The Art of the Financial Neutral
Nancy A Hetrick
As I do more and more mentoring of new CDFAs, I am realizing that taking the role of the financial neutral comes with unique challenges and I believe, great opportunities. It’s definitely an art, and this month I’ve decided to share some of my best perspectives on doing it successfully.
First and foremost, your role as a neutral is primarily one of education, not advice. Couples often know what they want, and they want to know what things look like post-divorce. However, they are really confused as to the best way to make it happen. A good CDFA wants to listen intently to uncover the “need behind the need” to most effectively explore options.
The “need behind the need” means getting past the actual words that are said to uncover what the real fear is. For example, Jane says “You have to give me the bank accounts instead of the retirement accounts. The retirement accounts are no use to me!” While it sounds like she might be making unreasonable demands, what is it that she is really saying? Is she thinking about enough cash for the down payment on a home? Cash for some other purpose? I can almost guarantee that she isn’t aware that she can access the cash from those retirement accounts early with no penalty for that one-time divorce exclusion.
Help the parties stay focused on stating their own individual needs, wants, and wishes and not commentary on the other spouse’s and then offer them options. The more options you can offer the better. Be sure to fully explain the tax ramifications and the net-net to each party. Then, be quiet. Let them process and come up with their own questions and solutions.
As a neutral, you must TRULY want a win-win solution for both parties. If you can keep that as your focus, everyone will feel it and they’ll trust you as their advocate. Good luck!
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