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Industry Spotlight > Advisors

How Women Are Boosting Americans’ Financial Security

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March is about celebrating Women’s History and unfortunately, in the financial advisory world, some of that history is not as great as we would like.

For example, nearly one-third of the gender financial literacy gap is attributed to women’s lower confidence levels, versus a knowledge gap, according to the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center. And while 85% of women control their families’ day-to-day finances, few control long-term financial planning decisions, UBS reports.  

While these statistics are disheartening, I’d like to believe that our future is promising. I have spent more than half of my career trying to find better ways to engage women — as advisors and as clients — and to show the value of financial planning. Some of these approaches included raising awareness by increasing the visibility of women advisors, because “you can’t be what you can’t see”.

One of the ways our industry engages women is through pro bono financial planning. For more than a decade, I have been involved with the Foundation for Financial Planning (FFP).

Through its grantmaking and signature programs — including its new volunteer matching platform, ProBonoPlannerMatch.org — FFP helps make available opportunities for advisors to provide one-on-one pro bono financial planning to families in need.

FFP’s efforts have reached over 500,000 people who would have otherwise gone without quality financial guidance amidst financial crises. The majority of those served are women, and many of them are single mothers.

Tens of thousands of advisors have volunteered their time and expertise to help. Since it’s Women’s History Month, I’ll highlight some of the female volunteers and nonprofits geared toward creating financial independence for women.

Cindy Hanson, CFP

A few years ago, Cindy became involved with Prepare +Prosper, an FFP grantee that helps low-to-moderate income individuals reach financial stability through tax aid clinics, a financial mentoring program, and more.

Cindy’s advice to other planners? “Know that you can absolutely help. It might not be the kind of help you normally give to paid clients, but you absolutely can help. You may not be doing a full-blown financial plan, but you can listen to them, and you can help them move forward financially.”

She also encourages planners to be patient, and understand that barriers such as childcare, public transportation, or job hours and duties may make it more difficult for pro bono clients to prioritize financial planning.

Erica James, CPA, CFP

Erica volunteers with FFP grantee, Britepaths, where she serves as a pro bono financial planner and mentor (a typical mentoring relationship is approximately 6 months). As a mentor for one woman, Erica has found that “in addition to providing [financial] education, I was an accountability partner for her.”

She often reviews this woman’s purchases with her and reminds her to reflect on her budget and financial goals before making a purchase — not because she needs permission to spend but because she wants an objective sounding board.

Cindy and Erica are just two of the women financial planners who provide pro bono support. They are creating visible role models for women to realize they can gain control of their financial futures.

FFP currently supports several grantees whose funded programs are focused on supporting women in their journeys to financial stability:

Caroline Friess Center, Inc. in Baltimore

The Caroline Center is a nonprofit workforce development organization providing a safe and supportive community for women in Baltimore.

The Center offers an open door for women who are experiencing unemployment or are stuck in low-wage jobs, embracing a holistic approach to job training by incorporating essential skills as part of its curriculum, as well as providing enduring, individualized support to every woman.

With FFP’s support, Caroline Center will add to the arsenal of services it provides, further empowering women by enabling them to meet one-on-one with CFP® professionals.

Savvy Ladies in New York

Savvy Ladies has helped over 25,000 women of varied backgrounds identify their goals, make proactive choices about their finances, and lead more rewarding lives through their financial planning programing.

The Savvy Ladies Helpline is a free resource offered to women in need of guidance regarding their personal finances. The helpline supports women by arranging a confidential telephone consultation with a CFP professional who can assist them with their specific needs.

With a grant from FFP, Savvy Ladies will increase the impact and reach of the hotline, serving more women via the adoption of technology to better facilitate matching callers with volunteers.

Working in Support of Education (W!SE) in New York

Working in Support of Education (W!SE) provides personal finance education to domestic violence survivors through its innovative MoneyW!SE program.

With FFP’s support, survivors in Chicago and New York City will have the opportunity to take the MoneyW!SE course virtually, receive one-on-one financial counseling from FPA pro bono financial planners, and become Certified Financially Literate by passing the W!SE Financial Literacy Certification Test.

These organizations do an excellent job in helping women gain knowledge and independence.

Now you can see them. Organizations that support women. Successful financial planners stepping up to support their communities, and in turn creating the visibility needed to highlight financial planning.

Some will see them and wonder if this is a career they might consider? Others will collaborate with them and understand the importance of comprehending their own financial future.

You can find many other stories on the Foundation for Financial Planning’s website.

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Kate Healy is board chair of the Foundation for Financial Planning. She also is a former managing director of TD Ameritrade Institutional and previously was with Merrill Lynch, MetLife and Prudential Financial. In addition, she serves as a judge of ThinkAdvisor’s LUMINARIES industry recognition program. 

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