Women must not be reluctant in seeking financial advice, say women advisers in the field
8 March is International Women’s Day 2021 – an awareness day which is more important than ever as women’s livelihoods are disproportionately affected as a result of the pandemic. Here, financial advisers Sarah Kendell and Jenny Loftus share their views on protecting women’s financial futures…
With the roadmap out of lockdown now confirmed by the Government, many are taking this moment to reflect on the impact of the pandemic on our lives and livelihoods. Widespread reporting indicates that women have suffered the most harm, not least in terms of their finances and prospects. Earnings shortfalls among women are disproportionally higher than those of men, with the recession leaving millions of women financially exposed.
Having shouldered the lion’s share of domestic work during the pandemic, many women have “downshifted” in their careers, working fewer hours or leaving the workforce altogether. The increased pressure on mothers and grandmothers to care has led to significant loss of earnings, with an even greater financial toll for women who are divorced or separated. Globally, women have also sustained the greatest job losses due to Covid-19, nearly double (1.8 times greater than) that of men.
These factors are likely to have long-lasting impact on women’s financial outlook as well as their retirement. In fact, the Telegraph has reported that women could be more than £12,000 worse off in retirement as a result of reduced hours and time out of work to look after children during the Coronavirus.1
Taking into account factors such as greater life expectancy, outliving partners and rising care costs, women must achieve better long-term financial resilience than do men, however they tend to be under-invested compared with their male counterparts, and typically have smaller retirement savings.
Little wonder then that concern about financial health and retirement prospects among women is on the rise. Nearly half (48%) of women homeowners who are still working are anxious about retirement, according to a recent report from the Equity Release Council. A third of men (32%) likewise expressed concern.
Despite worrying about finances, women are far less likely to seek professional financial advice. This is something that can and should change, says chartered financial adviser Sarah Kendell. “Typically women are the primary carers and are pulled in all directions – something I’ve experienced myself homeschooling my six-year-old son while working as an adviser,” says Sarah. “Spinning so many plates day-to day-understandably leaves women little time for financial planning, and as a result planning for their financial future often falls low on the list of priorities.
"We are one of the few financial advice firms where both our in-house staff and Board of directors are equally split between male and female"
“Sometimes women feel that the financial advice industry is impersonal, or worry that they do not have enough wealth to seek advice. However, this is changing in the wake of Covid-19, as women look to recover from lost earnings, improve their financial resilience, and maximise their long-term earnings and pensions saving potential. They are finding that they want to take action to achieve a secure retirement and financial future on their own terms, with many seeking advice for the first time.
“Generally speaking women are more aware of risk, and are not as keen to pursue a ‘market timing’ or aggressive allocation approach. Speaking with your adviser about your individual preferences is key, as is discussing how you would like your funds managed in times of volatility. Many women prefer to work with a woman financial adviser, but comfort and trust are important no matter who is at the table – or, in these times, on the Zoom call.”
Encouraging young women to choose Financial Advice as a career
How do we make financial advice more accessible and more attractive to women? Many would answer that the key to doing so is to improve diversity among leadership in the field. The impact of Covid-19, however, will almost certainly prove a hindrance on women’s equality in the industry, to the detriment of the sector.
For this reason we believe that all firms must play a role in raising awareness of finance as a viable career for young women and girls, and work to support young women with training and career development opportunities.
As a firm we are proud to take a proactive approach to supporting the professional development of young women in financial advice. Over the past three years, three-quarters of the advisers we have supported to complete the Diploma in Financial Advice (DipFA) at Quilter’s Financial Adviser School have been women, and we are one of the few financial advice firms where both our in-house staff and Board of directors are equally split between male and female.
Financial Adviser Jenny Loftus comments, “I’m immensely proud of the work we do at the Financial Options Group, because of the difference we make to the lives of our clients and their families. I began my career in financial advice as a personal assistant then moved on to become a trainee paraplanner before obtaining my Certificate in Mortgage and Advice Practice and my Level 4 Diploma in 2018. This meant the realisation of so many long-held aspirations, and it has been my greatest professional achievement to date.
“It is extremely rewarding that in my role I can encourage and support young up-and-comers within the business to ensure they follow their passions and have a clear path for succeeding in their career aspirations. My aim is to give guidance along the way and encourage every young woman to have a voice and grow in self-confidence so that they can reach their full potential.”
Sarah adds, “The financial advice sector industry lends itself well to flexible employment, however it is vital that employers provide an environment with flexible working options for women – particularly in times like these – as well as create opportunities for training and development. Personally I am extremely proud that the Financial Options Group continues to make a pathway for young women in the field. As a firm, we are leading by example.”
1The Telegraph, Coronavirus could cost working mothers £12,000 in retirement, 26 June 2020
Pictured: Women of the Financial Options Group leadership team (L to R) Charlotte Banks, Lauren Chatterley, Jenny Loftus, Sarah Kendell