Financial Planning

3 Tips for Successfully Navigating Gray Divorce as a Woman

3 Tips for Successfully Navigating Gray Divorce as a Woman

Women tend to face a variety of unique financial challenges when separating from a partner. When it comes to successfully navigating gray divorce, preparation and the right team of advisors are key.

Divorce over age 50—commonly referred to as “gray divorce”—is becoming increasingly common in the United States. Although the overall divorce rate has been declining since the 1990s, there’s been an upward trend in gray divorces over the same period, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

No one gets married with the intention of divorcing. Yet the reality is that divorce happens—and it happens more often than we’d like to admit. And while divorce can be devastating at any age, the financial consequences for those who divorce later in life tend to be far worse for women than for men.

If you’re a woman navigating gray divorce, protecting yourself financially is critical. Here are a few tips to help you obtain an equitable settlement and maintain your financial independence post-divorce.

When it comes to navigating gray divorce, consider the following tips:

#1: Get Organized

Data shows that the average person spends two years thinking about divorce before taking action. If you’re considering divorce, be sure to familiarize yourself with the household finances. This is especially important if you’ve let your spouse take the lead for most of your adult life.

On the other hand, if your spouse is considering divorce, you may not have ample time to prepare. But if you sense any shift in your marriage, getting financially organized can’t hurt—even if divorce never comes to fruition. Indeed, researchers estimate that 90% of all women will be solely responsible for their household finances at some point in their lives.

Here are a few organizational tips for navigating gray divorce and taking charge of your financial life:

  • Keep a record of all financial accounts, property, and other assets owned by you and your partner. You should also classify all assets as separate or marital property.
  • Be sure to save copies of all corresponding documents so they’re readily available if you need them.
  • Do your best to locate all estate planning documents, prepaid funeral arrangements, and premarital agreements, if applicable.  

Other examples of information you may need during the divorce process may include:

  • Personal balance sheet/financial statements
  • Inventory of joint and separate property
  • Bank and investment account statements
  • Real estate deeds
  • Mortgage/loan documents
  • Credit card statements
  • Wills/trusts
  • Insurance policies

In addition, keep track of your login credentials for online access to all relevant financial accounts and information. Creating an organizational system in advance can help make the process easier for you and your team of advisors if you find yourself navigating gray divorce.

#2: Assemble Your Team of Experts

Once divorce is on the table, you’ll want to begin assembling a team of legal and financial experts. Many people immediately tap their network for help once navigating gray divorce becomes their reality. However, taking your time to carefully select a team of experts can ultimately save you time, money, and unnecessary stress.

As you assemble your team of advisors, consider the following specialists:

  • A divorce attorney or mediator to help you navigate the legal aspects of divorce and advocate on your behalf.
  • A Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) who can help you gather and document household financial details, as well as determine a fair division of assets.
  • An estate planning attorney, especially if you have young children. You’ll need to recreate all relevant estate planning documents after you divorce.
  • A divorce coach or therapist to help you navigate the emotional aspects of divorce.

If you don’t have recent appraisals for real estate and other highly valued property, be sure to obtain your own professional appraisals. In addition, consider adding a financial planner or tax professional to your team to help you determine the tax consequences of various settlement scenarios.

Finally, beware of the unpleasant possibility that your partner may try to hide assets from you during the divorce process. Finding hidden assets can be challenging, but it’s not impossible.

If there’s no obvious paper trail, past tax returns can be a helpful place to start. Alternatively, if you suspect your partner may be hiding a substantial amount of money or property from you, you may want to consider hiring a professional who specializes in asset search and investigation. 

#3: Choose Your Divorce Process

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to divorce. The best approach typically depends on your family dynamics, as well as your personal and financial circumstances. Nevertheless, you typically have four options when it comes to navigating gray divorce.

  • Do It Yourself. With this approach, you and your spouse work out the details of your divorce without the assistance of legal advisors and other experts. A DIY approach may save you time and legal fees if you and your spouse are divorcing amicably. However, you may also leave yourself open to an unfair settlement, since you don’t know what you don’t know.
  • Traditional Representation. You can retain an attorney for the length of your divorce or hire a consulting attorney to assist you when necessary. With either option, you’re at the mercy of the law and the court system. This can be time-consuming and expensive. But it can also protect you if the divorce is complicated and/or contentious.
  • Mediation. With this approach, you have a neutral facilitator—typically an attorney who specializes in family law. Their only role is to listen and make sure both parties are heard. That means they can’t advise on financial matters related to navigating gray divorce. This may be problematic if there’s a power imbalance or one party isn’t acting in good faith.
  • Collaboration. Rather than a winner versus loser approach to divorce, collaboration aims to troubleshoot and problem-solve. Importantly, both parties and their attorneys agree not to litigate. Instead, the teams bring in whoever is needed to help make the process run as smoothly as possible. If either party goes back on their agreement, the party who litigates must find new counsel.

A Trusted Advisor Can Help You Take Ownership of Your Finances After Navigating Gray Divorce

Unfortunately, navigating gray divorce doesn’t end once the divorce proceedings conclude. As you adjust to your new life, it’s important to take ownership of your finances so you can thrive independently.

It’s possible that your divorce settlement may be all you need to sustain your lifestyle post-divorce. Nevertheless, you’ll want to develop a personal budget and long-term financial plan that reflect your new circumstances.

Additional post-divorce considerations may include:

  • Social Security benefits. If you’re divorced but your marriage lasted at least 10 years, you can still collect benefits on your ex-spouse’s record. This is true even if they have remarried, but not if you remarry.
  • Insurance needs. The two primary types of insurance that typically come into play during a divorce are health insurance and life insurance. Be sure to revisit your policies and ensure you have proper coverage post-divorce.

Lastly, if you haven’t worked with a financial planner in the past—or your partner took the lead in the family finances—consider engaging a trusted financial advisor. Your advisor can help you take control of your finances, identify your blind spots, and secure your future.

If you’re navigating gray divorce and looking for a financial partner to help you maintain your financial independence and make smart decisions for your future, Curtis Financial Planning may be able to help. To see if we’re a good fit, please start here.

If you found this information interesting, please share it with a friend!

Women: Take Control of Your Financial Future

Take Control of Your Financial Future

Recently, Business and Tech asked me to participate in a panel of experts for an article called “Taking Control of Your Financial Future.” Below are some of the key points I shared during our discussion, which focus on the specific personal finance issues women often face.

I think all women can benefit from working with a trusted financial advisor if they need help managing their personal finances. A fiduciary financial partner can help you set financial goals, allocate and invest your money, and develop strategies to grow and preserve your wealth. However, there are certain things all women can do to take control of your financial future, whether you choose to work with an advisor or not.

#1: Take Ownership of Your Finances

My first piece of advice for women is to take ownership of your finances. Don’t depend on a relative, significant other, or spouse to make financial decisions on your behalf. 

If you’re married, consider taking a team approach to managing the household finances. Ultimately, being looped into these key financial decisions will give you peace of mind, especially if you lose your spouse.

#2: Seek Feedback from Other Women

Another way to take control of your financial future is to talk to other women about how they handle their money. Find trusted friends or create a money circle to talk about money issues and financial topics. Or there are money coaches that you can hire to work through your money issues.

#3: Be Your Own Advocate

Women need to be our own advocates. Despite the progress we’ve made, we still earn less than men, on average. In addition, we often must choose between being a caretaker and pursuing a career. These factors can significantly impact your ability to retire on your own terms, especially if you’re the primary earner in your household.

To ensure your compensation is fair, ask for more benefits or a pay raise when you feel you’ve earned it. Keep a record of your contributions and any metrics that demonstrate the value of your work.

And most importantly, don’t be afraid to negotiate your salary and benefits when accepting a new job. In many cases, negotiating your starting salary is your best opportunity to meaningfully increase your income.

#4: Find the Right Balance

If you have a family, juggling your home life and work life can feel like a never-ending challenge. To ensure your financial future doesn’t suffer as a result, you need to find a healthy balance.

First and foremost, seek out employers who have family-friendly employee benefits. Look for organizations that have good gender diversity among management and employees. These types of employers typically offer work-from-home, tele-commuting, family leave benefits, and even daycare. In some cases, they may even offer part-time work to support working parents.

In addition, talk to your spouse or partner about sharing childcare and household duties. Set up systems and schedules so each person knows their role to keep things working smoothly. If possible, ask local family members if they are willing to help.

It’s often helpful to set strict boundaries for your time at work and set expectations accordingly. Let your employers know it’s important for you to attend certain family events, which will keep you from working overtime. And be sure to stick to these boundaries yourself, even if you’d love to work just one more hour on that project.

#5: Invest in Your Future

Lastly, educate yourself about investing and be willing to invest to secure your financial future. Keeping cash in a bank will not beat inflation over the long run but buying stocks will. You don’t have to invest beyond your comfort level. However, it’s critical to find the right mix of investments to stay on track towards your financial goals.

For more personal finance tips, you can read the full Business and Tech article here.

Curtis Financial Planning specializes in the unique financial planning needs of independent women and women who take the lead in their household finances. If we can help you develop a plan to take control of your financial future, please schedule a call.

In the meantime, check out our personal finance resources, including The Happiness Spreadsheet, a fresh, inspiring approach to budgeting for women.

If you found this information interesting, please share it with a friend!

Why We Should Talk About Women’s Financial Empowerment Now More than Ever

Women's Financial Empowerment

This article was originally published June 16, 2018. In celebration of National Financial Literacy Month and our ongoing commitment to women’s financial empowerment, we thought we’d give it a refresh for 2021.

Millions of women worldwide took to the streets on January 21, 2017, one day after former President Trump’s inauguration. The Women’s March, now regarded as the largest single-day protest in U.S. history, was primarily aimed at the threat the Trump administration represented to hard-won reproductive, civil, and human rights.

The energy of the first Women’s March was contagious. I was thrilled to be a part of the sea of knitted pink hats and hand-made signs in San Francisco with clever slogans such as, “Tweet women with respect,” “Without Hermione, Harry Potter would have died in book 1,” and, “I’m a girl, what’s your superpower?”

In 2018, women marched again on the first anniversary of the original Women’s March. But this time, the marches were fueled by the anti-sexual assault and women’s empowerment movements #MeToo and Time’s Up.

The Women’s March has since become an annual tradition, with protestors assembling every January in various parts of the world around critical issues. This year, which would have marked the fifth annual protest, the movement went virtual. Not even a pandemic could stop it.

A Big Step Towards Women’s Empowerment

These coordinated protests have elevated the global consciousness surrounding women’s obstacles to success, both personal and professional. Women desperately want to be empowered—not diminished—in the workplace and in their own lives.

The definition of empowerment is compelling: the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights. As a financial advisor who works with many women, my greatest satisfaction is watching a client go from feeling anxious and confused about her finances to clear and confident about her future. Taking responsibility and control of your money is a big step towards feeling empowered.

Taking Control of Your Financial Future

Recently I met with a young woman in her early 20s who wanted to get her finances on track. She started working full-time a couple of years ago and made enough money to know she needed to get educated and set up a savings plan.

We sat down for an hour and a half and quickly decided the first steps:

1. Increase her student loan payments,
2. Open a Roth account, 
3. Boost her contribution to her 401(k) plan.

After she fully funded her emergency savings account, she planned to begin saving in a taxable account toward future goals, such as buying a home.

A few days later, she sent me an email and told me that she had completed the to-do list we put together before she left my office. This young woman is empowered, and her financial future is assuredly going to be bright.

Financial Empowerment is Available to Everyone

The people marching each January are diverse. For many, it’s a family affair—multi-generational mothers, daughters, and grandmothers channeling determination and commitment, with supportive husbands and male friends in tow. I tell my clients that financial empowerment is attainable at any age, especially with that same commitment and determination to become financially literate, independent, and secure.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

Want to feel more financially empowered?

Download The Happiness Spreadsheet, a fresh, inspiring approach to budgeting that aligns your spending with your value

If you found this information interesting, please share it with a friend!

Simple Truth #3: Contrary to Popular Opinion, You Were NOT Born to Shop

You Were Not Born to Shop

We originally published this article on February 20, 2010, and it remains one of our most popular blog posts to date. In the spirit of ongoing financial wellness, we thought we’d give it a refresh for 2021 as many of us adjust to new habits—including how we shop.

I’m a financial advisor. But I’m also a normal person just like you. I know how difficult it is to be an American and somehow not feel it’s our duty to shop.

Our economic and social systems are based on capitalism. Consequently, economists watch consumer spending like hawks, and no wonder—it fuels about two-thirds of total economic output in the United States. Talk about pressure!

This also puts a lot of pressure on you, the consumer. If no one buys our goods and services, then what happens to our economy?

Advertising Only Fuels Your Shopping Habit

The advertising industry is the perfect agent for promoting consumption. According to the ANA, advertising is linked to the bedrock principles that shaped our nation—free speech, competition, and individual choice—and is a driving force in fueling economic activity.

As such, advertisers have one role: to make us want us to consume. Their mission is to make products and services seem as enticing as possible, so we buy them whether we need them or not. Just watch a few episodes of Mad Men to learn the tricks of the trade.

And it’s almost impossible to escape from the influence of advertising unless you live like a hermit. Watch TV, drive down the freeway, listen to the radio, log on to a website, and you’re bombarded with advertising messages. No wonder we feel like we were born to shop!

Only You Are in Control of Your Shopping Habit

The problem is, economists and advertisers aren’t concerned about your personal bottom line. Just like you, they’re concerned about their jobs, their families, their standard of living, and their ability to retire comfortably.

Therefore, you need to adopt a “me vs. them” mentality when it comes to kicking your shopping habit. In other words, before you open your wallet to buy something, stop and think: Do I want “them” to have my money, or do I want “me” to have my money? The person on the other side of the cash register certainly doesn’t know if you can afford the item you are about to purchase—nor do they care.

Think of shopping as a psychological battleground—that’s how advertisers think of it.  Do you want to be the victor or the vanquished? Remember: you were not born to shop!

Don’t Be the Vanquished When It Comes to Your Personal Finances

Feeling vanquished about your personal finances isn’t a good thing.  It probably means you’re in debt, or you’re anxious about your future and feel stuck. Is all the “stuff” worth it? Probably not.

Excess stuff also clutters your environment. Coupled with your excess debt, this can ruin your credit score and your relationships.

Like anything psychological or emotional, it isn’t easy to change. But there are things you can do to take control of your spending. It’s time to denounce popular opinion, admit you were not born to shop, stop spending more than you earn, and live within your means.

First, Balance Your Budget

Using an excel spreadsheet, list all of your expenses categorized as follows:

  • Fixed and necessary expenses. These expenses are the same every month and/or are necessary to keep you housed, clothed, groomed, healthy, fed, and mobile.
  • Other committed expenses. These may include child-related expenses, pet care, fees to professionals, adult education, gym membership, insurance premiums, and debt payments.
  • Discretionary expenses. Includes vacations, dining out, entertainment, hobbies, electronics, gifts, home improvements, furnishings.
  • Auto-savings. Includes your retirement contributions and other savings.

Next, total the subtotals for each category to come up with your total monthly expenses. Then subtract this amount from your total monthly income. The outcome will either be a positive or a negative number.

If it’s a positive number, congratulations. You are living within your means. If you know you’re saving enough for retirement and other financial goals and have no debt to pay off, then you have some discretion as to how you use your money. However, if the outcome is negative, go back and rework your expenses until it comes out even or positive. Once your cash flow is neutral or positive, you now have a working budget.

Hint: You will have the most flexibility to adjust your discretionary spending, but you can also try and negotiate savings with service providers or increase deductibles on insurance policies to save on premiums. In addition, you should try to eliminate any high-interest credit card debt before adding to your discretionary spending account.  

Some Tips for Staying the Course

  1. Print out a copy of your budget. Post it somewhere that is visible to you regularly, so it stays top-of-mind.
  2. Track your spending. is a free online tool that tracks all of your expenses, income, and savings. You can enter your budget, and Mint will send you an email any time you overspend on a budget item.
  3. Try the envelope system. Place your budgeted amount for discretionary items like clothing and food in an envelope in cash. When the cash is gone, you can’t spend on those items again until the next month.
  4. Leave your credit cards at home. Become more conscious that the money you spend is from a finite source. Try paying cash or using your ATM card whenever possible.
  5. Walk away. If you’re tempted to buy an item that you don’t really need, leave the store, walk around the block, and think about it. Nine times out of ten you won’t buy the item. Remember: It’s “me vs. them.” Who gets your money?
  6. Reward Yourself. Each month that you stay within budget, reward yourself in some small but significant way. For example, indulge in a nice lunch out, get a pedicure, or order a nice glass of wine with a meal.

Maybe You Were Not Born to Shop, But You Still Want To

After completing the budgeting exercise, you may find it’s impossible to balance your cash flow. Even though you realize you were not born to shop, you don’t want to live frugally, either. If this is the case for you, look at the income side instead. Can you ask for a raise at work? Find a higher-paying job?  Freelance?  Start a small business? Rent a room out? Sell belongings to raise cash?

Explore all avenues. Exercise your capitalist gene by thinking about all the ways you can produce goods and services for profit—for yourself!

Feel Happier While Spending Less

If you want to think differently about the relationship between your spending, your values, and your happiness, download The Happiness Spreadsheet. In addition to giving you a more inspiring approach to budgeting, our free eBook includes a number of resources you can use to get your shopping habit and spending under control.

If you found this information interesting, please share it with a friend!

Women and Long-Term Care Insurance: Preparing for Your Future Well-Being

Women and Long-Term Care Insurance

Long-term care insurance is important for a wide variety of individuals to have. But women face a unique set of challenges that often makes it even more important. For starters, women tend to live longer than men after retirement age, which often means women should be financially prepared for more years than the average.

Long-term care insurance can help you become more financially and emotionally prepared for the future. But that’s not the only reason you might consider it. Women are also more likely to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, making it crucial that long-term care insurance is there to fall back on when you need it most. The same is true when your partner falls ill, since women often become caretakers for their husbands later in life.

But the truth is that long-term care insurance is complicated, and it isn’t necessary for everyone. So, let’s talk about who needs and qualifies for it, how it works, and the benefits and downsides.

How to Determine if You Need Long-Term Care Insurance

70% of people turning age 65 will need some type of long-term care services in their lifetime. Long-term care services include assistance with activities of daily living. Activities like bathing, eating, medication management, and dressing are some of the most common. There are many different reasons that someone might need this type of assistance. Often, it’s due to an injury, degenerative health condition, or a cognitive disorder like Alzheimer’s.

When you are working with a professional to determine what types of insurance coverage you need, their first question in terms of long-term care insurance might be: is there someone who will take care of you in the unfortunate circumstance that you may no longer be able to care for yourself? As a result, individuals without spouses or children often seek long-term care insurance earlier in life than others.

Who Qualifies for Long-Term Care Insurance?

This may come as a surprise, but not everyone is eligible for long-term care insurance. There are no age requirements for purchasing long-term care insurance. But getting the timing right is crucial because several pre-existing conditions will render you ineligible. A few of these include:

  • AIDS
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Parkinson’s
  • MS
  • Any dementia or progressive neurological condition
  • A stroke
  • Metastatic cancer

If you’re in good health and eligible, the optimal age range to shop for long-term care insurance is between 57 and 65.  Keep in mind that premiums go up as you get older.

How Does It Work?

The benefits and specifics of your long-term care insurance will vary depending on the policy. Some policies involve direct payments to care providers, while others offer reimbursement to the policyholder. Most policies require that a professional service take place to receive the benefit, regardless of the way it is paid out. This means that individuals can’t receive care from a family member and then request compensation. However, if this family member is part of a home care agency, that is a different story.

Benefits and Downsides

There are several benefits to obtaining long-term care insurance. Typically, these types of care plans are flexible, making it easy to structure them to meet a variety of unique needs. Long-term care can take place in a nursing home, assisted living facility, or in your home, depending on your comfort level and other individual factors.

And having long-term care insurance in place when you need it can help you avoid having your post-retirement budget derailed by exorbitant and unexpected nursing home bills. But there are downsides to consider here, too. Primarily, the health restrictions and cost-prohibitive long-term care policy options.

The best way to determine whether long-term care insurance is right for you is to speak with a professional. Everyone is different, and your needs are different, too. If you’d like to speak with a financial planner about how long-term care insurance may fit into your retirement plan, we’d love to chat.

Download your free guide: What Issues Should I Consider When Purchasing Long-Term Care Insurance?

For more information on women and long-term care insurance, check out our recent Financial Finesse podcast episode:

What Every Woman Needs To Know About Long-Term Care Insurance.

If you found this information interesting, please share it with a friend!

S3 E1: What Every Woman Needs To Know About Long-Term Care Insurance

As You Plan For Retirement, Don’t Forget About Long-Term Care Insurance

As women, we have a number of unique considerations when it comes to planning for a financially secure retirement. One topic that comes up repeatedly with my female clients is long-term care insurance–what is it, who needs it, and is it worth paying for? And the answer is: it depends. 

The truth is, long-term care insurance is a complicated issue. While it may make good sense for some women, there are still many factors to consider before purchasing a policy. To help explain the ins and outs of long-term care insurance and clear up some of the more common misconceptions about it, I invited Liz Eshleman onto the Financial Finesse podcast for a very enlightening discussion. 

Liz is a long-term care planning specialist and founder of Eshleman Insurance Services in Sacramento, California. Her mission is to help individuals and families avoid the devastating financial and emotional consequences of not having a long-term care plan in place.

I’ve partnered with Liz on many long-term care planning situations for my clients and could think of no one better to join me for this discussion. I hope you find this episode as illuminating as I did!

Tweetable Quotes

Liz Eshleman on long-term care insurance coverage:

You don't have to crisis-manage on day one... But people sometimes think, well, if I can't get unlimited (coverage), why would I buy this at all? Which I think is missing the point. Click To Tweet

Episode Highlights

  • [04:00] Liz explains who long-term care insurance is for and why a mobility issue might cause problems for you, even if you’re otherwise healthy.
  • [07:38] We talk about the impact the coronavirus pandemic is having on long-term care and your eligibility to purchase insurance if you’ve tested positive for the virus.
  • [08:58] Liz lists some of the more surprising health issues that could make you ineligible for long-term care insurance.
  • [14:50] We discuss the various types of long-term care insurance products on the market today.
  • [20:12] Liz gives a real-life example of when and how an initial claim is triggered.
  • [26:00] Liz shares some of the other benefits of long-term care insurance, specifically having access to a long-term care manager.
  • [40:38] We wrap up our discussion by talking about the potential drawbacks of long-term care insurance for women and how it plays into your financial plan.

Links Relevant To This Episode

Morningstar: 100 Must-Know Statistics About Long-Term Care (Pandemic Edition)

[Of Independent Means] Women and Long-Term Care Insurance: Preparing For Your Future Well-Being

Free Guide: What Issues Should I Consider When Purchasing Long-Term Care Insurance?

Here’s The Full Episode


Other Ways To Enjoy This Episode

Subscribe on Apple Podcasts

Read the Transcript

Do you love Financial Finesse? Please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts!

Download your free guide: What Issues Should I Consider When Purchasing Long-Term Care Insurance?

If you found this information interesting, please share it with a friend!

S2 E1: Will the Upcoming Presidential Election Impact Your Investments?

Financial Finesse S2E1: Will the Upcoming Presidential Election Impact Your Investments?

Why Staying In The Moment Doesn't Apply To The Stock Market

Today I’m so excited to kick off Season 2 of the Financial Finesse podcast, which I’m calling, “What Keeps You Up At Night?” Many of us are dealing with heightened anxiety these days due to a renewed surge in COVID cases, the uncertainty of the upcoming (and exceedingly contentious) presidential election, and a general feeling of instability in the world. 

In addition, people are nervous about what this election may mean for their investments and financial future–and for good reason. The media takes every opportunity to sensationalize what may or may not happen in November and beyond. That’s why in this episode I encourage listeners to take a long-term view. Stocks tend to rise more often than they fall, and moment-to-moment volatility is simply the price of investing in the stock market–regardless of whether it’s an election year. 

Episode Highlights

Links Relevant To This Episode

For any questions about this episode or your investments, please feel free to get in touch.

Here's The Full Conversation

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Other Ways To Enjoy This Episode

Do you love Financial Finesse? Please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts!

If you found this information interesting, please share it with a friend!

S2 E1 Transcript: Will the Upcoming Presidential Election Impact Your Investments?

Welcome to season two of the Financial Finesse podcast. I’m Cathy Curtis, founder of Curtis Financial Planning, and a CFP®, focusing on the finances of female clients. I’m calling the second season, “What keeps you up at night?” Because let’s face it, there are a lot of things that keep us up at night lately. We’ve got rising COVID cases, an extremely contentious election, and just general uncertainty about what the future holds. Since the presidential election is right around the corner, I get a lot of questions from clients about what I think will happen to the stock market if the Democrats or Republicans prevail. So I thought I would start talking about that, for this first episode of the season.

To give a little perspective, the stock market has not done so badly considering the events of the year. The S&P 500, representing the 500 largest companies in the US, is up almost 8%. Now granted, this is largely due to the large mega cap tech stocks such as Facebook, Google, Apple, and Amazon. But many of us own those stocks in the mutual funds that we hold either in our 401Ks or other accounts. Smaller size US companies, as represented by the Russell 2000 index, are down about 2%. International stocks, as represented by the EAFE index are down about 7%. And emerging market stocks are up almost 2%.

So let’s go back to this question, do markets perform better under a Democratic or Republican administration? Well, yes, presidents do have a lot of power, but they really don’t control the stock market. Maybe to some extent they do because of the policies that are put in place during their administrations. But with all the factors affecting the staggeringly complex markets and the overall economy, presidencies don’t matter as much as they seem to during campaign season such as we are in right now, where you can’t get away from the election news.

The truth is that an argument could be made either way for each candidate. For instance, the consensus thought is that corporate taxes will rise if Biden wins, presumably bad for stocks. He would also most likely tighten federal regulations on auto emissions and the environment. Good news for alternative energy and electric car companies, not so good if you own shares of let’s say Exxon Mobil.

However, Trump’s environmental policies have been favorable to Exxon Mobil. Yet the company stock has been one of the worst performers of the year. If Trump wins, he will probably move further in lightening up the tax and regulatory burdens on corporations, helping stock prices.

On the other hand, Biden’s policies would boost the economy by improving public health, increasing American trade and engaging infrastructure spending that could give the economy a much needed boost and a chance to expand.

The fact is that stocks have risen and fallen under both Democratic and Republican presidents. And more often than not, they rise. Instead of focusing on the short term, which is the election, a much more important lesson from history is simply time in the market, not timing political cycles.

It still holds true that no matter the ups and downs, from 1929 to 2019, the largest US companies have generated annualized returns of about 10%. No doubt the volatility will remain high through the election season, and maybe after if the results are close. In this case, keep in mind a key concept of investing. volatility is just a characteristic of stocks. It doesn’t imply the direction of stocks. Volatility is the price we pay for the higher return stocks provide. And that most of us need to meet our goals. And it’s only temporary.

One common way to reduce anxiety in most areas of life is to stay in the moment. The exception to this I would argue is when thinking about the stock market. It really pays to take the long view and ignore the moment-by-moment activity.

Thank you for listening. And please stay tuned for my next episode of what keeps you up at night, which will be posted two weeks from tomorrow, Tuesday, October 20. And if you have any questions, please be sure and let me know via my email,, or on Twitter, @CathyCurtis, or on my Facebook business page, Women and Money. I’d love to hear from you and what’s keeping you up at night. Bye for now.

If you found this information interesting, please share it with a friend!

Episode 2: The Value of a Good Financial Advisor

My Conversation With Melissa Joy, CFP®

In this episode of Financial Finesse, I have the pleasure of chatting with Melissa Joy of Pearl Planning, an independent, women-owned financial planning firm based in Michigan. Melissa and I met through an advisor peer group and have a lot in common when it comes to our careers and how we manage our financial planning businesses. I thought she’d be the perfect guest to discuss the value of a good financial advisor and what to look for when hiring a financial parter.

Melissa and I discuss a range of topics, from the types of clients we work with to their most common pain points and how we look at each client’s entire financial picture to develop and implement a comprehensive financial plan. We also touch on the role of investments in a client’s financial plan and why neither of us makes it the focal point of our discussions despite our shared interest in the topic. Finally, we discuss the progress the financial advice industry has made in terms of service and technology, but why it still has a long way to go when it comes to encouraging more diversity among professionals joining the field. 

Episode Highlights

Links Relevant To This Episode

Here's The Full Conversation

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Other Ways To Enjoy This Episode

Do you love Financial Finesse? Please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts!

If you found this information interesting, please share it with a friend!

Episode 2 Transcript: The Value of a Good Financial Advisor


Welcome to the Financial Finesse Podcast, where we’ll be discussing tips on how to handle your money and life with skill and style. Your host Cathy Curtis, CFP® has been helping make finance accessible and intriguing for women for almost 20 years. You’ll get savvy, actionable ideas, listening to her conversations with some of the coolest and smartest women on the planet. And now, here’s your host, Cathy Curtis.


All right. Hi, everyone. It’s Cathy Curtis. And this is episode number two of my new podcast Financial Finesse. Yeah, I am thrilled to be having a conversation with Melissa Joy, who is a financial advisor like me. We have a lot of similarities except she’s in Michigan and I’m in California, but other than that, we’re both independent businesses, women-owned firms. We do financial planning, retirement planning, investment management, we do holistic planning. And one of the reasons I wanted to have this conversation is I think there’s a lot of people out there that don’t really know what independent advisors do, and how much help we convey to people with their finances. People know about brokers and big banks and things like that. But there’s, there’s this whole other world of small, independent businesses, whose whole goal is to make sure that their clients leave really successful financial lives. And Melissa and I happen to be two of those people. So, we’re gonna share our experiences and why we’re doing what we’re doing and what kind of services we provide and hopefully you will find it very interesting. But before we start, it is cocktail hour. And it just so happens that Melissa and I are taking a little break from drinking this week. So we’re actually not going to be drinking any alcohol, but we thought we would share our favorite. For me it’s wine. So I’m going to start. And if I was drinking right now, I’d be drinking a Lynmar Estate Chardonnay. Lynmar is winery up in Sebastopol, California. It’s my absolute favorite winery in Sonoma County. They also make a wonderful Pinot Noir. And every Chardonnay they make is great. They’re not open right now. But they are going to be open soon and I can’t wait to go back up and sit on their beautiful patio. So, Melissa, welcome to my podcast. And hi Cathy. Hi. It’s so good to see you. And why don’t you share what you would be drinking right now?


Well, I’m dreaming of wines from California, but I feel like I need to be loyal to the home, the home state, the home field and mention I love IPAs and Bell’s Brewery here in Michigan makes Two Hearted which is just my favorite beer. We had it the keg in our wedding 12 years ago and still have it in the fridge today. So shout out to Michigan IPAs.


Yay. I love a good IPA. Definitely beer really hits the spot more when it’s super hot. And you told me you’re in 78 degrees right now in your office and I’m about to say


the office is warm.


That would be pretty tasty right now. Sounds good to me. Yeah. So also I want to add I am wearing my pearls in honor of Melissa because her firm is Pearl Planning. Am I doing that Pearl Planning right? That’s perfect. Yes.


Tell us about why you named it Pearl Planning.


Well, a couple reasons.


A pearl is something that is a challenge, a piece of sand, a grain that’s an irritation that turns into something beautiful. And don’t we know that our financial lives have those moments to where you need resilience, it’s not always perfect. And, and for me, it’s personal as well. So my grandmother was Vera Pearl and my daughter is named Josephine Pearl. And so there’s that legacy of the past as well as the possibility of the future. And that’s a perfect fit. So our tagline is no grit, no pearl.


I love that so much. I really do. No grit, no Pearl, it’s perfect. I have a Pearl in my life too. My dad worked for Rand McNally maps and you’re a map person. I love maps. Yeah. He worked for Rand McNally for many years, and his secretary was named Pearl. And she used to travel. We didn’t travel as six kids. We were homebound all the time. But his secretary traveled, and she’d bring back exotic stuff from like Japan and places like that. And so we always loved Pearl. So that’s a special name in my life too. Let’s get on with how we’re working with our clients right now. And, um, what kind of clients we work with and things like that. We’re very similar in a lot of ways. We’ve both been 20 years in the financial services business. We’re independent businesses. I, I work with women mainly. And the triggers that clients come to me for are usually they inherited money, and they don’t know what to do with it. And we all know how emotional money is, and they’re worried that they’re, they’re going to blow it. They want to really make sure they plan for their future, and also women who are nearing retirement and want to plan for retirement. Those are the triggers for me and the kind of clients that I work with. What about you?


I think you have a terrific focus on working with women. I find that oftentimes women reach out to me, but oftentimes they’re in heterosexual couples. So it’s a man and woman working together. And more recently, I’ve been starting to work with people who are younger. So more in Gen X and Gen Y or millennial. And I find people are reaching out to me because they say, Gosh, I’m maxing out my 401k. And what’s next? Like, I don’t know where this money that I’m accumulating should go. I also find, I have a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst designation and right now I I’m questioning whether that spike in divorces may be occurring because I’ve been talking to quite a few people who are going through a divorce and then word of mouth. You know, clients will mention me to other clients and it’s certainly I’m so appreciative that they feel confident to share my name in a way that they know I will help their friends. So those are some of the reasons that people reach out but there’s often a pain point like you described and how would you describe inheritance as a pain point? Yeah. Well, there’s so much emotion tied to taking, you know, doing the right thing for money. And it’s a, it’s a huge transition.


Oh, my gosh, I mean, I hear the word. I’m so anxious around this money all the time. But it’s definitely, there’s definitely a lot of mixed emotions around it. And same with heading to retirement. Oh, yeah. People are scared. I mean, you have an income coming in every month and the confusion around how am I going to get paid when I’m retired?


Right, totally. What does that paycheck look like and I can’t believe that we aren’t able to articulate that more easily. I make sure when I’m doing a retirement discussion to not only talk about the actual like which account what dates all that good stuff. Yes. So like some trends in retirement because I don’t think we’re educated enough on the life of a retiree.


I don’t either. And also, knowing that spending changes throughout retirement, you know, I’m sure a lot of it has to do with how energetic and healthy you are.


Yes. Are you younger than status age or older than status age?


Oh, I like that. I haven’t.


Because I mean, like I don’t know, we’re both young at heart. We met each other through kind of an advisor peer group where we probably are topping out at the high end of the age group but I feel like I’m just getting started and sometimes people start to kind of separate themselves into the stay at home a little bit more just you know, because of health or whatever.


But you know what, we have the experience, but we also have the joy and the enthusiasm. So we’ve got the best of all worlds. Right? Well


share with you a little bit. We’re pretty darn passionate about what we do.


Yeah, definitely. And so what are some of the ways that you help somebody through these pain points that they come to you with? Whether it be wanting to know when to retire, or they’re going through a divorce? What’s your process?


So my process is to first listen, so I want to hear what that pain point is. And I want as soon as possible in our discussions for the client to feel comfortable being vulnerable. So I, you can’t just tell somebody, hey, it’s okay to trust me. It has to be based on you know, what they’re hearing from me how I’m listening. I want to make sure that I’m able to listen to them and their needs, and hopefully also I can hear about that anxiety that you’re describing, or they feel comfortable enough articulating that to me, I find that so many people, women, especially, but maybe it’s just because women are able to articulate it. They think they’re not doing well enough. And I just described a lot of the clients that come to me are doing great. Yeah. And they need to hear that from somebody else because they see everybody else seemingly doing well. And you and I both know that behind the scenes, every American household is different and a lot of them are very financially vulnerable, even if they look pretty secure from the outside looking in. So


yeah, I’m trying to hear what they need.


Well, okay, so the listening thing is so big, and you share it a number of times, I think listening to a client more than you talk is so, so important, especially in the early stages of the relationship. And I think that’s, that’s why one complaint that I have heard from my female clients that in the past, if they’ve gone to an advisor, they don’t feel like they’re listened to enough, either. It’s a woman in a couple and the advisor doesn’t necessarily pitch themselves to them. Yeah, yeah, I think that’s changing because I think all of us advisors are so aware that women are involved in the financial decisions in the household and they need to be listened to too. But listening is a skill that not everybody has.


So I think you’ve told me that you kind of that’s your superpower, right? I


did tell you that is my superpower. And I love it. I’m a good listener. So if I interrupt you, I’m sorry.


I try really hard not to interrupt people.


But that’s terrific.


So okay. So you listen, you get all the information you can about the person situation and then what happens.


So then we do a data gathering meeting, and I also use technology to gather information from the client. And then we spend a couple hours in a plan presentation. So I will go over both those pain points that the client brought up, and hopefully answer them. And when I address them, I make sure I really work hard to make sure that I don’t tell them, here’s what you’re going to do. I’m making a conversation. It’s a consultation where they make the ultimate decision. I think there’s huge increase in buy-in. I think there’s huge increase in the likelihood of implementation. And it just feels like more that you’re the quarterback of your financial life. I’m a coach that’s helping you to call the play.


Okay, you know what that reminds me of a therapist relationship where you tell them something, they go, well, what do you think about that? You don’t do


that. Do you? No I mean, I usually know the direction we’re going to go but I want their input and feedback. So my Action List during that time presentation is blank. And I create the Action List after but to take an example in the retirement space, let’s say they’re approaching retirement, they’re ready. They think they’re ready. Well, I’ll look at how much money can we spend what you know, loose ends need be tied up with how would your money be invested? How do you coordinate your financial life with your life goals, and you may not have even explored what life looks like or feels like after you’re retired, so they may need a connection to someone that’s going to help coach them in how to be a successful retiree. And we’ll talk about the statistics in retirement actually, you end up sometimes spending less money in retirement and in successive years, there’s a deflation in spending, not an inflation. Yeah. So I’ll educate them on that and help them understand both you know, this statistical analysis but also the reality of what we’re seeing in terms of retiree behaviors.


Right. You know, another thing I tell clients that I think is really helpful when you’re planning is, okay, you do a plan. It seems like a static event, but it’s really not. It’s a live, ongoing thing. And both of us work with clients on an ongoing basis. I believe you do, right? I have a family there with me year after year after year, we revisit their plan every year, or when an event happens, something big changes in their life. So you don’t just do a plan, a one-time thing and go, okay, this is what it is. Good luck. See you. We work with our clients ongoing to make sure that they stay with the plan. Things happen. There’s always an unexpected event that will happen and we help them pivot and make the plan work. So I really think that’s one of the true many values of an advisor is helping a client stay on course, stick with their plan and when something big changes, help them through it to come up with a solution. And I know that’s probably exactly what you’re doing with your clients as well.


I call that the magic of financial planning because it’s not transactional. Although you can find a financial plan that’s just delivery. Here you go. You’re on your way. And I do think honestly that in many cases, people say they’re financial planners, and they’re using the plan to sell either an investment strategy or a product or to turn it into an assets under management relationship. And that’s not to say that we don’t manage investments, because you and I both do, but to me, the process the repeated once a year, or four in my case, process of revisiting the financial plan, refreshing, updating and upgrading results is a compound return of good financial decisions. And it’s that process that is amazing. It’s so powerful. It’s very difficult to describe, which is why I’m so excited that you thought this would be a good topic for us to


discuss. Yeah.


But it is really important. And you know, one of the things I should have mentioned, we’re not just talking about their pain points. We’re also, I know you do this too Cathy, we’re looking at the entirety of their financial life. And there may be a variety of things that are we see as low hanging fruit that they would have never thought of. So we are using the process of financial planning to uncover other planning opportunities that are important, important for them to be discussing.


Oh, yeah. And think about all the things we need to be educated on as CFPs. Right. It makes my head spin. And I do this for a living. I can’t even imagine how someone who was not educated in this, never had to be educated in it, can learn everything they need to know. I mean, both Melissa and I, today we’re on a webinar about Medicare. And I know people don’t know all the ins and outs of Medicare, and when they need a Medicare website, their eyes cross yet, and you can make mistakes. That’s the thing with a lot of these financial issues, you can make mistakes unless you get the best advice. So we help with a lot of different issues. Let’s talk about the investment piece just a little bit because I do manage investments for my clients, but I look at it as a whole. So it’s a process where you start with the financial plan, you determine what the client needs for return. So how much risk do they need to take in their investments to reach their goals? That’s kind of one of the most important things I try and figure out because unless somebody is really risk tolerant just wants high growth and can handle the volatility, most of my clients I put in an age and timeframe appropriate portfolio so that they can feel good year in year out. And they understand when things get volatile that they’re going to get through it and stay with it and they’re going to reach their goals. And I think that’s also another value add for advisors like us is that we keep our clients in the market through thick and thin even though it is so hard sometimes. I mean, this year is a perfect example of that. I’ve been doing this for 20 years like you I’ve never seen anything like it.


I agree I’ve been doing it. My first day on the job was June of 98. So I got a chance to see the end of the tech bubble. And then right into a bear market. So this is my third bear market if it ends up where we’re at then the shortest, for sure. But March was, and I you know, of course the story is not yet finished. But March was such a crazy month as an advisor. And just between you me and the audience, like financial advisors are not immune to feeling awful and like you’ve been punched in the stomach just like clients. Yes, I think I would, you know, mention that if you’re listening to this podcast and you’re talking to financial planners, you know, you want to be listening to their investment process to make sure that they are not their process. Is it vulnerable to behavioral biases of the planner themself. So I work really hard to kind of set some real defined process so that I don’t kind of bail on it because I know a lot of advisors that are like, well, this is what we do all the time. Except in a way where we bailed on everything and you know, went to cash for half of the portfolio and then spent the next two years trying to get back in. It’s not just clients that do that.


So, it’s so important to have a good process in investments because we’re all human,


totally. And I got my start first being kind of a research analyst on investments only. And then I developed an investment department at a registered investment advisor. So investing was my first love in this business. I loved the research end of the process, and it was fun to develop to build an organizational structure for how to invest. And then I woke up one day and I kind of felt like the world of investing didn’t feel that new anymore or novel and I’m someone who loves, you know, a new challenge, often. Mm hmm. I felt like I climbed that mountain. So I still have that love of investing but I feel like you know, making it something where you don’t need to change just like you said, and, and you’re really hearing from the client. And your goal is to get a portfolio that they can live with in March of 2020, as well as 2019. Two radically different environments.


Yes, it’s almost like


the investment piece should be the least complicated piece of this process, wealth management process we’re talking about. Totally, right. Yes, financial lives are so complicated because things can be unpredictable, and change happens. But an investment process can be set. There’s science around it, and you don’t fiddle with it too much and you’re going to be okay. And totally, it sounds simple. It is but it just takes discipline. It takes discipline in a process and the good financial advisors approach investments in that way. They really do. And I it sounds like we’re both on the same page. I, by the way, we have that in common too. When I was in my teens, I used to track stocks by hand. I loved stocks so much. I thought this is so fascinating. Um, I read Forbes and Fortune, just to figure out why some companies were more successful than others. I just loved it. Now, right now, I don’t do stock picking. I’m not that kind of an advisor, but I still love it. So it sounds like you’ve got that real love of the whole thing.


Yeah, and I, it’s interesting. I think we have a little bit of an advantage there. Because so many financial planners nowadays, especially if they are in a larger firm, may never have made the investment decisions themselves because as firms grow, they have investment departments. They have strategies. And I don’t think that gives us a superpower, like a different return set. But what it does is we can talk. I can get very technical talking about investments. But I don’t need to do that every day. Because for the most part, you know, our financial planning. conversations are, you know, really, they’re about financial planning. They’re about everything else in life. And certainly we’re addressing investments, but it’s not a 90 minute two hour conversation on investing only, right? But when we need to get deep on that investing, when you need a tax aware strategy, because you’re high net worth and you have taxable assets, when it’s time to rebalance, or when you need someone that you can have confidence in to help you say don’t sell your entire account in March of 2020. Then it helps to have someone that’s kind of, you know, made big investment decisions in the past.


You know, you brought up another really good topic, and that is tax planning. Neither of us are CPAs or accountants, and we do not do taxes. However, as part of the CFP curriculum, we need to know about tax and tax is so important. It’s almost like it’s the well, I think having enough insurance is kind of the basis of a good financial plan to protect yourself from risk. But I also think taxes are key and people care so much about taxes, they don’t want to pay more taxes, and they have to, and so good advisors know about tax. And the truth is most people who prepare taxes, don’t do the pre planning that you need to do before the end of the year to put into place tax saving strategies. They do the taxes but then it’s too late. You really need to do tax planning in probably October or November. And so I always have a special tax planning meeting where I look and see what techniques could they use whether it’s more charitable giving, Donor Advised funds, Roth conversions, tax loss harvesting, I know some of these terms are getting a little technical, but that’s another value that independent advisor can add is to, it’s almost like it’s an adjunct to your taxes, your tax professional, they can help you with that as well.


I so agree, so there’s so many things you just said where I’m just like, absolutely. So first, because most people just think that their tax preparer you know, it’s prepare the taxes, get it done one time a year, it’s after the year’s over so the calendar year deadline matters and so many of your tax decisions, then it’s a process for tax planning is not a part of the conversation and it costs more to do tax planning, frankly. In many cases, but and I’m seeing all the time that there are, especially if you were really more investment focused as a financial professional versus a holistic financial planner or comprehensive financial planner, then there are things that are occurring in taxable accounts where I just I see money just leaving the accounts or leaving, you know, the network statement. So, you know, some ideas that I always try to mention are, what is your strategy for cost basis reporting? Like, how have you selected that average cost? Is it minimum tax? Is it first in first out, so that’s a choice. Mm hmm. And oftentimes, I find that it’s not the most tax aware choice. Also, if you are managing, you know, if you have 10 accounts are they each managed with their own strategy or if you look at them all together, I call that household. Then you could be more tax aware by owning the assets that have a higher tax cost, maybe in tax deferred or tax-exempt account, making decisions for where you access your money before you’re required to take money out of your retirement plans. Again, that’s just location. Right? Yeah. So important. There’s so many things that I know that you and I would just do, as part of our process that if you’re just getting investment advice versus financial planning, even if you think you have a financial planner, in some cases, then that may be missing.


Yes, exactly. You know, a few things both of us have brought up is technology. Okay. I think for people to understand how advisors like us use technology is so important. Because someone might think, oh, well, you’re a small firm. Do you have the resources that a bigger firm has to help us. And the world of financial technology is so incredible, that literally we can do anything that a bigger firm can do. And it gets better and better and better. Tax planning software, financial planning software, investment management software, really the sky’s the limit on it. I know my budget for technology is quite large. And I want to keep it that way. Because when I find a tool that is useful to me and makes it easier to analyze a situation, I jumped on it. And I know you you’re a little bit of a geek, so you probably are exactly the same way. Right?


Yes, I am. I you know, what I find in your very large enterprises is there’s a big-money contract that gives software solutions across the board and as an independent firm owner, I’m allowed to look around and pick, oftentimes more modern technology. So like my financial planning software isn’t just like put your numbers in and the plan pops out, because so much of the plan is our conversation. I have an educational component that is more of a presentation. And then I have the analysis side which I use the software for. But it’s a newer software that didn’t exist five years ago. And it’s fantastic. And I like to, to evaluate, you know, what is the best user experience for my clients with the software that I use for myself, as well as what are the analytical capabilities. It’s really amazing what the FinTech world, that’s what we call it, is doing and it’s funny, I moved into my new offices when I opened my company in 2018. And across the hall from me, was a woman who had a FinTech startup. In our little town in Michigan. She creates financial literacy apps for banks. And there’s just fascinating things going on.


I’m so grateful that I can be an advisor right now because there’s so many wonderful tools for us to use. And I’m, I’m similar to you I find the technology is what I use to really understand my client’s situation on an analytical level, so that then I can talk to them about all the strategies that will benefit them. So the technology is really for me, um, a way of interfacing with the client. It’s as much as they want. I find most of my clients want conversation. Yes, they want to look at the numbers and I have the numbers all ready. Another trend that I really noticed, I don’t know about you, is I use hardly any paper anymore. I mean, paperless office for what’s been a long time. When I started, I read, um, Joel Bruckenstein’s book about the paperless office. I don’t know. Do you remember that?


I don’t remember the book, but I know him.


Yeah, it was a game changer. For me. It was such a game changer. I’m so grateful to him. Anyway, so I’m paperless. And I find more and more, my clients don’t want paper. So I usually do an interactive meeting with a big computer screen, showing them the data I need them to see. And I’ll say, now I can print out this view, none of them want to print it out. And that’s so gratifying to me because it means that the conversation was so useful to them. They take notes, we’ve got you know, follow up things to do and all that and I follow up with a to do list, but they don’t need a big stack of paper so that they feel comfortable with our relationship and what we’re talking about. My time.


Yeah, tying things together. First of all, I was just thinking about finding what we were the modernization of financial planning software. And just all of the resources we have technology wise, that used to be so much work, like when I first started in the business, and I was fortunate to be kind of trained by some pioneers in financial planning that had started in the early 80s. And they would be crunching numbers and entering the investments into let’s say, Morningstar. Yeah, and it would be hours upon hours. And then, in addition, the, you know, kind of the value of the financial plan, I feel like was by the weight of the number of pages that you printed out. And it was like a book. Yeah, and it was a lot of like, I don’t know, it was just dry language, where I use a lot of visuals and technology is a communication tool as well as an analytical tool and I agree with you. Yeah, I, in my office, we have a rinky dink printer that we almost never use. Same goes for mail, you know, everything is, other than my 94-year-old client, everybody else is fully good with email. Right. And, and, you know, I feel like even though the plans weigh less, the value has just skyrocketed of a financial planner. You can get that old school, you know, Excel technology printout from, you know, any little website. But there’s wisdom that you’re getting with financial planning with our analytical capabilities and our complex strategies that we can we can discuss with clients nowadays.


Yes, I so agree with you. So I’m going to circle back just to the beginning, and we’re both going to talk about why we became financial advisors. So why don’t you start with what motivated you to do this work?


Well, I say that completely, I’m a financial planner because of serendipity. So, you know, when I was growing up, I wanted to be an attorney. And I majored in political science. And frankly, like, I looked at the state of the world, and I was like, just not inspired in learning more about politics or political systems is, frankly, a little bit depressing. And I just stumbled into an office job and a financial planner’s office, my answer to a want ad, so they still had those. There were newspapers back then, that you bought that were physical papers and I circled want ads. Yeah, I, my dad was a mortgage banker and executive. And so I had experience in offices. I knew I was good with numbers. I liked research. I thought it could, you know, pay the bills for a while before and then I’ll figure out what I want to do when I grow up. And so I kind of had a job for a while, not a career, you know, I didn’t, I didn’t go to that office to say, hey, you just found your next financial planner. And thinking of filing, I was like, I’m the person who can file things I, I’ll do everything you don’t want to do because it was a two-person office. So I got to learn a lot of stuff. And I was happy to learn it. And eventually, I went to a larger firm that had an investment research department, or well they basically had one of their partners was doing investment research, and they wanted him to be focusing his time with clients. And so they needed to reassign that research job. And they thought I had some capabilities and was coachable or teachable. And so I got that investment research job in addition to my administrative assistant job, so I’m kind of a mailroom to C suite kind of story in a small firm.


This is how many people got jobs and worked their way up in the past, isn’t it?


Totally I mean, we need a, you know, we don’t have an ER kind of show to tell you how cool our jobs are. So we really need, you know, one of these new Netflix shows to be all about being a financial planner in a


way that can we go on it, we got to be on it.


Really? Yeah, it’ll be the next like, you know, Trading Places or you know, Home Improvement show. It’s a money makeover, right? So I didn’t even know my first day on the job. I didn’t know anything about investing. But it’s a really wonderful, extraordinary career. And the more responsibility I got, the more I loved things. And so I you know, got licenses and training and I always worked in a comprehensive financial planning firm. So there was definitely when there were possibilities that I could become a partner. Then I knew even though I was still doing the investment side of things, only that I needed that CFP in order to reflect the values of the company. And I’ll tell you the, the education component to me was less real world than I hope it will be in the future. And I think they’ve changed some things with case studies and things like that, but it was pretty clinical. But I feel like when you get through the Certified Financial Planner process, which I did mid-career,




something it just changed my perspective. And I knew quite a bit before but it just gave me such a more robust knowledge of how to approach talking about money with people.


Yeah, you know, I’m just wanting for our listeners, I want to explain a couple of terms. So we keep talking about comprehensive financial planning, and then yes, CFP. So when you’re a certified financial planner, CFP, you get to know, a lot of different things you need to know about investments and employee benefits and insurance and estate planning. That’s what comprehensive mean. So it means you’re looking at the whole person in all aspects of their financial life. And both Melissa and I are trained in that. And that’s what we love to do. And that’s what we mean about it being comprehensive. Like, it’s the whole thing.


Your whole world. Right and I think another difference perhaps, but I think we may share this. For me, the goal is not for you to have the most money at the end of your life. The goal is for you to have the most fulfilling life, the life that you wanted to lead, and to have your money be a resource for that. So it’s different than the goal. Certainly we want your account to grow. But we also want to expand your boundaries and if you have a dream, we want to help you make it happen if we can,


Right. Definitely. And that’s where the listening comes in, what do they really want? So we just have a few more minutes. I’m just going to quickly say how I got.


Yeah, I want to hear your story tell me.


Um, I was in another career for a good long time. And I was selling product. And I didn’t feel like I was really helping anyone. I was making money for a corporation. I wasn’t doing anything that was people to people. And I really wanted that and then combined with my love of stocks, investing personal finance. I decided to do this career and I found out that you can do it independently. So I started right off the bat on my own, which, when I look back, it was crazy. But my whole goal was to not have another bad boss, which I had many of in the corporate world. And I wanted to be independent and it was a struggle. It took several years to get it going. I’m so glad I stuck with it. And I just love what I do. I love this career so much. And I know we both totally share that love of helping people and feeling challenged every day and feeling good about what we do. I love it.


It’s an amazing career. It’s a helping profession. And you need to be in the right situation for that.


Yes. And we both share this too. We both want more women in this profession. What’s the gap right now on how many financial advisors are women. I’m talking about in the independent? Is it like 15%?


That’s the number I always hear, and I will always devote time to encouraging more women to join our profession. I think our voice makes the whole profession more prepared to work with the women investors. And of course, in many cases, women do reach out to other women and we need more of them. And if we can get, but we also are educating our peers, our male peers, about how to think on behalf of both of their clients that they’re working with a couple who’s a man or a woman?


Yes, absolutely.


And we, you know, same goes in this month with the need for more racial diversity in our profession, which is even more staggeringly low than the female numbers.


Oh, it’s so low, like 3% or something like that. Yeah, I am so encouraged by the activities of the last month in that area. And I know I’m going to do all I can to highlight other advisors, black advisors and other types, you know, and, and I know you are too. We’re both committed to doing that. And, yeah,


I’ve worked on some


volunteer councils for women advisors. And, you know, as you make a commitment to being active and changing the ratio, as we’re both discussing, then, you know, you can’t just pick, you know, one group of people and it is all about the we need to see a profession that we would be proud to encourage people to join. And there are some challenges when you’re such a minority, whether you’re female or people of color and black people, and we also need, it’s going to make our profession better it’s going to make working in our profession better for us and, and everyone, and it’s also going to have, I think, a huge impact on the wealth gap that exists in our country. Both for women as well as for black and people of color. Yes. And people of color. I just think from the ground up that financial advice access is one of the critical components.


Yes, I so agree. Thank you for bringing that up such an important issue. So it’s time to close but I wanted us both to share ways we could be contacted and I know you have a podcast as well. So why don’t you share your website info, how you can be contacted, all those things.


Perfect, then my website is so pearl we already discussed and then just and I have a blog on the website that I frequently update so you can hear you know, new information about my webinar replays on the blog as well. And then our new podcasts which the company started, me and Melissa Fradenburg, my colleague, is called 52 Pearls: Weekly Money Wisdom. And we also do on social media, you could follow our page on Facebook Pearl Planning, as well as I’m on LinkedIn. And we do a weekly financial tip of just a bite sized piece of information that people could implement into their lives. So the podcast was a takeoff on that series, which we started in 2018.


Fantastic, I love it that you have a podcast we have to share podcast tips.


Well, I have a feeling you’ll be a guest on the podcast sometime soon.


If you would be willing,


Great, I’d love to. So I also write, I have a blog Of Independent Means. This is my new podcast, which I don’t think it’s on Apple iTunes yet because it’s new. But anyway, I don’t even know where it can be found to tell you the truth. But I hope you enjoy this discussion. I totally enjoyed it. Melissa, thank you so much for joining me. And I know we’re gonna collaborate on a lot of things in the future.


Time flies whenever we chat so


we got to keep it up. Definitely. Okay, well, you have a good night. I know it’s later for you than me. I’m gonna go enjoy some dinner. Good. Oh, and I’ll share the recording with you.


Awesome. Thank you so much, Cathy.


Bye. Bye.

If you found this information interesting, please share it with a friend!
Curtis Financial Planning