Special Guest: Adria Starkey, FineMark Bank
Women are attending college and graduate school at a higher rate than men, building a presence on corporate boards and making strides in nearly every sector of our economy. Yet when it comes to the investment world, there remains significantly fewer women managing assets. This can result in women being overlooked by advisors and left underprepared when – by choice or by circumstance – they must manage their own finances. In this episode of FineMark Radio, David Scaff, Executive Vice President and Palm Beach County Market President, speaks with Adria Starkey, Executive Vice President and Naples and Collier County Market President, about her experiences helping women put plans in place to secure their financial futures.
During their discussion, Scaff and Starkey discuss:
- How demographic factors, such as women’s longer life expectancies, divorce rates and caring for children and aging parents affect their finances
- Why women must know what they own, where they own it and how to access it – and how to get started
- The life experiences that led Starkey on her path toward helping female clients and how she is encouraging younger generations to get involved with investing, both personally and professionally
The helpful resources for women mentioned in this episode are the Wall Street Journal article titled “The 25 Documents You Need Before You Die” and the book “Smart Women Finish Rich” by David Bach.
FineMark Radio: Episode 6 Transcription
David Scaff: Good afternoon. This is David Scaff with FineMark National Bank, President of the bank in Palm Beach County. And today, I’m very proud to have with me my colleague Adria Starkey, who is the president of FineMark in Naples and Collier County. Welcome and thank you.
Adria Starkey: Thank you, David. This is so exciting to be with you in this podcast world.
David Scaff: In this virtual world. I know it’s great, isn’t it? So, today, we are going to address a topic that’s near and dear to your heart. And the topic is why women’s financial lives are different. Let me just get started right away and say, why are women’s financial lives different?
Adria Starkey: Well, David, I’ve been doing this for a long time. And so, this interest for me has taken time, and I’ve grown with it as I’ve watched my clients grow over time. So, first of all, the average age of widowhood in our country is 56 years old. That’s stunning to me. That was amazing. For women, their spouses are dying on average at 56 years old, and women are now marrying later in life. So women are going to be alone. Whether it’s early in life or later in life, they’re going to have to take care of themselves. Women live longer. They have a different employment history. Although today, there are more women enrolled in colleges, even postgraduate programs, than there are men, pretty much across the board except in technology. There are a few areas like engineering, but for the most part, women are really getting great educations. They’re all in school. Yet, they’re still making 80 cents on the dollar to a man, and they have a different employment history. We’ve seen that during COVID because who was affected? Women stayed home with their children because kids didn’t go to school, and women were the ones who dropped out of the workforce this time. When women do that, they affect their 401(k)s, their retirement savings, all of these things. And they have to live longer off of these plans than men do.
Also, women are caregivers, and it’s not only their children. They end up taking care of their aging parents. This takes away from their ability to work. It also costs them more money because you end up caring for them. Then divorce is another factor. I know we’re supposed to be, especially in Florida, in the equal divide, but women do not end up as well in a divorce situation as men do. It could be because men go into it as a business proposition, and women are much more emotionally tied in.
When you start putting all of these factors together, it’s very important that women are more engaged, yet their innate nature is to be less engaged and leave the important, bigger decisions to men in their lives. To me, those are your investment decisions, your planning, estate planning, as well as just insurance, anything that’s risk related. I think we try and not try. A lot of data shows that women prefer to have their spouse more involved in that process or their father. It happens with younger women. They turn to their father or another man.
David Scaff: True. So, listeners, in case you were unsure, Adria is passionate about this topic, and she can share the knowledge that she’s gleaned over the years with this podcast. Thank you for that introduction. Now you and I have worked in the financial services industry most of our lives, and I’ve heard you say before that women don’t think they’re being heard by our industry. Can you expand on that a little bit?
Adria Starkey: Once again, I listen to what clients say, and then I’ve also read so much research now, and time and time again, women will go into a meeting, and if both the husband and wife are in the meeting, they feel that the portfolio manager, the person who’s really running the money, focuses eye contact much more with the male in the room than the female. They feel that they’re spoken down to. These are all things I have heard. They’re spoken down to by people. Oftentimes, in most situations, we will see the male 401(k) or IRA is always larger than the woman’s. I get really excited when I see a woman have a larger 401(k) than her husband, and I give her a high five and big kudos for that. It’s very rare. Do you agree with me?
David Scaff: Yeah. Absolutely. Well, you know, we’ve lived through a time where we’re transitioning from some of our more mature couples where it was quite commonplace for the woman to leave everything to the man. I guess they sort of naturally got talked past, but do you think that still goes on today?
Adria Starkey: One of the reasons that I really do believe this still goes on today is the investment world. I don’t know the exact percentage, but I’m sure I can find out, but there are very few women involved. It’s just tough to find good women that are managing money. There are not as many. We see them on TV, and I get so excited when I do, but there are not as many women in this business and we need more women. And I actually just recently went to FGCU to talk to their women finance group to encourage them to have other women major in finance and stick to the investment side of the business. It’s really important because women like dealing with other women as well. They just feel a little more secure.
David Scaff: Sure. I certainly have noticed that over my career. In fact, a lot of times, I’ve had women be bold enough to ask if there is someone female who can be their account representative.
Adria Starkey: David, you know what, it’s not just in the investment world. It goes a little bit further. I hear about it from their accountant and their estate planning attorney. So as you said, they were not involved during the course of their long-term marriage. And then their husband passes away. They’ve had the same accountant and the same attorney who have drawn up all their documents. Then they come in and tell me, “I don’t like this guy.” I really want to change. And you’re thinking, well, maybe you should have gotten involved. I always tell women, get involved, go to the meetings, send a little note, send them a birthday card, a Christmas card, stay engaged with these people. So you get them on your side, win them over and make them feel important because you will need them as part of your team. It’s very important. So just a little tidbit of getting those people involved in your life.
David Scaff: I had a very important example of what we’re talking about early in my career. A professor at UF, a finance professor, and I were called to a meeting with the husband and wife, and the professor had had a stroke and he couldn’t speak. He could understand, he could write, but he couldn’t speak. He was bringing me all of the assets he had saved over his life. I mentioned to him that we should meet with an estate planning attorney because you could only shelter so many assets. And I said, at the time, it was like $1.2M and the wife looked at me and said, “Well, we don’t have that kind of money.” And they were sitting there in front of a stack of stock certificates that represented about $5 million worth of assets and a little tear formed in his eye, like, you know, I’ve failed. That story has stuck with me my whole career.
Adria Starkey: So true, David. We have people who come in now who might be banking clients and they love managing their own money. For some men, that’s their passion and we never want to take that away from them, because as they age, they need to have a passion, but we’ve started relationships where they agree, okay, I’m going to do this and I’m going to give you a little bit now. I want you to take care of my wife and I’ll turn it over when I can’t do this so well anymore. And you might have to be the one to tell me when I can’t do this so well. Yeah. And that’s the type of relationship we form with our clients. We have to be there to help them through transitions.
David Scaff: Well, Adria, backing up a little bit, how was it that you got so involved with educating women in particular? I know you do a lot of work for us and for our clients in this area. How did you get involved?
Adria Starkey: It really started because my dad was killed by a drunk driver. I remember waking up in the middle of the night and I’m more worried about my mom than the grief of my own dad. I’m thinking, how is my mom going to exist? Because in my mind, my mother never worked. She never did anything. She knew nothing and she wasn’t going to be able to exist without my dad. And so I needed to take care of my mom, all of a sudden, and my mom ended up being a pretty shrewd businesswoman and lived to 88 and took great care of herself. I was really proud of her, but I did not know that at the time, but it really made me begin to see the importance of understanding what you own, where it is, how you can get to it and what the next steps are after a tragedy like that.
Then I went through my own divorce and, you know, a divorce is really like, you’ve got to put on your britches and say, okay, I have to deal with this. Those learnings were very personal, and I ended up having tons of divorced women come to me and want to have the end of their divorce work out as well as they thought mine did. And so, it helped me. All of a sudden, I could really see the need, the importance of continuously doing this. I have had a passion since, you know, since my twenties, I have to do this for other women.
David Scaff: Well, those are pretty poignant and personal stories of a reason why you would get involved in this. It was somewhat by necessity and helping your mom and helping yourself. That’s really a great story. What are the couple of the things that women can do? Some things that you’ve learned that will give them, you know, a little more confidence than you seem to observe in many cases. What can they do to start to take some control?
Adria Starkey: Well, I’m going to start with the end in mind. I think there was somebody who said that it’s always good to know the end in mind. So I always tell people, you should have a strong advisor team. You should know who they are and you should like them and make sure that you’re comfortable with them. So if there’s any tragedy, there’s anything sudden that occurs in your life, who is your wealth manager? Who’s the banker? Who’s the accountant? Who’s the estate planning attorney? Who is on your team that you are going to turn to for that advice? Then actually, I have a little checklist. I’ll go through it. I don’t want to take too much time, but I always advise women to have a cash stash, a little cash on the sidelines. And I mean, they should keep it in the bank, but their own cash. It is very important.
I can’t tell you how many women, and wealthy women, that do not have credit in their own name. When you have an American Express card and it has your name on it, that does not mean you have that American Express card. Because if your husband is the primary, the day he dies, American Express cuts you off. So I have to strongly encourage women to make sure they have a credit card in their name and they are the owner of that credit card. I’ve had to guarantee them for women who have no income. And they finally realize, hey, I have no credit either. So that’s really important to me: having a cash stash. So, you can, you know, move quickly. If you need to do something, you’ve got to have some cash on the sidelines. And how you determine how much depends on the total picture of your assets. If you have a lot of liquid securities, then you don’t need as much cash sitting there, because you can get to cash quickly. If you’re very tied up in real estate, I always encourage people to have more cash because you’re not going to be able to liquidate those assets as quickly if you have an emergency or you need something.
The next thing I tell people, they don’t like, so I don’t like to call it a budget. I just want you to know what it costs you to live on an annual basis because then we can start understanding, okay, how much does it cost me to live? I need to make sure I can cover these costs. When I ask women, “How much does it cost you to live?” They want to glaze over. The first answer is “I don’t like math, so I don’t really want to deal with that all the time.” And it’s really got nothing to do with math. So what does it cost you to live?
You’ve also got to have an up-to-date will and trust. You’ve got to have your documents, your healthcare surrogate, all of those things, need to be up to date. On our website, we have an article Wall Street Journal put out years ago I love called “The 25 Documents You Need Before You Die.” I think it’s a great list of exactly how to file them because it just makes your life so much easier. I always encourage women to check the beneficiary designations on their accounts, on their and their spouse’s IRAs, just to make sure things are in order, make sure they know who is on their insurance, of course, and doing all of that. You then learn what you own, where it is, and how to get to it. And you know, I tell younger women to put away as much money as they possibly can into either retirement accounts, 401(k)s, any type of tax-free investment vehicle that works for them and make sure that you’re always trying to educate yourself a little bit every year so you can learn more. There’s a great book, “Smart Women Finish Rich.” It’s like your little handy dandy Bible. It’s really easy, but it’s a great book to go through. “Smart Women Finish Rich.” I always recommend that. That’s a quick go-to.
David Scaff: Well that’s wonderful. I’d like to say that your list, your Wall Street Journal articles, your books that you have recommended are all going to be available by either contacting us in the contact form on this podcast, or we will have notes attached to the episode that people can find out more. We also run a series specifically for women and about their financial lives. If you’d like to become a part of that, if you’d like to attend, live or attend online, let us know by contacting us. We have just a couple of minutes left here. Leave us with some real important parting thoughts. If people listen to this broadcast and take away one or two things, what would it be?
Adria Starkey: I would say that there’s just an alarming amount of data that shows that women don’t want to engage. They don’t find this topic of interest to them. And yet it’s going to be a very important piece of their long-term wellbeing. I really do mean it’s holistically like your whole well-being because if you are not happy financially, it’s really hard to be happy personally. It makes you just feel better to have your ducks in a row and know that you are safe, healthy, and well off. And that’s what we try to do for our clients all the time. And I know you do, and I try to do that all the time. So I guess for me, it’s the holistic piece of it. We have to take care of each other and our clients.
David Scaff: Well, Adria, I can’t imagine that we have any women out there who wouldn’t be motivated by some of the things you’ve said today and the passion and the personal experience that you’ve shared with us. Thank you for that. So take action, contact us and become a part of it. Thank you so much for being with us today. I really appreciate it. I’ll look forward to working with you to better the lives of our clients.
Adria Starkey: Thank you, David. It means a lot that I had the opportunity to do this because this does matter to me and thank you very much for all you’re doing. I really sincerely appreciate it.
David Scaff: Thank you. Okay. This is David Scaff signing off.