This is part 7 of a 7 part interview with Massachusetts divorce mediator Tracy Fischer acknowledging that divorce can be challenging for women, our panel of experts offers practical tips on navigating financial concerns, keeping emotions in check and rediscovering themselves. Watch the entire Navigating Divorce interview video.
Jenine G.: I think we’ve covered a lot of ground today. I always say, what is that one piece of advice … And we’re going to go to some questions that were submitted, but before we do that, what is the one key takeaway that you want to tell people who are going through a divorce or considering it?
Tracy Fischer: I guess after this conversation, I’m thinking all the things we talked about are really good for everybody to be aware of. Every one of us should think about their financial picture even if they’re not getting divorced, and look at the roles we fall into to make sure they aren’t too limiting. And to really make sure you’re aware of these issues in your marriage as you’re going through it, that you think about these things. We really haven’t talked about the idea of a prenuptial or a postnuptial agreement. That’s another conversation, but that’s something to think about for the next time.
Jenine G.: A postnup is when you are in the marriage.
Tracy Fischer: Right.
Jenine G.: I suggest doing that over wine.
Tracy Fischer: Sounds good.
Jenine G.: Yeah. Lori.
Lori Hubbard: I think there was a part of you that was you before you got married, right? Rediscover that part of you. There’s probably going to be things that you did that you sort of pushed aside when you got married, so tap into those hobbies that you used to do, whatever the case may be. Maybe it was classes that you use to take, yoga classes, whatever it is. It’s going to be important that you rediscover you and you take care of yourself.
Jenine G.: I would say the one piece of advice I always remind people is the fact that women are living longer than we ever have, so it’s important, to the point of those roles, to make sure you are taking control of your finances and your financial future. With that being said, when people signed up for the webinar, there was an opportunity to ask some questions that we received. A lot of these are aimed at you, Tracy. So, to put you on the spot, first question, in the division of assets, what are some key tactics that can help regain future financial security?
Tracy Fischer: I think that is a great question, and it really lends itself to talking about a financial advisor. It’s so important that choices you make during the divorce proceedings, during mediation, that those choices lead you to a balanced portfolio that’s going to grow but have some security. That’s not what I do with people. That’s not my role, but it is certainly the role of the financial advisor.
Jenine G.: Great advice. Second question, how do women, obviously a lot of these are financial, how do women recover the financial loss after having gone through a lengthy divorce, impossible post-divorce appeals proceedings, in order to still reach their retirement goals?
Tracy Fischer: That’s a tough one. I don’t know if it’s possible. It really depends on when the divorce is happening, how old the people are, but it makes me think about something that I really did not talk about while we had our conversation, and that is how much it costs to go through an adversarial divorce. And, you’re really bleeding your savings. When two people both hire adversarial attorneys, they’re just running through money. That is one way really to not be able to save for retirement. It’s so important to think about mediation and taking control and making sure that that divorce process is not something that is what causes you to lose so much money.
Jenine G.: Yeah. The war of the roses does not benefit either party.
Tracy Fischer: Right, or the kids.
Jenine G.: Yeah. And I think a lot of times, Lori, we’ve talked about, to your point of getting back in the workforce, a lot of women have to get back and continue on. Alright this next question revolves around illiquid assets, this one in particular was looking at long-term stock incentive, but illiquid assets, how does someone approach that?
Tracy Fischer: This is one of those things that a CDFA, the Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, or a CPA could be really helpful in. But there’s this saying –“if, as, and when”,- and that illiquid asset is still a marital asset but it’s not going to be divided until it happens, it becomes liquid and then it … So, it’s “if, as, and when” because it may never become liquid. So that way it doesn’t put risk on the person that has it but the person that doesn’t have it has the option of getting some portion of that asset.
Jenine G.: So this last question, I’m glad this question was asked because I hear this all the time, I don’t want to say all the time it’s not like I’m surrounded by people constantly divorcing around me but – the house. A lot of times people say do not leave the house because you then risk losing it. Is that good advice or is that terrible advice?
Tracy Fischer: I mean I think in general it’s terrible advice because, there may be some situations where it’s needed. If a person wants to end up keeping and living in the house then it might not make sense to leave it to then go back to it. But if there’s an agreement amongst a couple that one person is going to leave the house that makes so much sense. Every judge knows that people that are getting divorced have to separate. One person is going to have to move otherwise you’re going to have war of the roses. So, the idea of people can do it by agreement that makes so much sense. I have people in mediation who ask me this question all the time even before they start and I generally say to them, “Just write up an email or a little agreement as evidence of your intention saying the wife is going to leave the marital home in the interest of family harmony and they’re in no way giving up any rights to the house, the children, et cetera.”
Jenine G.: Well, I can’t thank both of you enough for joining us today. As I mentioned before, no one thinks when they walk down the aisle, that it’s going to end this way. I think that there was so much helpful advice for so many women out there, so I appreciate it. And thank all of you for joining us today of our webinar series, Your Time is an Asset. I highly encourage you to visit our website, yourtimeisanasset.com, if you want to get some more information, not only on the topics we discussed today, but other unique challenges that a lot of women face. It’s really important, to take one thing away, to take control of your financial future. So thanks again for joining us.