The gender wage gap is not the only gap women have to overcome. When it comes to retirement planning and investing, women are also lagging behind men.
In this episode, Suzanne Wheeler, Managing Director at Mariner Wealth Advisors, shares ways to close the gender gap in the financial world and wealth planning strategies that we can all start to use today.
About Suzanne Wheeler
Suzanne is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, Accredited Investment Fiduciary® designee and a Certified Financial Transitionist®.
For more than two decades, Suzanne has served as a trusted partner to clients as they navigate divorce, death, retirement, inheritance, legacy planning and the day-to-day challenges life can bring. Her passion lies in being an advocate for clients as they develop goals, and she creates plans that use a range of strategies to help clients meet those goals. Suzanne works with high net worth individuals, families and foundations. Previously, Suzanne was cofounder and director of Adams Hall Wealth Advisors.
About Mariner Wealth Advisors
Mariner Wealth Advisors is a leading national wealth advisory firm. Mariner’s wealth advisory teams help clients achieve & maintain financial peace of mind – preserving the wealth they have created & building a legacy for future generations of family & business leaders. To do so, we provide holistic, innovative & client-focused solutions. We bring together talented resources, innovative offerings & proactive advice with a single purpose in mind – to deliver confidence to our clients so they can focus on what’s most important.
Learn More About Mariner Wealth Advisors At:
*If you’d like to learn how Mariner Wealth Advisors can help you build a roadmap for your real estate investments head to RealCrowd’s sister company, ReAllocate, to learn more — BuildMyRoadmap.com.*
Subscribe To Podcast
Adam Hooper (00:02):
Hello and welcome. I’m RealCrowd CEO, Adam Hooper, and this is the Real Estate Investing For Your Future Podcast. Here we explore the latest in commercial real estate trends, insights and investment strategies that passive investors can use to build real estate portfolios that last.
All opinions expressed by Adam, Tyler, and podcast guests are solely their own opinions and do not reflect the opinion of RealCrowd. This podcast is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a basis for investment decisions. To gain a better understanding of the risks associated with commercial real estate investing, please consult your advisors.
Adam Hooper (00:42):
In this episode, we’re joined by Suzanne Wheeler, Managing Director at Mariner Wealth Advisors. Today, Suzanne talks with us about the basics of financial planning. We cover topics ranging from tips on building wealth, financial planning with a spouse, and how to stay on track with your personal financial plan. We really hope you enjoy this episode and please let us know if you have any questions for Suzanne by sending us a note to firstname.lastname@example.org. With that, let’s get to it.
Adam Hooper (01:11):
All right, Suzanne, thank you so much for joining us today. Had little audio issues there at the beginning, but I think we should be good to go. We’re excited to have a conversation with you about planning, planning for women. I will talk about some relationship issues, some planning tips. And excited to have you on, so thank you for coming today.
Suzanne Wheeler (01:27):
Thank you for including me.
Adam Hooper (01:29):
So, before we get started, if you could just take a couple minutes, tell us about what you do within Mariner Wealth Advisors, how you got into the area of focus you’re at right now, and then we’ll jump in.
Suzanne Wheeler (01:39):
I have been in the financial industry since 1997. Began working with Mariner in 2012. And during that time period, I’ve had the opportunity to work with many families, foundations, individuals on their financial goals. I’ve also had the opportunity to work with them during life transitions, so divorce, death, retirement. It’s really pairing the technical piece of money with the emotional side of money. And I’ve found that space to be very rewarding.
Adam Hooper (02:19):
Yeah, those can be two very charged topics, I’m assuming. There’s got to be a bit of finesse in combining both of those. And I’m curious how much of your role is technical versus counseling, well, almost as a coach through some of these transitions.
Suzanne Wheeler (02:36):
Sure. We all think that we should have a degree in psychology as we are wealth advisors, but I think that percentage changes over the relationship with the client. There may be times that we’re working more on the emotional side, through the death of a loved one, but keeping the investments top of mind as well. It just may be that the client is not as an engaged on the investment performance during times of their life. And they need more listening, someone to listen to them or provide guidance as they are trying to look at what life may look like in the future.
Adam Hooper (03:25):
Mm-hmm (affirmative). And I know one of your areas of focus is planning for women, which is again the main topic of today. And then we’ll talk about some planning tips and again, get more into the relationship side of it, but maybe just take us high level. How was that landscape changed since you’ve started in the business, versus where we’re at today in terms of how the financial planning industry is addressing the needs of their female clients?
Suzanne Wheeler (03:50):
Well, I think one important change is women are slowly, but starting to take a more active role in their investments, also within their careers. We have been in a male dominated world as far as looking at different careers and investing for some time period, but I think that is changing. And so, we are having the opportunity to help women another value and in the workplace and also helping them find their voice in the financial areas of their household, or if they are single, making it more of a priority that they’re taking care of themselves.
Adam Hooper (04:45):
Mm-hmm (affirmative). And so, you mentioned again, and take even a step backwards, the financial planning industry is largely a male dominated space. So, maybe talk us through how that just from the advisor side of that equation has changed over the years and where you’re seeing that go for planners, actual advisors.
Suzanne Wheeler (05:08):
Well, I think as a planner or an advisor, when you’re working with a married couple, we tend to see that the meetings are planned and attended by men. And I think people in our industry have really made it a focus to have the female in the office as well. I mean, we’re in a world where you, yourself may relate to this, that we’re dividing and conquering as far as raising families, working on our careers. And sometimes you determine within your household, who’s going to take charge of the financial area and who’s going to get the kids to school.
Suzanne Wheeler (06:07):
So, I think that we’re making progress of relaying to our clients, that it is so necessary for both parties to be involved in the financial area. Because what we don’t want to happen is there is an untimely death or an illness where that person who was leading that role is not able to participate. We want everyone to know what’s involved, what accounts they have, how they’re invested, and what the goals are, and participate in that relationship of defining the goals of the financial plan.
Adam Hooper (06:55):
And I’m assuming that’s today a much more inclusive process than it might’ve been. Where is there room to improve that? Does that need to be a specific focus? Where does the start of that initiative come? Is it from the clients themselves? Is it from those couples or is it from the advisor to initiate that inclusion?
Suzanne Wheeler (07:18):
I would say in the clients that I work with, and I’m pretty confident in the clients that Mariner as a whole works with. We’re trying to set that standard at the beginning of a relationship and we discuss how important it is. And I think, people may come to us because they have a need to start their retirement planning or to get their dollars invested, but it’s so much more than that. We’re really talking about financial wellness and looking at it as a family unit that the goals are designed by the couple, not just a single party.
Adam Hooper (08:07):
Mm-hmm (affirmative). And do you see that gap closing?
Suzanne Wheeler (08:14):
Adam Hooper (08:14):
I mean, how’s it going in practice? What have you seen from the field of trying to be more inclusive with both parties in that planning conversation?
Suzanne Wheeler (08:22):
I think we are making great strides. You really need to explain the importance of it. With anything, if you know the why, then you can get to making the meetings happen. And so, many times it might be just, we’d like to see your wife or we’d like to see your husband, because it’s not always the men that are taking the role. Sometimes we do see the women, but we tell them why it’s important for them both to be there. And I think that really speeds up the process and make it engaging. I know that I have had in particular clients that I’ve worked with, that maybe one of the parties didn’t feel like they knew enough to ask a question. And so, when I can read between the lines, I often ask if they would like to meet alone or meet 30 minutes after the meeting. So, I can answer any questions that they may not have felt comfortable asking and do investment one-on-one, everybody needs to learn. And so, we’re there to help them and teach them.
Adam Hooper (09:47):
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Can you talk a little bit about the investment gap?
Suzanne Wheeler (09:51):
Sure. So, I think when we talk about the investment gap, we’re actually talking about two or three things. And one is, sometimes time itself is an investment gap, that maybe one party doesn’t feel like they had the time to devote to the investment process. I also think there’s a gap in maybe the salaries that we had seen between men and women and the duties. They may be performing the same duties, have the same title, but the salary is somewhat different. I think that’s improving, but it shows up in their retirement plans. And so, what we’re trying to accomplish, and again, I think we are moving forward and certainly not moving backwards, but making sure that women have large retirement balances as well, which somewhat is derived by their salary.
Suzanne Wheeler (10:59):
And I think we’re seeing more women become leaders in their industry. We are seeing them take more control of their salaries, as well as their positions. And men are typically the negotiators and when they’re going in to interview for a new position, a new role in their current environment or leaving to going to a different company, they go in feeling like they’re negotiating, where women tend to not do that quite as much. And when you talk about working with women, one of the most satisfying thing in working with them is helping them know their value. We’re here talking about investments, that they are an investment. Invest in their selves, know their value, and be able to negotiate for what is fair.
Adam Hooper (12:18):
And in terms of planning, what are some steps, I guess, or some tips that listeners can take in terms of maximizing that value or realizing what is their most valuable asset?
Suzanne Wheeler (12:34):
Sure. Well, I would say their most valuable asset is themselves, and that they need to know their value. And while the stock market goes up and down, and there’s little control from each of us individually, you certainly have control of your strategy, of your work environment, your career. And so, that could start with the negotiating on the promotions and salaries. You should know what your opportunities are there, and know what that type of position pays. There’s a lot of research out there to show what people should expect for different job titles at different markets. And so, I would encourage them to think about, they are their most valuable asset and how are they going to posture that so they take every opportunity to see that grow.
Adam Hooper (13:44):
Mm-hmm (affirmative). You talked earlier about helping planning through some transitions. I’m assuming a lot of the work goes into planning to, I guess, accommodate for that eventual transition, whatever that life circumstance might be. What are some of the goals or considerations when you look at building a plan that people should maybe consider that maybe aren’t as surface level as something like a death or jobs or anything like that? Are there any tips that you have there in terms of things that should be considered in some of those goals and plans?
Suzanne Wheeler (14:23):
Sure. I think, if you’re talking about a retirement and that is a transition, start today. Start thinking about it today. I mean, in your 20s, in your 30s, it’s much easier to start a plan at that age rather than get to 55 and think, “Oh, I’m going to retire in 10 years, what do I need to do?” It’s much harder to claw your way back and get into that environment that you should be. Much easier to start in the beginning of your career or work environment of that planning of what would you like life to be in retirement. Where would you like to live? Not that, that has to be set in stone, but it’s a starting point. And with every plan you should be flexible. I often say, it’s like a budget. Everything’s going great, until you need a new roof and then you’ve got to think about paying for that. So, you just reassess and start again. So, it’s never stopping, it’s adjusting along the way.
Adam Hooper (15:45):
What’s the saying? The best time to plant a tree was yesterday, second best time is today. Just get started.
Suzanne Wheeler (15:49):
Yes, exactly. Exactly, that is right. And I say that so many times, just start. And I find that people, they hesitate in starting. And I think they hesitate because maybe they think they should have accumulated more than they have, and it’s a daunting task to try to talk to someone about that. But when you start just talking, have a conversation, we learned so much by just listening that we can develop a plan and help them get started. And you could just see the relief on their faces once they begin the discussion and the fear goes away and the hope comes in, and that’s what we want all of our clients to leave.
Adam Hooper (16:46):
And what is some of those things that you key in on those early conversations with someone that’s just starting that process or starting those conversations?
Suzanne Wheeler (16:55):
I would say start dreaming. What would life be if I could, if I had the resources? And then we get down to evaluating the resources they have, the savings versus spending. And I think those can be exciting times. But I would just say, dream. You can dream high and it’s pie in the sky and we can bring you back down and say, “Well, what about this instead?” But I do think you need to make it fun, but also realistic. But it’s an opportunity to say, have a plan A, plan B, and plan C. And is it worth making sacrifices now for that to be in the future? Or we want to enjoy life as it goes.
Suzanne Wheeler (17:57):
And I know some people have goals of large balances. I also try to position in the thought of creating memories along the way. It’s great to have these large balances, but if you’re not taking advantages, the advantage of a trip that you have always wanted to do, maybe you need to look at doing that earlier, rather than later. And then, as far as gifting to kids, maybe it’s nice to see them enjoy the resources when they’re in their 40s, rather than waiting until they are much older and receiving an inheritance.
Adam Hooper (18:46):
And so, this concept of accumulation and keeping score through a balance, versus enjoyment along the way, I’m assuming that’s mostly where your psychotherapist hat comes in.
Suzanne Wheeler (18:58):
It does. It does.
Adam Hooper (19:00):
How do you have that conversation to figure that? I mean, I’m assuming it’s just very individual based on personalities and what you’re able to understand from those conversations, but how do you balance those?
Suzanne Wheeler (19:13):
Well, I think our first goal and the first priority is to making sure that our clients don’t run out of money. I’m happy to say, I’ve been in the industry nearly 30 years and I don’t think that’s happened.
Adam Hooper (19:30):
Suzanne Wheeler (19:31):
I know that’s not happened. So, we want to make sure the resources are there for that to never be a worry, but we want people to enjoy life. And you can tell what the priorities are and discuss those along the way. And we use a financial planning tool that we can run different scenarios of what would my balance look like if I live to a 100 and never had any fun. Well, that’s great, but we’d like to have some fun along the way. And so, having a goal of a certain amount for travel or charitable giving. A lot of people that we work with feels so good about giving back and that’s a goal for them, it’s a goal for myself. And how do we work towards doing that now, as well as in the future?
Suzanne Wheeler (20:41):
And maybe there’s a thought of educating your children, which should, for most people it’s a priority. And how are we going to do that? I often take time to share with the children about what valuable gift they are receiving by having their college paid for by their parents. And it’s been interesting because I think they should know the value of that. It’s not just, “I sign up my classes and I graduate.” And yes, they have work to do during those years, but what a gift it is to get out of college and not have debt.
Suzanne Wheeler (21:30):
So, there’s many goals and it’s different from one client to another, but that’s what makes my job so fun is it’s not the same day every day. And we want people to see what the potential is. And for some, maybe that is having millions of dollars at their death, but I would say more often than not, it’s enjoying life along the way and leaving a legacy with their children, with their grandchildren that’s not about money.
Adam Hooper (22:14):
Mm-hmm (affirmative). And now, getting into the relationship side of that, is there usually alignment in your practice that you see between both parties or is that usually a finesse conversation of what those goals are? How aligned are those typically, and maybe what are some techniques or conversations that folks can have in terms of how to build some alignment and make those decisions more inclusive, rather than one person driving the conversations?
Suzanne Wheeler (22:44):
Well, I think we do a good job of making sure that everybody is included in the decision. You can read body language, you can see the facial expressions. And part of our job that people don’t think when they’re thinking of hiring a financial advisor is reading between the lines. It’s not just about this allocation, this rate of return, this savings number, this spending number will get you to retirement, and that’s it. It’s so much more that people don’t think about at different times and different paces with working with couples. And I think sometimes we are a mediator and ask questions to get the two of them thinking about what could be, or what should be. They don’t always agree. And we don’t always accomplish it, these goals, and in the first meeting, the second meeting, or even in the first year.
Suzanne Wheeler (23:55):
And there there’s been times that we’ve never achieved an outcome on who should take care of the children, be their guardian in the event that we lost both of them. Those are very hard decisions. And there’s been a couple of times that there was no agreement and they agreed on everything else in their marriage, but this was tough. And so, how do you combat that? Maybe it’s taking really good care of yourself for one. And we’ve had people fly on different airlines to get to the same location, just so that wasn’t a problem.
Adam Hooper (24:42):
Yeah. Those are probably not very easy conversations to have, I’m assuming.
Suzanne Wheeler (24:46):
They are not. They are not. Sometimes they can be right in line with each other, and sometimes they’re very far apart. And so, we dig down to see why they are far apart, and that is the listening and the counseling. It certainly has nothing to do with the market.
Adam Hooper (25:07):
And do you see a difference between single income versus dual income households?
Suzanne Wheeler (25:13):
I do. I see a lot of difference there at times. Typically, when you’re looking at a double income family, you can tend to rely on each other and think, “Oh, well, we can save later or we’re going to spend more during these times because we’ve got these goals to accomplish and we’ll catch up later.” Too, when you’re looking at a single individual, they tend to realize they are in charge of themselves and they don’t have that other person at this time to rely on helping them meet their goals or safer retirement. So, they tend to start earlier and stay on track for the majority of the people that we work with.
Adam Hooper (26:05):
And so, maybe, what are some of the benefits that you see from households that are able to get to that more joint decision-making, more inclusive in the process, versus maybe the more historical notion of just one person can driving the boat and the other one’s just along for the ride?
Suzanne Wheeler (26:19):
well, I think, starting the conversation early, developing the goals together and then sticking with them together and you’re accountable to each other. And I think it can be very successful, but it does take discussion, it does take planning. Have a defined goal, sit down with a pen and paper and draw a map out, list your dreams, each of you independently, and then bringing them together to see if you’re on the same page, or listen to each other’s differences of why you have different thoughts on the goals. And then, once you get that paired down and you create a plan, I think it’s so important to revisit it. It’s not just one and done, you need to plan times where you can talk about it, schedule a meeting that it’s not like you’re out on a date.
Suzanne Wheeler (27:24):
And I think you should date your spouse. It’s not like you’re out on a date and decide, “Oh, the main course has arrive, let’s discuss financial planning.” I think it’s maybe sitting out on the patio with your favorite beverage and just dreaming and. Calendar it in, put yourself on your to-do list. And figuring out what those goals should be, how you should attempt to start saving for those goals. And then reevaluate, meet with each other, have your own meeting. I just recently had a meeting with my husband last weekend, just to go over where we stood with our investments, that he obviously feels like he doesn’t have to be involved in because it’s my business.
Suzanne Wheeler (28:25):
But it’s so important for him to know everything about it, whether he feels that or not, because life is uncertainty. And so, you need to make sure that you stay engaged and know where everything is. And you will derail, there’s no doubt about it. We all do at some point in time. But I think you look back at why did we get off track. Was it something that was avoidable? I think recognizing that you’re on track is a great start. And how do we get back to that plan and is that plan even feasible? You don’t want to shoot for the moon and know it’s unrealistic, so don’t start out doing that. But was it because we overspent on gifts for each other?
Suzanne Wheeler (29:29):
And maybe it’s an opportunity for each of you to talk about what those gifts meant to you, and is it really worth derailing the plan? It was at a time where you felt like maybe you two just needed to break away and have a trip and escape reality. That in my opinion is necessary for the marriage. And if it derailed you, so it, did you have your memories that you’ve created and you adjust and see how you can change things that gets you back on track, but also allows for those time periods in the future. I do think making time for your marriage is a priority and probably more so than looking at the financial situation. Because you can be in a worse situation if you didn’t continue to date your spouse and find yourself in a place where the marriage is not working.
Adam Hooper (30:42):
I know you mentioned being able to get back on track, once you get off of that plan. I’m assuming the better approach is to have something that you can track periodically and figure out maybe before it gets too far off track. So, what are some of the tools or ways that you can see strategies for tracking that progress and what does that look like?
Suzanne Wheeler (31:05):
Well, it would look like your 401(k) statements. Are you investing appropriately with your risk tolerance and a rate of return that you need to meet these goals? Are you taking advantage of maxing out your contribution each year? Or what can you do to change it so you can? But also, I think people will think about retirement and I’ve got to save in my 401(k). but it’s so important to save outside of that 401(k) because what some people do, well, they’ll think they had this great balance for retirement in a qualified plan, but what they don’t realize is that when they withdraw funds, they have to pay tax on it. And so, that can trim about 35% at times on your value of your portfolio. So, starting off early. And one of the things that I did with my son recently is I showed him how fast he could get to a million dollars if he started saving now.
Suzanne Wheeler (32:34):
And he was 26 years old, or he is, he’s a teacher, so you can imagine the salary levels there. But he found a way to carve out, to make a automatic, monthly deposit into his investment account. And of course, he has great guidance on how to invest that doesn’t cost him anything. But he’s well about the plan of getting to a million dollars. And so, part of that success and the fun of it is seeing how many can grow if you invest properly. And so, you want to make sure that you are investing outside of that qualified plan.
Suzanne Wheeler (33:24):
For emergencies that come up, you don’t want to have to take a withdrawal from your 401(k) or take a loan. You’d like to avoid all that if necessary, but measuring your success there. How did we do on savings inside a taxable account and how did our investments grow? And again, the market does go up and down, but if you are investing each month, your dollar cost averaging throughout the year, so you’re picking up different times within the market to invest.
Adam Hooper (34:07):
Yeah, that’s great strategies and good ways to track there. So, I guess, as we start to round out today, what are some steps that listeners can take today that are some of the easier wins? Some of them are hanging fruit in terms of getting either re-engaged with a plan they were working with before, or maybe taking some of those steps towards developing that plan.
Suzanne Wheeler (34:29):
Sure. I would say, just start, make a plan, it’s Saturday, Saturday’s coming. So, make that on your list of things to do and start dreaming, what would life look like? What are your goals? And then, looking at what your resources are and how can you start managing towards those goals. And what I like to do in many areas of my practice is just a little help in defining goals is think of purpose, method, and outcome. So, what is the purpose of the goal? What’s the method to achieve it? And what do you expect the outcome to be if you achieve the goal? And so, I think this can be used in investing. It can be used in a new purchase. What’s the purpose of buying this? How are we going to pay for it and what are we looking for out of it? I think you can do that with your day to day life and certainly thinking about your investment strategy.
Adam Hooper (35:52):
Yeah. I like that. Things are running through my brain of [crosstalk 00:35:55] properly define why I bought what I bought.
Suzanne Wheeler (36:02):
Adam Hooper (36:03):
What was the purpose?
Suzanne Wheeler (36:03):
Exactly. And as a married couple, do it together. And it’s okay to say, “That wasn’t a good decision on my part, but I’ve learned from it, now let’s move on and let’s not talk about it again.” A very good client once told me you don’t catch any fish casting out of the back of the boat. You’ve always got to cast forward. And that has stuck with me for 15 years now. And don’t look back and beat yourself up on mistakes, learn from them, and move forward.
Adam Hooper (36:41):
I think that’s a great spot to start wrapping it up. Anything that we didn’t touch on Suzanne, that you’d like to talk about before we let you go?
Suzanne Wheeler (36:51):
I would say that just don’t be afraid to start. And women, know your value and know your expertise and that you are your most valuable asset.
Adam Hooper (37:07):
Great. Well, how can listeners learn more about what you’re up to with Mariner Wealth Advisors?
Suzanne Wheeler (37:11):
Sure. You can follow me and Mariner Wealth Advisors on LinkedIn or Twitter. We both post quite a bit there. And then Mariner also has a Facebook page, so you can follow them on Facebook. You can sign up from our website for emails that can come to you that talk about market conditions. We put out something monthly and something quarterly, that little tips to follow. We do a lot of internal interviews on different topics that people have asked us too. So, I think you can find a lot of knowledge there on our website or following us at one of those resources.
Adam Hooper (38:08):
Great. Then we’ll have links to all of those resources in the show notes as well. So, Suzanne, thank you again so much for coming on today. I know I learned a lot. I think Tyler learned a lot as well, so we really appreciate you spending some time with us.
Suzanne Wheeler (38:20):
Thank you. It’s my passion. And it’s an honor to be talking with you.
Adam Hooper (38:24):
Great. Well, listeners, that’s all we’ve got for today. As always, if you have any comments or questions, please send us a note to email@example.com. And with that, we’ll catch you on the next one.