Divorcing husbands are a viable, and often overlooked, niche for financial advisors.
“Despite all the emotional issues surrounding divorce from both the husband’s and wife’s perspective, lack of familiarity with personal finance in general can lead to some possible pitfalls for both parties,” says Russ Thornton, a certified divorce financial analyst with Wealthcare for Women in Atlanta.
He recommends that both parties be represented by an experienced family law attorney, as well as consult with a financial professional familiar with the financial decisions surrounding divorce.
While there are no empirical data on the gender of clients seeking divorce financial planning, anecdotally, advisors say the majority of these clients are women.
Where Are the Men?
But Sara Stanich, a CFDA and the founder of Cultivating Wealth in Montauk, New York, says there appears to be an increase in the number of male clients seeking divorce financial planning.
“More men are open to it and recognize the value of objective third party advice,” she says.
Finding male clients requires a different type of outreach, though. Stanich says search engine optimization, known as SEO, is a good way to start.
“When I ask male clients how they found me, they invariably say: the internet. It seems women (clients) are more likely to come from presentations I occasionally give to divorce-related groups, referral from a friend or online group,” she says.
Because it can be socially more acceptable for women to air their worries or seek emotional support, divorcing husbands may feel they have to face the uncertainties alone. That may explain the instinct to search online for help, rather than seek advice from friends, public workshops or use resources such as Facebook groups.
Similarities and Differences
Planners who work with divorcing spouses sometimes take on the role of therapist, in addition to their more traditional job as number crunchers. Contrary to traditional roles, women aren’t the only ones who can be emotionally shattered.
“The husband can be as emotional, or even more,” says James Brewer, a CDFA with Envision Wealth Planning in Chicago, in heterosexual marriages.
“Men are also dealing with sadness, anger and grief around their divorce. They may have fewer resources to deal with their emotions,” Stanich says.
Brewer says it’s crucial to get husbands focused on the bigger picture and the long term, rather than just short-term considerations. As with women, the emotional impact for men can result in poor decision-making.
“Based on shock and emotion, it is easy to get caught up in the short-run asset splits,” he says.
That doesn’t mean there’s always an impulse to hurt the soon-to-be former-wife financially, Thornton says.
“Many husbands seem happy to equitably divide the family finances and don’t seem to want to put their wife in harm’s way financially. Plus, if the husband is the primary breadwinner and plans to continue working, divorce isn’t as disruptive to his life and financial situation as it may be for the wife,” he says.
“Despite all the emotional issues surrounding divorce from both the husband’s and wife’s perspective, lack of familiarity with personal finance in general can lead to some possible pitfalls for both parties. And while an experienced family law attorney and/or financial advisor can help, it sometimes comes down to what one spouse wants, not what they need or what would be equitable,” Thornton adds.
Stanich notes that societal expectations can affect how men view themselves during a divorce.
“Financial stress is usually a contributing factor to the divorce, and frankly, divorce will make it worse before it gets better. Now there are two households instead of one, as well as legal expenses, which can be astronomical. Men who have not handled the family finances well can have a lot of shame around that in a way that women may not,” she says.
The specifics of any given situation also come with their own emotional pitfalls for husbands. Advisors who are accustomed to working with divorcing wives may have to shift their thinking somewhat.
“Imagine that it is the wife that wants the divorce and not the husband. Or if there are children, he will see them less if she gets custody or if they have shared custody,” says Brewer.
Practical Considerations for Advisors and Clients
Divorcing couples can see their financial picture erode, says Brewer.
“If there were two incomes, now there is one. They go from married filing (taxes) jointly to single or head of household. If the husband didn’t handle the money or isn’t good at it, he now has that thrust into his lap, and might be wondering how he is going to handle all of this,” Brewer says.
Taking all the couple’s assets into account while sidestepping emotionally driven decisions is a challenge for advisors working with husbands as well as wives.
“It almost always costs more for two people to live separately than it does for them to live together,” says Thornton. “In addition to potential custody issues for minor children, equitable divorce is about taking a single financial household and dividing it in two for the benefit of each party involved. Between income, spousal support, financial assets, marital homes, personal property and more, there’s a lot that needs to be addressed, and the more level-headed both spouses can be throughout the process, the better their chances of establishing their lives on their own.”
Brewer says the expertise gained through focusing on divorce planning gives him the skills to help soon-to-be divorced men navigate difficult decisions in an emotionally fraught period of life.
“I thought I had enough knowledge as a certified financial planner. Becoming a CDFA not only taught me a lot more about the specifics of divorce, but it also introduced me to Family Law Software,” he says, referring to a program that allows advisors to delve into myriad issues specific to the divorce process.
When it comes to working with husbands as clients, Stanich counsels other advisors that these men may not stick around beyond the planning stage.
“My male clients seem to be more short term. We work on the project, finish it and they move on. Another difference is that they are more likely to remarry quickly,” she says.
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