How We’re Helping Women Live a Richer Life

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By 2030, women will control two-thirds of our nation’s wealth, yet only three percent of married women are engaged in wealth conversations and decisions within their family.

By Tama Smith

The nation’s collective reckoning with gender equality has brought awareness to systemic challenges facing women of all walks of life.

The stats are both daunting and familiar to those who have kept up with the news of late. The average woman earns approximately 80 percent of what a man makes in the same job. Women don’t invest as much as men do, have less saved for retirement, and are much more likely to be impoverished in old age. This broader conversation extends to the burgeoning #MeToo movement and issues of career development across many industries.

Thankfully, countless role models and organizations are stepping up to make their voices heard and advocate for an equitable solution. The team at Brighton Jones is humbled to play a small role in this larger dialogue as we continue to listen and learn from our clients, colleagues, and community. We wanted to take this opportunity to share some insights we’ve gained in recent months.

Financial wellbeing and serving as your Personal CFO continues to be at the core of our company. It’s in our DNA and will always be foundational to our service offering. But for the majority of those who possess wealth, the realization occurs pretty quickly that there’s more to life than balance sheets, investment portfolios, and estate plans. We set out to learn more about how we could help our female clients—and their families—live a richer life beyond financial wellbeing.

empowering women

Two questions were at the core of our exploration: (1) what’s driving the gap between a future where women will control most of the nation’s wealth and the present reality in which very few women are financially empowered?; and (2) how can our team help close the gender gap?

To that end, we hosted dozens of female clients for a series of insight groups conducted in Seattle late last year. Here’s what we heard:

What’s driving the financial gender gap?

Control-power dynamics in more traditional marriages: In some marriages, there are control and power dynamics in which the wife feels as if it’s “his money vs. our money.” In a marriage where the wife is the breadwinner, the feeling from both the wife and the husband tends to be that it’s “our money.”

Time scarcity: In many cases, working women raising children have less bandwidth for financial matters than their partners. One participant shared that the time she has spent with her family’s team at Brighton Jones has inspired her to be more involved when it comes to money.

Gender inequality: Women have had to work harder than men to get where they are, and as a result have even less time to manage their or their family’s money.* As Reshma Saujani eloquently observed in a 2016 TED Talk, we teach our boys to be brave and our girls to be perfect. It’s no wonder that the troubling pattern continues into adulthood—one report found that men apply for a job when they meet only 60 percent of the qualifications, while women apply only if they’re 100 percent qualified.

Selflessness: Women tend to put themselves last, as they are nurturers by nature. It’s not intentional, but their needs are often overlooked or neglected.

Women feel ignored: Women do not feel like they are a part of the money conversation. While many participants agreed that having a third-party is appreciated and important, they lamented that too many financial advisors focus their time and attention on the male in a client engagement or meeting. Moreover, some women expressed a worry of asking too many questions, despite acknowledging that their silence only isolates them further.

Money is a stressful topic: For several participants, money has always felt like a stressful topic. Because the long-term security of their families is paramount, women would much rather talk about life goals than investment goals. In fact, a few of the women who joined us noted that anxiety was their chief emotion when their thoughts or conversations shifted to finances.

Distrust and intimidation of financial institutions: There’s no shortage of financial advice out there. Unfortunately, that has done little to quell the growing distrust of major financial institutions. Aggressive brokers, advisors charging hourly rates, and arcane tools wrapped in industry jargon have combined to stain the industry’s reputation.

How can our team help close the gender gap?

Create a safe environment for women to engage and learn: We heard that many women enjoy being in a community of other women because they feel safe and supported. It’s an environment that fosters greater engagement, listening, and acceptance. What’s more, hosting conversations like the Insights Circles is the perfect opportunity to share tangible financial tips with women in the Brighton Jones community.

Help educate the next generation: A crucial step toward closing the gender gap is the education and empowerment of today’s youth, especially girls and young women. The women who joined us highlighted the need for accessible tools and materials to help impart key financial lessons, including saving, investments, and college costs.

Of course, this is just the beginning of these discussions. We plan to host more insight circles in the coming months and will continue to share what we learn. To those who want to join us in the future or engage in other ways with the Women Living a Richer Life initiative, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

* For more on empowering women and building inclusive workplaces, we can’t recommend enough this SXSW panel discussion led by Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Update: Brighton Jones is a proud sponsor of an upcoming Seattle Arts & Lectures conversation with Melinda Gates. The May 9, 2019 event will be held at McCaw Hall.

Tama Smith leads the Women Living a Richer Life initiative at Brighton Jones.

This post was originally published on March 26, 2018.

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