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Financial Advice Needs His-and-Hers Models

Nov 10, 2010

What do women want...from a financial adviser? A new study indicates that, as in so many other aspects of life, it's quite different from what men are looking for.

And as I wrote in the November issue of MONEY, that's probably a good thing: Women's financial needs are very different from men's, given that they typically earn less and save less than men do, but have to plan for a much longer lifespan.

Yet there seems to be an advisory gap between what women want — and need — and what they experience from financial planners. After surveying 12,000 women around the world in 2009, the Boston Consulting Group reported that women identified the financial services industry as the one they were most dissatisfied with among those affecting their daily lives.

Specifically, women said they were frustrated by financial planners who were condescending, who didn't listen to female clients' concerns and who seemed overly focused on a male partner or husband.

Now, a study recently released by Ameriprise sheds light on what women do want, as measured by the qualities women identified as "very" or "extremely important" in a financial pro:

  • 75% of women want a financial adviser who understands what's important to them, compared to 63% of men.
  • 58% of women say an adviser who can coach them toward their retirement goals is key. Only 43% of men said so.
  • And 55% of women said they'd want adviser to tailor guidance to their particular "life and lifestyle," versus a surprising 41% of men.

So if you're a woman seeking professional financial advice, how do you find the right adviser?

  • Shop around. A growing number of financial planners and advisory firms are billing themselves as female-friendly. Only you will know for sure, so try on a few for size. Most planners offer a free initial consultation.
  • Network. Search at Napfa.org for fee-only certified financial planners who specialize in working with women, or ask other women who they work with.
  • Be honest. Look for someone to whom you can comfortably explain the nuances of your financial life, says Mary Claire Allvine, a principal with Brown, Rehmus & Foxworth, "the same way you would with your doctor." Without that level of candor, Allvine says, you can put your financial health at risk.

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