Carol Stillwell, CEO and president of Stillwell-Hansen — a manufacturer's representative in Edison — represents the fastest-growing segment of the wealthy class in the Garden State: women.
“As women business leaders, we should seek to encourage the women around us to become more involved in their wealth management education,” Stillwell said.
Women will soon control two-thirds of the wealth in this country, according to various studies. That will shift how wealth is both managed and invested, since women tend to prefer guaranteed products such as cash and CDs that are low-risk, long-term and carefully measured.
Such a financial plan is fairly typical for a woman of high net worth today.
At least, it was for Stillwell, who helped finance her philanthropic missions using the dividends from the million-dollar insurance policies she had purchased in 1983.
“Estate taxes and planning becomes much more real as we age, so as this chapter in my life unfolds I again have tried to gain as much information as possible and have tried to make the most educated decisions possible to protect the things I hold most dear: the company, my team and my charities,” Stillwell said.
Women, including Stillwell, statistically take a more holistic and family-oriented approach to wealth and investments.
They tend to also be more interested in “social impact investing,” or aligning with and supporting companies with similar social, economic and political values as their own.
Hence why Stillwell recently chose to gift $3 million to the Meridian Health system for the establishment of the Larkin-Stillwell-Hansen cancer infusion center at Riverview Medical Center.
“What is important to me may not be important to somebody else. You just need to know what your end game is,” Stillwell said. “It is different for every self-sufficient women, for every business owner, for every widow or widower who never learned to manage monies.”
Stillwell strongly advocates that women find and work with finance professionals in order to create wealth plans of their own.
“My financial adviser has come to understand my objectives and has worked through my real estate investment and insurance policies to make certain that I can continue to live on my terms while having protected the future of those I love,” she said. “With further education, other (women) will find the confidence and willingness to seek out a financial adviser who will help them meet the goals they set for themselves.”
Whatever one chooses to do with her money, Stillwell said, it is better than nothing.
“It has been and continues to be my belief that the worst decision you can make is no decision at all,” Stillwell said. “At all times, we must be willing to analyze risk but never become too paralyzed with the fear of failure that we fail to act at all.”