The woman who sits quietly and looks bored at meetings can arrange one of her own with the kids who will inherit the family fortune

December 11, 2012 — 5:51 AM UTC by Guest Columnist Kristan N. Wojnar


The research is tough to take but true: Only 2% of children keep their inheritances with their parents’ financial advisor (1). Why? Because the advisor lacks a relationship with the next generation.

When the assets being passed on to 98% of such heirs are going out the door, something needs to change. Here’s another scary statistic: Upward of 70% of widows change financial advisors within a few months to a year after their spouse dies. Why? Once again, because the relationship does not exist. See: Why women just aren’t buying what financial advisors are selling.

It should be no surprise to the advisors who take an old-school approach and concentrate on the man in the spousal accounts that they will eventually lose the wife’s business. If you perceive that wives just “don’t seem interested” at meetings or “take a long time” to understand and accept the proposed changes you are making to their portfolio, that does not mean you should ignore them or not make the effort to forge a true connection with them.

Here’s the reality: Research shows that the woman of the family is more likely to introduce financial discussions with the family—both with parents and children. The stronger the relationship you have with her, the closer the tie you will have with the generations before and after her. See: Joe Duran tries out novel financial planning strategy on himself and his wife.

The lady vanishes

What’s the answer to changing the dreary outcomes of these alarming statistics? Understand that she is in charge. Whether it’s overtly or behind closed doors, more and more it is the woman who makes a family’s financial decisions. We read the data all of the time: Women control $14 trillion in assets now and this number is expected to climb to an estimated $41 trillion in the next 40 years.

Consider this story we heard from one of our advisor clients: A husband is happy with the relationship with his financial advisor, and the advisor regarded this man as one of his top clients. What this advisor didn’t know is that at home, the wife was not happy with the advisor relationship and felt disregarded. One reason was that she spoke to the advisor about her aging mother with Alzheimer’s in a meeting, and the advisor never followed up with her. Within a year the couple had a new advisor. This advisor never saw it coming. The moral of the story? The woman in the couple needs to trust you — and she may not wait until her husband dies to switch advisors. See: Ex-RIA chief: 'How I learned more in a month as a client than in 20 years as CEO’.

Wealth = freedom = values

Here are two ways to ensure a deep connection with the female part of the couple equation:

1. Uncover her core values
Studies show that 70%t of affluent women associate the word “wealth” with “security” and “freedom.”(2) Further evidence shows that “peace of mind” is more than seven times important to her than wealth accumulation.(3) What do these words have in common? Values. These core values are of utmost importance to her and will most likely drive all of her financial decisions for herself and her family. See: One Santa Fe woman’s female-centric approach to advice is attracting clients to her iconoclastic RIA.

2. Encourage 'Legacy Conversations While we all know that talking about money with family can be taboo, it may be an easier conversation when it is incorporated with a discussion around the intangibles and family values. You can be the trusted advisor to help her do this and initiate profound relationships with multiple generations. With the holiday season upon us, now is the perfect time to suggest to your female clients arrange a family meeting. Most families, of course, gather for at least one, if not multiple family meals or events during the holidays and these are truly wonderful occasions for your clients to create new family memories, yet also ideal times for storytelling, talking about family traditions, legacies and culture.

The sad truth is that rarely do we set aside time to talk about what really matters. The concept of talking about family values and meaningful legacy conversations can build bridges across both past and future generations. Holidays are opportune times to talk about family traditions and values, and to recount family lore. Oftentimes we don’t talk about these things or we talk about them and it’s too late, and the matriarch, whether she is the mother or grandmother, has passed on. This is a rich time of year and an appropriate time to talk about the intangibles. It may lead to the family scheduling the family meetings many wealthy families hold more consistently. It may also be a way for the advisor to become more involved. See: Forget their reputation; rich women are more fearless investors than supposed.

The following are a few questions you can use with your clients to help them to get started having legacy conversations with their families:

๏ What comes to mind when you think of the word “legacy”?
๏ What would you personally like to add to your family’s unique legacy?
๏ Which of your family traditions is most important to you, and why?
๏ Whom do you admire most in your family, and why?
๏ What philanthropy is most important to your family, and why?
๏ Who taught you the most about finances, and why?
๏ One hundred years from now, how would you like to be remembered in your family?

Lifetime loyalty

Make the effort to connect with her on a deeper level. It’s her values and life stories that are the real assets she wants to pass on. Help her to leave the intangible legacy she really desires, in addition to her tangible financial legacy. In our experience, the woman will be grateful and loyal to you for life for the legacy conversations you’ve encouraged her to start.See: How RIAs like Aspiriant and United Capital are working to put financial planning back at the center of financial planning firms.

(1). “Engaging and Retaining Families,” Investments & Wealth Monitor, IMCA, September/October 2011
(2). Source: Women & Co., Women and Affluence, 2010
(3). Age Wave/LPL Financial study: “A New Era of Women and Financial Planning: How Advisors Can Best Meet Their Needs,” 2011

Kristan has specialized in the practice management arena in the financial services industry since 1999. She is highly experienced in researching, developing, training and speaking nationwide on financial services programs to financial advisor, wholesaler and investor audiences. While her passion is the female investor, she has coached and trained top financial advisors and advisory teams on a myriad of practice management topics including branding, high-net-worth relationship management and building connections with clients and prospects. Kristan is a registered corporate coach (RCCTM), and has her Series 6 license. During Kristan’s corporate career, she was a senior vice president at Guggenheim Investments and prior to that a vice president at Morgan Stanley Investment Management/ Van Kampen Investments. Kristan can be reached at

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Tiger Booker said:

April 21, 2016 — 2:18 PM UTC

I am curious, where does the quote “Upward of 70% of widows change financial advisors within a few months to a year after their spouse dies. Why? Once again, because the relationship does not exist.” actually come from? I continue to hear this quoted but the advisors I speak too say this is not the case. While they do lose some clients, men and women, it is not as large as this makes it out to be. Can you state where this statistic is coming from? Thanks!


Brooke Southall said:

April 21, 2016 — 7:40 PM UTC


I think you are right to be skeptical about that. It may be the advisor equivalent of urban myth. Still, I’m
guessing that there is truth to it based on one small sample. I know that when my dad died, my mother moved her account — albeit two years later.


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