Divorce Day was the first working Monday of January. Rhiannon Robinson, a Gold Adviser on Adviser Ratings, is the Founder of Finance Women. The following offers advice on dealing with a situation that is unfortunate, but not uncommon...
With Divorce Day just past, it’s a good time to let women know their options when it comes to seeking their own financial advice. Divorce Day was the first working Monday of January, where spouses’ motivations to break up are fueled by an intense Christmas and New Year holiday period. Female financial advisers often find their clients need a space to clear their head, express their concerns and assess their next steps, and feel more comfortable speaking to a female professional.
The ABS released an update to the data on divorces this week. It showed that not only are brides and grooms getting older but the median age of divorcees continues to grow as well. Perhaps it’s not surprising that the highest divorce rates continue to be experienced in the early to mid 40s. What is interesting, however, is that while the divorce rate as a percentage of the population has been falling across most age brackets, the rate of divorce is actually increasing in the age brackets of 55 and above.
We are seeing many more women going through divorce at ages 55 and over. Instead of worrying about child rearing issues and child maintenance issues, these women are faced with issues such as disparate superannuation balances with little or no chance of correcting them, potentially facing changes to their Centrelink entitlements, concerns about whether they can buy a home, whether a bank will lend to them, or perhaps they have access to a large settlement, which is quite a big responsibility to have to manage for the first time.
Often these women have seen a financial planner in the past when they were part of a couple. More often than not, the partner was treated as the primary client. The thoughts, opinions and education of the female partner came second, if considered at all. Women in this position have been seeking financial advisers who are women because they feel that they will be treated with more respect, they feel less intimidated and more able to open up and ask questions. Research by Adviser Ratings has identified that while females make up 57 per cent of those looking for advice, female advisers make up only 21 per cent of financial advisers, reflective of the gender gaps in the financial services generally. This comparatively small percentage of women available to offer their unique expertise, demonstrates the supply and demand gap that will intensify at this time of year.
Financial advisers (whether male or female) seeing clients in this position need to be mindful of previous experiences that these clients may have had. Giving them permission and the opportunity to go back to basics and fill in some gaps for them, give them support to address the financial fears that they have, and help them to develop confidence in their own financial decision-making capability.
So, here are the six top tips for surviving Divorce Day and beyond:
- Create a file to keep your financial documents.
Gathering these key documents is going to be important down the track to help your legal and financial team help you sort out your position. The first working Monday of 2017 will come around surprisingly quickly, so use the time after New Years’ Day wisely to gather all of your documentation.
- Create some space, privacy and control.
Start a bank account in your own name if you don’t have one already, you may also want to think about a post office box and a new email address.
- Where-ever possible, keep the interactions cordial.
The holiday period can be an intense time of year, but from both a psychological and a financial perspective, keeping your interactions as calm and respectful as possible will save you not just stress but probably a fair bit in legal fees.
- Think about who else needs to know.
Banks, school, employer, doctor – no need to go into detail with them. Just make sure they know you’ve separated, update your contact details, and give them the opportunity to clarify any changes that need to be made to protect you and your interests.
- Work out where you are going to get advice.
While personal recommendations are great, there are a number of websites which can guide you to these professionals. Adviser Ratings, for example, allows you to search for financial advisers, check out ratings by previous clients, and even search by gender, specialisation (including women’s financial advice) and location.
While the entire situation can feel overwhelming at times, remember, not every decision has to be made right away. Give yourself the time and space to work through these decisions in your own time.