As a woman in the insurance world, specifically in the life and health insurance world, I have endured more hours of meetings, seminars, webinars, lectures, continuing education classes and the like than I care to admit.
Sometimes, the lectures or meetings are really terrific. I learn all kinds of new things, find out about legislation or product changes that really will affect my clients and family, or I meet bright, interesting people. And sometimes, especially when doughnuts are served – women do not want doughnuts at meetings! – and the hosts tell utterly inappropriate jokes about ‘girls’ in the workplace (always insisting ‘no harm intended!’ or ‘all in good fun!’), I wonder what on earth I am doing in this world. Here it is, 2011, and it’s still nothing but a bunch of good old boys, worried about their commission runs and amassing more points for an upcoming vacation contest?
When I settle down, and I do, eventually, I remember why I am in this field. Of course, I need to earn a living – let’s not be disingenuous here. I think about my commissions, too. And there are perfectly wonderful men in insurance – lots of them.
But I also sincerely believe that women are still poorly served by the insurance industry, despite the fact that some nine in ten women fully participate in their household’s investment and retirement decisions while still managing the savings and budgets of the same households. We have access to a vast array of financial products at work. Women live on average five years longer than men, but make less money. We need sound financial help and, given the complexity and licensing regulations of the financial services world, recognize that we must seek the input of several financial services professionals, not just one.
My own experience tells me that women do not want to be rushed or charmed when making financial decisions, especially when acquiring complex products like long-term care or even life insurance. We prefer to be educated. We worry about our families – a lot – and we like money matters to be fair and solid, not too tricky or too sideways. We appreciate loyalty and courtesy and timely responses to our questions – and we have a bunch of questions!
And another thing. I have met dozens of beautifully educated, professional women – doctors, lawyers, architects, teachers – who have not a clue what goes on in finance land. And I mean, not a clue. But given a chance, some resource suggestions and time to do their homework, and they are up to speed in a heartbeat. So no patronizing, please. Really. Again, don’t rush us, give us real information we can check and think about, and get to know us as individuals, not just a demographic.
So, again, one more time: get your financial house in order. Ask your parents, ask your friends, ask people you trust. Find a good advisor to help with your retirement plans. A good banker, a CPA, an insurance professional. Find people who listen to you, get to know you, answer your questions and concerns, respect you. We do exist! We really do!