A Woman’s Roadmap to the Detours of Life: A Frank Discussion of Financial Issues
Women often spend more time planning their wedding than they do safeguarding their financial future. That fact leaves many women in the dark when they face a positive or negative detour in life, whether that detour be marriage, divorce, death of a spouse, a lottery win, or another unexpected life-changing event.
“We spend so much time and energy on the ceremony, but then life happens,” says Stefanie Stiefel, a wealth manager with Neuberger Berman. “Shame on all of us. Marriages do not necessarily end because of another person. Money is a tool of power domination. You have a more equal voice if you are fully aware.”
Berdon tax principal Jennifer Prosperino, CPA/PFS, matrimonial attorney Shannon Rogers-Simpson, and Stiefel were part of a program, A Woman’s Roadmap to the Detours of Life, moderated by Bloomberg Radio’s Carol Massar in January, designed to better educate and empower woman regarding their own financial future. Massar, an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years of experience, is co-host of “Taking Stock” on Bloomberg Radio, airing weekdays from 2 to 5 p.m. Highlights of their comments follow.
From Jennifer Prosperino, Personal Wealth Services, Berdon LLP
- Couples should discuss their short- and long-term financial goals at the start of a marriage.
- It is critical to know a complete inventory of your assets and how they are titled. Keep a physical copy of this inventory, complete with account numbers, as well an on-line version.
- Have your own team of advisors, including an accountant, attorney and wealth manager: “The second you know a divorce is in your future, you need your own team.”
- Seize teachable moments with your children to discuss financial issues, whether it is the cost of food at the supermarket or the gift of a share of stock in a company they admire, such as Disney, Nike, or Apple.
- If, by chance, you win the lottery, sign your ticket immediately. The ticket is a “bearer instrument” that pays to the individual whose signature is on the ticket and has the ID to prove identity. If winnings are large, consult with a CPA to assess whether to accept the pay-out as a lump sum or an annuity.
From Shannon Rogers-Simpson, Cohen Clair Lans Greifer & Thorpe, LLP
- Marriage affords both parties a number of protections: in New York, partners are “legal strangers” no matter how long they have lived together outside of marriage.
- Individuals who come to a marriage with money need a contract, i.e. a pre-nuptial agreement. If not executed prior to marriage, couples are increasingly creating a post-nuptial agreement.
- All jewelry with the exception of the engagement ring is part of marital property; the engagement ring is considered a gift.
- “It is always good to have things in writing. The individual with the best paper work always wins.”
- If you sign something, the law assumes you have read it, so study all documents that you are asked to sign.
From Stefanie Stiefel, Neuberger Berman
- Family dynamics and discussion of wealth are increasingly complex due to the rise in blended families and the creation of business relationships with family members. The biggest mistake we make with children is “to rob them of ambition and drive: We don’t want them to be waiters, waiting for us to die.”
- We must make our children better stewards of their financial lives and to help them appreciate and understand the obligations that come with assets: “Who better to teach them than their own parents?”
- Cut the financial umbilical cord at the age of 25: “You might be doing more harm than good. The greatest gift is to empower them to be their own people.”
- Children should have a list of contacts, including family members and advisors, so they know whom to contact if faced with a “life detour.”