The entire Complex of male-dominated financial industries and practitioners outlived its usefulness. It was a great run! Lots of wealth created, careers made, great companies established, it was ultimately done in by a combination of factors including hubris, demographics and an inability or unwillingness to adapt. Oh, and failure to listen—to its customers, certainly. But also to voices within its component industries that warned of the likely end of times. Sure, there were research studies that highlighted the failings. The condescension, gender stereotyping, misdirected advertising, and flawed assumption about the female customer’s concerns and priorities.  

The signals of impending doom were manifest but ignored. The creation of 10,000 PowerPoint decks rehashing and repackaging research findings proved no substitute for genuine action that would have made an actual difference. In the end, signals to the Complex as vivid as 70% of male advisors terminated by widows proved insufficient to ignite the types of changes that could have saved it. The advisor coaching programs that could have made a genuine difference never gained traction. New investing technologies better able to address a women’s priorities failed to secure requisite investment. Transformative educational programs that would have made a huge positive impact were never rolled out. Like an aircraft carrier heading into port, but with its engines and navigation systems disabled, the Complex’s inevitable collision with the dock proved utterly devastating.  

Infighting among the Complex’s component industries consumed vast energy that could have been redirected toward positive change. Internecine fighting over “product,” and “compensation,” “annuities,” “AUM,” and which group truly represented the best interests of women, proved to be a tournament of world-class hypocrisy and distraction. Like firefighters arguing over which hose to pick up as the woman’s house burns down before them. 

In the end, each of the Complex’s constituent industries ignored the woman’s needs. This issue of longevity was bastardized by both the asset management and insurance industries as each tried to bend it to its selfish advantage. The “fiduciary” RIA community continued to lie to itself, relying upon its inaccurate, outdated and ultimately shameful criticisms of annuities, ignoring the reality that no commission/no surrender charge annuities had become plentiful and practice model friendly. Even after it was exposed as arbitrary and unscientific, and wholly dependent upon the whim of one’s favorite capital markets assumptions, they persisted in using Monte Carlo simulations as a proxy for “safety,” preferring to leave the woman’s longevity risk unaddressed. A shameful act, to be sure. 

In an opposite sense, the Complex’s insurance practitioners failed women by focusing exclusively on annuities providing guarantees of continuing income. For many of the insurance practitioners, that those income streams would almost certainly be decimated by inflation proved to be an inconvenient truth. Rather than address its cruel impact on their clients’ future standards-of-living, they sidestepped the discussion of inflation entirely. A shameful act, to be sure. 

In the end, the waring factions’ inability to respect each other’s skills and knowledge sealed the Complex’s fate. Lacking the ability to join forces cooperatively, unable to foster the solutions that showcased all of their vital skills, and unwilling to move past their old habits, the male-engineered, make-focused and male-managed Complex collapsed. Its irrelevancy apparent to all with who possessed a degree objectivity.  

Out its ashes emerged a survivable, innovative, and relevant female-led New Complex, one dedicated to tangibly serving the woman’s needs. The New Complex was built out of cooperation, and the recognition that the woman’s needs demanded multiple competencies, diverse products, protection, growth potential, listening skills, communications skills, relationship-building skills. 

To its great credit, the New Complex was not exclusionary. It welcomed men. But it demanded they be different. It demanded their entire focus be placed on her voice, her needs. No forcing of his views on her, rather his absorbing and then acting solely on her values and preferences. 

In 2041, the New Complex celebrated its 10th birthday. It rightfully took pride in its many accomplishments. As it was built out of the ashes of the original Complex, systematically matured, and achieved its objectives to properly serve women sans the conflicts if the past, with a measure of pride the New Complex paused to consider all it had accomplished. Constructing a better, more inclusive, more representative, more innovative, more relevant and ultimately more secure financial future—for both women, and men. 

This story sounds futuristic, but it's reality for most of the women in the financial planning process. So many decades of well-intentioned programs, trainings, offerings and fancy websites littered with empty promises of change, inclusion, diversity of thought and planning and people. In the end, we could simply make a change right in this exact moment, as you're reading this, to do something different. 

The real question that's in the back of many minds is, "What's in it for me?" Sounds crude, but it's true. If most people reading this don't see what's in it for them, they won't do anything to get the wheel of change in motion.

So, what's in it for you, the reader, the decider, the solutionist? How do you benefit from being different? How do you benefit with your entire focus being placed on women's voices and needs? 

Your bottom-line improves when you put women first. Put a woman first in the financial plan. Put a woman first in your marketing strategies. Put a woman first in your appointments. Put a woman first in your office. Putting women first is good business. It's smart business. It means you recognize that women are multiple markets in one. 

And THAT futuristic reality becomes the here and now and you can celebrate the wins in present day and know you've created a legacy of change in the years to come.

Wealth2k Founder David Macchia is an entrepreneur, author, IP inventor and public speaker whose work involves improving the processes used in retirement income planning. Macchia is the developer of the widely used The Income for Life Model, and the recently introduced Women And Income. He is the author of two books, Constrained Investor, and Lucky Retiree: How to Create and Keep Your Retirement Income with The Income for Life Model.

Sheryl Hickerson is the founder and CEO of Females and Finance, a private online membership organization on a mission to support the hiring, mentoring, training, and advancement of women in financial services.