What do breadwinning women want? More help, less stress

Opportunity for companies to differentiate themselves in terms of talent development

NEW YORK (Reuters) — Women are the breadwinners in four out of 10 Americanfamilies, and nearly 95 per cent of women will be their family's primaryfinancial decision-maker at some point in their lives.

But with this added financial responsibility comes tremendous stress,according to a new study of breadwinning women from the Family Wealth AdvisorsCouncil, a national network of independent wealth management firms.

The group's survey of more than 1,000 working women finds that women arespread too thin when it comes to their familial and financial duties.

Reuters spoke to HeatherEttinger, a managing partner of Fairport Asset Management in Cleveland,Ohio,and co-author of the study, about the critical issues facing womenbreadwinners.

Q. What impact does the role of breadwinner have on women?

A. Sadly, it's a role of stress, stress, stress. She is caring for her kids,maybe her parents and even kids in the next generation. In fact, 40 per cent ofthe women surveyed acknowledge that they feel pressure from family and friendsto downplay their breadwinner status, and 28 per cent of married or committedwomen reported that their parents actually disapprove of their breadwinnerrole.

Q. How is this stress affecting her finances?

A. It's not that the women don't want to be in control, they just don't havetime. Women are taking on 75 per cent of all family financial planning, and, insome cases, they are assuming as much as 90 per cent of the responsibility forcharitable giving, paying for college, retirement planning and overall saving.

But there is a gap in the advisory services available: 35 per cent of thesewomen have no financial adviser. When they do work with a financial adviser,they say they are not satisfied with the experience.

Meanwhile, 62 per cent of women say they are leaving money on the table interms of getting their financial house in order and taking advantage of acompany's benefits.

Q. What happens to breadwinning women in divorce?

A. Sadly, most of them end up much worse financially than they were. That'snot necessarily different than most divorces overall, but these women end uphaving to pay alimony and child support. It creates a bigger stressemotionally, financially and in terms of time.

Divorced women are not only supporting themselves, but members of theirextended family as well. That might explain why many of them report not beingas knowledgeable as they would like to be about their finances. What'sinteresting is that divorced women in our study felt the least supported in workplace.By contrast, the widows felt the most supported.

Q. Are breadwinning women taking advantage of flexible work situations?

A. Nearly 85 per cent of the women we surveyed said companies are doing anexcellent job of providing technology that gives them the ability to be moreflexible. That's really important, but 46 per cent of them are also saying: 'Myemployer is not supporting my needs in terms of a work-life balance.'

When it comes to their jobs, they are some are getting more leadershiptraining and mentoring. But there is still a big gap between: 'I'm going tohelp coach you in your career,' and 'I'm going to make sure you are getting adefined career path.'

There is an opportunity here for companies to really differentiatethemselves in terms of talent development as well as attracting and retainingwomen. 

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