How to Help Female Clients Navigate Life Transitions in Uncertain Times

Everyone’s life is disrupted right now, but women who are going through major life transitions, such as divorce or the death of a spouse, are dealing with yet another layer of uncertainty. Associate Retirement Director Marquette Payton discusses how advisors can help their female clients regain a sense of control in these volatile and uncertain times.

Disruption – defined as a major disturbance that changes one’s plans or process – is something that everyone will likely experience at some point in their lives. And while significant disruption is unsettling for all of us, imagine you are a woman who has recently gone through a difficult life transition, such as losing a spouse or getting divorced. Couple that with suddenly having to face a bear market – not to mention the fear and uncertainty of the pandemic that sparked it – for possibly the first time ever, just as you’re faced with the prospect of managing long-term finances on your own.

If you’re a financial advisor with female clients who are in this situation, this is an opportunity to demonstrate the value you bring to the relationship by first and foremost being the voice of reason and helping them see the big picture. As humans, our first instinct in stressful situations is to panic. A woman who has experienced a life transition is also likely feeling a loss of control and is going to be even more susceptible to market gyration reactions as she navigates through it alone.  You can help put things in proper perspective by explaining that, historically, taking a longer-term view on investments has rewarded many investors in the end.

Following are some strategies and practices you can implement to help female clients get through these challenging times, both from an investing perspective and in terms of their overall financial independence.

Listen. It may seem like stating the obvious, but active listening is so important in this scenario that it bears repeating. Take time to listen to your client’s concerns. As with any client, use a non-judgmental approach and ask open-ended questions to help you gain an understanding of how she’s feeling. It is important to remember that, because women tend to be very relational and often just want to be heard, listening will help build rapport and trust. Remember that active listening also comes through with non-verbal cues like eye contact and leaning forward, as well as the pace, tone and volume of your voice.

Educate. Your client may have never experienced a bear market from the driver’s seat before and is likely scared because she is listening to family members, friends or the 24-hour news coverage about coronavirus and the market correction. You help her take a step back and look at the bigger picture by explaining historical patterns of market cycles and volatility. You can help her understand why uncertainty has created these large swings in the market measures she is probably used to seeing, like the Dow Jones Industrial Average or the S&P 500® Index. Now is a good time to discuss some of the obstacles that markets have faced over the last 100 years, such as wars, Black Monday, OPEC’s Oil Embargo in 1973, and the internet bubble bursting, to name a few. Doing so will help provide the perspective she needs.

Be Present. Because these current market conditions may be new to your client, it is important to maintain an ongoing line of communication. There are many forms of media available that can allow you to remain in contact and be responsive to questions. And don’t forget to conduct proactive outreach through sharing articles, hosting webinars, or creating and sharing a short video to provide continued perspective.

Provide Tactics. Communication, guidance and historical perspective can help set your client at ease, but providing clear, actionable tactics is what will help give your client a sense of control. With more people now staying home as social distancing becomes the new normal, some expenses might increase while others might decrease. Encourage your client to do things like review her expenses and prioritize her various buckets of spending. Another thing she may want to consider is refinancing any debt now that interest rates are at historic lows.

Uncertainty in the market creates uncertainty about the future. Connecting with your female clients who are experiencing life transitions will provide the support and guidance they need to get through what likely feels like an overwhelming level of disruption and help them avoid making irrational decisions. It also lets them know they don’t have to go it alone.

If you would like to learn about our capabilities, please contact your Janus Henderson representative.

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