Claudia Weisser has clients who come from three generations of the same family. The Senior Investment Advisor with Assante Capital Management enjoys working with families and circles of friends who have referred her to each other. It gives her an opportunity to see both the long-term implications and shorter term benefits of her work.
“I have clients who have followed me from one firm to another over more than twenty years now,” Claudia says. “I’ve been there while they’ve educated their children, bought houses, paid off houses and then retired. Along the way, we’ve used all the tools that are available for planning that are right for them at a given time in their lives.”
It’s the qualifications and licensing to access all of those tools that sets Claudia apart. Whether clients need insurance, stocks, or bonds, is highly dependent on where they are in their lives and what they want to achieve.
“Goal setting is one of their first things I do with new clients,” Claudia says. “Naturally, as life happens we will re-visit those goals to track progress and make changes, but taking time to create that road map is very re-assuring. Every client needs to know where they are going, what they have to do and where they will end up. When they come to me, most are very worried about their retirement and their one question is: ‘Are we going to be OK?’ I can show them the numbers and show them how they will be OK because I have the option and the flexibility to use a variety of tools to create the best road map for each traveler. There is no bad investment, there is only an investment that is not appropriate for you. High risk stocks might be appropriate for one person, but not for another. My job is to find exactly what you need and to review your financial situation to see if we are on track or if we need to make some adjustments.”
That custom-fit approach to financial planning has brought her one rather audience whose needs she serves. Through referrals from circles of friends and friends of friends, Claudia has found herself something of a women’s divorce specialist in the financial planning world.
“It’s very unfortunate, but it can be an age-based issue just like buying a house or retirement. By the time people reach their mid-40s until the mid-60s, there is a lot of separation and divorce and with that comes a huge need for financial planning,” Claudia says. “There are once in a lifetime tax implications and the financial plan needs to change to accommodate settlement funds that are often determined by courts along with the needs of children and their financial support. There is a huge emotional part involved to all of this and without solid financial planning advice, the emotional mistakes you make in a divorce can come back to haunt you.”
In Claudia’s experience, women often feel lost in the turmoil of divorce and neglect their financial lives as a result. Claudia has a series of recommendations for what people in the midst of a divorce should do to prevent costly mistakes that could affect your future and your children’s future.
Do: Make lists of all expenses related to raising and educating your children.
A great habit for all of us to develop is to write down what we are spending our money on, and how much it costs, every time we reach into our pockets or open our wallets. That is especially true when there are constant requests for small amounts of money from our children, their schools and their sports or creative activities. While payments for music lessons might be easy to document through invoices, it’s harder remember the extra occasional charges for music books, conservatory exams and recital rehearsal fees.
“If you don’t put every extra expense into the settlement document now, later you could end up having to bear expenses alone that should be shared between parents,” Claudia says.
Do: Consider the tax implications of how you settle and what you settle for.
When a marriage is breaking up, money and shared assets can easily create more conflict. At the same time, it’s very important not to rush to settle in the hopes of avoiding more conflict and moving on more quickly. It’s very important to look at the tax implications of your settlement and your long term financial outlook that may be changed by divorce.
“There is a tendency to try and take the easy path to settlement by selling the house and splitting all the assets down the middle,” Claudia says, “but that might not be the best solution for a newly-single woman with children if her financial situation is going to change as a result of the divorce. If you take half the RRSPs, for example, that income will be taxable later on. If you take the primary residence, it won’t be because it is one of the investments that is exempt from taxes and has special status.”
Do: Conduct a full review with a new financial advisor.
There are two parts to this tip, and they may require more than one meeting with a new financial advisor.
“Once the divorce is final, most parties do choose different financial advisors than the one they had as a couple,” Claudia says. “Where there are doubts about which partner is closer to the advisor, or where there is any potential for a conflict of interest, people just want to start new and that is probably a good idea to remove any additional worry.”
First, a newly-divorced woman has to review her financial situation as a whole and ask the big questions.
“Do they have to work longer? How will their future look heading into retirement? How much will the children’s education be impacted? These are some of the questions newly-divorced women have to ask,” Claudia says. “More often than not, it’s just a matter of articulating the change, moving to acceptance and making peace with answer.”
From the big questions, the smaller questions can be addressed with your financial advisor.
“These are questions that lead to evaluations. Do they have products that are no longer appropriate for them? A lot of couples have a ‘last to die’ life insurance policy and that kind of joint insurance might no longer be appropriate. That ‘might’ is essentially what needs to be discussed. The client needs to know what they want as opposed to what they think they need and that is where the professional advice about whether it is the right thing, or not, is essential.”
That professional review all of the insurance policies: life, disability, joint insurance and change of beneficiary. The main goal of this policy review is to ensure there is enough coverage, especially if there are children involved.
Do: Believe the future is sunny.
Divorce is a huge life change for the individuals who were coupled and for their children. Just because financial plans for the future might have to change, though, does not mean the future will be dark and unhappy.
In fact, Claudia has seen her clients achieve goals they had only imagined were possible.
“I have one client who separated and divorced,” Claudia remembers. “I took on her portfolio and worked and reworked it over 2 years and, as a result, she was able to buy a new used car, renovate her bathroom and kitchen, and even take her daughters on a vacation down south. She came to me with some serious cash flow worries, but by restructuring her portfolio, choosing the correct investments and setting up a monthly plan, we were able to create something that really enhances her life.”
To say Claudia finds her work rewarding is an understatement. While she might have a financial plan for her own retirement, she has no intention of making that move!
“You have to love what you do,” Claudia says, “because during the hard times, it is a very stressful job and you are the one who takes the pressure from all sides. This is not a job you do from 9 to 5. You put your heart and soul into it. With clients who have been with you for 20 years, you don’t just turn 65 and walk away from long-standing, trusting relationships.
Kate Baggott's technology and business journalism has appeared in the Technology Review at MIT, the Globe and Mail, Canada Computes, the Vancouver Sun, and on the Business to Business News Network.
Kate Baggott is the author of two short story collections.
Claudia Weisser, B. Comm, FMA, CIM®
Senior Investment Advisor
Assante Capital Management (Member CIPF)
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