By: Tracy Theemes, Certified Financial Planner & Financial Advisor in Vancouver
Margaret came to us in tears. Her husband of thirty years had told her that not only was he leaving her but that he already had an apartment rented. He was gone in under a week. A lifetime of expectations, understandings and commitments were shattered.
A friend of hers suggested that she come to Sophia Financial to "find out her rights". She had heard that we were a financial firm that "cared about people, not just the money".
When she came for her first appointment, the first thing we did was listen to the story of her marriage and got an understanding of her world. Money occurs in context and we believe people need to "make money work for them" and not the other way around. It is important then, to understand how each person views their circumstances-what their values, needs and fears are. Finances then can be organized around these key factors.
As she was telling her story, two things came to mind. The first was that she needed legal advice and the second thing was that her grief was so raw and her feelings so intense that we felt she would benefit from some counselling. We gave her the name of a couple of collaborative lawyers who we thought would be a good fit for her and made a referral to a counsellor that specializes in grief and divorce.
We also gave her homework. She was to gather up all of her financial data. In her case, we needed to see investment statements, her husband's pension documents and banking statements.
Four weeks later, she returned. She had the documents, budget and she had itemized what they owned and what they owed to her best knowledge. This allowed us to do a net worth and cash flow summary. About 80% of the people who come to see us actually do not know what their net worth and this is critical in determining options.
We then discussed her financial needs and wants and began the process of trying to nail down some "first numbers". How much would she need to stay in her house? How should she handle her retirement? What investments should she keep? How will her taxes be affected by a division of capital assets? How can we ensure that she will "not be a bag lady"? This clarification process is fundamental to making informed, empowered decisions.
For some women, this could be the first time they actually looked at their investment portfolios or even thought about what the implications were of owning recreational property or having debt. From this overall assessment goals and needs were lined up with her financial resources. The first draft of a personal financial plan was created.
Then we really went to work. Various options and combinations were assessed to best maximize her resources. We presented the best options and then together with us, Margaret decided what plan sounded best to her. Then we allowed some time for her to digest.
It was not until a couple of weeks later that Margaret came back in and we actually put decisions into motion.
We still see Margaret regularly to review her finances and to talk about how her life is unfolding. And even though it has been a very difficult time for her, Margaret recently wrote us a note saying that "I have renewed hope to move on and build a new life - something that I realize now that I desperately needed."