How Can I Trust Anyone with My Money After I Have Been Burned

Money is one of the most (if not the most) personal topics for most people.  In fact, many women are much more likely to talk about their sex lives or personal health issues with their friends than their financial situation.  Many of us were taught from a young age not to talk about or ask about money, and so we don’t.

Now imagine a scenario where someone you trusted with your money broke that trust.  Maybe you don’t have to imagine it because you lived that experience with your ex-spouse.  You trusted him to manage your finances and he didn’t do a great job – or even worse – hid things or lied about the money to you.  How are you ever supposed to trust anyone with your money again?

Reflecting on Past Experiences

As I have discussed before, our money is much more than numbers on a spreadsheet or a balance in a bank account.  It is an emotional topic and our relationship to it is based on experiences and attitudes formed over a lifetime.  It’s important for you to understand your money story and where it comes from so that you can recognize your blind spots and get the right support to move forward with confidence.

Unfortunately, I have seen lots of women who have been victims of bad financial decisions by their husbands.  In some cases, it is less than stellar investment performance due to over confidence in investing knowledge.  While in other cases it’s a gambling addiction that led the husband to drain all of the retirement and college accounts without the wife’s knowledge.

If you have experienced this kind of mismanagement of your funds or a lack of transparency, it will be difficult to get comfortable letting someone else in.  These are valid feelings, and very understandable.  But that does not mean it is in your best interest to try to manage everything totally on your own after your divorce.

Finding a Trustworthy Advisor

So, what are you supposed to do if you don’t feel like you have the knowledge to manage your finances on your own, but you also don’t know how you can ever trust anyone with your money again?  Well, it might not be easy, but it is possible to find an advisor you can trust to help you get educated and move in the right direction.

There are several key traits you want to look for, including transparency, competence, integrity, and empathy.  And you will likely need to interview more than one advisor to find what you are looking for.  Unfortunately, not all those who call themselves financial advisors work under the same standards or have the same level of competence.  But there are advisors out there who have the skills, experience, and emotional intelligence to help you at this time.

Conducting Due Diligence

Divorce is not necessarily the time to work with the advisor that your parents work with or that you know from college.  While these advisors may be very good at managing investments or recommending insurance, they likely do not have specific skills and experience with the transition you are experiencing.  They may not be equipped to help you in the way that will best serve you. 

When researching advisors to help you, I recommend finding someone who specializes in divorce.  One credential that indicates this is the Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA).  You can find CDFAs near you through the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts.  Another important credential is the Certified Financial Planner (CFP).  You can find these professionals through the CFP Board.

Another good resource is referrals.  Check with your divorce attorney or mediator for referrals of local professionals they have worked with and liked.  And if available, it’s always good to check out client testimonials and reviews.  Unfortunately, certain states do not allow financial advisors to publish reviews, so just because they don’t have reviews doesn’t mean they aren’t good, you just have to find other ways to verify their experience.

Asking the Right Questions

Once you have a list of recommended advisors, I suggest that you interview several.  In addition to skills and experience you want to find someone who you feel comfortable working with.  It doesn’t matter how good an advisor is, if you can’t openly communicate with them and understand what they are recommending for you, it likely won’t be a fruitful relationship.

During the interviews, you want to understand their fee structure and if they require that you have them manage your investments.  While many advisors do require investment management, there are also many who offer project planning services which do not require a certain level of assets.  This can be helpful if you don’t have a lot of assets to manage or just aren’t ready to turn over your life savings to someone else, but you still need guidance and help.  If you are considering asset management, be sure to ask about their investment philosophy as well.

As you go through the process, pay attention to how the advisors respond to your questions.  Are they collaborative or are they just talking at you?  Do you feel that their personality meshes with the way you like to do things?  Listen to your gut, if something doesn’t feel right, don’t move forward with it.

Building a Relationship Over Time

Trust is not something you develop overnight.  It will take time for you to truly get to know and trust any advisor you are working with.  Get as much information as you can up front in terms of the process and what you can expect around communication and updates.  If you can work on an hourly or project basis for a period of time before committing to a long-term investment management relationship, that might be ideal.  That will give you time to make sure you have found the right person before committing to something that is harder to get out of.

Recognizing Red Flags

As you are interviewing advisors, or starting to work with someone, there are definitely red flags to look out for.  One of the biggest is high-pressure sales tactics.  These usually indicate that the advisor is paid on commission, and they don’t get paid until you sign on the dotted line.  Unfortunately, they may also be trying to get you to buy something that is more in their best interest than yours. 

Also be wary of anyone who is not responsive to your questions.  If they are evasive or just not organized in addressing and responding to your questions, it might be time to look elsewhere.  Trust your instincts and seek a second opinion if something feels off.  There are lots of amazing advisors out there who are fiduciaries (meaning they put your best interests first) and who get paid by you for advice rather than for selling you expensive products.  It might take a little time to find one, but in the end, you will be glad you took the time.

Take Aways

Trusting someone to help you with your money after being burned by your ex-spouse is not easy.  However, if you need help, you should seek it.  There are many reputable advisors who can help you move in the right direction.  You just have to know what to look for and where to find them.  Ask for referrals, conduct multiple interviews, and trust your gut.  With patience, diligence, and the right advisor, it’s possible to move forward with confidence.

Sara Zuckerman, CFP®, CDFA® is the founder of Reset Financial Planning located Scottsdale, AZ and serving women across the country with a focus on helping women who find themselves suddenly single in mid-life, align their financial resources with their values to plan for the next chapter of their lives.

 

If you are interested in learning about how I can help you take charge of your finances as a newly single woman, please contact me at  or schedule a free 20-minute consultation.

 

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Disclaimer: This article is provided for educational, general information, and illustration purposes only. Nothing contained in the material constitutes tax advice, a recommendation for purchase or sale of any security, or investment advisory services. We encourage you to consult a financial planner, accountant, and/or legal counsel for advice specific to your situation. Reproduction of this material is prohibited without written permission from Reset Financial Planning, LLC, and all rights are reserved.