Whether you’ve always been financially savvy during your marriage or taken a back seat regarding money, everyone should have an understanding of their finances and assets. One of the most important things you can do financially is to learn how to protect your nest egg.
- One of the largest assets you may not even realize you have is what you can earn.
- When planning out what you need for your current AND future budgeting and spending, be honest! There may be things you don’t need right now (think “COVID spending” vs “normal” spending) but you should still be making a note of them.
- Expect the unexpected! Set aside an emergency fund of 3-6months of salary for those ‘just-in-case’ moments that can come up.
OUR GUEST – Stacy Francis, Founder of Sassy Ladies and President of Francis Financial
Welcome to another episode of the exEXPERTS DIVORCE etc… Podcast where we give you all kinds of information and tips on everything divorce. Why? We’ve lived it, so we get it! We’re T.H. & Jessica.
TH: Welcome everybody to today’s podcast. We are happy to have Stacy Francis with us. She’s the founder of an amazing organization called Savvy Ladies and the president of Francis Financial. Welcome to today’s podcast.
Jessica: Thanks for being here Stacy.
Stacy: Thank you.
TH: I stumbled on that, today’s podcast. Today we’re going to talk about protecting your nest egg. When you’re going through a divorce and you’re dividing assets, and you’re trying to figure out what to keep, what to sell, so now you’ve got the house, and maybe a car or you need a car, how do you protect the core financial asset that supports your family and helps you move forward? Stacy is going to enlighten all of us about that with her expert opinion.
Stacy: Well, thank you. Yeah, one of the most important things is protecting your nest egg. When we say your nest egg, we think about your investments, and we’ll talk about that. We’ll talk about market volatility, how to protect yourself from that, but it’s also your home, protecting your home. For most people, it’s actually the largest asset that they own. Protecting your assets, also one of the biggest assets we have is our earning capability.
Jessica: That’s considered an asset?
Stacy: That is, and we don’t think about it but think about how powerful that is.
Jessica: Right, just the capability to have that ongoing income stream, sure.
Stacy: That capability and that ongoing income stream, and how can we protect that, and how can we enhance that? Thinking about your assets, you definitely need to look at the whole picture. Mostly, most people think about their brokerage account and they forget all of those other pieces there.
Jessica: I also think that there are probably a lot of people who may think, look, I don’t come from wealth, I don’t come from a lot, and I don’t have a lot. Maybe this conversation won’t be relevant for me. What would you say to that right off the bat?
Stacy: Well, every single person has the asset of their earning capability. Whether or not you are an heir to the Rockefeller wealth or you are trying to scrape by and earn less than $20,000 a year, you have assets. You have assets, even if you don’t necessarily see them around you. I’ll just jump right into that because it really applies to everyone. Our biggest asset, even larger than the value of our home, larger than the value of our portfolio, is what we can earn. As women, it’s an asset that we also have the most control over. For a lot of individuals, they have been part of the workforce during their marriage but maybe not the pedal fully down to the metal. You’re not fully going in hard in your career as maybe your spouse could because you have children, and you’ve decided in that you would play more of a role. For some women, actually their career was taking care of the kids. They actually stepped out of, what we call, the traditional workforce. For most individuals, when they are divorcing, they do need an additional income outside of child support and outside of alimony. Sometimes that income can be coming from their investment portfolio and that can be enough, but for most people, it’s not [Yeah] and we need to go back to work. I’ve had so many conversations with women where they’re doing everything right, we go through their budget, they are some of the most responsible conscientious spenders you’ll ever meet. Having that conversation with them of realizing this is not your fault, you’re not overspending, and the problem we have is we have an income problem. And so number one through your divorce, you need to be very present and advocate for what you need. The way you know what you need is by being very clear about what your spending is going to be going forward, not only for yourself but if you have children, for your children.
Jessica: Can we just pause there for a second and just emphasize the importance of that. I think there are probably a lot of people going through a divorce who are trying to not necessarily be so transparent about their spending habits, whether it’s because they don’t want their soon-to-be ex-spouse to know, or whether they don’t want to admit it to themselves. I remember myself going through my financial budget statement. My brother happens to be my wealth manager and he was making me fill out the financial form. He sent it back to me and was like this is incomplete. You allotted nothing on here for birthday gifts, housewarming gifts, little small things, you know, your manicures, whatever it is. He’s like you don’t understand this stuff adds up, that could be a few thousand dollars over the course of a year, and you haven’t allotted for any of that. He was very meticulous about sending it back. I love what you just said that you have to be honest about what you need. The only way to be honest about what you need is to be open about what you’re spending. That’s a really big key tip I think for all women who are filling out that budget statement. Be honest.
Stacy: Yeah. Yeah. Very much so. Also, know that your spending today is different than your spending was two years ago because we have what’s called COVID spending. Every single person on the face of the planet is spending less. They’re spending less and that is not going to continue. Eventually, the kids are going to go back to having soccer and soccer camps, and blah, blah, blah, and all those things. And eventually, I’ll be able to hopefully go back and get my nails done. Also, there’s the additional piece of not only being smart about what your spending will be in the future but how that’s going to increase from today because we know that it’s going to increase. The whole of, I don’t want him to point out my spending on jewelry, who cares. You put it in there. You put all of it in there. Maybe he’s not going to support your jewelry spending habit going forward but at least put it in there, right? At least put it in there. I talked to so many women who say, I tried to round down my spending for my statement of net worth, for my financial affidavit, and you’re only hurting yourself. You don’t want to overinflate, but you want to be at least honest with what you have happening. That’s really important or else you’re not going to be able to actually advocate for what you need, because you’re not going to know what you need.
TH: The other thing to think about in looking forward is as your kids become toddlers, to teenagers, to young adults, their spending changes too. Do you need to budget for them to have a car? Do they need a car to go to work? Are they potentially going to be going to a school that’s out of state? Who’s paying for the airline tickets? Who’s paying for them, their clothing, and those expenses? I know that college is something that’s always put to the side. At least it was when I was going through my divorce. The way it worked out, it worked out well, but I know a lot of people it didn’t work out well for, and then one of the two is stuck with the bills. Well, we didn’t talk about it and I make more money, so what, am I not going to pay for rent for his apartment in college? Who’s going to pay for that? How am I going to get him home? Also, I think it’s really important to have someone like yourself, or whoever is your financial advisor when you’re going through a divorce, also looking forward to how life changes. Are you going to sell your house potentially when they all move out? Insurance for your kids – I mean, even car insurance, forget about health insurance. Car insurance for them is really ridiculously expensive because they are a huge risk on the road. For all of those things life changes.
Jessica: How are we protecting all of this?
Stacy: Yeah. It’s a perfect lead-in. Thank you for that lead in TH, because it’s a lead in protecting your nest egg. And that is making sure that you do have car insurance and that after the divorce if the car is in your name, that you put the car insurance in your name. Very important. You also need to make sure that you have the right homeowner’s insurance even if you’re renting. If you are renting, there’s a lot of content you have that would be much more expensive to replace if you didn’t have them covered by insurance, so make sure that your homeowner’s, as well as your property, is covered through renter’s insurance. Don’t forget about your jewelry. Many of us have jewelry. If you are going to keep your engagement ring, you want to keep it insured. If you don’t want to keep your engagement ring, sell it, use that money, and put it in your nest egg and invest it and have it start to work for you. That’s one of my biggest pieces that I try and encourage women to do because that money is premarital. It’s yours. Your engagement ring is yours. Make sure that you have all of those important pieces that are protecting those really valuable assets of your home, of your cars, of your contents, of all the things you own because women are not able to bounce back after divorce in the same way that men do. We have our standard of living go down significantly more so than men. Our earning capacity, unfortunately, often is lower, so we don’t have the ability to rebound. We need to be that much smarter about protecting our nest egg, the nest egg that we have.
Jessica: What are the specific steps to doing that?
Stacy: Very easy, you work with a life insurance and disability insurance expert and you get disability insurance for you. If you feel like there’s not enough life insurance that you have currently for your children, you get life insurance. You review your homeowner’s and your property-casualty insurance. You review your auto insurance. If you have significant assets, you get what’s called umbrella insurance, which covers you for liability as well. These are not expensive things to do but have a huge, huge payout for you of being able to protect yourself. Once you’ve done that, and you’ve protected your earning capacity through disability insurance in your life, and you’ve protected your actual assets, you want to protect your portfolio. The one thing that we saw over these last several years is a higher amount of stock market volatility than we’ve seen in decades. Understandably, it can be very frightening, but it doesn’t need to be. It doesn’t need to be. The way you can protect yourself is by making sure that you’re diversified, that you’re not putting all your eggs in one basket. And so that means that while it might be fun to put a lot of money in Tesla, just don’t do it. You can have Tesla but have it be a small part of your portfolio. The S&P 500 is the 500 largest stock that trade on the stock market. That’s a great way to start having a wonderful, whether it’s a mutual fund or an exchange-traded fund of the S&P 500, for that very broad exposure. It’s much better to do that than it is to start to put money in Moderna or Pfizer, or Tesla, or you know, GameStop.
Jessica: Oh god, don’t be putting your money in GameStop.
Stacy: Right. That’s not where you’re going to get ahead by picking stocks and playing the market and timing the market. It’s more of that broad exposure. A broad mutual fund giving you S&P 500, a broad mutual fund giving you bond exposure, and then another broad mutual fund giving you international exposure, putting that together is really important. Then checking in maybe once a month on how it’s doing but not once a day.
Jessica: I was just going to ask you about the frequency because for some people it’s literally like getting on a scale. Every day they’ve got to see are they up, are they down, are they up? It’s going to drive them crazy.
TH: No, it’s scary.
Stacy: Yeah, the more frequent you look at your portfolio, the higher the likelihood you’re going to see a loss. What happens when we have a loss?
Jessica: You want to get out.
Stacy: Well, we want to get out, we’re scared, and we might sway from our conviction of being a long-term market investor, which we know is a long-term market investor is a way to go and where we see the highest returns. We saw a lot of people in March get afraid and get frightened back in 2020, especially with the pandemic. The world is going to hell in a handbag, I better get out. They got out and then they missed one of the most amazing bull markets and recoveries that we have ever seen in the history of the stock market, right? So just don’t do it. Your long-term investing money is for five years plus. You don’t need to worry about that market timing. Pick that beautiful allocation, your mixture between stocks and bonds, make it diversified, and stick with it. That’s one of the best things you can do to protect that portfolio.
Jessica: In the overall picture of protecting your assets, is your capability for earning, your actual maybe hard asset, excuse me, your home, your car, you’re saying insurance and stuff for that, and then making sure that you’re protecting your financial assets, no matter how much you have, by being diversified the right way in the market. Is there anything else that we’re missing?
Stacy: I would say, and I know it’s not fun, and it’s not sexy, but an emergency fund is one of, I think, the most powerful things to protect your overall financial stability because we all are going to unfortunately have things that we haven’t planned for. It’s very rare that we have good financial surprises. Unfortunately, usually, they’re not so good financial surprises. If you can sock away three to six months of your living expenses, it’s going to protect you from having to use credit cards. It’s going to protect you from having to dip into your portfolio and take money, especially if the market is down that day.
Jessica: This emergency fund is cash somewhere?
Stacy: It is cash, and it is in a high-interest savings account. Before anyone gets too excited about high-interest savings accounts, you’re looking at less than 1%.
Jessica: Versus at least a 5% or more if you’re investing?
Stacy: Exactly. Exactly. ‘High’ interest.
Jessica: High compared to zero.
Stacy: Compared to zero. Because you want to be able to gain access to it quickly, and you also want to make sure that if the market is going up and down and seesawing, that this is stable and that amount of money is always going to be there. It’s three to six months of your living expenses. You don’t want to have a huge amount more, because we need our money to work for us, but at least having that emergency fund is ideal.
TH: Are you discouraging the use of credit cards when going through the divorce and kind of getting your stuff together?
Stacy: Credit cards are great, but like a candle, you never leave a candle alone, right? We know that would be dangerous. Credit cards are the same thing. They’re great to use but make sure number one that you’re paying them off at the end of the month, so you’re being smart about how you use them, and that you make sure that they’re in your name. Often women are cosigners and they’re using a credit card that is in their spouse’s name, and they are just the signer and that doesn’t add to their credit score. During the divorce process, make sure that you have a credit card that’s in your name solely. You use that so that you build your credit, so that god forbid, when you need to get a new mortgage and refinance the current mortgage into your name only if you’re staying in the home or maybe you’re selling and you’re buying another or you’re selling and even renting something, they’re looking at your credit score. Far too many women have a nasty surprise that they have a very poor credit score or little to no credit, and that is really a disaster. Open that credit card, use it wisely, pay it off at the end of the month, and like a candle make sure you’re watching it
Jessica: All amazing information and thank you so much for taking the time to share it with everyone from the exExperts community. For people who want to reach out to you directly or for more information, what are the best ways for them to find you?
Stacy: Great. Yeah, you can email me at email@example.com. Our website’s www.francisfinancial.com. We work with women going through a divorce and afterward helping them model out settlement A vs. B, looking at the tax impact, working with their lawyers, even testifying in court when needed. Then also a wonderful resource I want to give to everyone called Savvy Ladies. Savvyladies.org is a wonderful 501(c)(3) nonprofit that I started in honor of my grandmother. We have hundreds of TED talk-like videos about financial literacy. It’s one of the only financial helplines in the country that is free where you can work with a certified financial planner or divorce financial analyst free of charge. Check those out: www.savvyladies.org, two great resources.
Jessica: Thank you so much for the time, Stacy. We definitely will have you back talking about other topics soon.
Stacy: Thank you.
TH: Thank you for all that you’re doing for women and women going through a divorce also.
Stacy: And to you too. There are not enough resources for women going through a divorce, so I love and I applaud, applaud what you’re doing.
Jessica: Thank you.
TH: Thank you.
Jessica: Talk to you soon.
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