We're not sure what sparked the stereotype of female incompetence toward money issues, but let's be clear: Women are just as capable of handling money as men.
Historically, the finance field has been dominated by men. Yet the tide is changing—proven by Bank of America Merrill Lynch's dynamic team of West Michigan female advisors.
Though the vast majority of financial advice is the same, regardless of gender, here's the glitch: On average, women live longer, earn less, and take more breaks from the workplace to care for children and elderly parents than men.
While financial advice is best when individualized, women do face general challenges.
We asked the female leaders of Merrill Lynch: What is one financial challenge you see women in society facing today, and what advice do you offer to overcome the challenge?
"One of the challenges that I have seen face women over my 20-plus years working in financial services has been that many, not all, struggle with prioritizing their own financial security over those of others that they care about. They are often placing the needs of their parents, siblings, children or grandchildren before their own financial goals. It is my philosophy that by first securing their own financial house, they will be able to help others that they care about from a position of strength. This has the added benefit of reducing the possibility that they will need to rely on assistance from others in the future."
—April Armstrong, Senior Financial Advisor
"A financial challenge I see women in society facing today is not getting involved in their family's financial lives. There are many times we meet with a husband and wife, and it is the first time the wife is seeing the family's entire financial picture. My advice is to get involved and don't be afraid to ask questions. Ask about everything—employee benefits, retirement savings, college savings and, most importantly: 'Are we going to be OK?'"
—Emie Badersnider, Financial Advisor
"With the divorce rate higher than ever before, I find myself specializing and working with a growing number of divorced women. Women have put 'understanding my finances' last while they've focused on caring for their families and/or careers. When they're faced with divorce, it seems the majority are finding themselves 'starting from scratch' with learning and understanding what they have, what they should have, how it works and what to do. Regardless if divorce is anticipated—it never is—all women need to take the time now to learn about their finances, their employer's benefits and their annual cash flow. Work with an advisor that is going to spend the time holding your hand and helping you learn and understand these important issues as well."
—Amber Coleman, Senior Financial Advisor
"Women, more so than men, tend to focus on the needs of others rather than ourselves. While not always a negative, when it comes to taking the time to deal with our finances, it could be. Because of the added longevity that women have over men, we need to be saving even more toward our retirement years. If women take the time to meet with a financial advisor initially to set up a savings and investment strategy, it can become an almost automated process. You do not have to spend hours a month reading up on investments. Simply find an advisor you trust and get the process started. In the long run, you will have more time and money to spend on others if you spend a little upfront time getting your finances in order."
—Amy Freeburg, Wealth Management Advisor
"One challenge women face today is trying to find balance amidst all of their responsibilities. Attempting to do everything yourself does not make you Wonder Woman—it often makes you frazzled and stressed. I advise clients to delegate and build a team to overcome this obstacle. The largest hurdle for many women is getting the strength to ask for help and letting others take some of the burden. As a financial advisor, I assemble a team to simplify and improve my clients' financial responsibilities based on their priorities. I also advise them to engage their employer and team early so they can be supportive. You will have a better experience and more overall backing for your goals when you involve others."
—Rua Hekhuis, Wealth Management Advisor
"The biggest challenge I see women facing is a lack of confidence in feeling equipped to take ownership of their financial lives outside of daily household budgeting. My advice would be to not be intimidated, to take ownership of your financial future, and ask questions! Don't discount your ability to be involved and know what's going on or make assumptions that everyone else in the room knows more than you about finances. You have a unique perspective to bring and although finance may not be your 'cup of tea,' participate, learn the basics and lean on your advisor for the technicals. You will have much more confidence and peace of mind if you challenge yourself to take a seat at the table."
—Gina Pennings, Financial Advisor
"Women who take time away from the workplace to care for family can find that their retirement plan savings suffer. Women need to save diligently, take full advantage of employer matching contributions and often increase their contributions to make up the difference. Working with a financial advisor can assist women in this position to determine what percentage to contribute to their employer-sponsored retirement plan to ensure they are adequately preparing for their retirement."
—Christine Steinmetz, Financial Advisor
"Women are challenged daily by the work we do in and out of the home and often taking the time to understand our current financial situation falls down the priority list. Whether on a napkin, on your phone or in a spreadsheet, write down all the assets and liabilities you have—real, in the bank, invested, outstanding, et cetera. Make it a habit to review these numbers regularly and understand where you sit financially, even if you have to ask for help to do so. There is so much power in knowing your financial situation and it can be a great starting point to being mindful of how you can improve your current situation."
—Molly J. Tupper Chelovich, Wealth Management Advisor
Learn more about Merrill Lynch at https://www.ml.com.
Courtesy of West Michigan Woman.