For many women, choosing a financial advisor can seem like an arduous and daunting process, especially when so few financial advisors are female.
But not having an advisor can mean feeling in the dark when faced with major life changes—such as divorce, death of a loved one or even retirement—and that can have a major impact on your finances.
“It’s often a life event like divorce, becoming a caregiver, inheriting money, retiring or surviving the death of a spouse that spurs a call to a financial advisor,” says Jessica Jones of BOK Financial Advisors.
Wealth transferring to women
It’s a growing trend, Jones said. By 2030, women in the U.S. will control more than $30 trillion in assets, according to a recent McKinsey study. That’s nearly the size of national annual GDP and the shift is primarily due to inheritance from baby boomers or the death of a spouse.
While it’s never too late to start talking to a financial advisor, it can be helpful to plan proactively—before a life event occurs, Jones suggests.
“Money is incredibly personal, especially when dealing with a life change,” she said.
"It’s important to find someone you trust, and someone who understands what you may be going through. It’s an honor to walk alongside some of my clients as they go through so many impactful life events."- Jessica Jones, senior financial advisor at BOK Financial Advisors
Jones outlined five questions to consider when selecting a financial advisor:
Question 1: Who is going to take care of you?
Very often, women are the caregivers—helping take care of kids, ailing parents or a sick spouse. But Jones encourages clients to think about how they might care for their own health and needs as well.
“Women, on average, outlive their spouses,” she said. “Sometimes kids or siblings can help, but often I see caregivers who are stretched thin or widows who are left picking up the pieces.”
Depending on the answer, financial advisors can help review assets and changes in income, determine health insurance options, go through tax implications and more.
“It can be very daunting to think about,” she said. “But we can help put it all together. I think of it as a puzzle. Let’s start with the straight-edge pieces and fill in the middle.”
Question 2: When do I start planning?
Technically, retirement starts at your first job, according to Jones.
“I feel like it’s a bit of a misconception that retirement starts at 65,” she said. “It really starts with that first paycheck; you’re consistently working toward your retirement.”
But she understands that those starting out their careers aren’t necessarily running to financial advisors. “While starting a financial plan earlier is always better, don’t worry if it’s later in life. It’s better than never starting at all, and there’s nearly always an improvement or adjustment that can be made.”
Question 3: What are your fees?
Most advisors do not charge a fee for an introductory conversation, Jones said.
“Think of these initial conversations as opportunities to talk and seek out assistance,” she suggests. “Don’t hesitate to make the call. Don’t be intimidated.”
Once you choose, your advisor should lay out a clear and transparent process for their fees and other charges.
Question 4: Can I ask prospective financial advisors about themselves?
Jones encourages clients to get to know their financial advisors by asking questions about their experience and why they enjoy their work. “We’ll be asking you a lot of personal questions as we seek to understand your financial goals, so we expect personal questions about our experience as well,” she said.
“A good relationship where both parties trust, know and understand each other can make planning and working together for years to come much easier.”
Question 5: How can I create the best retirement for myself?
This is one of Jones’s favorite questions.
“If people ask me, ‘Am I going to be okay?’ I feel like I can’t be as helpful because all my answers start with, ‘It depends,’” she said.
Questions like “Here’s what I have—how can I create the best retirement picture for myself?” offer a better opportunity for your advisor to provide more concrete next steps meeting clients where they are at that moment.
“I love working with people to create the best retirement possible, especially women. There’s an individual plan for each person. As advisors, we can bring that to life.”- Jessica Jones, senior financial advisor at BOK Financial Advisors