As a girl, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I usually answered, "a nurse.”
That’s what my older sister, whom I idolized, always said. I also thought being a lawyer would be cool, watching how TV-defense attorney Perry Mason always got the real crook to confess while someone else was tried for the crime.
But never once did I answer “financial planner” — even though I was happily destined to become one. Financial planning didn’t exist when I was young! Today, however, the field has become a true profession, defined by practice standards, ethical principles and a rigorous certification process.
Of course, there hasn’t been a TV series starring a financial professional who makes what we planners do for a living look cool — yet. Our profession has some growing to do, especially when it comes to the number of women in our field.
As in all sectors of financial services, women advisors are a distinct minority. According to CFP Board data, the percentage of women among our group is only 23 percent, and has remained at that level for at least 10 years.
Meanwhile, everywhere else you turn — higher education, government, medicine — women are growing in numbers and authority. And, no longer a minority in the workplace, women will overtake men as holders of wealth in the United States sometime this decade.
Given the rising influence of women, the 23 percent constitutes not just a minority, but a true shortage for our field. As corporate America is discovering, more women mean better business. We need more women advisors for all the female consumers who find they are living longer, and have greater financial responsibilities. While not all women prefer to work only with a female financial advisor, a growing number — such as divorcees, widows, and business owners — want to talk to someone who understands what it means to face financial and lifestyle challenges as a woman.
As a representative of the minority, I can assert that financial planning is a great career for women. At age 10, I couldn’t have anticipated that becoming a financial professional would allow me to be both a nurse and Perry Mason at the same time. I am in a healing, helping profession that requires detective and analytical acumen. I get to use both sides of my brain —creativity and logic — to help consumers understand the complicated world of personal finance. Words are my tools, as are numbers, and I’ve been able to find work-life balance in an industry with a wide variety of business models, practices and firms.
Now all that remains to make my career perfect is getting the lead in the first TV series about the life of financial planner. I’m waiting patiently and have all sorts of fascinating plot lines for the producer!
In the meantime, you can help me get the word out about the rewards of being a female financial planner. I’ll bet that right up there with the thrill of being a TV star, is the thrill of hearing a young woman saying what I could not so many years ago: “I want to be a financial planner.”