When I was CEO of Merrill Lynch, we spent hundreds of millions of dollars a year on our investment organization — the vast majority of the money focused on picking investments that would go up (that is, higher risk, higher return). As for our investment in asset protection — that is, avoiding losses — to say it was an afterthought is being kind to afterthoughts. So our offering was very geared to what men were looking for — risk.
We could have — and did — try all sorts of different means of marketing our existing products to women. But we missed the fundamental point. We weren’t marketing to women incorrectly; we were serving women incorrectly. It is as though today’s investing industry is speaking Chinese, and women are speaking French.
It’s a totally different language and a different approach. To me, it’s probably not a coincidence that an industry where more than 85% of its financial advisors are men — and whose management teams that went into the downturn were white, male, and middle-aged, and came out whiter, maler, and “middle-aged-er” — hasn’t met the challenge of serving female customers.
Okay, so you’re over the myths. You’re ready to take financial control. The first step? As in so much of life, avoiding common mistakes is half the battle. In my experience, these are the top eight financial mistakes women make.
Sallie Krawcheck’s mission is to help women reach their financial and professional goals. She is the CEO and cofounder of Ellevest, a digital investment platform for women. She is also the chair of Ellevate Network, the global professional woman’s network, and chair of the Pax Ellevate Global Woman’s Index Fund, which invests in the top-rated companies in the world for advancing women.
This article is an excerpt from her latest book, Own It: The Power of Women At Work, now available.