Mar 21, 2022

Financial Planning for Women: Getting Started and Staying Involved

By Michael Duncan

Years ago, my wife and I sat down with a financial advisor to go over our finances. During that meeting, I noticed the advisor directed most of his attention and questions to me.

I realized he had assumed, without reason, that I was the sole decision-maker for the household. This is not at all the case – my wife and I are both involved in making financial decisions for our family.

I often share this experience as an example of how the financial planning industry can sometimes, unintentionally, relegate women to the backseat in important financial discussions.

Over the years, our industry has been trying to do a better job of ensuring women are being heard and engaged. Because the feeling of being patronized or not being heard can discourage many women from sitting down with an advisor to talk about their financial future. We have to change this. 

The importance of early engagement

I know sometimes the word “empowerment” may seem a bit overused. But financial planning, regardless of gender and sex, is about empowering yourself to secure the life you want.

When it comes to financial planning for women, however, there are special considerations.

Those assigned female at birth, on average, tend to live longer, which means they have to plan for a longer retirement. Many women also have to contend with challenges like the gender pay gap and having to take extended career breaks to raise children—both of which could affect their lifetime earning potential.

That’s why it’s important for women to start financial planning early and to stay engaged in the process, no matter what stage of life they may be in.

Some women may hesitate to get started because they feel as if they don’t know enough about personal finances to get involved. And sometimes it may seem easier to simply let someone else handle the big financial decisions.

Here’s the thing: You don’t have to know everything to get started. Financial literacy is a lifelong learning process. Nobody can know everything.

In fact, this is why working with a financial advisor can be helpful. We’re here to serve as a guide to help you learn and understand your options—for whatever goals you have in mind.

And I bet once you start that conversation with the right advisor, you’ll come to find that you know more than you think.

If you’re married, I understand it can be nice to delegate financial decisions to your partner. It’s one less thing to think about.

But consider this: If you leave yourself out of the financial planning process, you may also be leaving yourself open to unexpected financial issues.

In my earlier days as an advisor, a client of mine surprised his wife by pulling up in a new Porsche. It was not a good surprise, as I came to learn that she was not consulted on that particular financial decision.

While the Porsche story may bring a few laughs, I’ve heard a number of more serious stories—spouses being caught off guard by things like hidden debt or significant shortfalls in savings.

Again, this is why consistent engagement in financial planning for women is important. It’s not just about empowering you to make the right financial decisions, it’s also about helping you secure your own financial future.

Finding a financial advisor you can trust

As with many other things in life, getting started is often the toughest part.

For women who are unsure about how to get started in financial planning, I encourage you to find and speak with a financial advisor you can trust.

There are a few financial planning resources online that can help you find the right advisor. For example, the CFP® Board has a website to help you find a Certified Financial Planner® in your area.

You could also consider asking your friends, family and colleagues for recommendations.

It goes without saying that the integrity of the advisor and their organization should be a priority, but it’s also important to find an advisor that you can connect with on a personal level.

You don’t have to go with the very first advisor you meet with. It’s OK to do an interview to see if they (and the rest of their team) are the right fit for you and your needs. This can go a long way to help you build the right kind of dynamic or rapport.

Here are a few questions you may want to consider:

  • Are they a good listener or are they simply talking at you? In other words, do you feel like you’re being heard?
  • Do they have anything in common with you? Are they able to relate to your needs?
  • Do they understand your ideas and goals? Do you feel comfortable talking to them about your financial fears or concerns?

As you interview potential candidates, consider asking the following:

  • Are you a fiduciary? (This is an advisor who is required by law to act in your best interest.)
  • What services do you provide?
  • What kind of clients do you usually work with? How often do you meet with your clients?
  • How are you compensated? Fees, commission or both?

At the end of the day, you want to find an advisor you’re comfortable with. Someone who knows how to listen. Someone who understands you and what’s most important to you.

Being clear about your desired outcome

Another key to successful financial planning is being clear about your desired outcome. That’s why finding an advisor who understands your ideas and goals is essential.

At Goldman Sachs Personal Financial Management, we use a tool called Honest Conversations® to encourage clients to talk about their personal financial goals.

Over the years, I’ve learned that this tool has been particularly helpful in getting my clients to open up and talk about the things that matter most to them, the kind of life they’ve envisioned for themselves, and let’s them talk freely about their motivations, worries and goals.

And from these conversations, they’re able to gain a clear understanding of the outcome they want. This is important because you have to know where you want to go in order to get there.

Financial planning is a long-term process. And because women have special considerations when planning for the future, early and consistent engagement is key to gaining clarity, confidence and control.


United Capital Financial Advisers, LLC d/b/a Goldman Sachs Personal Financial Management (“GS PFM”) is a registered investment adviser and an affiliate of Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC (“GS&Co.”) and subsidiary of The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., a worldwide, full-service investment banking, broker-dealer, asset management, and financial services organization. Advisory services are offered through United Capital Financial Advisers, LLC and brokerage services are offered through GS& Co., member FINRA/SIPC.

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Michael Duncan
ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Duncan

United Capital Financial Advisers, LLC d/b/a Goldman Sachs Personal Financial Management (“GS PFM”) is a registered investment adviser and an affiliate of Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC and subsidiary of The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., a worldwide, full-service investment banking, broker-dealer, asset management, and financial services organization.

The information contained herein is intended for informational purposes only, is not a recommendation to buy or sell any securities, and should not be considered investment advice. GS PFM does not provide legal, tax, or accounting advice. Clients should obtain their own independent legal, tax, or accounting advice based on their particular circumstances. Please contact your financial adviser with questions about your specific needs and circumstances.

Information and opinions expressed by individuals other than GS PFM employees do not necessarily reflect the view of GS PFM. Information and opinions expressed in this article are as of the date of this material only and subject to change without notice.

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