Women and retirement planning: Walk a mile in her shoes

Book offers advisers insights on connecting with female clients

Oct 4, 2015 @ 12:01 am

By Mary Beth Franklin

Women think about retirement planning differently than men. Marcia Mantell gets it.

Women are completely comfortable talking about many “M-word” topics ranging from marriage and motherhood to mammograms and menopause, Ms. Mantell writes in her new book “What's the Deal with Retirement Planning for Women?” (People Tested Books, 2015). But bring up another “M-word” — money — and conversation often screeches to a halt.

For nearly 25 years, Ms. Mantell has conducted retirement income planning workshops and programs. Now she has written a retirement book for women that can also serve as a Rosetta stone for financial advisers to connect with female clients on this critical topic.

“The standard adage in business is, "It's not personal, it's business,'” said Ms. Mantell, president of Mantell Retirement Consulting. “But for most women, the exact opposite is true — it's always personal.”

She noted that most advisers focus on business and investments, market movements and rates of return. That can make it hard to connect with women for whom life is first and foremost personal. “Advisers who don't understand this ingrained, passionate reality about women will suffer a fatal flaw when working to maintain and grow their business,” she said.

Face it. When female clients feel that their questions are not being answered, topics are over their head or their point of view is not being considered, they will become disengaged and ultimately find another adviser. This will be one of the topics discussed at the InvestmentNews Retirement Income Summit in Chicago May 2-3, 2016.

IF THE SHOE FITS

Ms. Mantell addresses the financial paralysis that grips many women. They may be experts on budgeting and cash flow, but “busy women just don't have the time in their hectic days to become savvy investors,” she wrote. “Our focus, regardless of how big and successful our outside careers have become, is still on nurturing our families and managing day-to-day living expenses.”

Like it or not, retirement planning is crucial, as 90% of women will be solely responsible for managing finances on their own at some point in their lives due to divorce, the death of a spouse or the rise of singlehood.

What better way to start than relating retirement planning to shoe shopping. You don't have to be Imelda Marcos to appreciate the references.

“For every pair of shoes you buy, put the same amount of money into an individual retirement account,” Ms. Mantell writes, calling an IRA the first account every woman should have. “The IRA is in your name, giving you control and independence over some of your retirement assets.”

The second account every woman should have is an individual savings or investment account, separate from the household check book, that she dubs a “freedom fund.”

Ms. Mantell also discusses the importance for a woman of building credit in her own name, managing debt and learning about the role that Social Security will play in her retirement income.

Once women are ready to dip a toe in the investing world, the shoe analogy continues.

Researching investments is like choosing a favorite shoe store. Assessing an investment's performance is like trying on a new pair for fit. Worried about investment risk? Like a fabulous shoe, you can tolerate a pinch if the payoff is worth it. Don't forget fees and costs. Like a true bargain hunter, you might find a better deal elsewhere.

How can advisers use “What's the Deal with Retirement Planning for Women?” with clients and prospects?

RESOURCES FOR CLIENTS

The book paints a clear picture of how women think about retirement, what role they play in their families and communities and why finances are not at the forefront of their interests. It can serve as a catalyst for creating a retirement budget with women's special interests in mind. And it provides resources financial advisers can recommend to clients to use before or after a meeting, saving time and keeping meetings engaging and focused.

(Questions about Social Security? Find the answers in my ebook at InvestmentNews.com/mbfebook.)

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