“The abuse [became] worse over the last couple of years. Especially the verbal abuse — it’s very demeaning and demoralizing. I was thinking I wasn’t even a person anymore,” Anne, a forty-ish Californian, confesses shakily to financial advisor Ginita Wall. “When I ran across Second Saturday on the internet, everything I read just clicked with me. I said, ’This is what I need. This is my way out of here.’”
That video interview, posted on SecondSaturday.com, explains better than any statistic why a workshop program created by two San Diego-area financial planners has become a beacon for women contemplating divorce.
“Second Saturday: What Everyone Needs to Know About Divorce,” a program started in 1989 by Wall and Candace Bahr, both Certified Divorce Financial Analysts, gives advisors an opportunity to help women like Anne move toward a new life, while potentially building their own businesses.
Divorce Is About More Than Money
When Wall moved to the San Diego area from New Mexico, her interest in women’s financial empowerment led to a meeting with Certified Divorce Financial Analyst Bahr, a principal in Carlsbad, California’s Bahr Investment Group.
The two discovered a shared desire to create a space where women could learn about finances in a safe, noncommercial and unbiased environment. Together they founded the nonprofit Women’s Institute for Financial Education (WIFE.org), dedicated to women’s financial education and independence. Starting with a series of seminars on cash flow, solo money management and funding college education, they created a national network of Money Clubs (MoneyClubs.com), promoting face-to-face and online get-togethers for women to discuss important money topics.
In 1989, inspired by a local newspaper article about financial issues faced by women going through divorce, Wall (by then a CFP and CDFA) and Bahr decided to do something about it. “We proposed a curriculum to MiraCosta College,” Bahr said. Meeting on the second Saturday of every month for the past 27 years, the five-hour course has helped more than 10,000 women considering divorce.
Why Second Saturday’s focus on women? Too often, Bahr said, a wife is in the dark about family finances. If her marriage heads for the rocks, she may have no idea what she’s entitled to. As in Anne’s case, underlying emotions can also make her too distraught to think straight. The workshop format is a natural way to inform and educate this audience, supported by research findings that women tend to learn better in groups without men present. (Several Second Saturday programs also conduct workshops for men.)
Conducted entirely by volunteers, Second Saturday workshops address the basic legal, emotional and financial issues of divorce, drawing on the know-how of professionals in all three areas. The mission: to provide the knowledge, support, resources and trust women need in these difficult life situations.
They still run the workshop every second Saturday at MiraCosta College, a public community college north of San Diego. Now in its third decade, it continues to draw 20 to 55 women a month from as far away as Phoenix.
In 2014, the two founders decided to roll out Second Saturday by offering it as a marketing opportunity for financial advisors and attorneys around the country. So far the program has been presented in 130 locations, according to Wall.
Conducting one of these workshops is “an opportunity to give back,” Bahr said in a ThinkAdvisor.com interview with Gil Weinreich last year, “but it’s also an opportunity as an advisor to differentiate yourself from everybody else out there by giving back in a very different way.”
A Template for Successful Divorce
The San Diego workshops have been open to everyone. “Our ideal participant is a woman contemplating divorce or in the early stages of divorce, when our program can save them as much time, money and emotional distress as possible,” Bahr told us. Typically, half the attendees are simply deciding whether or not to call it quits with their spouses.
Given enough lead time, prospective workshop leaders are likely to find that news of an upcoming workshop goes viral. “Mostly [participants] hear about it via word of mouth — their therapist, their hairdresser, their friends,” Bahr said. “We don’t require pre-registration, because no one can predict when they are going to be in crisis.”
Saying “it’s important to us that our sessions are affordable,” she explained that the San Diego workshop’s $45 fee is reduced or waived for anyone who can’t pay. Sometimes people need to attend several times to gather information as they decide on the appropriate course to take, so the charge for a second, third or fourth visit is only $25. After the fifth time, it’s free. “We’ve had people attend up to nine times — our record so far,” Bahr said.
All proceeds are donated to nonprofit organizations helping women. In 27 years, the original San Diego workshop has raised nearly $400,000 for scholarships, additional programs for women at MiraCosta College and free information for women through WIFE.org’s website and network of Money Clubs.
Partnering With Other Professionals
When an advisor signs up to conduct a Second Saturday workshop, WIFE provides a QuickStart package designed to help get the first session rolling within a month. The annual licensing fee includes an operating manual and syllabus, coaching by phone and ongoing Best Practices conference calls among workshop leaders. A dedicated group page on LinkedIn allows advisors to ask questions, get marketing ideas and improve their presentations.