Baltimore-based psychotherapist Ginger Dean works with many professional women, married and single — women with advanced college degrees, successful careers and well-paying jobs, who despite all of the above, have not done any type of financial planning.
Worse yet, few are doing anything to remedy that.
“I find that many women I talk to still have this archaic perspective of the world, which is that men take care of money,” Dean says. “A lot of the women I come across feel they need to find a man to do this for them. Even highly educated women subscribe to that idea and many of them, if they are married, will even relinquish control of their money to their husband.”
Dean became interested in financial planning after suffering from serious money issues (student loan debt, excess credit card debt) and after realizing that no one was going to bail her out of that mess but herself.
Getting to where she wanted to be meant educating herself on personal finance. Even after the 2008 financial crisis, she says, “we still don’t have [personal finance] as either a part of high school or undergraduate education.” Educating herself lead to the creation of her blog, www.girlsjustwannahavefunds.com, which Dean describes as a chronicle of her personal journey toward understanding the importance of financial independence and proper financial planning.
The blog also serves as a forum for women to discuss their financial issues and, she says – “it aims to break financial ceilings and communicate to women that we should be in control of our finances, that we should not have to take the limits prescribed by the prevailing paradigm.”
In a sense, it serves as the first port of call for women who want to get on top of their finances and seriously consider the importance of financial planning — women who would be well served by working with a financial advisor.
Unfortunately, “most of them don’t even think about financial advisors because they’re still conditioned by the idea that finance is not a subject for them,” Dean says, “and that comes from the fact that financial planning is a conversation most parents are still having with their sons but not with their daughters, which automatically means they’re not having the conversation about a financial planner.”
Kathleen Kingsbury, founder of consulting and training firm KBK Wealth Connection, says that society plays a big role in the way women perceive themselves and think about financial planning.
Women are the greatest wealth creators today (according to a 2014 Prudential Financial study, 44% of women are the primary breadwinners for their families) and that trend is only set to increase going forward. Workplace dynamics have also gone through cataclysmic shifts in recent years, but still, the perception of what women should and shouldn’t be doing remains to a large extent unchanged, Kingsbury says.
“Those beliefs are woven into the fabric of our society and there is still this default mindset that men should be making more money than women,” she says.
According to a 2013 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, many Americans (70%) believe that women should stay either at home with their children or work part time, whereas 75% of respondents stated that men (fathers) should work full time.
“Recent research has also shown that a very large percentage of women who are substantially contributing to their households or who are the primary breadwinners for their families feel that they have to downplay their role in making money as they will be negatively judged by their friends and family, so there is a real bind there and an unspoken pressure that clearly shows our society is slow to catch up with women making more money,” Kingsbury says.
That includes the financial advisory business, which, in Kingsbury’s view, continues to lag in its approach to and understanding of women and wealth. For a myriad of reasons, women feel they’re underserved by the financial planning industry and while many firms are working to change this perception, the prevailing mindset remains that men are the main wealth creators.
“Advisors don’t do this intentionally but they’re still making connections with men more than with women – even when couples come to them,” Kingsbury says. “Many women feel that advisors just don’t understand them to be wealth creators, or having a big part in controlling it.”
As a subset of societ at large, the financial advisory space needs to change and both come to terms with and emphasize the idea that women – single as well as in a relationship — are active participants in their financial life and in that of their families.
“It should not be about women not stepping up enough or advisors not fully understanding women – it is about all of us getting together and really looking at how we agree that it is no longer okay for one person, the man, to be in charge of a family’s finances,” Kingsbury says.
For her part, Dean believes that if more financial planners can reach out to single women and make them understand that they support them fully as wealth creators, it will become easier for women to break free from the prevailing societal paradigm and take greater control of financial planning for their future.
“I think it’s empowering to be able to say ‘I am making great money that can support me in any event that may come my way, whether I am single or in a relationship,’” she says.