How Women Are Changing the Retirement Conversation

The emerging ‘Modern Family’ brings new challenge and opportunity to today’s advisors

by Aimee Johnson

Ms. Johnson is Women’s Program manager with Allianz Life. Minneapolis, Mn. She is NASD registered with Series 7, 66 and 31 registrations. Connect with her by e-mail:


Women are taking more control of the modern family’s financial situation. Today’s women increasingly are in family structures quite different from the traditional nuclear family.

As defined in the Allianz LoveFamilyMoney Study1, a majority of the 4,500 study participants (71%) belong to modern families2 – those headed by single parents, older parents, same-sex couples and families that are blended or multigenerational. Gender differences can make a large impact on how these modern families manage their finances.

Financial professionals can build a stronger, more diverse practice if they take notice of gender characteristics inside modern family finances and understand the different needs that the women in these families have. By understanding modern family women3, who may be likely to control or have joint control of household assets, financial professionals can tap into a client base who primarily finds their financial professionals through referral.

The LoveFamilyMoney study offers financial professionals some valuable insights into modern family women. For instance, they report worrying more about their finances than men, which is a great place for the financial professional to start conversations. Their concerns range from managing day-to-day expenses to preparing for the future. Sixty-seven percent worry about covering their current financial expenses compared to modern family men (57%) and more than three-quarters (81%) of these women stress about planning for their future financial needs. Fewer modern family women describe their financial situation as wealthy/affluent or financially comfortable (38%) compared to modern family men (49%).

Lack of confidence doesn’t mean a lack of involvement, however. Modern family women may just spend more time thinking about their financial issues and decisions. When helping these clients build a financial strategy, financial professionals should keep this in mind. LoveFamilyMoney also found some promising trends as well as challenges that a financial professional should consider when working with modern family women.

Openness and less debt

More modern family women openly discuss their family finances than modern family men. To teach their children, 57% of these women share their own personal financial situation, while only 47% of modern family men do the same. Modern family women find family finances the easiest topic to discuss with their significant other (83%), more so than emotions (78%) or sex (75%).

Another insight is that modern family women have less debt than modern family men – an average of $28,580 compared to $29,970. Nevertheless, fewer of these women are comfortable with the amount of debt they have – 42% versus 56% of modern family men. Being uncomfortable with their debt could actually be helping these women – it can spur them to owe less.

Challenges – create a good foundation and manage retirement

A contributing factor to their discomfort and lack of confidence may be that fewer modern family women are working with a financial professional than men.

Only 41% have ever used a financial professional – the majority (59%) report they have never used one. Modern family women are more likely than modern men to look for a financial professional who “takes the time to really get to know me and my financial needs.” Besides their spouse/significant other, modern family women go to friends and family for help with major financial decisions just as frequently as they would go to a financial professional. Translation: they need to trust you before working with you.

Build a foundation to build trust

The LoveFamilyMoney study revealed some bad financial habits among today’s families. Financial professionals who help quell modern family women’s bad financial habits before creating an in-depth financial strategy will build trust and create openness for a better outcome. These women’s top bad financial habits focus on everyday spending and saving practices such as:

  • Saving some money, but not as much as I could (36%)
  • Spending too much money on things I don’t need (32%)
  • Not saving any money (29%) • Not having a household budget (23%)
  • Only making minimum payments on credit cards (17%)
Women living in a modern household fear outliving their money nearly as much as dying young, indicating they may not be prepared to fund all their retirement years

The financial professional can bridge the gap by helping with these issues first, then move on to a strategy that supports them far into the future.

Women live longer than men on average, which could be a double-edged sword for modern family women. Women living in a modern household fear outliving their money nearly as much as dying young, indicating they may not be prepared to fund all their retirement years. This presents a special challenge for financial professionals as they help address client concerns.

LoveFamilyMoney spotlighted modern family women’s retirement landscape and it wasn’t promising. The study found that women living in a modern family structure are less prepared for retirement with an average of $165,200 saved, while men averaged savings of $243,300. Yet, even with less saved, the largest portion of modern family women want to retire at the same age as their male counterparts – between 65 and 69.

A financial professional can help here, especially because modern family women worry more about planning for their future financial needs than traditional family women and men. Build the right relationship, create a strong foundation, guide them to a successful financial future and modern family women clients will keep coming back for support.

To gain more modern family women clients, consider these strategies:

  1. Work with the basics first. Help build a strong foundation that will create better rapport and a better financial starting point.
  2. People fear being judged – create a level of comfort. Money is intimidating. Financial professionals work with money every day and are comfortable with it. But, clients may not know where to start and don’t want to feel looked down upon for their mistakes. Create an open environment for modern family women to ask questions and become informed.
  3. Become noticeable within the women’s market. Be in situations to meet local women clients – attend seminars, write an article in the local paper, or go to women’s group meetings.
  4. Use the skills that make great financial professionals. Utilize strong communication skills and most importantly, LISTEN.
  5. Assess your practice. What have you already established that may improve your support of women clients? Are there tactics that need to be tweaked to make things more open?

Explore ways to engage, support and gain modern family women clients and they may help you build a stronger practice while helping you find new ways to cater to clients. Don’t miss the chance to serve modern family women; it could be a game-changing opportunity for your practice.


1. The Allianz LoveFamilyMoney study was conducted by The Futures Company via an online panel in January, 2014 with more than 4,500 panel respondents ages 35 – 65 with a household income of $50K+ and was commissioned by Allianz.
2. The LoveFamilyMoney study revealed six modern family structures:

  • Multi-Generational Families -Three or more generations living in the same household
  • Single Parent Families – One unmarried adult with at least one child under 18
  • Same-Sex Couple Families – Married or unmarried couples living together with a member of the same gender
  • Blended Families – Parents (married or living together) with a stepchild and/or child from a previous relationship
  • Older Parent with Young Children Families – Parents age 40+ with at least one child under five in the household
  • Boomerang Families – Parents with an adult child (21-35) who left and later returned to live at home

3. Modern family women (ages 35-65) are defined as women living in a modern family structure. The median age of modern family women respondents is 47.5 with a reported average household income of $93,800. There were 1,966 Modern Family Women and 1,216 Modern Family Men represented in the study.