Women Emerge to the Forefront of Household Finance
In days gone by, women were in the dark about their household finances. Money was something that men talked about in dark-paneled rooms, while the women minded the children in the yard. The men bought the cars, paid the bills, decided how much to spend on a house, and if and how much to save for the boys’ college education.
All that has changed.
In more and more American households, it is the women sorting the mail as it comes in, separating the bills and ensuring they get paid on time via their online bill pay system. And when it’s time to buy a car, women are buying 60% of all new cars and 53% of all used cars, according to a December 2009 poll by NBC Universal.
Women also typically continue to make day-to-day purchasing decisions that have lasting impact on a family’s finances, such as where to make grocery and clothing purchases, and whether to use club cards or clip coupons. In addition, many women have taken on increasingly complex financial tasks, such as eliminating credit card debt, investing for retirement, saving for their children’s education, and engaging in family estate planning.
The Household CFO: A New Term is Coined
This phenomenon of women completely emerging from financial darkness to take the reins has resulted in a new term: the Household Chief Financial Officer, or CFO for short. And established businesspeople and entrepreneurs are catching on. Businesses that provide financial services are beginning to cater to women and to give them the respect they deserve.
Women and Finance: Doing it Their Way
As marketers, web designers, sales people, financial advisors and other business professionals learn to target women more effectively, they are realizing that women think differently about finance than men do. Here are some strategies that these professionals should keep in mind as they target women in finance.
- Women are voracious information gatherers. And they like to get their information in community settings. Note the success of websites like Babycenter.com, ivillage.com, and the like. Women will certainly carry this appetite for information-gathering into their finance habits.
- Many, but not all women, lack confidence in their financial skills. This lack of confidence is somewhat ironic, because many of these women are actually quite competent and so their lack of skill is often perceived, rather than real. Financial service providers can bridge this confidence gap by speaking in plain English, rather than attempting to impress their female clients with their intricate finance vocabulary.
- Women tend to thrive in networks. Rather than coldly refer female clients to an unknown professional, it will pay off to build a warmer sense of community by hosting local events.
- Be true to who and what you are, and consistently build your brand around it. If you try to brand yourself or your product or service line as something it is not, women will sense it immediately and reject it.
There are certainly companies and whole industries that have not gotten the memo. For example, I was in a used car lot recently with my husband and was summarily ignored by the salesman. But then, I shouldn’t expect a used car salesman to be at the forefront of evolution, now should I?
About Author: Katie Banks is a freelance writer who contributes to FinancialRx.com, a website targeting savvy women who are the CFOs of their households. You can read more on this and the topic of women and finance on the FinancialRx.com CEO Blog.