Jan Blakeley Holman is the director of advisor education for Thornburg Investment Management. As a speaker and author, Jan draws on four decades in the business, first as an advisor, then as a financial services industry executive and now as an advisor to advisors. She has unique expertise in working with women clients and often teaches advisors how to speak with women about managing their wealth.

I interviewed Jan on February 28.

Jan, today we’re going to discuss advising women over 50.

This group represents a robust opportunity for advisors, yet advisors will need to earn it. Women over 50 have life experience, so the professionals who advise them must to be knowledgeable and prepared to help these women navigate some very complicated issues. Women over 50 have accumulated life and professional wisdom and the financial advisors who demonstrate that they are experts in all things financial will win their business.

Let’s take a step back. Tell me more about why you think women over 50 warrant advisors’ attention?

There are several reasons this part of the women’s market should be attractive to financial advisors. First and foremost, this is a very large group of individuals. The 2014 Census reported that over 108 million Americans were 50 or older. Of that group, 53.5% or 58 million were women.

A large group, for sure, but do these women have special financial needs or issues?

As a matter of fact, they do. And their needs and issues tend to be complex enough that the financial professionals who advise them must be experienced and well-versed in the challenges and opportunities that women clients face at this stage of life, such as the movement of wealth from men to women, the “gray divorce” trend and longer life expectancy.

Tell me about the movement of wealth from men to women.

Estimates indicate that by 2028 – just eight years from now – women will control 75% of the world’s discretionary spending. And, by 2030, women are projected to own 66% of America’s wealth. As women come into more and more wealth, they will look for advisors who want to partner with them to help them grow their assets. Unlike earlier generations of women, this group is not content to abdicate all decision-making to someone else. They want to be involved and educated.

Let’s move to what you refer to as the “gray divorce” trend. Is that really a thing and why should advisors care when it comes to women over 50?

Twenty-five percent of divorces are among couples over 50. Within the 50 and older age group, that rate has doubled since the 1990s. When couples divorce late in life, the division of assets and property settlements tend to be more complicated. Often they have adult children who are protective of their parents and want then both to leave the marriage emotionally and financially intact.

Of course, when couples divorce later in life, they don’t necessarily give up on relationships. Quite the contrary! Pew Research tells us that 67% of those between 55 and 64 remarry and, although more men (64%) than women (52%) remarry, the ramifications or remarrying or re-partnering for this group of women can be significant. For example, when she begins a new committed relationship, a woman is often expected to let her new male partner manage her financial affairs. While this may be a wonderful idea for the new man in her life, this is seldom a blessing for her, especially if she has significant wealth or other people in her family who have a vested interest in her estate and concern for her legacy.

Longer life expectancy is hopefully something advisors need to consider when advising both men and women. Why should their approach to women be any different?

While the difference between the life expectancy of men and women has narrowed, women still live longer than men. That means married women are more likely to outlive their husbands. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average age a woman becomes a widow is 59. And statistics tell us that 75% of women in traditional marriages are widowed by age 75.

In both situations, late life divorce and widowhood, women are likely to receive new assets and they will need the steady hand of a seasoned advisor to help them make good decisions.

What are the difference between advising a woman over 50 versus a woman in her 30s?

You need to play offense and defense at the same time. Unlike younger clients, when you advise a client over 50, you have to look for investment opportunities, as you would with any client, because her portfolio needs to grow and continue generating enough income to support her as she ages. But, unlike younger clients, while you’re looking for growth opportunities, you must also make sure she has contingencies in place that anticipate her future health and long-term care needs.

I want to circle back to something that you said in the beginning, that advisors will need to earn the business of women over 50. That’s the case with any client. Is there something advisors need to be aware of especially about earning business with this group?

It’s important for advisors to remember that these women, who are at the younger end of the Baby Boomer generation and older end of the Gen Xers, were often trailblazers or pioneers in their professions. Many of these women paved the way for the women who followed them in industries that were previously dominated by men. Women over 50 have good people sense, often great street smarts and have accumulated a lot of wisdom. They know how to navigate new situations, are eager for you to teach them how to be good stewards of their money.

Women over 50 respect and appreciate your expertise. According to a Hearts and Wallets whitepaper, 70% of women over 55 are likely to work with a financial advisor. It’s not just about expertise either. If you are fortunate enough to be an advisor to one of these women, be prepared to develop a relationship with her where you are one-part advisor, one-part mentor, one-part cheerleader and one-part friend.

Beyond their wealth, what makes this segment particularly attractive to advisors?

I will talk about the market among women generally. Because financial advisors grow their business by acquiring new clients and assets, focusing on the women’s market makes a great deal of sense. Women are loyal clients, and they will tell their friends about you. Delia Passi, an expert in marketing to women tells us that a client who is a woman is likely to refer friends and colleagues to a financial advisor 26 times in her lifetime versus a male client who will refer 11 times.

To grow your business and make a difference in your clients’ lives and engage in the type of work that requires experience and expertise, advisors should work with women over 50.


This material is for investment professional use only.

The views expressed are subject to change and do not necessarily reflect the views of Thornburg Investment Management, Inc. This information should not be relied upon as a recommendation or investment advice and is not intended to predict the performance of any investment or market.

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