Carolyn Howard, a 25-year certified financial planner and Founder and CEO of SeaCure Advisors, LLC, says a large group of people who are “suddenly single and in transition” are often underserved without sound guidance for their unique circumstances. Her firm provides comprehensive financial planning, investment management, and insurance solutions for this market. Major transitions can happen to anyone and while the firm works with men and couples, she sees key differences in the way men and women seek help and access guidance, particularly in life’s volatile moments.
Howard says, “Working with women is a relational situation. Women want to have someone they can talk to, see, touch, etc.” She adds, “women are busy, whether it’s career or family, and we are constantly juggling all the time. As women, we tend to operate emotionally, regardless of our personality type. Advisors need to recognize this emotional aspect to fully address issues. Downplaying it or making a client bottle it up will lead to a less candid client. That leads to mistakes. Grief, loss, or change are unavoidable in our lives. We need to recognize that it’s a vulnerable time to be making what can be very large financial moves.”
Howard explains when women become “suddenly single,” time can be an issue and a major component of risk. “Women are time challenged more than anything” and “tend to let time get the better of them. When we are in transition, we tend to get overwhelmed while processing all that is going on. Decisions build and the consequences of choices are hard to forecast through a haze of grief.” Above all, Howard urges, “Women in particular need to know it’s ok for women to have help. We are not superheroes. We can do a lot, but we cannot do it all. Women who are already stretched may not have time to research options and manage the ripple effect of decisions. This is why having a rapport rather with an advisor rather than just a business card is so important.”
When getting to know a client, any financial advisor can have a client fill out an intake form, talk about their needs, assess their risks, provide a plan, and move on. For Howard, a former teacher of 17 years in suburban Boston, the initial meetings are merely the beginning of a long process. She is part of growing group of professionals embracing creative ways to get clients to open up, even when your clientele are known for placing their own needs last.
In addition to reaching out to people through online videos and a blog, Howard also uses a “Goal Discovery” board game for all clients. “People come in and may have no real idea how to start the dialogue. When I pull the game out, the environment changes. I am teaching, listening, and learning. It really is all about them and it’s very powerful. Through the steps and side banter I can pinpoint what they need and how to tackle those goals. People need to truly interact with an advisor for guidance that makes sense for their circumstances. When this happens, you have a real conversation and we know where we are going.” For the investor in a changeable time, there is peace of mind that they are understood and will have someone looking out for their own needs. That reassurance is a major component of managing finances in transition.
Once people in transition are engaged with an advisor, it’s important to note that continual contact is paramount to their success in adjusting to their new circumstances. As shock, grief, and the business of final arrangements and/or moves passes, people begin to settle into new routines and determine what is important to them now. Professionals need to pick up the phone and remain in contact to stay abreast of evolving needs. In fact, Karen Demasters wrote in Financial Advisor Magazine that a frequent complaint from clients who have fired their advisors is that “they did not return telephone calls and they did not explain investments well enough.”
Howard agrees. “One of the things that comes up is people not getting service. People need to feel a connection with those guiding their investments. Clients just want to know that they are ok. It is our job to let them know that they are ok. It’s our job to help them move forward in the best possible way if life has dealt them an unexpected blow.”
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