Part Two of a three-part series
When a marriage is falling apart, it can feel like your entire life is spiraling out of control. Stephanie DeWitt, managing partner of Wachovia Securities Financial Network’s Ascend Financial Consultants in Pasadena, California, says her job is to try to slow everything down.
“I try to remove as much emotion as possible,” says DeWitt. If a client is caught in a firestorm of emotion, dealing with loss, sadness and often some bitterness, DeWitt strives to create a calm, non-threatening atmosphere and get the client to focus on what they have, not what they have lost.
“Believe it or not, in this day and age finances are still often not shared,” she says. “If the husband has been making all the decisions and the wife suddenly needs to address her own financial issues, that’s a steep hill to climb, especially when she is trying to put the rest of her life in order.”
The first step, says DeWitt, is creating a detailed inventory of the client’s assets. That gives them a concrete foundation and shows them the parts of their lives over which they still have total control.
“I explain to them that they now have the ability to make decisions based on their best interests,” she says. “That gives the client more confidence about making decisions going forward.”
Once they establish where they are financially, it makes putting the financial pieces back in place a little easier, and a little less threatening, especially for the client who isn’t experienced in managing investments or making big financial decisions.
After that, DeWitt takes her clients through a mini course she calls “Investing 101.” For some women she starts with the fundamentals, providing simple definitions of stocks and bonds and how the market works. Her more financially savvy clients get a refresher course, which reminds them of what they know and, again, builds their confidence.
Then DeWitt works her way through the divorce settlement itself, detailing what the client will keep and what needs to be done to facilitate any transfers of property. For instance, if the client is keeping the main residence, has the title been changed?