Women & Finances: Should Their Approach Be Different Than Men? (32:00)
Women often take a backseat when it comes to long-term financial planning. They’re busy juggling family, career and professional goals, but it’s imperative that women take charge of their financial futures too. Jana Shoulders of Mariner Wealth Advisors joins us to discuss the importance of women being educated about their finances and finding a wealth advisor that holistically supports them.
Brian Leitner: Thank you for downloading another episode of Your Life, Simplified. My name is Brian Leitner, and I’ll be the host of this episode. We’re going to talk a little bit about things that we believe women should know as it relates to their financial plan and decisions and choices that they should be considering to help ensure that they get the most out of their overall financial plan, especially when working with a spouse or significant other. Today’s guest is Jana Shoulders, managing director with Mariner Wealth Advisors. She’s been serving clients for over 30 years and has phenomenal expertise, especially as it relates to planning for women. Jana, thanks for joining the show today.
Jana Shoulders: Thanks for having me, Brian. That over 30 years of experience makes me sound like I’m really old, doesn’t it? I hope there’s some wisdom there.
Brian: You started when you were 14, so things are good. Jana, just a little bit about your background, and how you got to this episode.
Jana: Good question. I’ll give you the abbreviated version. I started out as a tax person, and clients pulled me into a more holistic approach to wealth advice by bringing me their investments and what their insurance salesperson was recommending they buy. And the whole gamut of people trying to get them to make decisions or spend money or all of these product salesmen-type relationships. And what I realized is that what we were missing in the late 80s, early 90s, was independent and objective advice. I saw a need and a passion for that, because I could help them cut through all the hard to understand jargon and complicated, not necessarily needing to be complicated, but complicated illustrations and suggestions about you should do this, you should do that. So I realized that I could help these people, women and their families, come to an understanding that they could make good decisions if they had clear and concise education around them. I migrated from being a tax person who helped a little with these other holistic advice areas, to being a holistic advice person who also could help with tax but it wasn’t the driving force.
Brian: I appreciate the background. There’s a lot that’s there. Even today, I know you talked about the 80s and the 90s and the salespeople and the professionals and all that good stuff, it’s still difficult I think for folks to really delineate between who’s that salesperson versus who is that a fiduciary advisor—someone who’s really trying to look out for my best interest. And then what I think is interesting is when you talk about being holistic, you and other advisors at the firm come to the table. I think people use that term quite a bit. But the reality is, you were that tax professional, you had that background in insurance, you had a lot of the tools and techniques to deliver comprehensive planning as opposed to the buzz word today is just I provide holistic planning services and the reality is I just do investments. Right?
Jana: True. And I have to say that being a CPA gave me a little bit of an edge, because we’re naturally skeptical, and we want to really drill down, and we want to say, “Why is that the right solution?” And are we sure we understand all of the costs and why does it have to be complicated? I think that gave me a very helpful background and unique perspective to really focus on peeling back the onion for people and helping them get to a comfortable solution and a path and a plan. Not just buying something.
Brian: Yes. To your point, the devil’s in the details on most things financially related, right? You’ve worked with women your entire career, so let’s, let’s talk a little bit about that. Men and women, we all have financial objectives, we have goals, we have things that we want our money to do for us. But is planning with women a little bit different than it is for men from your perspective?
Brian: You’ve worked with women your entire career, so let’s talk a little bit about that. Men and women, we all have financial objectives, we have goals, we have things that we want our money to do for us. How is planning with women a little bit different than it is for men?
Jana: I don’t know that I would focus as much on gender differences as I would personality differences. It may be that more women have this personality, which is that they really want to have a trust established before you try to convince them to do something. They might not necessarily want you to take them into the weeds and lift up the hood and tell them how the carburetor was built, so to speak. But they do want to learn that you know enough, are credible and that they can place trust in you. That you’re going to guide them down a path that’s putting them first instead of what you want them to do. And sometimes it’s just as simple as face-to-face, eye-to-eye contact. I can’t tell you how many women have said to me, “I left the last person, or I don’t like dealing with someone who my husband and I work with because they never look at me.” I think maybe sometimes that’s a discomfort. It’s not that the male advisor is, perhaps chauvinistic, it is that maybe they’re not quite as comfortable with how to have that face- to-face, in your face discussion. And for women, it’s sometimes easier if it is another woman. And we are better listeners, sorry guys. But we are better listeners, and I think that’s huge to just be quiet and absorb what they want to share with you.
Brian: Yes, that’s a great point. I mean, I know a lot of the data will share that, not only are women better listeners, but they have a greater sense of empathy. When you’re talking about someone’s financial situation, their greatest fears, their family, what’s really important to them. Obviously it’s helpful—it’s a nice arrow in the quiver.
The other thing you brought up that I think is interesting that I’ll say a little bit differently, this industry has been a male-dominated industry for a long time, far too long. And so, when advisors have worked with couples, traditionally men and women, they’re probably used to giving more attention to the men. What’s funny is stereotypically, it looked like in that position, at least historically, it would be the man who made the decisions in terms of their financial situation, especially in front of the advisor or a CPA. And then the sidebar conversation is that when that couple gets into the car.
Jana: She’ll say, “I don’t like that guy.” I don’t care how credentialed they are. You did not make me feel like you get me. It’s important to get me.
Brian: Exactly. And the reality is, I mean every family is going to be a little bit different, but the women in that household make a great deal of the decisions.
Jana: But we do see Brian, even with younger women, and it’s a little puzzling to me with business, economics degrees or any kind of business background, you would think that a female would be geared toward stepping up and getting involved with the family finances. Sometimes that doesn’t happen, and I try very hard to keep these young women engaged even if they say, “Oh, but I’m spending so much time raising these two kids, and I’m exhausted, and my husband is so good at that.” I really encourage them to stay engaged. You don’t have to be driving all of the actions that happen but do understand what the plan is. Do understand who’s doing what and make sure that you are not that “innocent spouse” who wakes up someday and thinks, “I didn’t know any of this.”
Brian: Because the reality is they can’t have their head in the sand because, at the end of the day, this impacts them in a major way. And maybe that’s an interesting segue as it relates to women and earnings. What are the stats out there? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women today earn 82 cents for every dollar a man earns. And again, that’s on average. So thinking that through and if that is in fact the case, I mean they have to make that dollar work potentially even harder than their male counterparts. Right?
Jana: Yes. And you’ve just opened a real can of worms that I could spend hours talking about, Brian. Starting back from my days in what was the big eight accounting firm and asking one year why my colleague got a higher bonus than I did when I knew I had performed at least as well. And I was told he had a family and he needed to support the family. So obviously we’ve come a long way. I don’t believe that’s anybody’s response, if this isn’t covered today and there’s a whole other podcast that you could have about empowerment, know your value, how to negotiate for what you’re worth and keep your cool through the process.
Brian: I think Jana is volunteering to host a new podcast for Mariner Wealth Advisors. But that’s another story.
Jana: Well, there is a lot to be said for how you ask for a raise and how do you build your case, but that’s probably beyond the scope of what we’re talking about today. I do think that it’s very important for someone who realizes at, maybe it’s 45 or 50 but has a wake up moment for, how many more years do I have left in my prime and see that I’m a little behind the eight ball here. I have either stopped working for a while to raise children or I had to help with a parent. Any number of reasons that women seem to be pulled into this interruption of career and it means that they have a gap to fill, so they’ve got to double down with savings, and they’ve got to reassess how much risk they can be comfortable with, because they might not be able to invest only in certificates of deposit. They might need some growth or may run out of money, and they can’t have that happen.
Brian: Yes. A couple of great points you just brought up that, generally the women are the caretakers within their family, whether that’s children and then they take a break from the workforce perhaps and then all of a sudden that impacts them in a variety of different ways financially. So maybe they have less earnings from a Social Security perspective, maybe they haven’t been able to contribute to a 401(k) for several years, and then they miss potentially what that match might look like. I mean they’re already behind the eight ball as it relates to the compensation as we talked about that 82 cents for every dollar. So if you think about that, and it starts to add up, especially when you think about a career that might be 40 years, you say, well a couple of cents here and there, but all of a sudden that begins to compound and, no pun intended, in a major way.
Jana: It does. And the idea that you would not be worth as much because you did take a break from the workforce is not true. You are still worth as much. Unfortunately, you just don’t have it in the bank to show that. So it is one of the points, and one of the conversations I’ve tried to have with young women is, if you can make this part of the plan from early on and have a deal within your family unit that if you’re going to do this, if you’re going to break from your high earning or any earning career to stay home and be the chief household officer, it has value and you and your spouse need to decide what that’s worth and commit it to writing. I’m not suggesting you need an attorney to draft a legal document, but say I’m doing this and it is going to be worth, here’s what you would have to pay if we were having to do this. So that if God forbid down the road a few years something happens and you decide to go different directions, you’ve got a base for what you’ve contributed to the relationship, and you’re not standing with flat feet at ground zero trying to bail yourself out.
Brian: Jana, that’s an excellent idea. And frankly, one I haven’t heard before. And I think it’s helpful for a variety of reasons, but one of them is, we forget. And all of a sudden, maybe in this example, the male counterpart or the husband was out there working and now he or she, he in this case may say, well, the money is really mine. My goals are going to be more important. I’m the one that’s doing all the work and time goes by and resentment builds and so forth. And so whether this is a contract or not, I think it’s just a, call it a post it note. I think that’s a really, really interesting point. Like I said, one, I haven’t heard, so I appreciate you bringing that up.
Jana: I think it goes both ways. I actually have some very dear professional friends, women, who have built careers and their husbands decided to be the Mr. Mom, chief household officer. And it’s the same principles apply to that scenario. Provided a valuable resource and frankly have helped the household earn what it’s earned. Brian: Yes. Again, it’s just, it’s a great idea. You think about the divorce rate that’s out there, and it’s still hovering around 50%. In fact, we just did a podcast on divorce and divorce rates and how there’s this new term out there called “graying divorce” on how most people who are getting divorced now are in their 50s. Maybe it’s that resentment that generally ties back to finances. So this is just, you know, yet another idea or thing to think about as those who are raising a family and something they want to consider. Another fact that needs to be taken into account is that women may need to focus on growth, because they can’t have their money in CDs. Statistically speaking, it’s roughly, on average, of course, women will live an extra five years longer than their male counterparts. And so if you think about that, that’s a “Yay.” At the same time it’s, “I’m going to need more money. I’m going to need to have maybe more growth in my portfolio.” I think stereotypically some people will think, certainly my mother who would love to invest in nothing but CDs doesn’t want to see the volatility in the portfolio, but they really need to have more growth because of that life expectancy, right?
Jana: Yes. I think it’s crucial for anyone, especially in the case as you’ve just alluded to, to really assess just how much do I need? How much money am I going to need to: A.) never run out of money? B.) Meet my goals. If they’re realistic, we can help them get there. I think that’s a good place to start before you think about, well, how much could I tolerate having in the stock market. Starting with how much do I need? Then having a conservative approach to what would it take to get there. And there are a lot of different ways to help people understand the need to focus on what that asset allocation is. Sometimes you might have to go at it two or three different ways to find the right approach, but it’s crucial that they see this is the plan and if they have enough in what we would call the cash or a near cash bucket that they can get five years or six no matter what the volatility is in the stock market. That seems to help a lot. Plus, good communication. I find that if we will just communicate over and over again how comforting that is. Even if we think, well, I just told them this last month, just hearing it again and again and pulling the planning out and showing them is just invaluable.
Brian: It all goes back to that roadmap. And to your point, I forgot the statistic, but is it people have to hear something seven times before it really resonates. I think they need to hear it even more times when you think about the volatility and what you see in the newspapers and what you see on TV. I mean, those are all fear-driven tactics, because that’s how they ultimately get paid.
Brian: Thanks again for downloading this episode of Your Life, Simplified, which is produced by Mariner Wealth Advisors. At Mariner Wealth Advisors, we are here to serve as your advocate. We help people chart a course to reach their personal and financial goals so that they may have greater peace of mind that may lead to a more fulfilling life. We do this by always putting our clients first. So as you listened to this podcast and have questions about your own financial situation or would simply like a second opinion or even have an idea for a future podcast, please go ahead and email us at email@example.com. If you found the information on this podcast valuable, please go ahead and share it with friend or family member who you think might benefit from this information. And please don’t forget to subscribe to this podcast so you don’t miss an episode. Thanks for listening. And now back to the episode.
Brian: Jana, what are some of the challenges that you see with some of the successful professionals who you may work with or interact with as it relates to their situation?
Jana: You know, Brian, one of the interesting things that I have observed over the last few years in this progressive new environment is that many times the female is the high-powered career person, and the life partner has decided to take the path of being the chief household officer or doing all these things to make their environment more friendly, inviting and accepting. I think that the abilities to manage the financial affairs gets too complicated as these women become successful in publicly traded companies and get paid in funny ways and have all of these complications that come with success. And the same could be said with businesses. What happens is this spouse/life partner is scrambling to try to keep up with all of the financial decisions and issues that come with this wealth, and they feel that they’re justifying their existence with doing it and are reluctant to ask for help or allow us to help them. So one of the conversations that we have with these women is, how can we help them get this life mate, spouse or husband to get comfortable with letting someone help with these complications that it’s grown beyond, and it isn’t that they are not justifying their existence. So that is I think a fairly common thing with successful women.
Brian: In reality you talked about these executives who are paid in funny ways, a lot of different ways, and that spouse trying to keep up and do the best they can. But the reality is, that person is not a CPA or a certified financial planner. And with the complexities that take place, he or she could be doing a few things here and there, but not maximizing the value of what that compensation plan looks like, what that benefits plans looks like, and then how it ultimately impacts their tax situation in their overall context of that plan.
Jana: Yes, so what we try to do is help people understand that we want to be your thinking partner. We’re not saying that what you’re doing isn’t valuable, and you are still part of the team. But let us be your thinking partner and let’s see if we can’t elevate this planning and minimization of tax and some of these nuances that you wouldn’t be expected to know, and we’ll find more time for you to do some of the quality of life things that are really meaningful.
Brian: You bet. So Jana, recently I was in a meeting with a husband and wife, and we looked at what they were doing from a financial planning perspective and from a tax perspective—just their entire situation. This individual, he was a CPA for many years, so he did understand certainly different parts of the business. And now that he’s retired, he’s been able to spend his time building his own portfolio, tinkering around with things. And the reality is he’s done a phenomenal job. And while as an advisor, maybe we could add a little bit of value there, on the surface everything he’s done are the things that I think most reputable quality fiduciary advisors would do and provide. And in that conversation, I looked at his wife and I said, do you realize all the stuff that he’s done for your financial situation, the moves he’s done and the time he spent on this? Do you understand all that? Because I think it’s really for both of you to understand the situation, especially because you know one day you’ll probably be around it, and he won’t. And she looked at me and said, “I have no idea what he’s done. He doesn’t tell me what he’s done. And so my head is sort of in the sand and I’m flying blind a little bit.”
And I looked at him and said, “Well, what’s going to happen at some point, when you’re 81, you may not be of sound mind and if that happens, she’s going to have to find someone to figure out who’s going to help her with this situation, because she’s told me that she’s not there yet. She’s not interested and so forth. So while you’ve done all these great things, what’s next? Have you thought about engaging with someone today? Someone that you trust, someone that you have some say in. I mean, I have to believe that you have conversations like that on a regular basis.
Jana: We do, and it’s not just for the surviving spouse. It’s for their children, it’s for who is going to help you with this, conveying your values and continuing this good work you’ve done. You’ve built a foundation, who are you going to rely on to help you carry it forward who is going to care as much about your family as you do, and why don’t we put it in place now while you still have a sharp, sound mind? So we have an opportunity to work together for a while. I chuckle a little too, because it reminds me a little about a why spouses shouldn’t teach each other to ski or a husband or a wife to try to teach the other one something to do, it doesn’t always go well.
Brian: Yes, same could be said for trying to teach your kids a certain subject as well, by the way.
Jana: Exactly. It goes much better when it comes from an outside expert instead of you dad, even if you know more.
Brian: So Jana, you just talked about a lot of successful women who you work with and they’ve climbed the corporate ladder and continue to climb the corporate ladder. And in the position you’re in, with the experience and conversations that you had with women, do you have any advice for younger women to enter this traditionally male-dominated, industry?
Jana: Well I’d start with saying, you are so valuable. We hope you will consider it, because we still have a serious shortfall of females who will be in finance. We’ve done a really good job in accounting. We’ve got lots of female accountants, but for whatever reason, our industry has a black eye or a negative that we’ve got to get out of the way. And I think it’s because women have a tendency to think that it’s all this Wall Street, cigar smoking horrific activity or whatever you want to call it. And that is not true. Our wealth advice, financial planning, holistic environment that I would gather most registered investment advisory firms are fostering is very different. And it is extremely conducive, in my opinion, to having a family, to try to seek some of that balance and plotting your path. So that’s me on the soapbox as to why you should consider us. But I will also say that the best advice I think I can give for young people who are entering the industry is to truly know your value and to have a plan. Have a plan, stick with it and find a mentor. Find someone, it doesn’t have to be a female, but that might help at times with some of the conversations, but have someone who you feel like you can enter a judgment-free zone to have this meaningful conversation: “What should I do about this? What should I do about that?” So that you can progress.
Brian: Yes. And I do think this industry has come a long way. I mean, there’s still obviously a lot of room to grow, but if I think about, you know, Barron’s magazines and some of their postings. One of the things, I’m going to embarrass Jana with, that she didn’t mention is that she’s been recognized as one of the top female advisors in the country, on Barron’s top 100 list. And I don’t believe that’s the first time you’ve been there. So, congratulations again. And I know you wouldn’t say it, but I wanted to. And then I look across the Mariner organization as well. If you look at the leadership team or the executive committee, 50% are women. We have a variety of different women who are running some of our locations across the country. So I think as an organization and as an industry, we’ve made strides but obviously there’s a long way to go.
Jana: That is true. Thank you. Thank you for the compliment. I will tell you, I think it’s a recognition of our team, not just me, even though they have to list one person’s name. It is truly our team, but I am all in favor of everything we can do to heighten the awareness of women in the industry. So I’m grateful to Barron’s and anyone else who wants to take one of those initiatives and help us push it forward. To your point of our organization, it’s no secret that that’s one of the reasons I was interested in being a partner of Marty Bicknell because I point that out to people, find an organization that does appreciate you, that values you and where you have a voice.
Brian: Well said. So just a minute ago we talked about, you know, that generally speaking, women are the caregivers. And we generally think about that as raising the children and then even taking care of older parents. But what does that look like as it relates to some of the financial conversations that we might want to have with our parents as they get older and things that we should be thinking about.
Jana: And it is typically the female client that will ask us, “How should I approach this conversation with my parents or with Bob’s parents?” Or, “How can I help us get our arms around what their situation is without acting like I’m asking for an inheritance.”
Jana: And it’s very difficult, but what we helped them do is say, “I’ve just gone through this recently” and share what that looked like or share a horror story, which is, “So-and-so’s dad died, and they have the most complicated mess. Can we help you get things in order so that mom doesn’t have to go through that.” And I think it maybe, as you alluded, is our nurturing caregiving way as females, more often than not, that is probably the driver. But in some ways, guys don’t want to think about losing their parents, even more so than women. That’s our experience.
Brian: Jana, great points. I’ve also heard about that when you think about, you know, the inheritance syndrome and in all that goes on there. I think there are also ways that we can have conversations with our parents, if they’re not willing to share, in terms of dollar numbers and so forth. Walking them through percentages or even understanding where assets are located simply for an effective distribution at some point. And then of course just protecting them from the folks who are out there and fraudulent individuals and things of that nature.
Jana: We do think our parents are too sharp to fall for that. But you regularly hear, “Oh, can you believe that so-and-so believed this and they sent money.” So I think we all have to be on guard for that. But it is really a good conversation to have. I call it the notebook.
“Mom, dad, do you have the notebook? Does it have everything in it? Do you have who we should call if something happens to you? Is it clear? Is it concise? Who are your advisors?” So I think that comes across as more caring. I think it’s also a difficult conversation for some of our younger parents to have or allude that there are college savings plans for their children. But their parents haven’t quite been clear about, well is it just going to be enough to supplement? Is it, is it going to pay for all of college? And we’ve helped them form the conversations to ask without being greedy. And sometimes that can be as simple as saying, “I’m getting ready to set up a 529 plan, but I think I heard you say you already have one. Would it be simpler if we did them together?” Or something that sounds like you’re not expecting it, but you could sure use some communication so you can plan around it.
Brian: Yes. Communication, collaboration. It’s absolutely critical. I mean I’ve been part of conversations where the parents will joke and say, “Don’t worry, when we’re dead, you’ll be taken care of.” I understand it’s maybe it’s funny to certain people, but what does “taken care of” mean? Does that set the expectation that is $100, $100,000 or $10 million? It causes issues. And then when you think about your 529 example, it’s just from a planning perspective, what people may not realize is that I’m doing all this for you, but I’m doing this on the side as well. Are we going to have a potential tax issue or is too much one account or what does that look like? So excellent idea, communication, collaboration is absolutely critical as it relates to all these conversations. Jana, as we wrap up the show today, one, I want to thank you for being here and also want to ask you the same question that we ask all of our podcast guests. And that is what is the worst financial decision you’ve ever made?
Jana: Well, they do say we’ve learned more from our failures than our successes. So I guess this will make it a little less painful to say, but I think it was not doing the proper due diligence for business partners. And I can’t say strongly enough how crucial it is to make sure if you’re going into business with someone that you not only have the financial plan and the projections, but you have the personnel at work analysis so that you don’t find yourself in a business that you are not simpatico.
Brian: Yes, that’s a great point. You’re not the first guest that has shared that thought. I know Rob Crigler came in, said the exact same thing, and I think there has been other guests. So hopefully if the listeners have been listening for some time, this is great reinforcement.
Jana: A common theme: pick your partners well.
Brian: Exactly. That it relates to financials as well as your own personal life. So Jana, thanks again for being here, we really appreciate it.
Jana: Thanks for having me. It’s been a lot of fun, Brian.
Brian: Thanks for listening to the show today. You have questions, ideas, comments for the show. Please go ahead and email them in firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks again for listening.
The views expressed are for commentary purposes only and do not take into account any individual personal, financial, or tax considerations. It is not intended to be personal legal or investment advice or a solicitation to buy or sell any security or engage in a particular investment strategy.
Barron’s – Top 100 Women Financial Advisors – Jana Shoulders 2019: #91 2018: #78. In 2019, Jana Shoulders was ranked number five in Oklahoma by Barron’s 2019 Top Advisor Rankings by State. The State rankings draw from all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, with the number of ranking spots distributed in proportion to state population and wealth. Rankings are based on data provided by individual advisors and their firms. Advisor data is confirmed via regulatory databases, crosschecks with securities firms and conversations with individual advisors. The formula Barron’s uses to rank advisors is proprietary and has three major components: assets managed, revenue produced and quality of practice. Investment returns are not a component of the rankings because an advisor’s returns are dictated largely by the risk tolerance of clients. The quality-of-practice component includes an evaluation of each advisor’s regulatory record. The award is not indicative of future performance and there is no guarantee of future investment success. For additional information, visit www.barrons.com.
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