Jeannette Bajalia studied the statistics and they were startling.
The president and principal advisor of Petros Estate & Financial Planning, Bajalia began to notice a trend among her female clients – namely that, for a variety of demographic reasons, many were financially ill-prepared for retirement.
“Some had spent 30 years at home raising their children, only to find themselves suddenly divorced in their 50s,” said Bajalia, a Ponte Vedra Beach resident. “I also began seeing widows in their 70s, some of whom had never even written a check. Their husbands had always handled the finances.”
Longevity was also a factor: In addition to the fact that women typically outlive their spouses, Bajalia said she was seeing an increasing number of younger widows and women who were finding themselves single at age 65. And because many of them had left the work force to raise their families or care for elderly loved ones, their retirement savings – and social security earnings – had suffered.
“I looked at all this data,” Bajalia said, “and I decided I needed a platform that would educate women to give them the tools to make the right financial decisions.”
That platform was Woman’s Worth, an independent company that specializes in helping women plan their financial futures.
The need for a woman-centered approach to finance was necessary, Bajalia said, because women and men take dramatically different approaches to issues involving money.
“There’s no area where gender differences are more prevalent than in finances,” she said. “Women want more safety, more certainty; guys will live on the edge.”
Women also are more concerned about being a burden on their children, and with leaving a legacy.
“They’ll say, ‘Oh, we can’t afford these extravagant trips,’” Bajalia said, “while the husbands want to spend every dime.”
When it comes to estate planning, differences are also evident. “Women speak a planning language, not an investing language,” she said. “Planning is a blueprint for retirement success driven by a desired lifestyle you’ve spent 40 years visualizing. Investing says, ‘Once I have a plan, what do I do with the money to achieve the goals of the plan?’”
Men are also more actively engaged in strategic financial decisions, she added, whereas women tend to be in charge of the household’s day-to-day operational decisions.
“What women tend to forget,” she said, “is that one day they’re going to have to make those strategic financial decisions on their own.”
To do that, Woman’s Worth employs what Bajalia calls a simple, fact-based lifestyle planning approach.
“I don’t get into the rate of return or the latest, greatest investments (with clients),” she said. “What women want to know is, ‘What kind of lifestyle do I want and how do I get it?’”
The Woman’s Worth approach is also different in that it adopts a holistic approach, taking into consideration a client’s physical and emotional health as well as financial health.
“It’s an integrated, educational approach to total well-being,” she said. “With women living longer, the biggest risk to any woman’s retirement is skyrocketing health care costs. So I integrate health education and a lot of self care into their retirement plans to make sure they know it’s okay to spend money on themselves so they don’t jeopardize their health. I tell them, ‘If you don’t (spend money on self care), you’ll be spending that money on co-pays and prescription drugs.”
In addition to working individually with clients, Bajalia conducts numerous public workshops as well as monthly “lunch and learn” sessions designed to educate and reinforce the health/wealth connection. She has also written books on the subject and hosts a weekend “Woman’s Worth” radio show that airs Saturdays at 10 a.m. on WSOS 103.9 FM and Sundays at 4 p.m. on WOKV 104.5 FM.
“Women need to get their heads out of the sand and start the journey by creating a blueprint for retirement success,” she said. “Sooner or later, a life event is going to rear its head and you need to be prepared – and you want it to be your plan, not anyone’s else’s plan.”