Focus On

Women lawyers get financial advice at OBA event

Friday, December 22, 2017 @ 9:38 AM | By Carolyn Gruske

Women in the legal profession are competent and confident in their fields, but insecurity when it comes to investing can hurt them in the long run.

That’s one of the messages delivered to the audience of a recent seminar put on by the Ontario Bar Association Women Lawyers Forum. Labelled “Empowerment through financial planning: what women lawyers need to know,” the event featured two certified financial planners who offered in-person attendees and webcast listeners advice about how to prepare for their financial futures.

Jana Pauk

Jana Pauk, Dentons Canada LLP

“First of all they said it’s extremely important to have clarity, to understand their financial circumstances,” said Jana Pauk, an executive member of the OBA Women Lawyers Forum and an associate at Dentons Canada LLP.

“They find that women can get very conservative when they don’t have the expertise to invest. So first understand your circumstances and to do that, it’s a good idea to look for a financial adviser — somebody to guide you, to help with your investments. Do not wait.”

She added that the financial planners said investing doesn’t mean taking unnecessary risks, it’s more about understanding your current situation and your future goals and planning from there.

“You don’t need to be extremely aggressive so the risks are amortized. You don’t need to be an aggressive investor. You just need to have a good plan so, independent of the market, you’re going to be earning over the long term.”

Pauk said the event was planned after discussions arose about whether women in the legal profession had different financial needs than their male colleagues, and it turns out that there are a few differences.

“Our experts mentioned that in addition to caring about rates of return, women also care about lifestyle, transitioning to a new work role and caring for their elderly parents, financial decisions related to maternity leave, maintaining their health and social relationships. They are concerned about working less and earning more. That means being wise about their financial decisions. Lifestyle was an important point,” she said explaining that “women will prioritize family — not that men won’t — but it’s one of the concerns women have when planning their finances.”

But while there are some differences, it’s not necessarily helpful to think solely of women versus men and how they see their financial futures differently.

“We are all different and we all have different priorities so they said look for somebody who will understand you and you will be comfortable building this relationship of trust,” she said.

“We thought they would focus more on gender, on the difference between women and men and they emphasized more the question of different needs, not just female or male. They also said these days professional women are more in control of their finances more than ever before. It’s a good thing.”

The Women Lawyers Forum program is just one of what the OBA considers its “pathways to power” series.

“The programs are really popular. It’s important to honour diversity and learn from each other’s experience,” said Pauk. As for the women-focused events, Pauk said they help attendees realize that there are other people in similar circumstances or who have lived through similar situations.

“It brings women together, across different generations and different stages of their careers and across different areas of law. You find you exchange ideas and you see that you are not all alone. People have already done that. It creates a good feeling in the group.”

One thing that the financial planners told the women listening was that no matter the generation, all of them should focus on paying less in taxes, and that there was another area that both men and women need to look at when considering their financial planning: reducing expenses.

“They mentioned that it’s not just women but also men, it’s all about how you’re spending your money. Sometimes you have a pretty good income, but you don’t have good planning. So managing your lifestyle, saving for retirement will also give you freedom and a better lifestyle,” she said.

Another piece of advice that’s applicable to everybody is to ensure that financial plans change with you as you mature.

“They also said that it’s always good to start investing early and often. It’s not just having a plan but revisiting the plan, and having a relationship with your adviser in a way that as you change your goals your plan will also change and reflect your current situation. So it’s an ongoing relationship.”