By Carolyn M. Brown
Mary Blanchett has always been driven by a passion and purpose in life to help other people. Right out of high school, during college and beyond she went to work in the long-term care industry where she eventually became a nursing home administrator.
“I really loved what I did, but the rules kept on changing, making it harder to do good work,” she recalls. “The nursing homes and home care were less and less not-for-profit and more and more for-profit. So, it was a good time to leave back in ’09.”
After spending 27 years in the field, she shifted gears for a career in financial services at the urging of an acquaintance who suggested she help people towards their retirement, so that they don't have to end up in nursing homes. That advice resonated with Blanchett, who had been telling elderly residents to talk to lawyers and advisors about trusts and other financial matters to best secure their money.
It was through the NGLCC that Blanchett set her sights on New York Life. It was back in 2010 at a chamber mixer where she met Angela Daniels-Lewis, who specialized in recruiting and developing for both the LGBTQ and the Women’s Market at New York Life (now a retired Corporate Vice President after 33 years of service).
“New York Life has always been very involved with the NGLCC and is a long standing corporate member. They have been inclusive in their supply chain diversity by looking at LGBT certified businesses,” says Blanchett. She credits Joy Wong, Corporate Vice President Supplier Diversity/Procurement, with such outreach.
“New York Life does a lot of outreach to women and people of color in hiring, in recruitment,” Blanchett adds. “When you think about insurance, when you think about finance, when you think about IRAs and investments, most people go right to white men for those products and services.” Blanchett saw New York Life as a great fit to operate an enterprise that expressed her purpose of empowering LGBT adults to plan for their future.
New York Life Insurance Company—standing 175 years strong—is the third-largest life insurance company and the largest mutual life insurance company in the United States with $702 billion in assets under management, $1.1 trillion in individual life insurance, and $12.5 billion in total dividends and benefits paid to policy owners and their beneficiaries as of 2020. Today, women make up 53 percent of New York Life’s workforce. In the field, 33 percent of agents are women, as are 20 percent of the company’s managing partners. In honor of Women’s History Month, a series of posts on the company’s website spotlighted some of the milestones and notable achievements of women at New York Life throughout its history.
As a nglccNY ambassador, Blanchett’s efforts extend to diversifying the chamber by bringing onboard new members in terms of women and women of color.
“I want to help people in our community. That's what the chamber is about. Helping each other so that all boats float higher in the water,” she explains. “Everything is about networking, right? In order for everyone to do better we really need that referral pipeline. It's important that we all have a list of names so that if someone needs someone we can refer that person. It doesn't matter if it's a contractor, a real estate person, a banker or insurance person, whatever the profession is, it's good to be able to offer that referral to your clients.”
She acknowledges that the majority of her clients are women, noting that women have a different action plan for their finances, savings, retirement, and insurance.
“We're socialized differently,” she adds. “It's important that women know what their options are and understand what the consequences are before making financial decisions.”
Studies show women are facing a retirement crisis. They are likely to earn less during their working lives, and then to live longer after they retire in comparison to their male counterparts. While everyone is facing unprecedented challenges, women are bearing the brunt of the economic fallout of COVID-19. Four times as many women as men dropped out of the labor force due mostly to caring for children who were home schooling but also family members affected by the coronavirus who were sheltering in place.
Blanchett is quick to point out that even before the pandemic, women bore the burden of caregiver and decision-maker over household finances. Research reveals that nearly 9 in 10 women who are married or live with a partner are involved in spending and investing decisions in their household. Even when men are in charge, odds are that women will outlive their male spouses and will have to deal with financial decisions after his death, notes Blanchett.
“The most important thing that I offer is making sure people are educated in whatever areas are important to them so that they can make informed decisions about their finances and their futures,” she says. Underscoring a commitment to women are women sponsored events and study groups through the Women's Market, a supportive and educational service for New York Life agents helping women make solid financial choices.
Admittedly the coronavirus pandemic has been particularly challenging for Blanchett because meeting new people is her lifeline. But she manages to get her message across to new and existing clients.
“What I tell everybody is it might not be the perfect time to enact the plan but now is the perfect time to have a plan. Because financial planning is all about a plan… what I'm going to do today, what I'm going to do a year from now, what I'm going to do 10 years from now. And it all comes down to the goal of retirement because we want to make sure that we're going to be safe and secure later on. So that's the big thing. Not running out of money before we run out of life.”
Written by Carolyn M. Brown, a journalist, author, playwright, producer, and founder of True Colors Project, a social enterprise that produces LGBTQIAGNC+ themed content via theater, film, digital platforms, and events, which includes My True Colors Excel Pride Awards and My True Colors Festival: Fighting For Social Justice and Cultural Diversity Through The Arts, She is a member of the nglccNY Media and Communications Committee. @cmbrown_7