It is an unfortunate reality that in marriages, women often leave the financial management to their husbands. One recent Prudential survey found that just a quarter of married women took charge of their family’s financial planning.
That means that the vast majority of women are at a gross disadvantage when it comes to their futures. If you were a woman who left the money management to your husband, he has all the control when you divorce. After all, you can’t fight for money you are entitled to if you don’t know what accounts there are, how much are in those accounts, what the passwords are, and whether or not your name is on the house. The more assets you believe there are (but aren’t 100 percent sure), the more complicated the divorce becomes legally, the more expensive financially, and the more painful emotionally. (If you’re already angry at the donkey, wait until you realize he was hiding offshore accounts!)
Death of a husband in these situations is often not much easier — especially if there are considerable assets at stake. One day you feel very cared for by your comfortable lifestyle and husband who successfully managed the family money. The next, he has passed, and in the waves of grief you must contend with an overwhelming array of practical issues: real estate, trust, accounts, investments, and maybe managing a family business.
The more money at stake, the more difficult these situations become — both logistically and emotionally. After all, in your moments of deepest vulnerability, it can feel like the accountants, lawyers and financial professionals all want a piece of you — and your money.
Who do you trust?
For many women that I meet, the answer is: no one.
Even though I was the breadwinner in my marriage (and certainly now as a divorced single mom of three), I identify very closely with women in these situations. One of my deepest fears was being out of control of my money — and therefore my life — and have always been hyper-vigilant about having enough insurance, my estate documents in order, and being fully involved in every part of my financial life. This fear is what drove me to earn my Certified Financial Planner® professional designation.
However, the story is different for other women. For many, when they find themselves single, whether by divorce or death, they suddenly have to take over what seems like a daunting task of understanding and managing their family’s finances — and sometimes a family business, too. Even more common is illness or disability that means the husband is no longer able to manage the finances. Sometimes there is a lot of money to manage — so much so it becomes paralyzing. Other times, women find there is not nearly enough, which is also understandable cause for shutting down, and avoiding their affairs.
These very intelligent and capable women can take on managing their finances themselves out of fear of being taken advantage of by shady “experts.” More often, they simply ignore their accounts.
It is completely normal to shut down during times of crisis like death of a loved one or divorce. It is also completely normal to be skeptical of financial advisors. I have been in this industry for more than 20 years, and I am very proud to know many competent, kind and honorable financial professionals who are sincerely committed to supporting their clients’ highest good.
My industry is dominated by men and can be overwhelming for some women. My passion for my work (not to mention success, not to brag!) is driven by an urge to offer excellent services to women who often need financial guidance in their most vulnerable moments. There have been so many times that a woman comes into my office for the first time, sits next to me, unloads in a wave of grief about the upturn and loss that permeates her whole life. Her money is just one piece of that. Over weeks and months we work together to untangle what seems to her to be an insurmountable task, and get her on a path to manage her finances and life with confidence.
Of course, I am not the only financial professional out there! I want every woman, of every income level, to enjoy the confidence and power that comes with managing her own money. If you are ignoring your money, or not maximizing its potential, seek out a qualified professional.
Here’s how to find a qualified professional you can trust:
- Ask friends and family whom you respect in their money and lifestyle management for referrals.
- Interview at least three financial professionals. Questions:
- How do you make money?
- How do you measure success for me? you want the answer to be based on your goals, not returns of investments - i.e. "beating the market"
- How did you get in this business?
- How often will I hear from you after the initial planning?
- Check them at BrokerCheck
- Don’t procrastinate - procrastination can be extremely costly
- Ask how the advisor would approach tax efficiency for you. Taxes can be extremely costly in long-term financial planning!
- Ask the advisor what would happen to your account or plan if the advisor were to leave their current employer (retire or sickness). Is there a succession plan in place or would you be left to an 800 number?
- After due diligence, go with your gut. Money, feelings, life experiences, and your future will need to be articulated to the advisor. If you aren’t comfortable sharing your feeling with this person, don’t pick them.