Three Steps Toward Reshaping Your Financial Plan After a Divorce
“A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead.”
― Graham Greene, The End of the Affair
Life happens. Some of it we plan for, some of it we don’t. One transition that cannot be predicted is a divorce. Although it’s seldom in the plans, divorce ends half of marriages. For adults 50 and older the divorce rate has doubled since the 1990s. Many adults will have to divide up the saved assets that had been put aside to share in retirement. Even if both partners worked and saved well for their retirement, there is often a gap between partners when it comes to levels of earnings and wealth. This disparity can disproportionately affect women, as they may have taken time off for child-rearing or family needs. In this article, we will go over some factors to consider regarding divorce and your retirement.
It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one most adaptable to change.
How much should you save? How much should you spend in retirement? How much do you leave to your children? How little do you leave? What happens if some unforeseen event happens? Is your investment portfolio safe in case of a sudden change in the world economy?
I was traveling on family business to the Emerald City, Seattle, Washington. While there I visited the 605-foot tourist trodden tower called the Space Needle which was built to celebrate the 1962 World’s Fair. As I observed the enormous edifice from the base, it appeared to gaze in soulful benediction over the sprawling city. After I stepped into the elevator it swiftly lifted me to the top floor. As I exited the doors high above the city, I walked onto the deck of the brightly lit observation turret. The sun’s rays were so bright they seemed to kiss the expansive windows as the visitors inside enjoyed the spectacular views. Near a set of elevators, a teenage attendant with red streaked hair was talking excitedly to a group of eager tourists. He spoke about the substantial sturdiness of the structure and how it was riveted into a foundation of reinforced steel and cement that can withstand a 9.1 earthquake as measured on the Richter scale. He added that the materials in the design were not only strong but also very flexible. In case of a hurricane, the tower had the special design capability to sway back and forth on very windy days even with winds of 200 miles an hour! The elevator may have to slow down during these conditions, but the structure was built resilient enough to adjust for sudden changes in the forces of nature. I thought of the many modern buildings and physical structures built in this way to withstand the daily effects of nature and weather, including our human bodies. If they were not flexible like the Space Needle structure, they would also suffer the strains of daily living causing us discomfort and pain.
“Life is like a mirror, we get the best results when we smile!”
Looking directly into a mirror gives you one perspective of yourself. However, if you turn the mirror at a right angle to another you will discover several images of yourself. Some may appear distorted and backward, like in an amusement park fun house. Nevertheless, each one allows you to see yourself differently. Similarly, the choices available to us when making decisions with our money can appear to be hard to figure out as well. Like the right-angle mirror, we are forced to view our finances differently even though they are the same.
Whether you are a budding Millennial or an aging baby-boomer our attitude and behavior regarding money and the way we consume it is crucial.
Bulls and Bears
Many experts consider investing in the stock market the best way to grow wealth, especially if you are young and have a long investment time horizon. However, it can be difficult to avoid much of the daily market “noise,” and you may start to question your financial decisions. Such seemingly extreme volatility can have even the most steadfast investor feeling a little unsure on occasion. The deluge of unprecedented news and the responding economy may leave investors questioning how best to proceed. Better to hunker down and ride it out? Sell? Invest in more conservative products?
The Greek witch-goddess Circe gave her son Telegonus a poisoned spear to protect him on his journey to find his father Odysseus. When Telegonus finally found Odysseus he inadvertently killed his father with the magic weapon. This is similar to some of the consequences we may inadvertently incur when we try to administer well-meaning advice to someone who is coming to us for help or guidance.
I recently had this experience with a new client who came to us to discuss the challenges she faced with her finances. She was recently widowed and under an enormous amount of stress concerning her investments because her husband had handled all the family’s money. When she entered the conference room she appeared very nervous. We tried to set her at ease by playing soft music as we usually do when meeting with all our clients. We curiously watched her open her carton of statements and documents. Many of her documents were out of order and looked as if they had been filed haphazardly inside a wastepaper basket! Even before she spoke, her eyes reflected a plethora of misfit investment information, peppered with the sad assurances that her husband had instilled in her before he had suddenly passed away.