Frequently Asked Questions
1. Apart from any divorce related legal matters that belong to the attorneys, what kind of specialized knowledge or training do you consider essential to being an effective advisor to clients going through a divorce? What do you learn by becoming a certified divorce financial analyst?
There is only a small group of people in this country with expertise to deal with finances and the tax consequences as it relates to divorce. If you’re going through a divorce, you should find somebody that has specialized training in our field and experience to handle the many moving parts of your marital estate: investment accounts, taxes, qualified accounts and cash issues. It is a very different skill set than a traditional investment manager or wealth manager.
2. On your website, you state that “the worst possible outcome may come from emotion-clouded thinking during this time of crisis” - what are some examples of such decisions?
Clients are living their own lives and meeting their own needs, and a judge can’t fully understand those needs. The more we can keep families out of court and put the process back in their hands, showing them they have the ability to make the right decisions, to meet their needs in a sustainable way, then people will have different expectations surrounding the dissolution of marriage.
3. Are there any common misconceptions that divorcing clients have about the financial implications of getting divorced?
Clients in the midst of divorce seem to believe that the way they've lived their lives previously is going to apply going forward. That is a massive misconception, because now you still have this same marital pot of funds but two sets of expenses. Just because you lived a certain way for X number of years doesn't necessarily mean that after the divorce you have the right to live that same way because the reality is, there's only so many dollars to go around.
Clients must reset expectations around current and future expenses, and get a handle on that before they sign their decree. Otherwise, they're not going to make clear-headed decisions. They've got to meet the needs of future events.
4. What are some of the most counterintuitive insights you have gained about the needs of clients going through divorce?
I think the most counterintuitive thing I have seen is when clients say, "I want my fair day. I want the judge to give me my fair shake," then they walk out not feeling that they’ve received that fair shake, because they have the wrong expectations. The expectation should be that the client controls their own process and makes their own best decisions, not put it in the hands of a judge, because a judge doesn't have the bandwidth or the time.
5. Do other financial advisors refer clients to you to help them with specific divorce related financial issues, without fear of losing them forever?
I think a financial advisor walks a very precarious line. You have to be neutral to your clients, service their accounts and guide them, while ensuring that you're providing good , objective, advice. The goal is to keep the client you have worked so hard to earn. The statistic is that north of 75% of financial advisors lose one or more of their clients after the divorce.
Working with a certified divorce financial analyst, a forensic CPA, or somebody who is trained in divorce, helps secure future client relationships because they're taking themselves out of a position to make judgments and assessments and remain neutral, which is what the client needs.
Financial advisors who recognize that they don't have that experience will hopefully choose to work with a firm like ours who will respect their professional relationship and help keep it intact, even after the divorce.
6. Is there a typical phase in the divorce process at which people come to you for advice?
The earlier a divorce analyst or divorce financial planner is engaged, the better it is for the client. We can help the client and the attorney get to the base needs faster, ultimately saving the client money. Typically, an analyst will be engaged at the beginning of a divorce. This saves the client money because they're getting all the right information delivered to their legal team in a more efficient manner.
Divorce financial planners could be engaged to negotiate an impasse of some sort as well, like in a mediation setting, as a neutral party or advocate.
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The Miami Herald
Failla, Jennifer, “Know the financials before divorce.” Weblog entry. The Miami Herald. April 5, 2013. Accessed April 10, 2013, from http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/04/05/3325753/know-the-financials-before-divorce.html.