Check out our new documentary DEBTASIZED.

Check out our new documentary DEBTASIZED.

Gender Bias in Financial Preparedness

Gender Bias in Financial Preparedness

Every two years Hoyes, Michalos & Associates publishes what we call our Joe Debtor study. This study examines the average person who experiences financial hardship. A portion of our study is dedicated to the female debtor. There are clear differences between why women become insolvent when compared to men. This gender difference in terms the unique financial challenges and circumstances faced by women was confirmed by a recent study done in Windsor, Ontario.

Our guest today is Georgia Graham, Programs Manager of WEST (Women’s Enterprise Skills Training). Their mission is to improve the employability of women in Windsor-Essex County.

WEST completed their own study focusing on identifying the financial needs of women in particular, and their results paralleled our own. The study Women’s Financial Preparedness: Bridging the Divide in Windsor-Essex found that women were less knowledgeable than men when it came to financial products and financial indicators.

Why Women?

Based on our Joe Debtor study of women and bankruptcy, 30% of female insolvent debtors are single parents. That’s a huge difference when you consider only 8% of male insolvent debtors are single dad’s.

Women also typically bring home less than men. Our study found that the take-home pay of the female debtor is 10% lower than the average male debtor. This not only affects their day-to-day living expenses, but also their ability to repay pre-existing debt.

The fact that women earn less can come stem from multiple causes. Women are typically the partner who takes maternity leave, and who return to work part-time while children are younger or take time off to care for aging parents. This means that women are still often heavily reliant on their spouse for support when it comes to their family finances.

The WEST study found that 21% of females listed marital or relationship breakdown as a cause of their financial difficulty. This is very consistent with our own study which found that more women listed marital breakdown as a cause of their insolvency than men.

We found that student debt is also an issue for 17% of female debtors, compared to just 10% of male debtors. Inconsistent income makes repaying student debt, incurred to improve their situation, difficult to repay.

All of these challenges create a financial risk for many women. According to the WEST study:

if there was a financial crisis, 40% of women would actually only be able to sustain themselves for less than one week

Vulnerable Groups

WEST’s Needs Assessment Study concluded that there were three main vulnerable groups within Windsor-Essex. These vulnerable groups of women struggle to not only become, but to maintain a moderate level of financial preparedness.

  1. Young women under 29 years old,
  2. Women who earn less than $40,000 a year, and
  3. Women who are 60 years and older

Key Takeaways

Embrace emotional detachment

It’s important to ask yourself “how can I plan for my future?”, and not just the future of your children. The study found that in most relationships, a woman’s income was dedicated to day-to-day expenses like groceries, and household bills. The remainder of a woman’s income would go into RESPs for their children. That may be a good goal, however women need to consider other personal choices like how they will be able to save for retirement. As Georgia says,

women should not see investing in their future and their retirement as a selfish act but actually an act that benefits the family as a whole

Advocate for yourself

Women are much less likely to take an active role in their financial preparedness. In addition, gender bias can cause financial institutions tend to offer women products and services based on their role as a mother, wife or widow rather than their individual needs. When spouses talk to the bank together, they found that their financial representative was more likely to address the male rather than the female when discussing finances.

The study also found that while there are financial products and services to meet the needs of students, seniors and newcomers there are few products specifically tailored to the needs of women. Based on the WEST study, 46% of women in Windsor-Essex are single mothers. Banks in that county should create products that are specifically catered to single mothers in order to give them the best possible service.

Know your options

Conduct your own research don’t just rely on what your advisor suggests. Your advisor’s job is to sell you products to make money and they can jump to the easy sell – you’re in school you must need a student loan, you have children you must need an RESP.

they were selling according to the need that I presented as opposed to exploring

Just because John Banker was your initial point of contact, does not mean that you have to use him as your advisor. Like a realtor, you’re able to shop around until you find one that you connect with. Your financial advisor will help you make some of the biggest decisions in your life. You should feel confident that who you’re dealing with has your best interests in mind.

Resources mentioned in the show:

FULL TRANSCRIPT show #120 with Georgia Graham


Doug Hoyes: Every two years we do what we call our Joe Debtor study. In our last study we discovered that about half of our clients are female. That’s no surprise, about half the population is female. But what was more surprising was the differences we discovered between the financial circumstances of men and women. For example 30% of female insolvent debtors are lone or single parents, compared to only 8% for males. A higher percentage of women site marital breakdown as the reason for their financial difficulties.

Women debtors take home pay is 10% below that of the average male insolvent debtor. They’re living on a tighter budget, making it harder to keep up with debt payments, even though their total debts are also lower. Student debt is a major issue for female debtors. Their lower pay, intermittent work and the need to deal with childcare can make repaying student debt difficult. So, even those who are trying to improve their financial health through better education are likely to experience financial problems.

So, it’s clear that there are significant differences in certain areas between the financial circumstances of women and men. Well, what are some of the other unique challenges that women face? What help is available specifically to help women address these unique challenges. Those are questions that my guest today can help answer so let’s get started, who are you, where do you work, and what do you do?

Georgia Graham: Hi. My name is Georgia Graham; I’m the senior manager of research and development at Women’s Enterprise Skills Training.

Doug Hoyes: So, Women’s Enterprise Skills Training, you go by the acronym WEST.

Georgia Graham: Correct.

Doug Hoyes: What does WEST do? Tell me about WEST?

Georgia Graham: WEST has been in the community for the past 30 years. We’re coming up on our 30th Anniversary in March and we provide training and support to women in the community to help them either return to continue education or re-enter the labour force.

Doug Hoyes: And WEST has been around a long time. You’ve got a fairly substantial operation here in Windsor, is that correct?

Georgia Graham: Yes, we service over 3,000 annually. We provide different training services including labour market re-entry as well as educational services.

Doug Hoyes: And you’re a not for profit organization?

Georgia Graham: Yes we are.

Doug Hoyes: And so where does your funding come from?

Georgia Graham: We’re funded; we have a diverse funding model. We do do fundraising events we get corporate donations as well as government grants to support our programs and services.

Doug Hoyes: And so obviously that’s one of your challenges to make sure that you can keep the lights on. So, if anyone’s listening today they’d be more than happy to accept any donations I’m sure.

So, now that we understand what WEST does, WEST was the lead on a new study that just came out. That’s why I wanted to have you on the show today. And the study, which I have here in front of me is called Women’s Financial Preparedness: Bridging the Divide, in Windsor Essex, which is where we are today. So, tell me a bit about the study, what was the point of it, what did you discover as a result of this study?

Georgia Graham: So, in 2015 WEST received a grant from Status of Women Canada and we worked in collaboration with Financial Fitness, the local financial institutions looking at women’s financial preparedness, the challenges women have in terms of being prepared for their financial future as well as the systemic barriers that may exist that limits women’s abilities to be prepared financially.

Doug Hoyes: And what kind of things did you discover then? So, I said at the opening that on the one hand you wouldn’t think there would be any differences, the population’s half men, half women. And yet when we did our own study we did find yeah, there are some very real differences. And some them, from my perspective, are fairly easy to understand because it’s women who are much more likely to leave the workforce, to take care of children. It’s women who are much more likely to be taking care of aging parents for example. So, it’s obvious why some of those things, why there are some differences. What specific differences or challenges did you find? What were some of the things you found in the study?

Georgia Graham: Well, as you know women traditionally has earned less than men and that was something similar that you guys found in your study. But what we found was that when it came time if there was a financial crisis 40% of women would actually only be able to sustain themselves for less than one week. And in a community that predominately has high representation of single mothers, women and children are living in poverty. And this is concerning for us and the community as a whole.

Doug Hoyes: So you identified three different vulnerable groups I think is the term that you used. Young women under 29 years old, women who earn less than $40,000 a year and then women who are 60 years and older. Are there reasons for those different groups you think?

Georgia Graham: Well, what we found with young women was that they were less likely to be actively involved in their financial preparedness. So, they tend to rely on their parents to guide them, while young men under the age of 29 actually were more involved in financial decision making than young women. I believe it was 30% of young women indicated that they were not involved in financial decision making compared to 14% of young men.

Doug Hoyes: And do you have any idea of why that is?

Georgia Graham: Based on the anecdotal evidence that we gathered speaking with women in the community, one reason is just the role of women in society. A lot of times where parents are concerned, males are seen as the providers, they’re seen as the bread winners within their families and parents will train and position their sons to take on those roles, while women tend to not be encouraged that way.

Doug Hoyes: So, that sounds kind of sexist to me. But if I’m a parent, and I have two boys, so I know nothing about females whatsoever. I have a wife but that’s the extent of my experience. So, I can’t speak from experience as if I had a daughter and a son, how I would treat them differently because I’ve never been in that position. But I would think well, okay I think I’d treat them pretty much the same, like, you know, I’d make sure they both understood what writing a cheque meant. You’re saying that that’s really not the case, that parents do not educate their children similarly.

Georgia Graham: Exactly. And this is not solely just an issue with parents, this stems a little bit deeper. When you look at it systemically, women’s interacts with the financial institutions is also based on gender.

Doug Hoyes: Well, and this is a good point and I wanted to raise this because there’s section in the study that talks specifically about this. So, the study says that when interacting with the financial industry, women are offered financial products and services based on their role as a mother, wife or widow. The general consensus amongst financial professionals, women associate their financial wealth to the financial health of their children, whereas men seek products or services that seek better position them for retirement.

So, I interpret from that then, okay banks for example treat men and women differently. And I don’t fully understand that because according to the Canadian Bankers Association, 61% of the workforce of Canadian banks are female. And I think in your study that you actually surveyed people who worked in financial institutions and the people you surveyed were overwhelmingly female. I think it was 80% of the study sample was female. So, if it’s females who are working in the bank, are they giving different advice or treating differently their female clients than they do their male clients? Is that what the study is saying?

Georgia Graham: In essence, yes it is. And the – in addition to speaking with the financial institutions we actually asked women and men in the community how they were perceived by the financial institutions. And what we found was that 60% of women and 40% of men agree that the financial intuition does treat men and women differently. We also found that 65% of women and 52% of men identified that when they do go to meet a financial representative that the financial representative is more likely to speak to the male as opposed to the female. The other finding that we had was that 60% of women and 40% of men agree that men are taken more seriously by the financial institutions. So, not only does this have to do with parenting but there’s definitely a systemic challenge that women face in terms of being able to gain the financial skills and knowledge they need.

Doug Hoyes: And the problem isn’t just that men treat women different, it’s that the institutions treat them differently. So, if I was a female bank officer, I would be more predisposed to be addressing my questions to the male as opposed to the female.

Georgia Graham: Exactly. And we need to recognize that there was a significant percentage of men that agreed with that statement, that they know that when they enter the financial institution with their significant other, that the products and services are being sold to them.

Doug Hoyes: And I guess that’s probably true in other places. Like if my wife and I went to go buy a car, probably the car salesmen would talk to me and not to her.

Georgia Graham: Exactly.

Doug Hoyes: Which is why we never go buy cars together, she goes and buys her car and I go and buy mine and it all works out great. So, what is the solution to that then? I understand as a human being I’m going to treat anyone who is different than me differently. That’s kind of an inbred bias that we have. If I’m tall and you’re short, I’m going to treat you differently than if you were tall I guess. But if we’re both tall and yet I’m treating you differently, that kind of blows my mind. I’m a female bank officer and I, you know, I live it myself, I’ve been treated this way myself and yet when I’m meeting with clients, I’m still treating the woman different than the man. That’s kind of what your study is saying. Is it just because that’s the way it’s always been?

Georgia Graham: Well, it’s an institutional culture and I don’t think gender has a lot to do with that culture. The financial representatives are trained to sell certain products and those products are geared towards the needs of men.

The other thing that the research found was that while there are specific products for students, there’s specific products for seniors, for newcomers and different groups. There’s nothing specific for the needs of women. So, if the representatives are saying that women’s financial livelihood or future is tied with that of their children and they’re only being sold products that would enhance the lives of their children, there is nothing to help women overcome that obstacle as well.

Doug Hoyes: So, you’re going to have to work with me here, I’m kind of slow. You have to explain this to me. So, I understand if I’m a student how there could be a specific product for me, a student loan for example, which would only apply to a student. I think you sort of gave an example there then of a product that would be more male oriented or female oriented. Can you flesh that out for me? So, can you give me some examples of what’s a more male oriented product and what’s a more female oriented product?

Georgia Graham: I think it has a lot more to do, not necessarily the product but the presentation of the product and what the product does. It’s what, finance is emotional, right? And the way men look at money might be different than how women look at money. And how products are being explained to women would need to tie into those emotional elements that are key to women’s financial decision making.

In the U.S there are great initiatives right now that are actually run by women and they provide products and services specific to the needs of women. These are investment products. And it’s not that the products are different than any other investment products, but it’s how it’s packaged, it’s how it’s explained, it’s how the financial representatives are sharing that information to women so that they’re able to understand it. The language being used is a language of exclusion, right?

Doug Hoyes: So, okay so let’s talk about investment products then. And I guess you’re talking about things like mutual funds or something like that. So, how does that get explained to man versus how that gets explained to a woman? Or is it a case that it just doesn’t get explained to a woman, like what’s the specific difference that your participants would see?

Georgia Graham: It doesn’t get explained to women necessarily. A lot of the – and this is anecdotal, these weren’t questions we asked specifically in the research but we have a council of women, of 15 women that have helped us steer the project as we’ve gone through. And we’ve spoken to our clients and based on our experience and Financial Fitness’ experience with their clients, but what we found was that when women go to the banks, when they go to their financial representatives, they’re not offered those investment products. And when they are offered those investment products, it’s not explained to them in a manner where they understand. So, women are less likely to do investments than men would be.

Doug Hoyes: So, I come into the bank and you’re the bank person. And you look in my bank account and you see I’ve got $10,000 cash. So, presumably as a banker you would say ah, this is prime opportunity here. Someone’s got some money, we could put them in mutual funds, we could put them in GICs, something like that. So, if you were trying to sell that to me as a woman, is it as simple as speak up and tell me that kind of stuff, don’t gloss over it? Is that kind of what we see happening or are there specific ways that it needs to be done?

Georgia Graham: I think that our assumptions of basic knowledge of these products and services. One of the things that we’ve done with this project is that we hold information sessions. And the common theme throughout these financial information sessions is that they felt that those representatives that were non-judgmental they were able to provide the information using examples that were real and relatable for women, right? And it’s talking about real life stories that women can relate to. And I’ve attended those sessions and it’s completely different than when I go to a financial institution and I sit down with an advisor and the information that I’m getting and the manor that I’m getting the information in. Having that type of forum actually made me realize there is a difference in how we get information.

Doug Hoyes: So, if I was the head of the biggest bank there is, there’s a lot of money I could be making here, because it sounds like there’s a market that I am not servicing, exploiting if you want to use that word. But I mean is that true? If I’m selling products to this person but not that person, well why aren’t I selling products to that person too? Why don’t the banks kind of wake up and see this? This seems like they’re leaving a lot of money on the table here.

Georgia Graham: Absolutely. And as I mentioned they’re great programs out in the U.S that are targeting this particular niche and that’s what we’re pushing for. We’re asking for the financial institutions to look at how they can cater to the needs of women. Women make up 55% of the labour force. They’re out numbering men in terms of labour market participation. They’re the decision makers in the households but the decisions that they’re making is related to everyday living. Women need to be educated and provided support in terms of long-term financial preparedness. And we’re living in a day of age where there’s less and less government social security’s and women outlive men and this is why this is really concerning for us is that women outlive men by almost 10 to 20 years.

Doug Hoyes: Wow. So, okay let’s talk about retirement then. So, I assume then that retirement is going to be a big issue if I’m a female and living longer and yet I also have either less knowledge or less access to resources or less resources. What can you tell me about retirement?

Georgia Graham: The most interesting thing that we found with retirement was the fact that men start planning for retirement between the ages of 30 to 39. Women do not start planning for retirement until they’re in their 50s, 50s to 59. And that has a lot to do with the fact that women’s finances are tied to that of their children.

Doug Hoyes: Women’s finances are tied to that of their children meaning first I get my kids out the door and then I start worrying about myself.

Georgia Graham: Absolutely. And at the age of 50 to 59 –

Doug Hoyes: Your kids are hopefully gone by then.

Georgia Graham: Well either that or they’re part of your retirement plan.

Doug Hoyes: Right and so whereas men don’t think that way.

Georgia Graham: No, they’re starting young, they’re starting to plan for their future at a way younger age. As we were putting this research together and talking about the findings, so many women confirmed the fact that, especially at our organization, where women’s organization, many of my colleagues do not have a retirement plan for themselves, their focus has been on educating their children, putting their children through. And the expectation was that the husband’s income was focused towards investment and the wife’s income was focused towards the children’s needs.

Doug Hoyes: And what then – part of that I guess is what you said earlier, if a woman’s income is lower of if she’s off work for a period of time looking after her kids, looking after elderly parents or something, then they’re just isn’t enough money there that can be devoted to early retirement. First of all I’ve got to worry about the day to day stuff, I’ve got to pay the rent, pay the groceries, that kind of thing. So, presumably a lot of it is tied up in that. Are there any solutions then? How would you advise a woman with respect with retirement? Is the first step at least to acknowledge what you just said, that you’ve got to start thinking about it sooner?

Georgia Graham: Absolutely. I think that there is a responsibility, not just on the financial institutions, this messaging of women’s finances being tied with that of their children comes through the fact that child tax benefits, it goes to the women, right? The government has kind of promoted this notion that children are women’s responsibilities and once women start to realize that they need to invest in themselves, invest in their future and that is also considered an investment in their children. Living in poverty when you retire is not good for the community and it’s not good for families. It was interesting for us to find out that 22% of women were confident that once they retired they would be okay, compared to 73% of men. Retired men were much more comfortable in retirement than women.

Doug Hoyes: And that’s interesting what you said. Children are viewed as women’s responsibility, which I guess on the one hand, well yeah I can see why that would be. But again getting back at this whole theme of institutionalization, the child tax credit for example is sent to the woman. Is that how it works or is it sent to the lower income –

Georgia Graham: It’s the lower income and we live in a society where –

Doug Hoyes: That’s almost always the woman. Now you’re certainly not saying oh well we should be sending the child tax credits to men, that doesn’t make any sense.

Georgia Graham: No, I’m saying that the messaging that that gives because if that money, it’s a child tax, you assume that that money is for the children, right? And they put that money towards their children and their money towards the children. I just think that behaviour’s the hardest thing to change and it takes time to change. And if there’s a collective message encouraging women not to see investing in their future and their retirement as a selfish act but actually an act that benefits the family as a whole and the community, right?

Doug Hoyes: Well and ultimately at some point in your life you have to be selfish. You have to take care of yourself. And like when your kids are 45 years old are you still going to be supporting them or is there going to be a time where you say no, I got to start looking after myself? Well, maybe that’s a decision that has to go through your mind earlier I guess. You made a key comment I think earlier because I’m thinking in my head here, okay what’s a solution, what’s a solution, what’s a solution? And can you give me the solution in like a 140 word Tweet here to solve all of our problems? That’s not going to happen today.

So, let’s kind of think this through. You used the word emotion earlier. And you said something to the effect of we make a lot of our decisions based on emotion. And is that – how does that factor into this then? Is that something we have to be conscious of then? When I go into a bank do I have to be conscious and say hey, I’m going to be asking some questions, I need some answers? Is that part of the solution here?

Georgia Graham: Absolutely but I think it goes a little bit further is that women actually need to be trained earlier on. We learn about finances and financial management and you hear people talking about money messages. All these messages are given at an earlier age either through the educational system, the family, you know, the institutions and so forth. Those messages need to change at an earlier age where women need to be seen as equal decision makers when it comes to finances and be equipped with the same type of knowledge that young men and young boys have so that when they do go to the financial institutions, they’re able to make informed decisions. In order for it to be informed, both people have to come to the table with some level of knowledge. And women don’t have that basic level of knowledge going to the table.

Doug Hoyes: So the first step is education and maybe even awareness is before education I guess. Why would I learn something if I don’t even know I need to learn it? And that has to start very, very early then.

Georgia Graham: Uh huh, absolutely.

Doug Hoyes: So early like little kids is – you can’t start too early I guess. How would you – so, how would you start that then? If you’re sitting down with a new parent today, okay your kid’s two days old we don’t have to talk about it yet. But, you know, by the age of 3, 4, 5, 6 that’s when these perceptions start to become engrained I would assume. What kind of things would you be saying then to a young parent who’s got perhaps both a daughter and a son? What do I need to be aware of that I’ve got these hidden biases that I’m going to be treating my son differently than my daughter, what are some things I should be aware of so that I’m not letting that happen? Is there anything practical that I can do?

Georgia Graham: Well, the – we met with a group of young mothers and the one thing that we guided them was that they should be encouraging savings at a younger age for both genders, right? And it’s a trip to the bank, it’s also encouraging young girls to ask those questions. There’s one case that was shared in one of our council meetings where one young girl said that when my parents took me to the bank, I just sat there and they made all the decisions. And the financial representative spoke to the parents and the parents spoke back and this young girl, who was preparing to go off to university, just sat there. What ended up happening was when she got to university, all the credit cards started to come in and she blew her credit. Why? Because she didn’t realize the full cycle of what those decisions are. And someone always made those decisions on their behalf.

Doug Hoyes: And is that story you’re telling me just happened in the financial world or would it happen in other worlds too? So, for example if I’m a mother and I’m taking my daughter to I don’t know, the dentist, the doctor, something like that, would it be the same scenario where the parent does all the talking or would the child be more encouraged to talk in different environments or is it the same either way?

Georgia Graham: I feel that these are social norms.

Doug Hoyes: So, it’s not a money thing it’s this is just the way our brains are wired at the moment or we’ve been taught to be wired this way and we have to actually be conscious of it. And we have a couple of real practical things there. Okay, savings. You’ve got to talk to your kids and I think that’s great advice, how can you argue with that? But whether it’s a daughter or a son the advice is exactly the same. And the other thing you said was ask questions. It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female, asking questions, don’t be just sitting there.

So, two final questions for you then, is there anything else in the study that you think our listeners should be aware of that we haven’t covered? And then my second question will be to cycle back to different recommendations. So, is there anything in the study that either popped out at you or was of interest that we should talk about?

Georgia Graham: I guess the only other thing looking at young people is that 45% of female youth compared to 22% of young men had no retirement plan. So, again young boys are being encouraged to plan for their future earlier than young girls are being encouraged.

Doug Hoyes: And again, that’s a societal thing.

Georgia Graham: I do believe so, I do believe so. The one thing that we are looking at as a response and what came out of the research was a collective approach to this issue. So, we’ve established a financial empowerment network and this is a network of community organizations working with these vulnerable populations, so those working with youth, individuals living in poverty, we’ve been looking at work and the financial institutions working with them, to come up with a plan for Windsor-Essex.

And also the collaborative’s objective is to ensure that financial empowerment actually become part of the poverty reduction strategy. So, in order to address poverty, we feel that people need to be financially literate and have a financial plan for their future.

Doug Hoyes: Which would have a huge benefit to society.

Georgia Graham: Yeah and the common response that we get is that if someone’s living in poverty, how can they put money aside for the future? It’s about that behaviour. Even if it’s a dollar, even if it’s five dollars out of whatever money that they’re getting in, that would help to start modelling that behaviour for when they do have an increase in wealth, when they do see themselves slowly emerging out of poverty, that they’re going to continue that process and increase the contributions that they’re making towards their future.

Doug Hoyes: Yeah and obviously once they’ve saved enough they’re not in poverty anymore, you’ve kind of solved the issue. So, let’s talk then about recommendations. What can actually be done? So, my first idea and you can tell me if this is crazy or not, is it sounds to me like there’s a huge untapped market here. There are I assume in the general population more females then males, because they live longer.

Georgia Graham: Yes.

Doug Hoyes: You already said that the workforce is 55% female, so there’s more customers. So, as a provider of any service there is, I should be going after females as clients. So, if I run a bank then I should be specifically targeting them. Now I’m sitting here thinking about this because of course I run a personal insolvency firm. And we don’t target anyone in particular. I mean we target people with debt. So, I am happy to help males, females, tall, short I don’t care, doesn’t matter to me.

But what you’re saying is either I’m unusual or I have biases I don’t even know about, that when I’m sitting talking to two different people, I will treat them differently and I’m not even aware of it, which may be true. Maybe we have to do some hidden camera things with me to see if that’s actually the case. So, recommendation number one then is if you run a bank there’s a market here to be exploited and the way to do it is by training your people.

Georgia Graham: Absolutely. The one thing that came out of the information, once we disseminated the information through a summit last month, a lot of the financial representatives, the feedback that we got in the surveys say that they weren’t aware. So, if the individuals that are providing the services are not aware of these biases that they may have raising that awareness is definitely the first thing to change.

Doug Hoyes: So, if I’m a bank employee, and we’re only picking on banks because this is a financial preparedness study, but I mean we could be picking on doctors, lawyers, dentists, gas station attendants I guess. But if I’m a bank employee and you’ve got a minute to make me aware, can you give me another illustration then of how I would treat a female client different than a male client?

Is it as simple as – I understand what you’re saying if there’s a male and female there, a husband and wife for example, the natural tendency, and it doesn’t matter if the bank employee’s male or female, they’re going to be directing their attention towards the male. So, I understand that, that’s something we’ve got to consciously decide to do differently. What if I’m just speaking with a female?

Georgia Graham: I think one of the things is to ask those questions in terms of what their emotional attachment are to their financial planning and their investments, right, and to try and educate from that perspective. So, for example I run a program with youth, I’ve sent all the youth to meet with their financial representatives at their various institutions. I’ve equipped them with what questions they should ask and so forth. And when they went to that meeting, because they were better prepared and aware, they were able to redirect the discussion a little bit and ask questions and get responses that met their needs.

So, if financial institutions were able to say okay, fine you’re a mother of three children, you’re a single mother of three children, I understand that you want to put away for RESPs and these different things, have you considered about retirement? For the most part, when our clients go, there’s only two things that they know, retirement education savings plan, some asked us what were RRSPs and the tax-free savings account. But there are other ways for women to plan for their future.

Doug Hoyes: So, okay let’s say I’m a woman and I’m going to go meet with my banker this afternoon, give me a question I should ask them.

Georgia Graham: Well…

Doug Hoyes: See I’m putting you on the spot here. I want actual tangible things. And I realize everyone is a different situation, I realize a single mother of three who’s 29 years old is different than a 70 year old woman. But what kind of things should I at least have in my brain when –

Georgia Graham: We always encourage our clients to ask how can I plan for my future? So, okay yes I’m looking at debt consolidation or I’m looking at various savings plans for my children. Okay, then what can I do for myself? I’ll be retiring in 20 years, in 10 years, in 30 years, how will I be able to start saving for retirement? Should I be maybe reducing how much I’m putting in RESPs and maybe, you know, splitting those contributions or something like that?

Doug Hoyes: Yeah and there’s no right answer. But if you don’t ask the questions, you’re not going to be even close. So, if you just automatically default to well, I’m the mother my goal is to take care of my kids, that’s it, full stop, that’s it. Okay, well that may be a perfectly good, well it is a perfectly good goal. But have you even considered the other ones? That’s really what you’re saying.

Georgia Graham: Absolutely. I recently went to go meet with my financial advisor after doing all of this research and one of the recommendations was you should be doing it yearly. You should be doing an annual financial check-up. The last time I did mine was three years ago. So, I went in and I said okay, I’m currently doing my PhD, I’m a student, what are your recommendations? And I only got recommendations for being a student. And I said okay but I’m also a mother of three children. You know, I have another 30 years till I’m retiring, how can I achieve these other goals?

Doug Hoyes: Was your, the person who was interviewing you, were they male or female?

Georgia Graham: Male.

Doug Hoyes: Ah ha, so you see, stupid men don’t know anything. But you hit the nail on the head, you asked the questions. So, they defaulted to oh, you’re a mother, boom, you’re a student, boom. They kind of went down the obvious path. And you are a student, you are a mother so those were valid things but they also didn’t see you as a complete human being who will at some point retire or want to buy another car or buy another house or take a trip or whatever. So, ultimately it was up to you to put the discussion in the right direction. And did you end up getting the answers you wanted?

Georgia Graham: No.

Doug Hoyes: So, should we mention the name of this person and institution and call them out right here, right now?

Georgia Graham: No, to be honest with you, the information that I got from the informal sessions amongst a group of women was completely different than the information I got when I went to the financial institution.

Doug Hoyes: And was this financial institution person just not knowledgeable enough or they’ve got these products to sell and that’s how we’re doing it and they don’t really care what you’re saying?

Georgia Graham: Absolutely, they were selling according to the need that I presented as opposed to exploring, they had the information to see that I had children, they had the information to see that, you know, I’m a homeowner or these different things. And I did explain that it’s been three years and I’m here to kind of do a check-up and to explore options and so forth. But my first presentation was that I was a student and that’s what I was looking at in terms of not incurring any student debt or anything like that. And that’s what they focused on.

Doug Hoyes: So, they went to the easy answer.

Georgia Graham: Right, they didn’t focus on those other elements, which I really feel that it’s important, like you cannot look at it like, you can’t look at a person as just one thing. You have to look at them in their completeness. You can’t look at a woman as just being a wife or just being a mother, you have to see her as a mother, a wife, a worker, whatever.

Doug Hoyes: Yeah, because we’re human beings.

Georgia Graham: Exactly.

Doug Hoyes: If I go to the doctor and tell him I’ve got a sore elbow, well I guess he’ll treat the sort elbow. If he doesn’t ask me well, what about all those other things that are wrong with you or need attention then I guess I’m not going to get any feedback on that. That’s really what you’re saying in your case hi, I’m a student. Oh okay, boom, let’s pull out the student checklist, boom, boom, boom, boom, anything else about you? I guess you’re just a one dimensional being, we don’t have to talk about anything else. And so, it was up to you to keep pushing oh by the way I’m also this, this and this. I’m a mother, I’m a parent, I’m whatever. But even when you pushed, you’re saying you still didn’t get as complete an information as you got in some other environments.

Georgia Graham: And it was always me saying oh, but this is what I was told when I went to this information session. They would go outside and they would go and check and they would come back and say oh yeah, that’s accurate.

Doug Hoyes: So, have you fired your bank then?

Georgia Graham: No, I’m just going to look for another advisor.

Doug Hoyes: That’s what I mean, that’s kind of what firing is.

Georgia Graham: Well, that individual but I’ll keep shopping around in the financial institution. I think the key is to – the financial representative needs to match the person. And I know the industry is kind of like whoever’s available, that’s who they put you with. And that was the difference with these information sessions is that the person providing the information matched the needs of the group. So, whether it was a group of single mothers, they were coming in and speaking specifically to those needs.

Doug Hoyes: So, you can pick your advisor. It’s not whoever’s there, it’s not like I’m buying a hamburger at the hamburger joint, whoever’s serving me that’s who’s going to make my hamburger, right? This is your money, this is your life and you’ve probably got another 20 to 50 years on the clock. So, let’s get the right person. So – and don’t we do that in other areas of our life too? Like if my auto mechanic does a lousy job, I don’t keep going back.

Georgia Graham: Or if my auto mechanic doesn’t explain things to me because I’m a woman, I don’t go back.

Doug Hoyes: Yeah. And you find one and maybe you got to go through 10 auto mechanics and maybe you’ve got to talk to someone who refers you to someone who refers you to someone. But isn’t it the same with everything we do, we don’t have to default to oh well. I mean I’m sure if I was to ask all my listeners right now to put up their hands, which I wouldn’t be able to see because this is a podcast, but how long have you been with your bank, more than 10 years or less than 10 years?

And I would suspect that the vast majority of people have been with the same bank for more than 10 years. And if we were to drill down further, why are you with that bank? I mean I know my own story, my parents went to the Bank A and so until I was, I don’t know, married, I was with that bank. And my wife was at Bank B and so I switched to that bank and I’m still with that bank. So, in my life I’ve been with two banks. And I’m oversimplifying this story slightly but not much.

So, why am I with the bank? Well, is it because I did a rationale evaluation and looked around? Well, maybe it was the path of least resistance. Well when it comes to your money you can’t do that. You’ve actually got to be a little more aggressive with it and I guess societally we’re not really trying trained to do that both males and females but perhaps more likely with females. Is that an accurate statement?

Georgia Graham: Yeah, that’s correct. Recently at our agency we have – they set up investment accounts for us and the advisor came in and we were all told to do moderate investments. And I was like, I was just oh, I can go aggressive.

Doug Hoyes: Yeah, whether you’re young, old, everyone is moderate.

Georgia Graham: No, we were all told no, that’s not a good idea and stuff like that. Now shopping around and being a bit more aware and talking to other people I’m realizing that, and I asked all my colleagues, and they were like yeah, we were told the same thing. And I’m like well.

Doug Hoyes: Great individualized advice. So, just before I forget, what are you getting your PhD in?

Georgia Graham: Public policy.

Doug Hoyes: Why?

Georgia Graham: Policy drives everything that we do as a community organization as well as just in society, social needs and how they’re addressed and dealt with.

Doug Hoyes: So, when I have you back on this podcast in five years.

Georgia Graham: It’ll be in a year.

Doug Hoyes: A year, excuse me, in a year. So, I’ll have to call you Dr. Graham. And so, let’s go five years in the future then, what will you be doing in five years?

Georgia Graham: I hope to remain in the community. The one thing I did mention is that I am the Senior Manager of Research and Development at WEST. Evidence based work is what’s fuelling the community today. And non-profit organizations are required to –

Doug Hoyes: Evidence based so that means facts.

Georgia Graham: Exactly.

Doug Hoyes: Oh that’s good.

Georgia Graham: And that’s what this research is and the research that we’ve done, all of our research tends to inform our programming. So, based on this research we’ve now embedded financial literacy into all of our programs and services because we realize the importance of educating the women we serve.

Doug Hoyes: Excellent. Well, I like that. If you’re basing stuff on facts how can anyone criticize you? I guess anyone can criticize anyone because I don’t agree with your facts. But facts aren’t something you can disagree with, facts are facts. It’s how you interpret them perhaps is different.

But well, and you and I are the same mind-set, that’s why we do our Joe Debtor study is to see what the numbers actually show. I have my own perception, my own anecdotal evidence, but when you actually see it in writing then you can make some better decisions. So, well I think that’s great. So, are there any things, is there anything else in the study we didn’t hit on or are there any other recommendations that we need to pop out there that we’ve missed?

Georgia Graham: The one key recommendation that came out from the council of women that were kind of steering the women was that the financial institutions and organizations need to market real life scenarios. Women need to see themselves represented in, not just the products and services, but how they’re being marketed. So, when you go the bank and you see the picture of the husband and the wife and the home, you know, or the husband and the wife and the new car or the husband and the travel trips or whatever the case may be, there’s like Windsor has about 46% of single mothers.

There’s nothing targeting their needs or maybe to show them a future that they could have as well. So, the women really recommended – and that’s one of the things that we did do, was that we showcase stories of women and women experiences and how their financial struggles have come to inform them and make them who they are.

Doug Hoyes: Which ties into your comment about emotion, you’ve got to link in with people at an emotional level and if all you’re going to do is show me advertisements with mother, father 2.3 kids, a dog and a cat and that’s not my situation then it’s not going to resonate with me, I’m not going to go forward. So, there’s a ton of work that the financial institutions, banks, credit unions and so forth can do here and help improve things, so. Excellent, well I think that’s a great way to end it Georgia. Thanks very much for being here.

Georgia Graham: Thanks for having me.

Doug Hoyes: That was my discussion with Georgia Graham, the programs manager at WEST. WEST is the Women’s Enterprise, Skills Training of Windsor Inc. And they did a study on Women’s Financial Empowerment: Bridging the Divide in Windsor and Essex. And there were four key recommendations I think that I got from what Georgia said.

Number one banks, other financial institutions need some training because it is often that they default to speaking to the male as opposed to the female, addressing problems that are more suitable to men than women even though there are certainly products that benefit both. And I think it’s a subconscious thing they’re not even aware of it because it’s even the women employees at the bank who are doing this. So, some better training to make them aware of this would probably start alleviating some of those issues.

She also mentioned number two, the whole emotional attachment that we have to certain things and the correct answer then if the bank person is not giving you the advice you need is you have to stick up for yourself and ask one obvious question which is how can I plan for my future? Start asking questions about you. So, if they want to sell you products for your kids, RESPs and things like that, well that’s great but what about my retirement? How can I play for my future? So, I thought that was a good positive recommendation.

Also with respect to banks, this whole concept of marketing real life scenarios every bank commercial you ever see, there’s a husband, a wife, 2.3 children, a dog and a cat. Well, as she said 46% of mothers in Windsor are single mothers. So, if there were advertising and marketing and products directly centered around the specific people that they’re seeing, that would probably make the customers feel better but it would also be better for the banks as well.

And then the final piece of advice is that you can pick your own advisor. So, if you go to a bank or a doctor or a dentist or anybody else and you don’t think that they are serving your needs, they’re not giving you all the different options that are out there, you can switch. You don’t have to say with your bank for life. If you’re not getting the support that you need, if you’re not getting the advice that you need, then move. There’s no reason you can’t do that.

A lot of great advice there.  I’m going to put links in the show notes to everything we talked about today on our website at

Thanks for listening.  Until next week, I’m Doug Hoyes.

That was Debt Free in 30.



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