If advisors are to view boomer women as “normative” as opposed to “marginal” investors, then they shouldn’t stereotype them by assuming these women don’t care about money, take too long to decide or won’t listen to advice.”
While avoiding stereotypes, she added, advisors should use gender-specific communications and marketing programs, and build trust, loyalty and commitment among boomer women, by “educating first through the heart.” Men and women, she noted, don’t buy for the same reasons: While men tend to focus on the merits of the transaction, women attach greater importance to developing the advisor-client relationship. They tend also to view the relationship as a “partnership” that is cultivated through expressions of empathy.
“To establish and sustain relationships with boomer women, we as advisors have to help deploy their money in a way that’s consistent with their aspirations and their hopes for humanity,” said Damen. “What interests them is not so much rate of return as what money can do for them that reflects their values. That’s a different approach than we’ve seen in the past.”
To communicate concepts in a holistic fashion, she added, advisors should paint verbal and visual pictures using “broad brush strokes” (as opposed to spreadsheets and numbers); “offer ownership” by asking for the prospect’s opinions; and by making the communications “real.” By that, she meant the discussions should be relevant, evoke emotion so as to spur action, and leverage the prospect’s wealth to leave a legacy. To build rapport, advisors can also use gender-specific phrases that will help establish connections (e.g., “I know what you feel”), display similarities (“yes, I felt the same way, when…”) and match experiences (“let me share how it…”).
“If advisors think about how successful boomer women use their emotional intelligence, and if they’re cognizant of their clients’ peer personality traits, values and where they’re coming from in terms of their concurrent history and life stages, then they will have a successful practice,” said Damen. “But if they leave out one of these components, they will not be as successful as they can be.”