How many female investors are you helping plan for retirement? Before you answer, consider the first response of veteran advisor Janet Briaud of Briaud Financial Planning in Bryan, Texas. When asked the question, Briaud, who manages $450 million, took a tally of all the single women she works with and gave a number.

But there was something missing from it-namely, all the women who sign with her firm as part of a couple. When Janet recalculated, she discovered that about 65% of her clients are women. "That's amazing. I never looked at it like this before," says Briaud, who was even more surprised when she started analyzing her overall client list to see where the assets and decision-making were coming from.

"When I look down the list, one by one, I can see: It's her money. It's her money. It's her money," a surprised Briaud told me about each female client. "She has substantial inheritances. She is the highest breadwinner by far. There's another woman doctor. She's a business owner. The influence of women among my clients is tremendous."

If you run this analysis on your own client base to see how many women investors you have, you, too, might be pleasantly bowled over, especially when you then consider the impressive multitude of pertinent facts about women's growing financial might. Mull these statistics over for a minute:
Women will control 60% of the wealth in the United States by the year 2010.
Women today represent nearly two-thirds of the U.S. workforce.
More than half of women with business degrees outearn their husbands.
90% of women feel financially insecure, despite controlling more wealth, having more education and being more involved with financial decisions.
50% of all women fear losing everything and becoming bag ladies (48% of women who earn $100,000 or more annually fear this).
80% of women will, at some point in their lives, be solely responsible for all household financial decisions.
70% of married women fire their financial professionals within one year of their husbands' deaths.*

"This might be more of a female world than we ever imagined," Briaud says of her advisory business. My sentiments exactly.

As these statistics start to reverberate throughout the financial services world, more advisors (and financial services giants) are starting to take notice, sometimes to the point of creating entire divisions or even businesses around the needs of women investors.

Enter Eleanor Blayney, a veteran advisor and former principal at the powerhouse northern Virginia advisory firm of Sullivan, Bruyette, Speros and Blayney, which now manages close to $2 billion.

Blayney retired early last year and is now in the process of kicking off Directions LLC, a network of women advisors and women clients she hopes to take national. Blayney's goal is to match groups of professional women, from those aged 45 to those in their 60s, with female CFPs for vigorous monthlong workshops designed to give the investors the essential takeaways they need to take control of their financial lives and plan for retirement. (She named the firm Directions because she believes that women in general are better at asking for and following directions than men, whether that's a sexist stereotype or not.)

While the model is still in its infancy, Blayney realizes that time is of the essence as competitors swarm the women's market. "The interest in women is huge right now, but I want to make sure I get things right." For now, she is thinking that the price of the workshop may be somewhere in the range of $1,500 to $2,000. "But I'm seeking a lot of feedback from my targeted market to see what they'll pay and what the appropriate content will be for them."

The 45-to-60 cohort is the first generation of women who have been in the workforce their entire lives and have their own assets-a fact not lost on Blayney or the financial services industry at large.

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