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A woman thinking about asking for financial help with a divorce

How a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst Can Help with a Divorce

Dividing a house, retirement accounts, alimony, child support—all the financial issues that come up in a divorce can leave your head spinning. The process of going through a divorce is incredibly stressful, regardless, but if you’re not comfortable talking about money, facing the topic of splitting up your finances can be downright miserable. You may be wondering how to plan for your financial life after the divorce, how to divide your assets, who gets the primary residence, and how to negotiate spousal support. Having a financial professional on your team to help with a divorce can reduce your stress while allowing you to achieve the best possible financial outcome.

Getting financial help with a divorce is critical as studies have shown that women experience disproportionate losses in income as a result of divorce, increasing their risk of poverty.

When facing a divorce, a person’s first instinct is often to get an attorney involved. While there’s no substitute for sound legal advice, many of the decisions made in a divorce are financial in nature. Having support from someone well-versed in divorce financial planning and analysis (such as a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst) can save you a lot of frustration—it can also save you money on legal fees.

What is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst?

A Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) has extensive training in the financial issues of divorce. The credential is awarded by the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts and requires extensive work experience and education. These professionals are trained to help you navigate any and all money issues that come up before, during, and after divorce. A CDFA can serve as a financial advocate for just you or as a neutral person who works with both you and your Ex. However, it’s important to remember a CDFA is a financial professional who can’t replace sound legal advice.

What does a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst do?

A CDFA is responsible for looking at your finances, considering the best way to divide assets, and helping you determine the short- and long-term implications of your divorce settlement. By doing so, a CDFA can help alleviate the fear of the unknown. She’ll prepare a financial plan for you based on various scenarios. Having that plan in place will offer you a great sense of confidence (or a reality check, if needed) as you face your financial future.

While every situation is different, the responsibilities of your CDFA may include some or all of the following.

Division of assets

The division of assets during a divorce is more than just a simple split down the middle. Many times, there’s no easy way to split an asset that both you and your Ex want. Your home, furniture, vehicles, among others, come with memories and security that neither of you may want to let go of.

In addition to those physical assets you have, there are financial assets that need to be divided, such as bank accounts, retirement accounts, and life insurance policies. Pensions are commonly the largest asset dealt with in a divorce. Any and all of the pension earned during the marriage is considered marital property and is considered divisible as part of the divorce settlement either by dividing the pension itself or offsetting the value with other assets.

A CDFA will sort out all the details and help you and your Ex determine the best ways to maximize your assets while minimizing the tax impact of your division.

Marital property

If you live in an equitable division state (41 of 50 states are), a couples’ marital assets (those accumulated during the marriage) will need to be divided equitably or fairly. In community property states, marital property is split 50/50. A CDFA can support you and your attorney by determining which items are marital assets and which ones are separate.


If you are wondering about your home and who gets it, you’ll want to read Should You Keep the House During the Divorce?


For example, any money contributed to a 401(k) during the marriage is considered marital property. However, if the account was started before the marriage, a portion of the account may be regarded as separate. The actual definition of what is considered separate property varies somewhat from state to state. Money and things you had before your marriage, gifts you’ve received over the years, and more can complicate an already stressful situation if you don’t have someone to help with a divorce and provide clear guidance on these issues.

Alimony (aka Spousal Support/Spousal Maintenance)

If your Ex provided the primary income, suddenly concerns of how to pay for the house, cover your bills, or whether you’ll have to get another job are at the forefront of your mind. While some states do provide a calculator to determine alimony that will be awarded to the lower income spouse, many do not. In fact, in many states, the issue of alimony is pretty gray.

Some of the factors that contribute to spousal support (depending on the state) include:

  • Your income
  • Health (emotional, physical, and mental)
  • Retirement benefits
  • Length of marriage
  • Childcare status
  • Education
  • Assets and liabilities

When you have a CDFA on your team to help with a divorce, she can do the calculations and give you confidence with projections for how much spousal support is needed compared to how much is available to be paid.

Tax implications of the divorce settlement

Any change in income or accumulation of significant assets can have tax implications as well. In the case of divorce, that’s definitely true. Going from two incomes to one, eliminating an income, or taking on the primary residence all have tax implications. A CDFA will walk you through those challenges so that there’s no guesswork when it comes to that first tax season on your own.

Additional tasks

Additionally, your CDFA will help with a divorce by providing analysis of the settlement, identifying if any information has not been disclosed, and pointing out areas of financial risk in the agreement. A CDFA can also guide you to make decisions that will help your credit score and not hurt it. By hiring a CDFA, you know that your entire financial situation has been evaluated, and you’ll walk away with a clear picture of what your financial future holds.

How is a CDFA paid?

In terms of cost, the fees for CDFA vary widely. Some offer services on an hourly basis, while others offer flat-fee packages. Hourly rates generally range from $150 to $500 per hour depending on the CDFA’s level of experience and the region of the country they work in. Flat fees are typically based on the financial complexity of the case and the extent of the work involved.

To find a CDFA near you, visit the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts (IDFA) website. At the top of the screen, you’ll see a link to “Find a CDFA.” You can then search either by name or by zip code. Many CDFAs also offer virtual services if there is not one in your area.

Your Certified Divorce Analyst can make financial decisions easier

While CDFA professionals can help with a divorce at any point in the process, choosing to work with a CDFA before deciding how you will proceed makes good financial sense. Not only will it save you both time and money throughout the divorce process, but your CDFA will help you and your soon-to-be Ex work out a divorce settlement that is amicable and fair for both of you. Additionally, she will make the process easier to deal with so that you can focus on the things that matter most to you, whether that’s your kids, your family, or your well-being.

 

Leah Hadley is an experienced mediator, Accredited Financial Counselor, Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, and a Master Analyst in Financial Forensics. After going through her own divorce after ten years of marriage, her goal is to ease the stress of divorce by making the process as painless as possible for couples and individuals alike. When she’s not working, Leah loves spending time with her family, taking her kids on road trips, and volunteering with various organizations like the PTA, NAWBO and Girl Scouts. You can find out more about Leah and her services by visiting her website, Great Lakes Divorce Financial Services.

 

Tee shirt that says Love Don't Pay the Bills

3 Steps Women Can Take to Get Smarter about Money

Too many women bury their head about money matters.

I have banged my head on my desk over and over again, just not understanding why women still place money on the back burner. Overall, women just don’t make money issues a priority in their lives.

As a financial advisor and a woman, I feel it’s important to empower women through free financial education. Along the way, I have discovered that it’s a huge challenge to try to convince women that they need to know more about their money.

Don’t get me wrong. Women do think about money. Our gender is very good at worrying about it all the time.

According to the American Psychological Association report “Stress in America,” women are much more stressed than men, and our biggest stress is money. Dr. Helen Coons, president and clinical director of Women’s Mental Health Associates, explains. “It’s the socioeconomic and relational context of women’s lives here in America,” she said. “A high percentage of women have dependent children, work outside the home and then come home to a second shift, often with inadequate support.

“We still see gender inequity,” she adds. “Women earn less, and if they’re employed part-time, they’re less likely to have health benefits and financial resources.”

A recent Prudential study on the “Financial Experience & Behaviors Among Women” shows, unfortunately, that women have not come a long way when it comes to money. Women feel no more prepared to make smarter financial decisions today than they did three years ago — or even a decade ago.

When asked about their confidence in themselves to achieve their financial goals, women had responses that startled me. This so-called “confidence gap” has not improved over the past 10 years, either. Really? No improvement?

“Women have been disenfranchised,” said Dr. Kate Levinson, psychotherapist and author of “Emotional Currency: A Woman’s Guide to Building a Healthy Relationship with Money.”

“Society doesn’t empower us,” Levinson said. “We’ve been acculturated to stay dumb about money — legally, and culturally, for generations.”

After reading these studies, I was quite shocked.

The studies did get me thinking, and they helped me understand why women have what I call the “ostrich effect” when it comes to money. Women, overall, refuse to accept reality, preferring to ignore the truth that we need to know about money. Instead, we bury our head in the sand.

We don’t get in the money game, because we do not want to get messy, and money can be a little intimidating. You could make a mistake or two, and you probably will. Heck, I would say that I have made at least that many mistakes. This is coming from a woman who thinks, breathes and lives her life learning as much as she can about money.

And while I will admit that I have made many mistakes along the way, I have made many more fantastic money decisions. The goal is to take action and take control of your financial life.

I would like to share three simple steps you can take now to become smarter about your finances.

1. Get educated

Learning about money is important, and the more of a role you take, the more enjoyable it becomes. I started off taking a few classes at New York University and loved it so much that I have devoted my entire life to educating others about finances.

This might be a little extreme (I admit that I am a total nerd), but I can guarantee that you will be better off if you start to get a handle on your finances. There are hundreds of books, podcast, blogs and videos that can help you gain a better understanding of your personal finances. Dr. Levinson insists that we can’t “stay dumb” about money. “It limits our options in the world, not to mention feelings of self-worth and competency.”

2. Track and budget

In order to make smart decisions about your money, you have to understand where your money is going. Start by tracking your expenses for one to two months. Once you see where your money is going, you can start to weed out the unnecessary expenses. Use this information to create a budget that reflects your needs instead of your wants.

To help make tracking and budgeting easier, you can download smartphone or tablet apps such as Mint, GoodBudget and Expensify. Creating and keeping your budget is one of the simplest ways to not only learn about your finances and spending habits but to be more informed and involved so that you can make smart decisions about money.

3. Start saving now

Retirement might seem like an eternity away — especially for women in their 20s, 30s and even 40s — but saving for it is incredibly important for financial security. The earlier you start saving for retirement, the better your financial picture will look in the future.

If your company offers a 401(k) plan or 403(b), make sure you contribute as much as you can. This is especially important if they offer to match your contribution. Remember, this is essentially free money going into your retirement account. If your company doesn’t offer a 401(k) or 403(b), consider opening a traditional or Roth IRA. The sooner you start saving, the longer you are allowing your money to grow.

Women can be very smart with money. All we need to do is start getting in the game and stop believing that financial issues are too complicated for us to understand.

(This article was originally published on CNBC.com and has been reprinted by permission of its author, Stacy Francis.)

Early in her life, Stacy Francis witnessed how devastating life could be for women who were not empowered through financial education. Her grandmother stayed in an abusive marriage because she did not have the skills to effectively deal with money. That experience changed Stacy’s life and drove her into the finance field.

Stacy is president and CEO of Francis Financial, a fee-only boutique wealth management, financial planning, and divorce financial planning firm, and the founder of Savvy Ladies, a non-profit that has helped over 12,000 women across the spectrum of ages, life experience, and income levels identify their goals, make proactive choices about their finances, and lead richer, more rewarding lives.

Although SAS for Women® periodically features links to and writing by other professionals on the SAS website, SAS for Women® is not responsible for the accuracy or content of that information. As for what is best for you and your future, SAS always recommends you speak to a professional to discuss the particulars of your situation.

Metaphor for divorce recovery

Divorce Recovery: 10 Things to Do if Suddenly in Charge of Your Finances

Are you somewhere in your divorce recovery, facing your fear — the sudden, terrifying reality of managing your money?

Or, are you a brave woman saying, “It’s time to get real and start acting on behalf of myself!”? No matter what brings you to this point, a split, a divorce, or the fact that you are suddenly single, first thing – take a deep breath! There are many who have come before you, many who have taught themselves how to get out of this dark place of disempowerment. They’ve successfully navigated full divorce recovery, they’ve successfully broken from their past and it’s patterns, to become fully empowered women. Embrace this idea — that you are not alone — and accept the learning process. It’s the beginning of your showing yourself just what you can do.

After you’ve considered this learning process, let’s roll up our sleeves so to speak and discuss where to begin:

1. Get organized

Start your divorce recovery, your new, financial “taking over” by understanding what you have TODAY. Just like setting your GPS before starting a road trip, knowing where you are today is key to planning out where to go next. Start by collecting reports such as bank statements, recent tax returns, insurance policies, retirement accounts and estate and trust documents. You will soon see why you need this step and the importance of maintaining your incoming data. Take this time to create a list of passwords and log on instructions to sites that involve the financial items listed above. Keep this newly minted list in a safe place, but make sure someone you trust knows where it is, too.

“If you don’t know where you are how do you know where you’re going?”

2. Define your goals

Once you know where you are (YOU ARE HERE on the map), identifying your goals will give you the destinations. Allow yourself to dream big with goals like owning that summer cabin by the lake, or traveling around the world without a budget, to the more realistic goals such as “I want MONEY for a down payment”, or “I want to have a fun life when I retire — how much money will I need?” Knowing your goals will give you parameters and focus on how to move forward. Knowing your goals directs you to where you need to go.

3. Know what you OWN

Sounds simple, but do you know where every items, asset or thing that you own or has your name on it is kept? How is it titled? What is it’s value, and how do you access it? If your answer is, “Umm, I’m not sure,” you’ve just reinforced your vital need to go through this process. Refer again to Step 1 and list the assets you have. The more precise your statements and documents are, the more accurate this part of the equation (as well as steps 4, 5 and 6) will be.

4. Know what you OWE

Again, what accounts have your name attached to them, meaning you are obligated to pay back monies that were borrowed to maybe, buy a house? What credit cards are issued to you? Car loans? Student loans that are yours or that you co-signed? Do you know what each debt charges you in interest? Do you know when you have to pay it back? Again, “Umm, I am not sure” is not the answer you want. The good news is, you are going to change this.

5. Know what you are spending money on and how much

EXPENSES include both the essentials as well as the discretionary which is best looked at as the stuff you spend money on that you can live without or change when push comes to shove. Services such as doing your nails yourself versus having them done, or cutting back on new shoe acquisitions are just two examples. Although I know to some they are mandatory purchases, let’s face it, if you really have to cut back temporarily, these really are discretionary and not mandatory. Learn to hold yourself accountable for separating out the “must-pays” from the “I can cut this expense for now” when calculating your cash flow. There may need to be some short-term compromises as you get your financial house in order. And that’s all right. You can do this.

6. Know what you are earning

INCOME can come from several sources, not just your job. So don’t forget to list interest income from investments, possible royalties from work sold in the past, residual income, and others.

7. Know how much risk is right for you

Try to recall how you reacted to market changes in the past. When you heard on the news that the market corrected or crashed by X% did you react by crying out “I can’t lose another dollar or I’ll be living out of a shoebox!” or did you call your broker and say “buy, buy, buy!” Your reaction to these corrections will help you assess how much risk your portfolios can tolerate. Since you may be feeling some anxiety set in right about now, I may suggest that you arrange to meet with a recommended financial advisor who can look at your financial story and help you take your next best steps.

8. Be tax smart

Create an environment of teamwork between your accountant and your financial advisor so that together your investments and taxes are aligned to pursue more efficient returns. Begin by making sure each one has the other’s name and email address. Encourage them to connect.

9. Avoid common investor pitfalls

Try not to panic at every news cycle or market change by switching course within your portfolio. In other words, second guessing yourself and your team will invariably mean you’ll buy high and sell low which is exactly the opposite of what you want to do.

10. Get involved with the pros

Meet at least quarterly with your financial advisor, who should be a fiduciary. This term means he or she is structured in a practice that is meant to have your best interest at the core of her/his advice. In other words, getting commissions paid out is not the priority, aligning your needs is. Working for you and with you should be the goal. You are on the right track with the right advisor if s/he asks you a lot of questions, not just about now, but those long term goals, answers your questions with patience, and is willing to educate you no matter how silly you think your question is.

Finding the best financial advisor for you and your needs — one who understands you as a woman in the crossroads of your life — will give you the sense of security you need as you move forward another step in your divorce recovery and your new, exciting, second chapter.

Ronit Rogoszinski, CFP® has been providing financial life guidance for individuals, families, and business owners for over 25 years in her role as a Senior Wealth Advisor for SlateStone Wealth, LLC a registered investment adviser and in her capacity as a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM professional. Ronit specializes in transitioning widows and widowers, pre-retirees and divorced individuals through major life changes and provides guidance on financial planning and investment strategy. Ronit focuses on understanding the personal values and goals of her clients and then translates that knowledge into actionable steps to craft a customized plan suitable to her client’s unique situation. Ronit has, as a result, become a trusted advisor to her clients, developing lifelong friendships while partnering collaboratively for their success. Contact Ronit at [email protected] 

Neither SlateStone, nor its investment professionals or advisor representatives provide tax, accounting or legal advice. February 2019.