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#MeToo must also advocate for financial independence

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In late 2017, the world heard a resounding chorus of voices from scores of women across a slew of industries who finally felt empowered to speak out on their personal experiences of gender inequity — from unsolicited sexual advances and harassment to pay disparity and professional advancements.

This outpouring has rightfully been called a reckoning, and the #MeToo movement has continued to gain momentum in early 2018, shining a much-needed light on gender issues and injustices that have long kept our society unbalanced. But there is one element of inequity that we have yet to fully address, and our collective failure to do so will keep holding women back.

I’m speaking specifically about the financial investment arena, and the need for more women to take control of their personal finances and become active participants as it relates to their investment portfolios.

Women now control 51 percent, or $14 trillion, of the personal wealth accumulated in the United States, and that figure is expected to increase in the next two years to $22 trillion. Furthermore, there are more women in our national workforce — 51 percent — than men, and female entrepreneurs are creating new businesses at twice the rate of their male counterparts.

Despite these figures, the average male retirement account has a balance that is 50 percent higher.

Women remain one of the most underrepresented and underserved demographics in the investment market. For too long, they have stayed on the sidelines (either by choice or by marginalization) when it comes to investment planning. This is dangerous because women typically live on average six to seven years longer than men, leaving many women in a position to manage the family’s finances without being prepared to do so.

This is why education and involvement from an early age is so important. In my experience, women have so many natural and instinctual strengths that make them savvy investors. Stereotypically, women are natural communicators and multitaskers. They also tend to be incredibly rational and patient investors – qualities that often translate to more thoughtful strategies that can be adaptive and endure long-term.

And now is a good time for women to get into the investing game. Confidence in the U.S. economy remains strong. Increasing household income and low unemployment, which combined, should help offset rising interest rates.

MeToo Six Months
A marcher carries a sign with the Twitter hashtag #MeToo used by people speaking out against sexual harassment in Seattle on Jan. 20. Questions abound about the movement's staying power, but there's ample evidence that its impact will be durable. But the movement remains incomplete without also advocating for women to take control of their financial independence through smart and strategic investing, says Faith Read Xenos of Singer Xenos Schechter Sosler Wealth Management in Miami. Ted S. Warren AP | Jan. 20, 2018

That’s why it is important to involve female clients immediately and intimately in the discussion and planning of wealth accumulation and growth, early on in the process. For example at our firm, 65 percent of our largest client portfolios are held either jointly or exclusively by women. It isn’t just because of an obligation to cater to an overlooked minority. It is because today, women are the majority.

While #MeToo has been an incredibly successful movement and one long overdue, it remains incomplete without also advocating for women to take control of their financial independence through smart and strategic investing. After all, even if we solve the gender pay gap or the other myriad of issues women today face, they will never be fully secure without a long-term strategy for building wealth.

Faith Read Xenos is a founding partner at Singer Xenos Schechter Sosler Wealth Management in Miami and leads the firm’s Women’s Financial Division.

▪ This is an opinion piece written for Business Monday’s “My View” space in the Miami Herald. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper.

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