From the May 2008 issue of Wealth Manager Web • Subscribe!

Divorce Connections

Ask women in the moneyed suburbs of lower Fairfield County, Conn. who comes to mind as a good financial advisor for someone getting--or soon to be--divorced, and the name Lori Price will undoubtedly come up--a lot! A seasoned advisor who's served a variety of high-net-worth clients over the past 23 years, Price's focus on working with women came about more organically than intentionally. "In 1997, one of my biggest clients was an investment banker with a wife and four kids," Price recalls. "When he and his wife decided to divorce, he told me to help his wife, but to remember who was paying me. A light bulb went on in my head, and I started reading about divorce, learning everything I could about the financial issues and challenges people face."

In the interest of honoring this client's implicit desire to ensure that both he and his wife emerged from the divorce financially secure, Lori began to develop a talent for successfully managing these often tricky situations.

As her interest in divorce planning grew, Price obtained the Certified Divorce Planner credential. Over the past 10 years, that first woman client has referred Price to numerous friends and acquaintances; she even set up a "lunch bunch" series at her house to introduce her friends to Lori and to the basic financial management concepts that she learned during her divorce experience.

Currently, approximately two-thirds of Price's clients are divorced or widowed. "I've positioned myself so when someone hears the words 'divorced or widowed women,' they think of me," she says. Among her clients are more than 90 post-divorce women, most of whom first came to her as they were going through this major life and financial transition. "Women facing divorce generally don't have a pre-existing, independent relationship with a financial advisor," Price observes. "It's a difficult, vulnerable time, and they are looking for an advisor they can trust who can help them navigate both the known and the unknown issues they will face."

These issues include such questions as, "What will I do after the alimony ends?" and "How do I budget now to ensure that I'll have enough to live on?" and "How can I secure my own financial future?" There are also settlement decisions such as whether to take the house or a portion of the investment account assets--thus incurring capital gains, dividends or interest. Often, the seemingly obvious choices are not, in fact, the best options--and that is where Price's expertise and experience serve her clients so well.

Her business has more than quadrupled since 1997, when she experienced that ah-ha moment about serving divorcing women, but Price acknowledges that this market niche is not for everybody. It can, she says, be frustrating and emotionally draining. At the same time, it is tremendously satisfying. "Helping women get through such a difficult period and then empowering them to become financially stable is extremely gratifying," she says.

Price also has a passion for helping a broader swath of people learn about financial issues. When she was first launching her career as a financial advisor, she was approached by her husband's great-uncle who wanted to know if she could help his retired-men's group start an investment club. Now--20 years later--she is still involved with the group. Price continues to thrive on sharing what she knows with her listeners--here and among the numerous other groups to which she presents.

Public speaking has always been an important component of Price's ability to attract and retain clients. In addition to the men's group, she regularly addresses women's conferences and groups such as the Junior League. She has conducted a series of workshops for the Bank of New Canaan and the Darien and New Canaan Community Associations. Last fall, Price gave a presentation on empowering women donors at the National Philanthropy Day Conference '07 in Connecticut. She finds educating and empowering others to be extremely motivating and has delivered more than 300 presentations in her community. This, in turn, has resulted in a thriving practice built on a foundation of educating people about important issues.

Price grew up in Morristown, N.J., with a natural bent toward entrepreneurship and hard work. "My father and a partner owned a company in the 1960s that made dummy grenades for army training camps. In 1968, it was blown up, allegedly by Students for a Democratic Society because the company was a government contractor, and the SDS incorrectly thought their products were going to Viet Nam. We lost everything but our house and one car. We were pretty well off before then, but this was a real shock. We ate spaghetti a lot, and my mom went back to work." Eventually, her father started another company, which made eight-track and cassette tape boxes and skateboards. Recognizing Lori's math talents, he had her doing the company's payroll by the time she was 15 years old. She earned a bachelor's in business from Rutgers and a MBA from Duke before being recruited to Xerox world headquarters in Stamford, Conn.

"I was the first financial analyst at Xerox world headquarters to have a PC on my desk--with an 8.5-inch disk drive," Price recalls. "I was in the real estate finance division, but I ended up showing all the senior people how to use Word and SuperCalc. At 23, I had exposure to the senior executives of a major corporation. The first big proposal I worked on was a joint venture with a major banking and finance company to build an office building in Manhattan. It involved a huge proposal to the board of directors, for which I did all the number crunching."

Price began working as an investment advisor in 1985 and became a CFP three years later. In August 2005, after 18 years at an insurance broker/dealer, Price joined Securities America, Inc. "The previous company didn't have the technology I needed," she explains. "Securities America has been a good fit with products, services, technology and pricing."

Although she had some experience with fee-based business at her previous broker/dealer, Price began moving her practice farther in that direction in the fall of 2006, after she attended a road show presented by Symmetry Partners, one of the third-party money managers in Securities America Advisor's Managed Opportunities program.

"I liked their approach and results and especially the access to DFA funds," she says. "We now have about $18 million under management with Symmetry and several large proposals on the table. I expect to significantly increase assets we have in managed accounts in the next year. Having the Securities America Managed Opportunities platform makes it easy to prepare, present and process proposals and see daily results." In total, Price has AUM of approximately $200 million.

Given her focus on working with divorced and widowed women and retirees, she has many clients who are concerned with understanding how much they can spend without outliving their money. It's a responsibility that Price takes very seriously. She enjoys teaching her clients about financial planning and helping them protect and grow their assets. As such, she is widely known and well-respected by attorneys and CPAs who work with similar types of clients. As her practice has grown, and she has become more successful, Price has expanded into sponsoring charitable events that target affluent women. An active member of the Estate Planning Council of Lower Fairfield County, she has delivered a number of presentations and workshops for charitable organizations--for both their fundraisers and their donors. She also supports her clients' charitable causes by underwriting events for organizations such as Family Re-entry, which helps released prisoners return to society, Relay for Life and "Swim Across the Sound"--breast cancer awareness events. While her direct efforts and contributions to select organizations have increased, she realizes that she can extend her giving by teaching others how to maximize their philanthropic endeavors. It's not unlike the concept, "If you give a man a fish, he can eat a meal; if you teach him how to fish, he can eat for a lifetime." By providing education to people who want to know more about how to leverage their own and their organization's philanthropic efforts, Price feels she can have an exponentially greater impact on the community.

Many of her clients also have a philanthropic bent. "While many of my advisor colleagues are focused primarily on helping clients accumulate and retain assets, much of my work involves helping clients spend down significant amounts for charitable causes," Price notes. As a result, her holiday routine has shifted away from gifts to clients; instead she has been making donations in their honor to charitable organizations.

Price's business success has not gone unnoticed: She was included in the 2005 Barron's Winners Circle(R) Top Advisor's Summit and the 2006 and 2007 Barron's Winners Circle(R) Top Women Advisor's Summit. She has also been one of Connecticut Magazine's 50 top financial advisors, and she is featured in the March 2008 top advisors article (Winners Circle criteria can be found at www.wcorg.com/images/hbmethodology.pdf.

In addition to her professional success, Price is a skilled, competitive tennis player. She and her husband--who recently became ordained as a rabbi--have two children and live in Wilton, Conn.

Says Price: "You only get one reputation, and we work hard to ensure that if someone calls [Price Financial Group LLC], we bend over backwards to do our best to provide a high level of service. We strive to always put our clients' needs, goals and objectives first. We are deeply committed," she adds, "and we strongly believe in our financial planning process, our approach to asset management, the consistent results we seek to deliver, and the value we can add to our clients' financial well-being."

Marie Swift (www.impactcommunications.org) has been consulting with independent financial advisors and observing the industry for nearly 20 years.

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