As financial advisors continue to develop deeper relationships with their clients and take an increasingly comprehensive approach to financial planning, many are expanding their services to include offering advice that covers virtually every aspect of their clients’ lives. Today’s advisors need to be able to help their clients successfully navigate the unexpected twists and turns that occur in their lives because every life-changing event is bound to have an impact on their financial situation.
Of all the changes a client can go through, divorce may have the most profound effect emotionally and financially. The estimated U.S. divorce rate ranges from 41 percent (The New York Times, “Divorce Rate: It’s Not as High as You Think,” April 2005) to 50 percent (U.S. Census Bureau, 2002). While the actual divorce rate is difficult to determine with absolute accuracy, the reality is that a large percentage of Americans go through the experience, which has created a tremendous need for specialized financial planning and income solutions.
Who needs you?
Newly single clients who relied on their partners to make financial decisions need to learn how to manage their own finances, and divorcees who have just received a large settlement need help in determining the best investment options for those funds. An experienced advisor who specializes in divorce financial analysis can help these clients determine new goals and cash-flow needs going forward, and help them understand the financial, tax and quality-of-life ramifications of their decisions.
Developing this specialization can allow you to provide expert advice for clients with complex financial-planning needs, but you should know that it’s not a simple marketing strategy. You’ll need to absorb a lot of complex information because if you attempt to present yourself as an expert without adequate knowledge and experience, you’ll be doing a disservice to a client who is going through a difficult and emotionally draining experience. Divorcing clients must be able to trust your expertise just as much as they trust that of the lawyer handling their case.
Obtaining a professional designation can provide you with the training and specialized knowledge you need to assist your clients with the financial aspects of divorce, and enhances your credibility. Two organizations—the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts (www.institutedfa.com) and the Financial Divorce Association Inc. (www.academyfdp.org)—offer certification programs.
Success through networking
With the trend toward comprehensive financial planning, more and more financial advisors are partnering with lawyers and accountants regularly. This collaboration effectively creates a wealth-management team for clients who have complex financial-planning needs. If you specialize in divorce financial analysis, you’re providing a value-added service to attorneys and accountants, many of whom prefer to leverage the expertise of a financial professional to determine the best settlement for their client. By partnering with attorneys and developing expertise in the financial issues inherent in divorce cases, advisors willing to make the commitment can establish a successful niche practice among divorcees.
A trusted and qualified advisor can provide advice, experience and support to help smooth out the divorce process, so that it has minimal negative impact on the client’s financial future. If you have the sincerity and ability to understand and sympathize, which is necessary to help clients get through difficult situations, divorce financial analysis can be an effective way to differentiate yourself in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
Barbara Shapiro, CFP, CFS, CDFA, is vice president of HMS Financial Group in Dedham, Mass., and a regional director of the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Investment securities offered through Cadaret Grant, member NASD, SIPC. Luis Gomez, vice president of marketing strategy for Jackson National Life, can be reached at email@example.com.