Financial Planning for Women: Knowing What Really Counts
Today, women are far more motivated, knowledgeable and involved in their financial lives than earlier generations. Still, many women worry that their first meeting with a financial advisor will be an exercise in investment data and number crunching. In reality, it should be about you, first and foremost.
Sociologist William Bruce Cameron has said, “Not everything that can be counted counts… and not everything that counts can be counted.”
This famous quote rings true in financial planning. An advisor needs to understand your lifestyle and values — and your hopes and dreams for your future. The numbers are just there to help.
While you will need to come prepared to discuss your current financial details, your first meetings with an advisor should leave you with a better understanding of your wealth and how you may reach your goals, hopefully providing you with peace of mind and a sense of empowerment.
Why a financial advisor really matters
The road to personal and financial empowerment begins with choosing the right financial advisor.
You may be seeking an advisor for the first time because of an inheritance or sale of a business. Or, perhaps, you’re going through a life crisis, such as a divorce or death of a spouse. These situations are when the expert guidance of a financial advisor may benefit you the most, although you might want to prepare before you are potentially faced with these things, too.
The questions and concerns about your financial future can range. Will your family be OK if you weren’t around? Can you maintain your present lifestyle? Do you need to save more? Can you pay for your children to go to college?
The best financial advisors work with you to understand your concerns, the things that keep you up at night, and the experiences you dream of having. This information will then form the architecture of the financial plan your advisor will build for you using their experience, sophisticated data analysis and planning skills. Remember, you’re working as a team, and your financial plan will be a joint creation.
Comfort: The key to choosing your advisor
Often, the first advisor you speak with is one who has been recommended by a friend, accountant or attorney. While virtually all financial advisors have the basic technical skills you need, it is important that your advisor be licensed to provide the services you are hiring them to perform, and that the licenses are in good standing. And when it comes to investing, be aware that registered investment advisors (RIAs) are required by law to act in your best interest, whereas broker-dealers only need to recommend investments that are suitable for you.
Another important thing to keep in mind is how well you and your advisor relate to each other. You will be sharing sensitive information about your life, hopes, fears and feelings. You should feel as comfortable with your financial advisor as you do with your doctor — or perhaps even more so, like a close friend.
As you get to know a prospective advisor, make sure they are taking the time to get to know you, ultimately demonstrating a sincere interest in understanding the things that are important to you, and an ability to communicate in a way that feels comfortable. When it comes to finding someone with whom you will be sharing your financial and life concerns, it’s perfectly fine to trust your gut.
In good times and in crisis, your professional financial advisor will provide a realistic assessment of where you stand and how you can best continue moving toward your life goals. With their support, you should feel happier, more confident, less stressed and more in control of your life. In a word, empowered.
That’s because a financial plan is about much more than money. It’s about everything in your life that really counts.