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Lifetime Income Protection - an Equal Pay Day Conversation, with Caroline Feeney and Prudential

Lifetime Income Protection - an Equal Pay Day Conversation, with Caroline Feeney and Prudential

Episode 155: Lifetime Income Protection - an Equal Pay Day Conversation, with Caroline Feeney and Prudential

In this exclusive Livestream event, Ellevate’s CEO Kristy Wallace sits down with Caroline Feeney, the head of Individual Solutions for Prudential Financial, Inc., for an important conversation on Equal Pay Day. Caroline and Kristy will discuss the biggest financial challenges facing women, the opportunities for female financial advisors, and why it’s so crucial for us to start making a habit of talking openly about our finances. We’ll also learn more about Prudential’s current work to support lifetime income protection for women, and what we can start doing today on our journey toward financial wellness.

Episode Transcript

00:13 Kristy Wallace: Hello and welcome to the Ellevate Network Podcast. This is your host, Kristy Wallace, with my co-host, Maricella Herrera. Hi, Maricella.

00:21 Maricella Herrera: Hey, Kristy. You look great today. I really like that top.

00:24 KW: Oh, why thank you.

00:26 MH: It's a really, really good top.

00:27 KW: That's nice to hear. I appreciate that. And your voice sounds lovely today.

00:31 MH: I know. I don't know if you were a fan of Friends, but every time I get this, I was really sick last week I actually lost my voice but every time I get like this, I can only think of the episode where Phoebe loses her voice. And then her singing becomes so much better. So then she wants to be sick all the time and is looking for her sexy phlegm.

00:55 KW: Oh, I was thinking about that. Actually, I watched A Star is Born, and his voice is so deep and gravelly. And I don't know it's interesting how we as humans respond to different voice tones... There's so much research about just women's voices are high-pitched, and how that works against them. And it's fascinating whenever you have a lower voice, how people comment on it. And another interesting fact, I'm actually reading Bad Blood right now.

01:29 MH: I've heard it so good.

01:30 KW: It's really good. And so, Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of Theranos had intentionally lowered her voice as well to try to sound...

01:40 MH: Really?

01:40 KW: More masculine. Yeah.

01:41 MH: I'm gonna keep my voice this way. I'm gonna be sick all the time.

01:44 KW: Well, it's interesting.

01:45 MH: So can I ask something unrelated to voice? But I don't think we commented on this. What did you think about A Star is Born?

01:57 KW: I thought a lot of things about it which probably is more than we have time to go into right now, but... I watched in an airplane; I've been traveling quite a bit lately, flying around the country for Ellevate and meeting all the wonderful women in our community. And so I watched it while I was on a plane while I was also working and trying to multi-task. I thought the front part of it went by way too fast. I thought the end part of it was just really sad, more as a commentary to mental health and addiction and the support or lack of support that we have available to us. And I love seeing Gaga on the screen.

02:39 MH: Well, yes. That's...

02:42 KW: It's interesting... Why do you ask?

02:43 MH: Because I think, my opinion of it is very unpopular. And so I just... I've been curious to hear what people think 'cause I've heard a lot of people... I've watched it because a lot of people kept saying it was like the best movie ever. It was good, it was fine, but I get really annoyed at movies that romanticize emotional abuse and... [laughter]

03:12 KW: That is fair.

03:13 MH: I don't know, I just got really annoyed at it. I was not a fan. So I was just curious, honestly.

03:21 KW: Yeah, it was... There was a lot to take in with it.

03:24 MH: Right. It's a lot. Anyway...

03:27 KW: Anyway, well, we've hit on a number of topics so far, just in our little conversation about voice and emotional abuse and movies and pop culture and now I wanna talk about a really important topic which actually goes along with this, which is not how we discriminate against women for their voices but how we discriminate against them, with pay and the importance of talking about money talking about financial well-being, having the knowledge, having the transparency and having the support can really help us get ahead to plan for the future, to be better protected. And oftentimes, open up new opportunities. Because when you have the financial security, you're able to take risks that maybe you can't when you don't have that.

04:19 KW: So I am... I had a really great conversation today with Caroline from Prudential. She is... Caroline Feeney is just this powerhouse who has risen through the ranks of Prudential and still feels so grounded and so authentic and true to the customers and to the mission of helping others in their financial well-being. And I just loved the conversation. What did you think? Did you find it informative?

04:49 MH: I think it was great. I think it was very informative, I think that she is really a powerhouse; you're right. Prudential is doing a lot of really good things, and I know they're really trying to make this conversation something that's ongoing that we can really help, particularly women get more comfortable with their finances and make sure that we're all doing what we need to do.

05:12 KW: Yeah.

05:13 MH: And it's actually very relevant day today to have this conversation.

05:16 KW: Yes, it is. It feels like today is one of those... Everyone's like, "Happy Equal Pay Day," and then it's not happy. And it's actually for white women.

05:25 MH: There would be happy equal pay day...

05:27 KW: For you, Maricella, I'll wish you Happy Equal Pay Day back in August or November.

05:30 MH: In November?

05:31 KW: Yes, November. So you have to wait.

05:33 MH: I'm screwed.

05:33 KW: Yeah. It's so sad, it's comical although it's not and this is a sort of back to even our A Star is Born commentary. I just... All of these ways that we need to approach the inequalities and the discrimination in our world in different ways. And to instead of glamorizing it... And "Happy Equal Pay Day," hahaha. And one day, we're gonna talk about it. Let's talk about it more and let's change it. So that is great with Prudential and Caroline, and what they're doing to really raise the conversation, raise the level of conversation to create pathways for change. She has some really fantastic advice on the podcast. And for those that wanna watch us live, I will be...

06:25 MH: With this awesome top.

06:26 KW: Yes.

06:26 MH: That you're wearing.


06:27 KW: With this awesome top that you love so much. Check us out on the Ellevate Facebook page and on live stream, 'cause we'll be sharing this across all of our channels, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and beyond. Sharing the video, sharing this message, and we hope that you join us in that conversation.

06:46 MH: Yup. Share Some of your thoughts on Twitter, on Facebook, send us an email, podcast at And if you do something today, ask for more, and help others ask for more. Just remember that Equal Pay Day sucks, and we should not have it. Yeah, so.

07:02 KW: Well ask for more, and if you help others ask for more, I would request that you help others that are not like you. Because again, we know that this is Equal Pay Day for white women. For black women, it is in August. For Latina women, it's in November. So the more we can all do to create change, not just for ourselves but for others, the greater the impact.

07:28 MH: Absolutely.

07:29 KW: Alright, we'll see you here next week on the Ellevate Podcast.


07:42 KW: Caroline, thanks so much for joining us today.

07:48 Caroline Feeney: Thanks for having me.

07:48 KW: This is... I'm really excited, I have tons of questions.

07:51 CF: Great.

07:53 KW: I'm gonna tap into all of your knowledge and power, but I wanted to just start off a little bit, sharing with our community, a little bit about your career path.

08:04 CF: Sure.

08:04 KW: We find oftentimes, particularly in a changing world in business landscape, that our career paths take different shapes and different forms. And your history is really inspiring to me because I think it really shows that marriage between employees and companies and how powerful that bond can be. So do you mind sharing a little bit?

08:25 CF: Sure, absolutely. So I've been with Prudential about 25 years now. And if you ever told me 25 years ago I'd stay with the same company all that time, I would have said, "No way," but I think I was really fortunate for a few reasons. First and foremost, I actually started on the sales and distribution side, and I think that taught me something that was so valuable about Prudential's mission because I was actually able to see firsthand what it's like to help customers with whether it be their retirement planning, or planning for an untimely death, or whether it be helping to put aside some money for college. I was able to see the impact for customers.

09:09 KW: Sure.

09:09 CF: And so very early on in my time with the company, I understood the purpose and mission and what we were all about. And then I had the opportunity to move into many different areas of the company. So I was fortunate that I was continually challenged and I felt like I was learning. And for me it was less, Kristy, about the moves themselves, and it was so much more about what each one of those experiences actually gave me. And I think it helped me hone in on what did I like to do? What was the match with my skills versus what I was doing every single day? And one moment does stick out for me with my career, and it was when I was very comfortable, and I was in a role in the home office that I had been with for years, and I really love my team, and I was comfortable. And I was asked to lead one of the largest territories in our Prudential advisors group.

10:10 CF: And I took that role, and in hindsight I'm really so grateful that I did because I think it prepared me for my first PNL role. It prepared me... Well, gave me confidence because I was leading a group of individuals that were really long tenured, managing directors, had grown up their entire career in sales, unlike me, I had spent all my years in sales, and so I think it helped me just jump into the cool bond, which gave me comfort and, again, made me more confident. And then I just had a couple of moves to get to the role that I'm in now. I had an opportunity to lead our life business at Prudential. And so now I find myself leading the annuity business, the life business and Prudential advisors. And so that's really the group that are touching the individuals and making sure they have the solutions that fit their needs. So it almost comes full circle to where I started 25 years ago.

11:13 KW: It's so inspiring because we... I agree. Oftentimes you are thinking, "What do I like to do? What's exciting? What's appealing to me?"

11:24 MH: Yes.

11:24 KW: And When you are able to find a company that wants to help you find that right spot, too, and to wear different hats and try different things. But ultimately, how does that make you a stronger leader?

11:34 CF: Yes.

11:35 KW: Because I imagine that being in different parts of the business, and having that experience working with different types of teams, has all helped you to really craft a leadership style that clearly has been very successful for you.

11:50 CF: Yeah, so in terms of style, I'd actually say, Kristy, that I have what I call core leadership philosophies. And you're not quite sure where you pick them up along the way, but they certainly have evolved. But so just I'd offer a few: One, I'm a firm believer in leadership for the greater good. And the way I describe that is we all have our own areas of responsibilities. We all have a specific function, or an organization we might be leading, or a project we're working on. But one of the things that I've always tried to do, and I look for in others is, can you take the time to just look up, look out and see what else you can do, and what's the broader impact that you can actually bring outside your respective area of responsibility? So that's always been important.

12:42 CF: And then a couple of others that I offer, one is being your authentic self. We all spent too many hours every single day doing what we do to be pretending to be somebody that we're not. And I learned that very early on, on the sales and distribution side. I was one of very few women, particularly in field leadership, and I learned very quickly. I was not one of the guys, and I had no reason to pretend to be one of the guys. And just being true to yourself. And then later in life, I remember in my career, somebody gave me the advice to lose my empathy gene.

13:23 KW: Oh, okay.

13:24 CF: This is one of those moments of...

13:25 KW: I'm settling in for this conversation.

13:27 CF: Classic advice. Well, you try to take advice, but then you also need to know when do you have to lose that, or use your filter and not take that advice. And that was one of those moments because I did recognize that actually having the empathy that I naturally had, I believed, made me a better leader, and I still do to this day. So that was another important lesson along the way. I think the other thing that I would say is, really making sure whatever role you find yourself in... Again, this goes to being your authentic self, is making sure that when you get the bad news from individuals, and it will come, making sure that you're creating an environment that makes people feel like it's safe to say because things will go wrong. And if you react in the moment, people won't always come to you with what's going wrong in the business. And so if people feel that it's safe to say, and you're very approachable, and you're very accessible, then I think you have better relationships, you have better communication lines. So that would be another that I...

14:41 KW: I feel very refreshed by everything that you just shared because oftentimes empathy and authenticity and relatability are not characteristics that are tied to leadership. But increasingly we're seeing those as some of the defining characteristics of strong leaders.

15:01 CF: Yes.

15:01 KW: Because to be a leader, it's about the people. It's about the humans that you're working alongside every day and those customers that you're serving. So if you don't have that authenticity and vulnerability and empathy, then you're missing the human connection.

15:16 CF: And you wind up disconnected as a leader. Yeah, I agree with you.

15:19 KW: And I especially loved the advice about being approachable and not reacting immediately. Sometimes I learned that the hard way earlier in my career, especially in a day and age of e-mail and you shoot off a response, and then maybe 20 minutes later you're like "Now that I'm not so frustrated. Maybe that's not the right way to handle it." But at every stage of our careers, it's learning the best way to respond that's going to get your voice heard and result in that required.

15:51 CF: And I think I did receive advice early on was, "Remember, Caroline. It's not always as good as it seems, but it's not always as bad as it seems." And trying to put all of that in its proper perspective I think, number one, helps you laugh along the way and makes a little bit more fun and you can laugh at yourself when things go wrong, but I also think it helps create a little bit more stability for the teams around you.

16:15 KW: Sure. So, Caroline, talk to me about mentoring.

16:18 CF: Yes.

16:18 KW: Do you believe in it, why or why not? What is mentoring for you?

16:24 CF: Yeah, so I definitely believe in it. I think you'll find that the best leaders are mentors; they're inextricably linked. And what I find is that all along my career mentoring has played an important role and I don't know that it necessarily, Kristy, has to be a formal mentor. I've received so much value from just those informal mentoring opportunities that are just in time, where somebody pulls you aside and gives you that great advice that you remember forever. And now, what I find is, I find myself at a time in my career where it's time to pay it forward. And so I mentor many different, many different individuals within Prudential, but also within our industry. Our industry still has far too few women in advisory roles or in leadership roles. So, because of my involvement in the industry, I do also mentor outside. But my actual, my youngest mentee is a sophomore at college, which is really fun. So I get a lot of joy from that, and I got a lot of energy. And sometimes I wonder if they're getting as much from it as I am. So that's a... I'm a big believer.

17:38 KW: Im sure they are, but I always think that's interesting because students sometimes don't understand or recognize the level of insights they're getting from an experienced professional. Whereas, as experience professionals, I get so jazzed talking to students and understanding 'cause it's different than we're in school, and start to understand how cultures are changing, how customers are changing, how lives are changing. And I always bring back great insights to, to my business, to my life.

18:14 CF: I think it's important. I think the only thing around mentoring that I've noticed is it sometimes is quite different for men versus women. So women are more apt to be proactive and ask for mentors, but males very often may not be as active in seeking out formal mentoring relationships, but sometimes have more what I call sponsors or advocates. And that matters. Those are not things you ask for. But very often when you're in the meeting or you're in a board room and positions are open, it's that sponsor or advocate that puts their reputation in and their endorsement behind individuals. So I think that's opportunities for us to proactively sponsor and advocate for great talent is also very important.

19:00 KW: It is incredibly important what is said about you when you're not in the room, and the people that will raise your hand for... Or raise their hand to have you get that opportunity, or take on a new project, take on a new role. And so being able to build those relationships with people that have the power and influence within the business is key.

19:19 CF: Yes.

19:20 KW: How important is peer mentoring to you? So other women.

19:24 CF: Peer coaching.

19:24 KW: Yeah.

19:25 CF: It is, especially I'm in a number of different study groups within financial services. And usually it's a very small group, typically 10 or so women, and I have them within financial services but also outside the industry. And I think that's really important 'cause I think some of the challenges that women face every single day within the workplace are unique. And I think having those opportunities to be able to have those conversations and just be there to support one another, just like I said about mentoring and how that's been important for me to now pay it forward, I think knowing that you have your own support system and your own ability to have that peer network, just have a sounding board, sometimes it's very helpful.

20:12 KW: So what is it like to be a woman in financial services today? What are some of the challenges and how are things looking up? How are things getting better?

20:21 CF: So yeah, and I think for women in the financial services industry, we still have an obvious challenge, so to speak, to the industry overall. Less than 15% of the total advisor population are women. And that's a problem because when you look at the statistics, if you have one female advisor for every nine male advisors, and that number hasn't changed much in a couple of decades, coupled with the fact that you have clients, women clients, who are seeking advice, 70% of them will first look for the help through a woman advisor. So if you don't have enough female advisors there, then that creates a gap. And so I think it's really incumbent upon us to be proactive to explain to women what this tremendous career is about. What's very interesting to note at Prudential specifically, is for our top financial planners, in fact our number one financial planner seven out of last eight years, is a woman. So women do very well.

21:30 KW: Yes!

21:30 CF: Yes, I know. Do very well in this industry. And I think the reason that they do very well is if you think about the fact that today this is about having those meaningful conversations and having someone take the time to really listen to you and understand what your needs are and what your concerns are and the goals that are most important, I do believe that women are innately adept at that skill and having those conversations and having the empathy we spoke about earlier and listening. And so, I think addressing that gap is important, but I do think too many women will look around in a firm and say, "There aren't many people like me," or "I don't see role models that are in the leadership ranks." And so I think organizations really have to make sure that they're developing the next bench for for female managing directors and others in leadership roles because those numbers are, "12% in financial services are female leaders," and that's not where it should be. And so I think it's a incumbent on all of us to address that gap.

22:39 KW: And what impact does transparency around money play within this? Because I grew up, I was very fortunate, I opened a bank account when I was... Got my first job when I was 14 or 15 or whatever that was. But traditionally, those that I was around, we didn't talk about math with girls, you don't talk about money, you don't talk about how much we make, we don't talk about... There's a lot of these subjects that intentionally, or unintentionally, are removed from the dialogue, when it comes to girls when it comes to women and when you're talking about careers and career paths.

23:15 CF: Yes, yeah, I think that transparency is critical. I think making and having conversations like this, which is why I'm pleased about this partnership with Ellevate, because it's having the dialogue so that women that are listening might be saying to themselves, "So I've been worried about this and I'm worried about my financial future, but am I alone?" And I think it's letting people know there are distinct financial challenges that women have and that are very common, and that we need to have that conversation and help women understand what are the solutions, what are the resources, what are the steps that they can take? And so I think that transparency is absolutely critical.

24:01 KW: Yeah, and if any of our listeners are interested in careers in financial or financial advising, tweet at us, let us know, we'd be happy to share some resources with you because I think that that is a really key area for women to have an impact in our careers. Because when you look at the customer base, when you look at the clients, you're helping other women as you mentioned. All customers are different and have unique experiences and challenges, and being able to have a diverse group of advisors that can really address those customers is important. And I know that, what's also really important to you, and it's very appropriate 'cause today is Equal Pay day, is looking at lifetime income protection.

24:50 CF: Yes.

24:50 KW: Because let's get the jobs where we can make money, where we can be successful. Let's also think about how we take that money and put it best to use.

24:58 CF: Yes, yeah, so I'll talk about the wage gap first, because we had actually looked at some of the specific challenges that impact women. Listen, they can impact everybody, but they're absolutely magnified with women. And one of them happens to be the wage gap. So you take a woman earning 81 cents for every dollar earned by a man, that then has downstream impacts. And what we find is that women are then having social security benefits that are 23% lower on average than for men. And then we have retirement savings accounts that for women are 43% lower than for male counterparts. So what that means is that challenge around creating a lifetime income that will make sure that they have the retirement, women have the retirement that they deserve and that they want and that they've imagined for themselves, beyond the wage gap, Kristy, there's a really important question that women have to ask, which is, "How much money do I really need on a monthly basis or on an annual basis in retirement?" And it's not surprising that 40% of women don't know the answer to that question.

26:12 KW: I don't think I know the... I'm waiting for... I'm like, "How much do I need?" I don't know.

26:16 CF: See, and that's the issue because it's an individual answer depending on every person's circumstance. And it's a complicated answer because it's not natural to say... To take all the pools of money that an individual has accumulated: It could be a 401K, it could be an IRA, it could be a brokerage account, it could be a regular savings account, and it's not an easy process to pull that all together and come up with some type of wholistic income solution. And I think there's also... It's exacerbated by the fact that individuals make assumptions that certain investment accounts will yield certain results, or they make assumptions that they'll live a certain number of years. And when all of that doesn't pan out, the plan doesn't hold together. So I do think it's important to have some sort of guaranteed income stream or protected income stream as part of the solution. And as I said, particularly for women. We've also got the longevity gap with women five to six years longer than men on average. On top of that, you have an investment gap for a whole host of reasons where women are just not investing as much as men.

27:30 CF: And then the reality of the time gap. And I think some people will find these statistics surprising, but over half of women that are working, are primary bread winners, but at the same time then then they're spending 28 hours a week on average doing unpaid work. And that could be anything from the reality of household chores or care giving, and that's 65% greater than the average time spent for men. So you combine a time gap and a wage gap and the longevity reality and the investment gap, and you pool that all together, and that creates a real case for, and almost a crisis for how are we getting that message to women that they're not alone, this is a reality and you also don't need to do it alone?

28:19 CF: There's so much advice out there, whether it's through a financial advisor, or whether it's through tools and resources online, whatever people are comfortable with. But I think women in particular, about two-thirds of women don't even reach out for the help or for an advisor even though they're scared and they don't feel prepared for retirement because they assume that they can't afford the advice, or they assume that they just don't have enough resources or assets to even start that conversation. And so I think there's more we can all do to help people start that conversation and know where to go first for advice.

29:02 KW: Are there any rules for you should be earning X or have Y in savings before you go talk to someone and/or just at any time you should go have a conversation or do your research? And then how do you go about finding an advisor?

29:17 CF: Yeah, so a couple of thoughts. So, no, there are no general rules of thumb that says, "You need to have this saved or you need to be earning X." And I think that's the great thing about where the financial services industry is today, so you have an entire advice continuum where you have advice that could be online and education and simple accounts, where you can get started all the way to, through hybrid advisors, to face-to-face advisors. And so the choice is there. I think the most difficult step, as with many things, is just taking that first step. It's the most important step, but very often it's the hardest step to take as well, Kristy, in terms of where do you find an advisor. You can go to company websites, perfect example, obviously speaking for Pru, It's as easy as that. Find an advisor. So it's simple; it's just taking the steps to do it.

30:12 KW: And I would urge our listeners today, especially on Equal Pay Day, where I'd recently read a stat that white women due to the pay gap, will earn over 400K less in their lifetime. When you talk about black women and Latino women, it's 800K-plus in lost earnings. And so today, on Equal Pay Day and this whole month, is a great time to take that step to check. Find an advisor, do your research because we're gonna close this gap, I believe it, but in the meantime, focus on yourself and your own financial well-being and this is a great catalyst and a great time to take that action to do something about it.

30:57 CF: Yes, I agree.

30:58 KW: I love everything that you said. And I think it's so important that we're being educated that we're motivated and we're inspired to take that financial responsibility and to talk about it with our friends.

31:10 CF: Yeah, I think it's talking about it and that's I think what you're doing here with Ellevate in terms of just creating that awareness. Within Prudential we actually partnered with our peers and some of the largest financial institutions in the industry to form an alliance for lifetime income, knowing that it was so important to be able to explain to people, "You need some sort of protected lifetime income." And so that forum has enabled us to have the consumer education campaigns and the media campaigns. But conversations like this are equally, if not more important, to be able to connect and reach people.

31:49 KW: Okay, so what else do we need to know? Life insurance, other things, is that... Do we talk to an advisor about that? Do we take other steps? [32:00] ____ tap into all of your insights.

[overlapping conversation]

32:01 CF: Okay, so if there was a first step, Kristy, I think it's do your homework. And step one of doing your homework would be to really take stock of where you are today financially and then where you want to envision yourself and what are your needs, what are your goals, what do you imagine for yourself. And then actually seeking some expert advice because everybody's gonna have a different time horizon, and everybody's gonna have different risk tolerances and they're gonna be in different situations, and everybody's goals are gonna be different. And that's why you don't want necessarily something that's cookie cutter or formulaic. What are some of the things that are unique for you? And so I think taking that first step is gonna be important.

32:48 KW: Excellent. Well, thank you, Caroline, for everything that you're doing.

32:51 CF: Thank you.

32:51 KW: I'm incredibly inspired and excited by this conversation. I know as soon as finish I'm gonna go check out a financial advisor and do some research myself, but this was a great conversation. And thanks to Prudential for being such a huge supporter of Ellevate, a supporter of our upcoming Mobilize Women summit in June, and for caring so much about women and money and helping to change the conversation around that.

33:16 CF: Thanks so much, Kristy, for having me here. I really do appreciate it.


33:23 KW: Thanks so much for listening to Ellevate. If you like what you hear, help a girl out. Subscribe to the Ellevate Podcast on iTunes, give us five stars, and share your review. Also, don't forget to follow us on Twitter @EllevateNtwk, that's Ellevate Network, and become a member. You can learn all about membership and all the great things that Ellevate Network is doing at our website, That's E-L-L-E-V-A-T-E And special thanks to our producer, Katherine Heller, she rocks. And to our voice-over artist, and Rachel Greisinger. Thanks so much and join us next week.


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