Women can close the financial planning gap with help from advisors

By Ann Bair, Senior Vice President, Nationwide Financial Marketing

As someone who has spent the better part of her professional career in financial services, I can attest to how important it is for women to close the financial preparation gap. Unfortunately, the ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic made that task more difficult last year.

Today, women are less optimistic, more concerned and less prepared in their financial lives than they’ve been in years, primarily due to the pandemic. But many of us are also feeling more empowered; last year, more women were working with advisors and financial professionals than they were five years ago.

These are some of the insights emerging from our sixth annual Advisor Authority study, powered by the Nationwide Retirement Institute. Last year, we surveyed over 2,500 investors, advisors and financial professionals about many of the critical issues they were facing in midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, we wanted to know how the pandemic was affecting women investors, the level of confidence they had in their existing financial plans and the outlook for their financial futures.

Women’s concerns on the rise

As the COVID-19 pandemic has persisted, women investors have grown more concerned about their finances and feel less prepared for the future than they’ve been in years. Our study found:

  • Nearly three in four (72%) women with investable assets of $100,000 or more said the pandemic has negatively impacted their ability to retire.
  • More than two in ten (22%) said they would delay taking retirement income in the next 12 months due to the pandemic’s impact.
  • Less than one-third of women investors (32%) had an optimistic financial outlook in 2020.

View this infographic to see more findings from our Advisor Authority study.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a financial impact on men too, but our study revealed a significant preparation gap; women were somewhat less likely than men to have a strategy in place to protect their assets against market risk (60% vs 67%). Moreover, women were more than twice as likely as men to say they didn’t know if they have a strategy at all (15% vs 7%).

The good news

These findings are concerning to me, both as a woman and a financial professional, but there are also reasons to be encouraged. For the first time since we launched the Advisor Authority study in 2015, more than two-thirds of women reported working with an advisor or financial professional—a nearly 10-point increase in 2020 over 2019 (67% vs 58%). Five years ago, that number was under 50%.

Why have women been so reluctant to work with financial advisors? Part of the reason comes from competing priorities—balancing the demands of daily life with the need to plan for the future. Many women are also navigating immense uncertainty, raising families while caring for aging parents, living longer and facing the prospect of higher healthcare costs.

For me, this topic hits close to home. The inspiration and role model behind my career is my grandmother. A woman ahead of her time, she had a job at a financial firm in an era when the industry’s doors were shut for the vast majority of women. In my grandfather, she had a lifelong partner to develop their financial plan together and work closely with their advisor. My grandmother wasn’t wealthy, but she was never at risk for outliving her savings and continued to keep a close eye on her accounts, even up to the age of 102.

The next step for advisors

Women are acutely aware of the financial challenges they face, but it’s critical they take steps to address gaps in their retirement plans. Advisors and financial professionals have an opportunity and a responsibility to understand the needs of their women clients and to help them establish holistic plans for their financial future.

The pandemic revealed a greater need among women for financial protection and guaranteed solutions. In our survey, nearly six in ten women (59%) said they’d feel more secure if a portion of their portfolio was invested in an annuity to protect against market risk. More than half (55%) said they would feel more secure with an annuity to protect against the risk of outliving their savings.

Don’t underestimate the importance of building trust and nurturing strong relationships with women clients. The number one reason women gave for choosing to work with advisors was to feel more confident about their financial future.

Many women want non-judgmental spaces to ask questions about financial planning and seek partners who will address their specific concerns. By adopting a holistic approach to planning that includes risk management, tax and estate planning and insurance, advisors can help women clients feel more confident in their ability to reach their financial goals.

Originally published by Nationwide, 2/4/21


The sixth annual Advisory Authority Survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Nationwide from May 27 – June 25, 2020 among 1,768 advisors and financial professionals and 817 investors, ages 18+. Among the 1,768 advisors and financial professionals, there were 758 RIAs, 642 Registered Reps, 500 Wirehouse and 165 other advisors. Among the 817 investors, there were 297 women and 520 men. Investors are weighted where necessary by age by gender, race/ethnicity, region, education, income, marital status, household size, investable assets and propensity to be online to bring them in line with their actual proportions in the population. Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. Because the sample is based on those who were invited to participate in the Harris Poll online research panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. Nationwide Funds are distributed by Nationwide Fund Distributors LLC (NFD), member FINRA, Columbus, Ohio.

Nationwide Investment Services Corporation (NISC), member FINRA, Columbus OH. The Nationwide Retirement Institute is a division of NISC.

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