Martha Gribble

“Money is the opposite of the weather. Nobody talks about it, but everybody does something about it.” Rebecca Johnson, Vogue September, 2007

How very true! We talk or fret about money in general, but most hold very private their personal financial details. We all face financial decisions daily. I have been asked if the behavior of women differs from that of men in this area.

One study, the 2013 Report on U.S. Physicians’ Financial Preparedness, found that “female physicians have less personal financial knowledge, confidence and retirement savings overall.” 2,365 physicians responded to this AMA Insurance survey. The highest concern among all categories of participants related to accumulating adequate retirement funding. The survey found that, overall, female physicians lagged in accumulating savings for retirement.

The study also showed fewer female physicians have updated wills (46% vs. 61%), end-of-life directives (43% vs. 54%), and estate tax plans (25% vs. 41%). Interestingly, the area where results were closest was charitable giving provisions, (15% vs. 18%).

Does this mean that women behave differently regarding financial matters? I suspect the rationale behind these lagging percentages may not be due so much to gender behavior differences, as much as other statistics relating to women in medicine.

25 years of advising clients at Foster Group has shown us that behavior regarding financial and investment decisions is not gender-based, but rather based on characteristics of the individual(s). These are as varied among women as they are for men. Many women, like many men, are very interested and knowledgeable about their financial situations and the investments they hold. There are also women who have little or no interest – the same is true for men. It’s not a gender thing.

When our clients are involved in relationships, it’s also not necessarily related to who earns the higher income. I would identify it as a responsibility thing. Whether in a relationship or not, If you are responsible for financial decisions affecting you and/or others, and if you are a disciplined and intentional person, you will likely educate yourself to fulfill those responsibilities or delegate them to someone with expertise that you trust. If you share responsibilities with others and someone else takes the role of CFO for your family, you may not be very involved on a day-to-day basis, but you are still responsible for an understanding of your overall financial picture. That includes doing your part to promote the accumulation of funds for life goals like retirement, and addressing needs such as spending, protection and estate planning.

Some folks approach their finances with detailed budgets and spreadsheets. Others are bottom-liners – they tend to automate savings and the payment of routine and planned expenses and spend the rest. In relationships, this seems to be an area where opposites attract. Usually one individual is more detailed than the other. It’s the same with investments. Some folks are constantly tuned in to how many points the Dow has climbed or fallen, while others pay no attention; again, not necessarily a male or female characteristic.
Physicians, generally, are very good delegators and that’s why they often engage trusted advisors to help them manage accumulation, investment, protection and charitable objectives for their families.

Whether you like the details or only want the big picture, if you find yourself in the category of not prepared, start today to educate yourself, or engage someone you trust to help iron out some of the financial details of your life.

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