The following is based on the work in my upcoming book, How To Give Financial Advice to Couples: Balancing High-Net-Worth Clients’ Needs, due out September 2013. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and comments. Enjoy! KBK
Over the last decade, there has been a shift in gender roles in families making it no longer a given that the man is the one making and managing the money. In 1970, women in the United States contributed 2 to 6 % of the family income. Now the average American wife contributes 42.2%. Furthermore, almost 40% of United States wives out earn their husbands. Women make 85% of household buying decisions including who to hire for financial services, even if they do not overtly demonstrate this power in the meeting. Don’t be fooled by appearances. Women may be polite and gracious in a meeting and then veto their husband’s decision to hire you on the car ride home. While he may call you and let you know, she is the one who doesn’t want to work with you. And he may be relieved as he really wants an advisor who will take care of his wife if he dies first. If you don’t connect with her as well as him, there may be a question in his mind as to if you are the right advisor for the job.
Advising couples presents a dilemma for you, the advisor. Questions such as “Do I require both members of the couple to participate in meetings?” or “Do I leave it up to the couple I am working with to decide?” abound. Also “How do I reach out and connect with the female client without alienating her partner?” and “What is enough and what is too much?” As clients demand more client-centric services, these questions are bound to get more complex not easier.
How do you solve this dilemma? The answer lies in learning to develop a relationship with both partners simultaneously and remaining an objective observer of the couples’ dynamics around communication, task completion, and money management. Few advisors are trained in these skills or encouraged to develop this type of expertise. The result is 70% of widows fire the couple’s advisor within one year of the death of their spouses. What this alarming statistic shows is that the financial services industry is not only letting down the women they serve, but also the men in their lives. It is time for a revolution. Time for advisors like you to think about advising couples in a different way and to invest some time and energy in learning more about couples dynamics, money mindsets and how to balance gender differences in the client-couple advisor relationship.
By the way, practicing in a couple-friendly way is not only good for your clients, it is good for your business. By attending to both partners’ needs in the meeting and including both in the discussion, you decrease the risk of alienating one of the partners, especially the female client. At the same time, you increase the likelihood that her partner will trust you to help her should this person pass first. When a couple hires you and trusts you, you acquire more assets – his, hers, and theirs. Not only is this approach client-centric, it is likely to increase the longevity of your business, too. So what are the ways in which you are a couple-friendly advisor and how can you continue to strengthen this part of your practice?
About Kathleen Burns Kingsbury
Kathleen Burns Kingsbury is a wealth psychology expert, behavioral change specialist, and author of several books including How to Give Financial Advise to Women: Attracting and Retaining High-Net-Worth Female Clients (McGraw-Hill, 2012). She is the founder of KBK Wealth Connection, a company dedicated to training, coaching, and consulting with financial services professionals to improve client communication, retention, and profitability. Her next book, How to Give Financial Advice to Couples, will be published by McGraw-Hill in September 2013. For more information, visit www.kbkwealthconnection.com.