When it comes to negotiating, women tend to sell themselves short.
That’s where some female financial advisors have taken the lead, helping professional women develop confidence and negotiation skills that are often lacking. They’re also helping female professionals evaluate risks that can significantly impact their personal and business lives.
“It’s about empowering women and young women to learn to advocate for themselves,” says Elizabeth van Walleghem, chief executive and founder of Maximai Investment Partners in Coral Gables, Fla.
Here are five tactics women advisors often use to help support female professionals.
Boost confidence. In many cases, women aren’t as successful as men in achieving their financial plans because they make less money on average, says Debra Brennan Tagg, president of BFS Advisory Group in Dallas. Her goal is to even the playing field by educating women about the need to negotiate.
“Women just don’t negotiate as much as men do, and if you don’t negotiate in the first job, it makes it harder to do in the second, and it’s a multiplying effect,” she says.
Some of this has to do with a lack of confidence. During financial planning sessions, she asks her client whether she has considered asking for a raise. If the answer is no, she encourages her to do so and then takes a deeper dive into how the company doles out raises so the client can be better prepared to negotiate. If she has previously been turned down for a raise, Tagg encourages her to think about what steps she can take to turn a “no” into a “yes.”
“It’s a matter of giving them confidence that it’s OK to ask for more money,” she says. “If they know they are doing a good job, and they know that it’s OK to ask for more money, it eases some of the stigma and maybe some of the discomfort that comes with it.”
Role-play. Many of the women van Walleghem mentors are already successful, yet they struggle when it comes to many aspects of business negotiations, whether that’s selling a business, buying a business, or negotiating for a higher salary. That’s why van Walleghem spends many hours—often outside of normal weekday business hours or on the weekends—to help clients practice important negotiation skills.
Say, for example, a woman is negotiating a buyout of her company. Van Walleghem plays the role of the would-be buyer and together they act out potential scenarios so the owner can work through concerns she may have ahead of the actual negotiations. “At the end of the day, she wants to be prepared,” van Walleghem says. “I try to challenge her, which is what she wants.” She also role-plays with women ahead of interviews, acting as the interviewer and offering tips on how the female executive should prepare in advance and respond to on-the-spot questions.
“Negotiating is an art. The other person is negotiating against you. Know your worth, know your accomplishments, and be able to achieve your vision for what you want to achieve,” van Walleghem says.
Lisa Quadrini, a partner with Kennett Square, Pa.-based Brandywine Oak Private Wealth has done dress rehearsals with female executives who opt to retire before age 65 so they can be prepared for what can be difficult conversations with their employers. During these preparation sessions, she encourages women to push for appropriate compensation based on the contributions they’ve made. “Women sometimes are bashful about reinforcing what their value is and then equating it to compensation,” she says.
Evaluate risk. Michelle Rudd, a partner in the Seattle office of Summit Trail Advisors frequently helps professional women think through the next five to 10 years of wealth creation and financial stability. She helps them clarify their wants versus needs so they can prepare properly. “Women need coaching around taking more risk and evaluating risk so they are comfortable with it and can take action,” Rudd says.
She often gets questions from female corporate executives about how to plan for a transition to entrepreneur or founder. She helps them work through issues such as preparing to have an irregular paycheck and planning for potential income gaps. She also discusses how health benefits factor in and what advance preparations may be needed if a new role doesn’t offer the same level or mix of benefits. Planning for retirement and other expenses such as child care and housing also come up in these discussions.
“I’m asking them questions so that they can get clear on what they want and what they need,” she says. “They need to think through the financial pros and cons associated with their choices.”
Be a resource. Female professionals often ask Katherine Schneewind, founder and chief executive of High Note Wealth in Deephaven, Minn., for suggestions on how to do things faster and more efficiently, so they can simplify their lives and focus better on both career and family.
To assist, she’s developed what she calls a “a center of influence list”—resources she’s cultivated and expanded over more than two decades in the business. That list, which she continues to grow, includes go-to resources such as accountants, attorneys, fractional CFOs, dog groomers, housecleaners, dentists, babysitters, and an app that helps with caregiving—a recent add-on she learned about at a professional women’s networking group.
“You can bring those extra resources to your clients,” she says. “That’s what makes you unique. It isn’t just about running the best financial plan.”
Make planning a family affair. Often, female executives want to make sure their children—especially their daughters—are empowered and financially capable, says Lani Purpura, a senior vice president within U.S. Bank’s private wealth division in Vancouver, Wash.
Just recently, the firm coordinated an estate planning and financial planning 101 workshop for a female executive’s teenage and young adult daughters. They discussed topics such as home loans, powers of attorney, healthcare directives, credit-building, joint ownership, and other building blocks of financial knowledge.
Many female executives “feel they have to acquire this information by bumping into things, stubbing their toes, or learning it later than they should have,” Purpura says. As a result, they are often eager to pass on these lessons earlier, especially since they aren’t generally topics taught in school.
This is also true for after-death planning. Many female executives want to share their intentions with family members before they pass away. They don’t just want to rely on a “cold document” to relay this information after they are gone. That’s why she and her team often facilitate family meetings such as the one a colleague hosted recently for a retired executive in her 70s and her three adult children. They discussed details of her arrangements, including why she selected certain charities, how she wanted the estate to be divided, and why. Purpura says, it’s about helping women share “the heart and intentions of their message.”
This article was originally published in Barron’s on November 10, 2022, and written by Cheryl Winokur Munk.
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