As a woman, what should you look for in a financial advisor? Well, there’s a short answer and a long answer…
First, the short answer
What a woman needs from a financial advisor is no different than what a man needs, despite what the financial industry tells us all the time.
If you are hiring someone to help you grow, invest, and protect your nest-egg, you want to find someone that is working solely in your best interest, without any conflicts of interest. You want to look for a fiduciary, not just a transactional advisor that gets paid every time you need something or make a change.
You also want someone that has a broad level of experience that can take a comprehensive approach to your financial plan. A Certified Financial Planner® (CFP®) has education and experience with saving, investing, retirement, taxes, estate planning, and more.
The short answer is that anyone, man or woman, will want to look for an advisor that has their best interests in mind, without any conflicts of interest, and has the experience needed to address their specific circumstances.
For additional insight into the short answer, read our previous blog, Three Signs Your Advisor is Putting Your Best Interests First (And One Red Flag to Watch For).
Now let’s get to the longer answer
If you are like me (and like many women I know), personal connection is important to feeling comfortable with someone. And trust me, you don’t want to be uncomfortable working with the person that is helping you with your money.
You want to make sure you connect with your advisor.
In my experience, feeling a “connection” with someone is a bit more complex for women than men. Personally, I see my husband connect with people instantly upon meeting them. How easy that must be!
It simply doesn’t work that way for me. I need to get to know someone first. It takes time. “Too long”, he’ll tell you! But it doesn’t matter what he thinks about that. Only I know when I’m comfortable.
If you are like that too, I can’t stress enough how important it is to honor that.
As you are looking for a financial advisor, don’t be afraid to insist upon taking a “test drive” before hiring him or her. Many advisors are happy to have an initial consultation to assess your needs before talking about fees and getting started. Do this. And do it multiple times with multiple advisors – if that’s what it takes – to assess different styles and how well you connect.
Only you will know when you “connect” with someone. So trust your gut and not what anyone else tells you.
Here are some thoughts from my own experience
It’s not about gender. It’s about connection
I think the finance industry would have you believe that only women advisors can meet the needs of women clients. Which is tough, because only about 20% of Certified Financial Planners are women.
That doesn’t have to mean that you have a smaller pool of talent to choose from. Remember, you need to connect with the person. If gender is important to connection, then you will interview and find a female advisor. If it’s not, then you might find that you connect well with a male advisor. It’s about the connection, not the gender.
When I realized I needed to hire an advisor, gender wasn’t my first priority. I wanted to work with someone that knew me well. Someone that understood my dreams and fears, and how my mind works. Most importantly, someone that would listen to me first, then guide me. I hired someone who was a former co-worker, then a friend. Now he’s my advisor.
If it takes time to assess a connection, don’t be afraid to use it
Any advisor that feels she or he can meet your needs will be open to having multiple “get-to-know-you” conversations. If an advisor pressures you to move forward with paperwork after just one conversation, it’s probably a red flag that they don’t care so much about developing a connection.
Even though I knew my advisor for a long time before signing on with him, I still took the time to have several conversations over the course of a few months about how things would work before hiring him.
You should be doing all the talking
Those “get-to-know-you” conversations should be almost exclusively about you and your situation. Yes, you want to learn about the advisor’s experience and credentials and how the process would work. But the point is that you and your needs should be the focus of the conversation. You should be doing most of the talking. The discussion should only shift to the advisor’s credentials and experience when you are ready for that shift to happen.
For me, I was surprised at the sheer number of questions my advisor asked before even talking about how he would invest my assets. By the time I signed on, I definitely felt like we had dotted all the “I”s and crossed all the “T”s.
Look at me, please
This has happened to me countless times. My husband and I meet with someone who assumes that my husband makes all the decisions and I’m just along for the ride. Conversation and eye contact is directed to my husband, with only a cursory glance at me from time to time. Little does this person know that my opinion – whether I feel I’m making a connection – is likely one of the most important factors in our decision-making process.
As you might guess, we never hire someone that takes that approach.
Maybe you generally defer decision-making on certain topics to your partner. There’s nothing wrong with that. Divide and conquer is a sign of a good relationship!
But there is a definite red flag if the advisor you are interviewing with your partner makes an assumption about who is in charge and directs their eye contact and conversation to that person. In my experience, that kills any possibility for connection. And it’s a sign of what the long-term relationship will look like.
Maybe that feels fine for now, but think about how it will work if it’s ever just you in the picture.
The bottom line:
Treat me different because I’m me
Sometimes the finance profession places too much emphasis on the need for advisors to treat women different. From my perspective, I don’t want to be treated different because I’m a woman. I want to be treated different because my circumstances and personality are unique. That means an advisor that works with me has to know my personality. He/she has to have done the homework to know what’s important to me, my level of knowledge and interest on financial topics, how I communicate, and what makes me comfortable. If that’s different than most of the advisor’s other business, then it’s likely not a good fit anyway. And I won’t feel that connection.
I guess in the end, it is a simple answer – and one that has nothing to do with your gender. You be you, and find your people. Work with someone you connect with that’s educated, credentialed, and puts your best interest first. And road test as many advisors as you need to in order to find the connection. Because a good relationship with a financial advisor should be a long-term relationship.
Give us a test-drive
To learn more about how you can test drive the financial advisors at Heritage Financial watch this brief 1 minute video about our complimentary “get-to-know-you” process.