A few weeks ago, my husband and I met with a financial planner for the first time. Setting up the appointment was my idea - I suppose three and a half years of constant exposure to press releases entailing Americans' alarming lack of retirement preparedness will do that to a person.

I had high hopes for the meeting, envisioned us engaging in a frank discussion with the adviser about our plans and desires for the future and walking out with a roadmap to take us in that direction. However, even though I found the appointment to be productive, I left feeling somewhat disappointed as well.

Although I'd done the research to find the adviser and set up the appointment, it quickly turned into a discussion between my husband and the adviser. I felt more like an observer than a participant. I can't say whether the meeting would have gone any differently if the adviser had been a woman, but recalling the encounter had me nodding my head as I read this month's cover story, What women want. Adviser Nancy Skeans' comments hit a little too close to home when she mentions how women can be guilty of perpetuating disappointment by being reluctant to speak up or attend a meeting without their husband. "[W]omen, they have to learn to take control," she says.

Even so, the retirement and financial services industry must take ownership as well. As the cover story points out, nearly three-quarters (73%) of women are unhappy with the level of service they receive from their financial adviser, and report being treated with disrespect and condescension. It's unacceptable.

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, less than 31% of personal financial advisers are women - and if you ask Mary Quist-Newins, director, State Farm Center for Women and Financial Services at The American College, that's a generous estimate that also includes positions such as female bank tellers.

OK. So, why should you care? Because a recent American College survey of female small business owners shows the majority (60%) prefer to work with a female adviser, and woman-owned businesses are on the rise - 1-in-11 now, and growing at twice the rate of male-owned ones. And don't forget these businesses are likely to need health coverage too.

Now, since it's EBA's goal to help your business be successful, here's what really stuck out to me. According to LIMRA, only half of female advisers are marketing to women, and just 16% of men are doing so, despite the high financial risks of the female demographic. As The American College's Quist-Newins so eloquently puts it, "It's the hugest market opportunity ever."

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