DIVORCE ETC… SEASON 3, EPISODE 21
FULL TRANSCRIPT exEXPERTS Interview with Rhonda Noordyk
Jessica: Are you having concerns about money? Struggling with a strategy for financial success through your divorce? Are you wondering the best formula for successful negotiations? Well, that’s what we’re talking about in today’s episode of the Divorce etc… podcast. We’re the exEXPERTS, Jessica and T.H. We focus on helping you navigate your divorce and successfully move on with your life. Please follow us on all social media at exEXPERTS, and check out www.exexperts.com for tons of free divorce related resources. Let’s bring in today’s guest.
T.H.: Hey everybody, it’s T.H. Jessica and I are thrilled to have Rhonda. I’m not even going to attempt at your last name. Do you want to chime in and say it?
T.H.: Okay, Rhonda Noordyk. She’s a CDFA, she’s in charge/founder of Women’s Financial Wellness Center. She’s a dynamo. I mean, we have a lot of great exEXPERTS, and Rhonda and I have spoken briefly before this interview, and she has so much knowledge to share with all of you. We’re really excited to have you on the Divorce etc… podcast today.
Rhonda: Hey, thanks so much for having me. I am looking forward to our conversation today.
Jessica: Thanks for being here. I mean, look, let’s just be honest and dive right in, money is generally the number one concern and fear for people going through divorce. What’s the most common concern, specifically that you’re hearing from people when they’re about to start the divorce process, or if they come to you when they’re already started?
Rhonda: Yeah, you know what, that’s a great question. I think there are probably lots of layers to this. But I think at the end of the day, people want to know, am I going to be okay? It sounds like a simple question, right? I think a lot of times, it’s easy for people that are in this space all the time, whether it is attorneys, financial folks, whatever, to say, “Oh, you’re going to be just fine.” But I always say we have to define what fine is. Because if we have women in particular, that haven’t handled the finances, they don’t have experience with money, they feel like they’ve been out of the loop for years, perhaps decades, they don’t actually know what that means. I have always said from the day that I started my company, if women don’t know what money means for them, it doesn’t matter how many zeros are in the bank account. They’re going to have anxiety. And so I have sat across large tables in multimillion dollar homes, I’ve sat with women that are navigating through just paying the bills day to day, and it doesn’t matter, the anxiety is there. It’s not remedied just because there’s more money in the bank, or less money in the bank. And so my job is to help educate and empower women to navigate through it and know what it means for them. What does it mean when somebody says, “Yeah, you’re going to be fine”? Let’s define what that is.
Jessica: I love that you’re saying that because it really is such a subjective thing. Because you’re right, it’s kind of doesn’t matter how much money you have. If you haven’t been the one managing it, and you don’t understand all of the nuances and the ins and outs and what do you have in savings or retirement that you can’t touch anyway, versus what do you have liquid that you can be using now for your bills, that is a really scary thing. There can be people that are deemed very well off but who are house poor and just pinching pennies to make things work. It is really important for everyone to really think in your own head, what do you just define for yourself as fine?
Rhonda: Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. I think people, when they have to be, they’re really resourceful. I think at the end of the day, we can look at the situation and say, “Okay, where can you make changes? What updates can you be making?” But I think at the end of the day, for me, it comes down to confidence, which I have said is really kind of the formula for that is having the knowledge, having the experience, and having those two things work together. Because if we have the knowledge about the finances without the experience, it’s theory; and if we have the experience without the knowledge, it’s trial and error. Nobody wants to be doing that, like, “Yeah, I’m going to just see if this works.” We don’t have time for that.
Jessica: Especially not when you’re going through divorce.
Rhonda: No, totally.
T.H.: That’s what I’m saying. I totally agree. And as you’re even saying, it’s not even financially related, Jessica and I talk about this all the time: we’ve lived it, we are ahead of you no matter what. We should talk about this so we’ll make you feel better. You’re not alone. We’re all about education. That’s how you empower people. Through support and education leads to empowerment. Let’s talk now about what is the best strategy for being financially assertive.
Rhonda: Oh my goodness. So the communication aspect, this is something that I’m super passionate about. And so ultimately, the assertive conversation is super important. We have to be very clear from the beginning, when we’re working with our team, when we’re talking with our spouse, and even sometimes when we’re talking to ourselves, giving ourselves permission to say, “Hey, I feel __” Fill in the blank. “I feel frustrated with the situation. I feel overwhelmed.” And on the flip side, “Hey, I feel really encouraged,” or “I feel very respected when __” Fill in the blank. I think at the end of the day, everybody that’s going through divorce, we know that it’s super emotional. But I have said for my clients “Listen, in order for us to really show up and stand in our power, we need to learn how to communicate assertively around money.” It’s okay to say, “I’m overwhelmed.” I remember there was a time I was working with one of my CPAs and it was just an absolute disaster. I’m not working with them anymore. But I remember having a conversation, I was like, “I’m feeling really overwhelmed. I need to take a break. I need to process this information, and I will call you back. When’s a good time?”
Jessica: I just want to clarify for people listening, when you’re talking about being financially assertive and “I feel ___ when this happens,” or whatever, are we talking about the conversations with your spouse soon-to-be ex? Are we talking about the conversations with the professionals that we’re bringing in to help us understand this? All of the above?
Rhonda: Yes, all of the above. All of the above. Because I think there’s a lot of frustration that people have around working with their attorneys, right? We’ll start with that one. There’s certainly frustration. “Hey, Rhonda, their paperwork says they’re going to call me back in 24 hours or respond to email, and I’m not hearing back.” Great, well, let’s circle back and say, “Hey, you know what? I really feel respected when you call me back. Your paperwork says every 24 hours, is there something I missed? Or can we clarify that?” or whatever. And so certainly it’s valuable. Then in conversations with their spouse, though, that’s not always going to work.
Jessica: It’s challenging once you’ve initiated the divorce process for sure.
Rhonda: That’s right. That’s right.
T.H.: And for many, well, for us, communication was a problem. It wasn’t going to be remedied during negotiations. And it wasn’t going to be remedied over money. If that’s a reason why you landed where you are in terms of your relationship with your spouse, then that’s why you use lawyers. But that’s why you have to trust your lawyer. That’s why you have to be comfortable telling your lawyer “I don’t understand this.” We just did a show, I don’t remember if it was last week or whatever, but I was saying that I didn’t learn anything from my professionals, and I had a whole frickin staff, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth. And I learned nothing. If anything, and you hired any experts, ask the questions, because then it’s up to you to take charge and move forward when they’re gone and your divorce is settled. So really being comfortable with your experts is, I think, critical.
Jessica: It is, 100%. If you haven’t, if you’re in the thinking about it process, and even may be in the very, very early stages of having discussed it, this is the time to have frank and clear open conversations with your soon-to-be ex about making sure you have access to whatever there is, understanding what there is, having passwords. T.H. and I are big proponents of financial literacy for women. It’s very unfortunate that the stereotype is true that women really just don’t have that background and that knowledge, particularly women who have been out of the workforce, and have been staying at home taking care of the kids. They just aren’t managing that part of the household for the most part. I agree with you, using your voice and learning to become assertive, whether it’s with your financial professionals, your ex, your lawyer, whoever is a skill that you’re going to need throughout your divorce and beyond.
T.H.: And it feels so good when you start flexing those muscles. You’re like, “Oh my god, I did it. And I got an answer. It didn’t make me feel stupid, and I don’t feel stupid. And I don’t feel intimidated,” because the first time around, you might. I would literally write it down and just read it off the paper, and I couldn’t look up, but at least I got the words out. Then you can look up, and then you don’t need your piece of paper, and then it goes on and on and on from there. We’re just going to pause for a quick moment here. Because we know it’s hard to get honest and reliable information about your divorce, so we’ve done the work for you. Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to get exEXPERTS in your inbox. Join our events and our private sessions where you can ask us and top experts all of your questions. You can move forward and thrive. You can get all of this information at www.exexperts.com.
Jessica: Okay, so, Rhonda, you told us one of the biggest things is figuring out what the best strategy is for being financially assertive. How does someone even begin if that’s not where they’ve been coming from?
Rhonda: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, certainly it’s challenging, right? I always say kind of like, where do you start? I mean, for the people that are in that contemplation stage, that’s probably one of the biggest questions, right? “Hey, where do I start? What do I do?” There’s a few practical things related to the financials in particular that people can do. The first thing I will say is that women make really good private investigators when they have to be. I just picture like, I’ve got this image that I use for one of my programs where this woman has got sunglasses on, this big camera, she’s hanging out the window, and I thought, oh, yes, yes, yes. And so we just have to be more aware right of our surroundings and almost have an attitude of curiosity like, “Huh, isn’t that interesting? Look, what I just found in the mail. Huh, isn’t that interesting? Look at this statement.” But there’s some practical things like, again, just being aware, gathering financial information as you can. If the computer happens to be open and you happen to see information, then that would be okay too. People can also sign up for an email to be able to see through the US Postal Service if they have email coming in. It’s called informed delivery, and it’s free. And so for people that tend to go to the mailbox and take stuff out and you want to know if there were statements that came in that happened to bypass the kitchen counter…
Jessica: Just to clarify this, because I used to have this, it doesn’t tell you when emails come in, but what it is, is basically an email that you get that has images of the front of all your envelopes
T.H.: Of your mail.
Jessica: —right, that are being delivered to you. You’ll know, theoretically, if something was sent from the bank, or from your mortgage company, or from wherever. You’ll know what mail came in.
T.H.: And to whom, right?
Jessica: Correct, who it was addressed to.
T.H.: I mean I knew about that because I was moving and stuff, but what a great use of that.
Jessica: I did it when I was living in a temporary apartment because I wanted to be sure are they sending stuff to my old address? Are they sending stuff to the new address? Or are they actually following along with the temporary address that I gave? It was really good that I got it because sometimes stuff was showing up different places. But it is kind of genius. Rhonda, you’re the first person that’s ever brought that up as a part of a strategy for this. We’re going to have to start like shouting this from the rooftops because it’s a great detective style or way of being able to keep track of what’s being sent. Love it.
Rhonda: It’s huge. I had a client who actually, again, sometimes you don’t know what stuff’s coming in, right? You’re like, “Huh, interesting.” And so she started to watch for—they were getting some statements from the credit union that were missing in the pile. Well, she finally saw one that came in, and she was like, “Huh, I’ve seen a couple of these now via the email.” And so she opened it and it was an account that had a $5 balance. And so I called on my friends who work for a US bank, and I was like, “Hey, so what’s the scoop with this?” She goes, “Oh, a lot of times when people are taking on a loan with the credit unions, you have to keep a $5 balance in the account.”
Jessica: So she had a loan that she didn’t even know about?
Rhonda: That’s right.
Rhonda: And I was like, “Oh, this is so interesting.” There’s all these little things that people can be doing under the radar before they officially decide if they’re going to file or whatever, just to start getting stuff in order. The other thing is, again, around the expenses and just trying to get a good handle on what they’re spending and stuff like that. But yeah, it’s interesting. The other little tip is, especially since it’s tax time, that is if people have not signed their tax returns in several years, like, “Oh, yeah, I know our taxes get done. But Rhonda, I haven’t even seen them.” “You haven’t seen them?” No, because of course, everything’s done electronically. People can go directly to the IRS and so they can get the transcripts requested. They don’t have to get permission from the other party. They can just directly request them. It’s been fascinating, like I had one of the women do that, and that actually got the information. It was like, “Rhonda, I’ve been living on rice and beans, I feel like we have no money, and my husband makes, I mean, ridiculous amount of money compared to what he’s leading on that he’s making.” This is super fascinating.
Jessica: That is super fascinating. So how do you then help people, say—
T.H.: Wait, I have a question.
Jessica: Go ahead.
T.H.: Sorry. What do you do with that information? So now I’ve got all this information. I’ve been a sneaky detective. I got the stuff coming in the mail. I found out about the IRS. Okay, Rhonda, what do I do with it now that I hold all of this? Who do I tell? And who do I not tell about this?
Rhonda: So you don’t tell your soon-to-be ex spouse, let’s start there.
T.H.: I would say don’t tell family too, right?
Rhonda: Right, like people want to go though, especially for the women who are wired as collaborators, they feel like that’s going to help this connection, help open communication. They really want to. It’s not helpful. I would say, to be honest, you don’t really tell anybody initially. You want to keep that information close to the vest until you decide that you’re going to file. Then usually what I suggest is you go through that usual discovery disclosure process and we wait to see what they tell us. Then they’re like, “Oh, and by the way, what about this, and what about this, and what about this?” I always say nothing initially, right? We don’t do anything with it, except we keep it in a safe place, close to the vest, and we don’t tell anybody until we find that it’s time to do it. There have even been times where we’ll work with private investigators and they’ll do asset searches. One of the things that we’ll do, we’ll just hang on to that information. We don’t tell the attorneys. We don’t tell anybody until we feel like it’s time to reveal that card.
T.H.: So that’s hard. That’s hard to do.
Jessica: Yeah, but it segues into what you were going to talk about with regards to how to have a successful negotiation. I mean, having a little ammunition so to speak, on your side is definitely going to help where you are in the negotiation.
Rhonda: Yeah, it’s really huge. Again, it’s all part of the strategy. That’s probably one of the hardest things for women is to not tell that they have the information because again, they want to be transparent, they want to get along, they want it to be amicable—
Jessica: Or they want to confront them and say, “I know you’ve been hiding or lying about this.”
Rhonda: That too.
T.H.: I wasn’t even going to say that. I was going to say you want someone to cheer for you and be like “Oh, my God, I’m so happy for you.” So everybody out there, just know we’re cheering you on quietly in your head.
Rhonda: Yes, that’s right. That’s right.
T.H.: And you’ve got all this stuff. Just listen to this again. Yay for you, you did a great job.
Rhonda: Yes, totally, totally. I mean, they can tell me, but other than that.
Jessica: What would you say is the biggest thing that gets in the way for people when they’re talking to you and they are going through this whole process? What’s the biggest obstacle?
Rhonda: You know what’s interesting is it’s usually ourselves. We get in our own way, second guess ourselves. We don’t lean into our intuition. We let the negative self talk be playing, because that’s what we’ve heard for the last decade, two decades, whatever. I think the other part too, is sometimes we also, that being said, listen to outside people too much. I think you could be having 10 different people tell you 10 different things. It’s just gets overwhelming. “My friend said this. My parents said this. My whatever said…” And it’s just like, no, you know what? You we have to get to the point where we can solely stand on—and one of the things I help my clients with too is how do you weigh out the options? I mean, sometimes there’s multiple ways that you could go down a path. There’s not always just one way, right? Sometimes there’s three different ways. And so I’ll teach my clients, okay, how do we evaluate that? How do we look at these decisions and critically look at what information do I have; what information do I still need; what’s my deadline for making the decision; how am I feeling about this, so we can kind of walk through this making these decisions. But I think we I think for the most part, at least from what I see with women, they get in their own way.
Jessica: Yeah, I mean, we do for sure. We are famous over thinkers and all of that. I do just want to say one thing again for the audience out there, because we’re talking about all the information you need, the context isn’t so much like a gotcha against your ex. And so I just want to be clear, like Rhonda, as a certified divorce financial analyst will help you look over all of your finances and figure out what your budget is going to be and what you can be spending on things and how to make your own financial system work. She’s not a financial investigator, but she can give you tips and advice on making sure that you can find the information you need in order to do the job you need to do with her, which is as she said in the very beginning, making sure that you feel okay with the money that’s coming in, and the money that’s going out, and whatever your expenses are: your bills, your kids, your mortgage, your rent, your car, whatever.
T.H.: Which is all part of being empowered, just educating yourself. Like I said at the beginning, I didn’t learn anything during my divorce. This is a time to learn. So now you’re learning how to speak to a financial advisor, you’re understanding what all of the technical terms are around money that seem scary and overwhelming, and you realize that it’s not. It’s literally just another account where you put money, but understanding what each is. So educate yourself along the way. You’re being an investigator, but you’re also empowering yourself, because now you know better.
Jessica: Rhonda, do you find, I mean, it’s really a yes or no question, but do you find that once the task of having to sit down with you or a financial adviser and do the real itemized budget, it’s a very scary task to do because it forces you to really look at everything? I find that that’s the time that you’re like, “I don’t want to look at it because I’m afraid the numbers aren’t going to add up. I’m afraid that in the end, the numbers are going to look really bad.” Do you find that once you’ve gone through that very tedious, laborious exercise, which, by the way, for everyone out there, it’s an essential thing to do. You have to do it. There literally is no getting around it. But once people have done it, do you find they’re more often like, “Oh, okay, that’s not so bad.”? Or are they like, “Wow, I really have big changes to make in order to keep food on the table.”?
Rhonda: Well, I would actually say both. But it kind of depends. I mean, I think at the end of the day, you’re right, the budget is essential. It’s part of my process that I take people through. It’s one of the very first things that we do, because all of the other financial related questions hinge on that. When we get into negotiations, while a lot of times the attorneys don’t necessarily care as much about the budget, I care about it, and I’m able to help them. I’ve hopefully made it a little less scary and a little bit less laborious in meeting with them, because we can go through that process. But one of the things I will say to that is it is challenging in a sense that they see the bottom line number, and most of the time, women are the ones who are like, “I’ll cut everything out.” And I’m like, “No, no, no, we need to get a realistic look. You can put in money for vacation, and you can put in money for entertainment, and if you want to get your hair done, go for it.” I don’t want them to feel like I’ve got slash all of these expenses, because I can promise you, their partner’s not doing that. They’re like, “Sweet, I’m just going to buy whatever I want over here.” They’re not slash-cutting coupons and eating ramen noodles. I don’t want the women to have to do that either. And so we just take a realistic look. I tell them, which is not probably common knowledge or common commentary, I guess you could say, and that is it’s okay if when you go through the budget the first time, you’re in the red. Because we need to identify the gap of what needs to be coming in. The follow up conversation to that is what do we need to have coming in for support, child support, alimony? How can we negotiate to move the needle? What do you need to do part time? Do you need to get a side hustle? What does this look like from all the income sources? Do you need to ask for a raise? All of those things come into the conversation. I say, “Great, we’re in the red, perfect. All right, now we have a baseline of what we need to be looking at.” I think it’s helped women feel less afraid of that. Actually, they usually are like, “I know I’ve been needing to do this for a while, and I’m just grateful that I can do it.” That’s kind of my take on that.
T.H.: It’s really being accountable. I talk about looking at your credit card, like getting on the scale, nobody wants to do it. Nobody wants to see it. I actually have streamlined my credit cards now so I only use the one that gives me miles. It always used to be Amex because then I’d be forced to pay in full, except I pay them all in full. I was like, I’m getting nothing from Amex, and I’m paying a fee. So now I’m just going over here except—so I looked at my Amex last whatever it was, I’m like, “Oh my God, it’s only a few hundred dollars. That’s fantastic.” My other one’s obviously a little higher because it’s not on the Amex—
Jessica: I was just going to say, then you look at the other one and you’re like, “Oh my God, it’s killing me.”
T.H.: But at least I know, because when I spread it out over—so all I’m saying is it’s hard to look at the stuff. It’s hard to look at the facts. It’s hard to keep track. It’s like food also, like “How did I not lose weight?” “I don’t know… how many snacks did you eat?” “Oh, I didn’t have anything.” Well, if you write it down, you probably had a lot. So just being accountable; it’s okay, we’re not perfect. I’m never giving up my hair color.
Jessica: I’m never giving up my manicures.
T.H.: Right. I know people feel that way about laser. They could be broke and in the red forever, but they find money for laser.
Jessica: Oh, I know people who are broke and in the red but find money for botox and find money—I mean, listen, it’s all about how you prioritize things at the right day, for sure.
T.H.: And just being aware. Like, I know that I’m still going to go spend money to have my hair colored. This is not a podcast, by the way. We’ve done it, how to how to budget if you’re broke or financially strapped. This applies to everybody. These are our own things that we’re not giving up, and we will figure out a way to pay for it. But we’re not trying to seem privileged because we’re worried about not giving up our nails or our hair. I just have to put that out there from a past podcast. But just knowing what you’re spending, and knowing what’s coming in, and knowing how to grow your money are the most basic and most important things in your life, because you want a roof over your head, and you want to eat food, and you want to be able to live your life to a certain level that works for you. So Rhonda, thank you so much.
Jessica: Yeah, it’s been super helpful. I mean, this is information everybody needs. People want to hear it, but they kind of don’t want to hear it. So we really appreciate you taking the time. There’s definitely follow up conversation to be had. But if you’ve enjoyed this episode of the Divorce etc… podcast with the exEXPERTS today, then please help us out. Because when you subscribe, rate, and review, it helps us get the word out so we can support more people like you going through divorce and beyond. Check out the show notes for more info on Rhonda and her company, Women’s Financial Wellness Center. And of course share with anyone you know who can benefit from listening. Thanks again Rhonda.
Rhonda: Hey, thanks for having me.
Jessica: Have a great day.