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Industry Spotlight > Women in Wealth

Women Holding Wealth: A Changing Model

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The reality and perceptions of wealthy women are changing, as far as the attitudes of women (and men) who are–or could be–your clients. A Social and Demographic Trends study by the Pew Research Center, “Gender and Power,” asked participants about their preferences for several professions including “banker.” About 48% of women and men, “say they have no preference between a male or female banker.” But women bankers were preferred among those who do have a preference. And in some groups the preference for a woman as their banker was much higher–47% of blacks and Hispanics prefer a woman banker, according to the study.

A different Pew study, entitled, “Women, Men and the New Economics of Marriage,” reports a true gender role reversal going on in marriage in America. “Women have outpaced men in education and earnings growth,” the report says. In addition, “in the past, marriage enhanced the economic status of women more than that of men. Now the economic gains associated with marriage are greater for men.” The report explains: “Forty years ago, the typical man did not gain another breadwinner in his household when he married. Today, he does–giving his household increased earning power that most unmarried men do not enjoy. The superior gains of married men have enabled them to overtake and surpass unmarried men in their median household income.”

The report further points out that only 4% of women out-earned their spouses in 1970, but in 2007, 22% of wives had higher incomes than their husbands. While most married couples are equally educated–53% in 2007–28% of women, but only 19% of the men, were better educated than their spouses. In 1970, 52%of the couples were equally well-educated, but 28% of the men, and only 20% of women, were better educated than their spouses.

Women are holding more of the wealth–and purse strings

According to a 2006 “Women & Wealth,” study by Palm Beach Gardens, Florida-based GenSpring, women make up 46.3% of the wealth holders in the U.S. with at least $675,000 in assets. That’s about 3.4 million women holding $5.8 trillion in assets, the report says, citing 2005 figures in the Statistics and Income Division of the IRS. And that’s just the start. In the GenSpring study, the net worth of 92% of the participating women was more than $1 million, while 40% of the women had a net worth of “between $10 and $100 million.”

The majority–53% were employed and 40% had earned a bachelor’s degree; 31% their master’s and 13% had a PhD or other advanced degree. These women wanted their wealth advisor to have “first-rate financial and investment expertise,” as well as “trustworthiness and good communication.”

The most important areas of wealth management to the participants were “investment management, estate planning, and financial planning.” The feel they know the most about “estate planning” and the least about “insurance planning.” The majority, 69%, “agreed…that they are in control,” and 50% that they are “involved” in “the management of their wealth.” More than three-quarters “feel their wealth management affairs are in order.”

The study found that 95% of the women identified themselves as, “are philanthropic,” not only with money but with their “time, knowledge and expertise.”


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