What’s different about advising women?

Dorie Fain
Dorie Fain is the founder and CEO of &Wealth, a boutique financial advisory firm dedicated to helping women who are recreating their lives, with offices in New York City and Baltimore.

Published 3/11/2016 in The Maryland Daily Record

I’m a third-generation Certified Financial Planner. I got an early start in the industry as a “financial consultant” at a major financial services firm. My dad, who retired in 2010 after 45 years in the industry, was my greatest champion in pursuing this career. In February I passed my 19th anniversary in the profession, and someone told me recently that I am still too young to put in front of certain clients … what a compliment! During the time that I worked at the big investment firm, I thought about starting my own practice; when my son was born 8 years ago, it gave me the kick in the pants I needed.

I haven’t looked back.

There is much coverage about women and how the financial services community is trying to crack the code on the “women’s market.” Frequently, new platforms are created to try to capture this coveted group before the swoon of wealth transfer occurs and women are at the helm of financial decision-making. As a woman and also as an adviser, I saw the missed opportunity that was taking place and felt that I could do something about it.

In creating &Wealth, it was important for me to have a focus or niche where I could make the biggest impact. I felt that women in general were becoming more engaged or aware of the financial media yet remained somewhat
disconnected from the actual financial management. Women have traditionally been under-served in the financial industry, particularly in times of transition — death, divorce, inheritance, major life events that drive financial decision-making. This specialized need is what led me to establish a firm dedicated to guiding women during these most critical times. At &Wealth, we bring in project management, collaboration, resources, and hands-on financial guidance at the most important times.

While this is a worthy and necessary pursuit on its own merit, the trends support what women are missing when it comes to financial and investment advice. Statistically, most women over the age of 55 haven’t managed the
financial decisions, and yet more and more women are outliving their male counterparts. Suddenly, women are financially in charge, and they’re often not prepared. The reality of divorce often leaves many women managing
their finances on their own for the first time without experience and confidence. Meanwhile, the financial industry continues to be dominated by men at a time when more and more women are at the forefront of financial services consumption. This experience of managing finances for women is often like moving to a new country where you don’t speak the language.

As a result, I have identified the key issue that we are connecting on with our clients and what makes this niche practice so special. Our approach first addresses the emotional impact of the process, because we know that 90 percent of human decisions are driven by emotion rather than logic.

Rather than throwing charts, facts and figures out that may not have any particular context, we start by reassuring clients that there is no rush to make decisions, that each of their concerns will be heard and addressed, that it’s OK to prolong certain financial decisions, and that utilizing quality financial analysis provides the proof to back up their
decision-making. For example, we might run several models based on multiple lifestyle factors to show a client she has enough cash flow to rely on during an initial period of uncertainty or transition.

Many women start out as cautious observers. They think they’re supposed to be eager to jump right in despite that inner voice that isn’t completely sure. But the qualities that make these women cautious observers are the same qualities that help them become thoughtful investors. Once you have a plan in place, the process starts to feel less overwhelming and much more doable.

There’s a common misperception that women require the same approach as men. But I find that a woman is often looking for a more consultative way of coming to decisions. She doesn’t just need to understand her financial picture and make decisions about money. She wants to think about how she will live and how she wants to design her life. In particular, when dealing with attorneys, accountants, financial advisors, our kids and family during these times of transition, we have to think bigger than what most financial firms are offering today.