How Important Is the Financial Wellness of Women?

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How are women doing?

Well, according to a study from Merrill Lynch, 61% of women would prefer to talk about their own death rather than money. 

So, how can we ensure the financial wellness of women? Jennifer Auerbach-Rodriguez who leads strategic growth markets at Merrill Lynch and she also sponsors the woman exchange joined TheStreet to break down how women can focus on their financial wellness. 

Watch the video above for more.

Video Transcript: 

Katherine Ross:
A Merrill Lynch study found that 61% of women prefer to talk about their own death rather than money. So just how important is it to ensure the financial wellness of woman? With me today is Jennifer Auerbach-Rodriguez who leads strategic growth markets at Merrill Lynch and she also sponsors the woman exchange. Jennifer, I want to start with how important is it to ensure the financial wellness of woman?

Jennifer Auerbach-Rodriguez:
Yeah. I'd say it's mission critical. So women today control more than half of the wealth in our country. 51%, $14 trillion of personal wealth. It's an extraordinary number. It's a result of a number of things. Women are more educated than ever. Women outearn men at every single level of education, from bachelor's all the way through PhDs. Women are earning a lot more now. I know we often spend time talking about the wage gap, but the reality is that when you hold for a number of things constant, she's educated, she has a white collar profession, 51% of the time she is actually outearning he in the spousal relationship. Again, assuming certain normative standards there.

Jennifer Auerbach-Rodriguez:
But the reality is that financial wellness for women is the final frontier for us. We have done it in terms of education, we are doing it in terms of making sure that we are closing that persnickety wage gap. And this is the topic now for us to move into 2020 talking about. And so financial wellness is really all about recognizing that women are living longer. Women in many instances are outliving their spouses by the tune of five, 10 years. And so the reality is we have to start having a conversation about the way in which women can start using their longevity as their greatest financial assets and strengths.

Katherine Ross:
What kind of unique challenges do you see that woman face?

Jennifer Auerbach-Rodriguez:
Look, I think that there are two sides to every story. So on the one hand we can describe them as challenges, but on the other hand we can also describe them as quite positive things. And so the longevity revolution is easily one of the things that women are uniquely subject to think about. Women are going to live longer than most of their male counterparts. And so just understanding what that means in terms of being able to provide for themselves for a longer period of time. And so with living longer you can expect greater health care costs.

Jennifer Auerbach-Rodriguez:
We did a study on women and financial wellness a couple of years ago and the fact of the matter is that if you were to look at where women are at the time that they retire relative to their male counterparts, there is $1 million wealth gap. And so what are all of the ways for women to start to put things in motion sooner rather than later so that we can start to close not just the income gap but also that wealth gap.

Katherine Ross:
I want to take a step back and I want to look at the wealth management sector in general. What are they doing to bring more women in? And also what kind of challenges are they facing?

Jennifer Auerbach-Rodriguez:
It is such an imperative to make sure that we reflect the clients, the communities, the demographics that we want to serve in our country. Millennials and Gen Z years are the most diverse population, most diverse generation we've had in human history. And so when we think about it really is it's a conversation that goes beyond gender. It's really about thinking about how are we positioning ourselves to serve the future of wealth.

Jennifer Auerbach-Rodriguez:
And so today we are doing a number of things to make sure that women and men, but women specifically, people who are part of diverse communities understand what the life of a financial advisor is like. And for us we think it's really an awareness. It's an awareness bit. And we have to think about talking about being a financial advisor from the perspective of we are talking about a goals-based conversation. We are talking about building relationships. We are talking about using your wealth as a way of fulfilling your life's hopes and dreams. And so if we do a good job in telling that story and we feature some of our best advisors, men and women, I think that the industry is going to be in a much better position to really attract the future advisor force.

Katherine Ross:
What could the sector in general be doing to promote more woman?

Jennifer Auerbach-Rodriguez:
I think it's about making sure that it's a conversation that's integrated into just how a company or a business or even a subline of business operates. I think that one of the ways in which you can see this going wrong is if it lives off to the side. If it's a carved out initiative. And one of the things that we've really prided ourselves on at Merrill is that it has to be woven into everything we do. And so you will hear it from Andy Sieg, talk about it at the various offsites where we're pulling our advisors together, how important it is to have a lens on how we're thinking about diversity, how we're thinking about inclusion, how we're thinking about representation. And I think it's that effort, that intentionality that really does make the difference.

Katherine Ross:
Thank you so much for joining us today.

Jennifer Auerbach-Rodriguez:
Thank you so much for having me.

Katherine Ross:
And for more head on over to thestreet.com.

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