According to a survey of U.S. women sponsored by Philadelphia-based roboadvisor WorthFM, most women feel underserved by the financial services industry and are wary of trusting Wall Street.
“Even women who are really successful in their careers and who have advanced degrees feel completely outside of the traditional financial services in that they don’t really understand what they’re investing in,” says Amanda Steinberg, WorthFM CEO. “They feel like advisors are using financial plans to mask advice that is really just a means to sell products and to boost their AUM.”
WorthFM found that 76 percent of women believe that Wall Street does not have consumers’ best interests at heart.
The crisis of trust and confidence could have direct repercussions for financial firms: 84 percent of the respondents say they already are or expect to be solely responsible for managing their finances, and 89 percent said they are already involved in their household’s investment decisions in some capacity.
“The gender bifurcation of financial management in households is dissolving,” Steinberg says. “Women might not have the confidence yet, but they’re interested in learning about investing and finance. When they go to a traditional planner, they feel like they’re being interviewed and scrutinized to see if they’re worth talking to, and it leaves a bad taste in their mouth.”
The survey’s respondents felt disconnected from financial advisors, with 91 percent reporting that material from financial companies are more about selling them products than educating them about investing.
To some extent, that’s keeping women, even the enterprising millennials, on the sidelines of investing. Forty-four percent of the respondents, and more than half of the millennials surveyed, said they weren’t actively involved in investing outside of their 401(k) plans.
“We have to understand that most young people are skittish about the market, especially young women,” Steinberg says. “WorthFM focuses first on their emergency fund because we think that’s the most important thing we can do first; cash is the greatest protector against almost everything. We’re not pushing them into IRAs or investment accounts. We feel like the industry would gain more trust if we focused more on their short-term liquidity instead of their long-term asset growth.”
Women feel like their lack of financial knowledge as a barrier to investing, according to WorthFM. Nearly half of the respondents, 48 percent, don’t think they’re knowledgeable about investing, and 63 percent find investing confusing.
Steinberg said the goals-based planning paradigm is part of the problem.