Typically, all a woman has to do is simply mention the word “divorce,” and it’s as though she has flung open the floodgates.
Friends, family, colleagues . . . Everyone wants to share their experiences, offer opinions and give advice.
Women tell me they hear it all. There’s the neighbor who claims she hired the “best divorce attorney in the world”—although, unfortunately, he has since left the country. The sister-in-law who knows “exactly” what you’re going through –even though she has never been divorced. And the uncle, who wants to fill you in on a little-known tip about how to handle your stock options; it worked for him, back in 1958.
They all mean well, of course. Divorce is an emotional and often difficult process, and it’s only natural that the people around you want to provide comfort and support.
But, how should you handle all these suggestions and generous offers of help? Should you act on the sincerely-delivered advice of well-meaning friends, family and/or non-divorce professionals?
Here’s the short answer: No.
And here’s the longer answer: Absolutely not, if they’re giving you advice about legal and/or financial matters.
I don’t mean to sound harsh, but there really isn’t room for debate here. All too often, I have seen women who dutifully followed the advice of well-intentioned friends and family only to find themselves in serious financial and/or legal straits. Why? Because every woman’s divorce situation is unique. Each case needs personalized attention and, given the complexities of today’s divorce and finance laws, each one requires much more than an assortment of free tips and casual recommendations. Now, more than ever before, women need professional guidance to help ensure they emerge from divorce with a comprehensive plan for a solid and secure financial future.
Many potential clients and clients of Bedrock Divorce Advisors find themselves in particularly sticky situations. These affluent women have friends and relatives who work in legal or financial fields unrelated to divorce. And even though these friends and relatives may be highly intelligent, very successful, completely well-intentioned and extremely persuasive, listening to their advice about divorce can be catastrophic.
It’s one of those situations where a little knowledge can be a very dangerous thing.
Or put another way, let’s say your cousin is a brilliant orthopedic surgeon. Would you follow his advice if you needed cardiac care? Of course not! Instead, you would seek out a cardiologist, a physician with expertise in treating that specific issue.
Let me give you an example. A family friend who specializes in business finance may be a genius in handling IPOs, corporate taxes or mergers and acquisitions. But, it’s unlikely that he has expertise regarding QDROs, the division of pensions, how to make long-term personal financial projections, or whether or not it’s in your best interest to keep your marital residence.
Of course, CPAs and accountants are very good at filing your taxes and giving you a snapshot of your present and past finances (balance sheet, profit and loss statements), but they do not calculate and project what your future financial positions will look like.
Likewise, many financial advisors and stock-brokers excel at making investment recommendations, but they know absolutely nothing about the financial and tax implications of divorce. (And, what’s more, most financial advisory firms [Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, etc.] will not allow their financial advisors/brokers to give any advice on residential or commercial real estate and/or private businesses since they know they are not qualified to do so.)
In short, when it comes to the specific nuances that permeate divorce, other professionals typically have little or no idea what they are talking about (or what the law says).
Keep this in mind: The US is home to more than 1 million accountants and some 320,000 financial advisors/stock brokers. But there are only about 3,500 Certified Divorce Financial Analysts (CDFA), who are specifically trained in the financial aspects of divorce. What’s more, many CDFAs have completed additional education and training. For example, in addition to being a CDFA, I have attended law school and have also completed dozens of advanced training courses in finance and divorce, including many of the same continuing education courses that are required for divorce and other attorneys (trust and estate, asset protection, etc.).
With this kind of specialized training and experience, CDFAs are clearly the best choice to help you work through the pros and cons of different divorce settlement proposals. We are the ones who can best help you avoid the common, but often devastating, financial mistakes made in a divorce.
So, the next time your business associate, your brother-in-law – the personal injury attorney –or your yoga instructor comes forward to offer financial advice about your divorce, be polite. Listen as long as you can bear. But, at the end of the conversation say, “No thanks.” Your future financial well-being is just too important to leave in the hands of Uncle Harry –even if he did do really well in the stock market back in 1958.