The concept of diversity encompasses acceptance and respect. It means understanding that each individual is unique, and recognizing those differences. It is about moving beyond simple tolerance to embrace and celebrate the rich dimensions of diversity contained within each of us. Senior Market Advisor has launched a series about how diverse groups are making inroads in our industry. We start this month with WOMEN ADVISORS, and we welcome your comments. Let us know what you think.
Women In Insurance
Women make up 51% of the population and half of the workforce. So...why aren't there more women advisors?
Support or special treatment?
So how can the industry as a whole and its companies get more women into the ranks? Several dynamics can foster a workplace where women want to work and where they can grow, say those in the field. Mentorship from management and flexibility were two key attributes.
Pat Brzozowski, national diversity director in agency distribution for Prudential, says that in focus groups with newly hired women, participants cited several factors that led them to take a job with the insurance giant. First, having a manager who supported them and actively worked to help them succeed was important. "They [the managers] were going to be personal mentors and they really bought in to making them successful," she says.Next up was flexibility, especially for those with young children. "They wanted to know if they had to leave the office at three o'clock to pick up their son from school, that they had that flexibility," Brzozowski says.
A good field for women
As sexist as this may sound, women are said to possess certain skills and inherent traits that make them a good fit for this profession. They are natural relationship builders, can multi-task and---to echo probably the most time-worn clich?s about women--are sensitive and good listeners. All attributes that a good adviser--male or female--needs.
Kaelberer explains that whereas men tend to stick to a pre-determined script when talking to a client, a woman may pick up on something that is bothering client, such as a troublesome child. "We will stop and listen to that, knowing that our multi-tasking brain is going to bring us back to where we left off," Kaelberer says. "That is something that clients or perspective clients very much tune into, [which] is 'hey, they picked up on that and followed me over here.' In addition, women tend to use many more words. Especially in dealing with seniors, [that] helps them recall and understand why" an advisor is making a recommendation.
Loom large in LTCI
Anecdotally, all concur that women are more active in the long-term care insurance field. Pin it on their natural caregiver role that gives them first-hand insight into the need for this product.
That's because if an aging parent requires care, it's usually the wife or the daughter who delivers that assistance, Kaelberer says. "So as we talk to clients and prospects about the importance of long-term care it's because we know we're the caregivers. We've done it for our parents or we've watched our mom do it for grandma."
What makes a woman successful in the financial services and insurance industry? Women in Insurance & Financial Services (WIFS), an advocacy group for women in the field, wants to know. It's undertaking a study to discover what characteristics high-achieving women have that makes them thrive in financial services, according to Arthea (Charlie) Reed, Ph.D., CLTC, a board member of WIFS. She is also a financial rep for Northwestern Mutual and head of her own company, Long Term Care Insurance Connection, Inc., in Ashville, N.C.
Q&A with Jo Ann Favia
SMA: Are you seeing more women entering the financial services field?
Jo Ann Favia: Absolutely. I'm very involved with MDRT and going to the meetings 25 years ago, they shut down all the girls' bathrooms and made them boys' bathrooms because it was literally 10 to one in regards to men versus women. Nowadays, there are definitely more women. However, with MDRT a lot of them are international, not necessarily American women in attendance at the meetings. But I do see a bit more women. I'm a board member of the Society of Financial Services Professionals (FSP) and at [its past] meetings, typically I was one of the few women and now we are seeing at least 10 to 20 at each of the meetings. It's a great profession for women. I've been a single mom for 17 years. I just sent both my kids off the college, and so it allowed me the freedom to be a mom first and also have my business. So it provided me a lot of flexibility and I'm trying to encourage my daughter to get into the business.
SMA: Are there advantages for women to work in this field in terms of professional advancement and blending work and family? You mentioned the flexibility.
Estate Planning for Senior Women
Review beneficiary designations
Beneficiary designations take precedence over the client's will and can thwart estate distribution plans if they're not handled properly. Mary Ellen Hancock, CFP, a financial planner at Brinton Eaton, a wealth advisory firm in Madison, N.J., points out that these designations are found with numerous accounts:
- IRAs: traditional and Roth
- 401(k) plans
- Deferred compensation plans
- Equity-based compensation plans: restricted stock, stock options, performance awards
- Life insurance policies
- Annuity contracts
- Health Savings Accounts (HSAs)
Neglecting to review and make appropriate changes to these account's beneficiary designations can cause clients to unintentionally disinherit their heirs, Hancock points out via email. Her solution: When she reviews clients' estate plans, she asks for a copy of the assets' beneficiary designations. She takes that information and prepares a beneficiary designation schedule for review with clients. Once the schedule is established, she says, it's easy to examine with the client annually and also provides the client with one document outlining their beneficiary designations.
Review powers of attorney
"When they've done the conference with the attorney and gone through the signing and finished their estate planning, lots of people think they're finished for a lifetime," says Linda Patchett, CFP with Woodward Financial Advisors Inc. in Chapel Hill, N.C. "(But) the landscape changes pretty radically as we age and our kids age. Documents you've created 10 or 15 years ago may not be serving you well at the current time."
This is particularly true for durable powers of attorney and health-care powers of attorney. Patchett's firm reviews these documents regularly with clients to ensure the information is up-to-date. They also stress that the persons named as attorney on either form have copies of the documents or know where to find them. Having ready access to those forms is vital in a crisis, Patchett says. "If you happen to be someone's named agent under a health-care power of attorney and you show up in the emergency room with that piece of paper in your back pocket, they don't have to ask any questions," she says. "They know you are the named agent and in power to make decisions."
Survivorship life insurance: Providing survival for charities
By William J. Peverill
The current economic crisis has brought about what may be the most severe reduction in charitable giving since the Great Depression, creating the dual challenge of rising demand for services and declining revenues. Even for those non-profits whose donors have continued their giving, the gifts are smaller. Moreover, those givers who had once hoped to make a truly significant gift that would make a significant impact on behalf of a favorite cause have deferred if not abandoned their objective.