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divorce Archives - Purse Strings

What does a CDFA do?

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What does a CDFA do?

Jason Conger Financial Advisor

Answered By

Jennifer Merida

Financial Advisor at The Tranel Financial Group



What does a CDFA do?



Working with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst ® (CDFA) is essential to avoid the most common financial mistakes made in a divorce. Divorce financial planning utilizes proven tools to help you work past emotions and frustrations to separate assets in a fair and equitable manner. It starts with uncovering your financial needs, challenges, and goals through our unique step-by-step process. Our mission is to bring clarity to the complex issues of your case. We guide and empower you with the knowledge and resources necessary to make smart decisions that set you up for a successful financial future during and long after your divorce is final.

A few things to list are:

  • Current budget and living expense analysis
  • Asset/ Debt Separation analysis
  • Future Planning
  • Financial Planning
  • Income Planning
  • Budget Planning
  • Housing analysis
  • Retirement Planning
  • Credit Report Review
  • Divorce Decree Review
  • Building a Timeline for post-divorce necessary tasks
  • Money/ Account transfers
  • Beneficiary changes
  • New account and credit building
  • Title transfer guidance, etc.
  • Organization for post-divorce communication
  • Creative options for settlement
  • Organize the process and streamline financial communication and organize the financial information for attorneys if needed.

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Divorce and Self-Care

Purse Strings Approved Professional

Blog Series

Divorce and Self-Care 

Why it’s Necessary—Not Only for the Clients 

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I’ve been blessed to create a circle of industry professionals who have taught me so much since I  decided to specialize in divorce mortgage planning. One member of my tribe, who has also become a  very dear friend, is a collaboratively trained family lawyer and mediator. She’s one of the best and has  been instrumental in opening my eyes to the pitfalls that people can get caught up in during the divorce  process. I know, I’m practically gushing, but she’s just incredible at what she does. The way she  incorporates a storytelling session for her divorcing couples as part of her standard practice is extremely  insightful. She explains options to them that they may not have ever considered before meeting her.  

Recently, she invited me to sit in on two of her very educational consultations with two separate  couples. She talked through the different types of divorce and options available for every type of family  going through it. She offered thought-provoking ideas and possibilities they never knew existed,  including alternatives to divorce and legal options that may work for them. This empowerment is crucial  for couples who believe that the law dictates the process… when actually, they can be in the driver’s  seat to navigate their own situation.  

I found the entire experience fascinating. I have learned many things that I now incorporate into my  own lane of business. Offering clients empathy and the space for contemplation and options is  necessary, even when the couple may not realize it’s something they need. More often than not,  couples contemplate their situation for months, years, maybe even decades before actually initiating  any course of action. Unfortunately, it isn’t until then that they realize there isn’t only one cut and dry  way to go about it—if they have the right team in place.  

As I sat through her presentations, silently observing as the couples talked about their journey, I was so  intrigued by the way they would smile as they thought back on the early days, when they first met, and  how it all started. As the discussion unraveled, they would both jump in and complete each other’s  sentences or correct each other on the small details of the stories. It happened in both presentations for  both couples, and I was instantly transported back to years ago when I was contemplating my own  divorce. We tried for years to live unconventionally and get through each day while still holding on to  hope that something might change or break open for the benefit of our children. Had I known there  were so many options, it could have been a much healthier environment and time frame for everyone  involved. If only we had known to approach the process in a way similar to the one I was witnessing with  my present-day colleague leading the way.  

As I continued to listen, the couples would progress through their story and get to the point where  things pivoted and moved into a darker and more hopeless situation. One spouse remains quiet while  the other one—who has already processed the demise of the relationship—continues down the path of  how things have changed and how it just isn’t working for them anymore. They finish their part of the  story, while the other spouse seems like they might not have known everything their significant other  has been feeling. They may be hearing some of these things for the first time while sitting in that room  with two other people present. The room gets thick with anxiety and sadness. I could see the guilt and shame on their faces for existing in a space they never thought they’d be. The attorney allows them to  continue the story, but doesn’t interfere to counsel them, as she knows her place. She isn’t a therapist,  but she does need them to feel the gravity of the decision they will ultimately make. They need to be  prepared for everything they will need to unpack and unravel before they start the transition of divorce. 

Sitting in that room and seeing it unfold like this, it hit me like a bolt of lightning. Not only is the couple  feeling the toxic air and energy around them . . . so are the professionals who are helping them. I  realized how much the divorce attorneys, counselors and coaches must absorb on a daily basis. Before  any final decisions are reached, I imagine how much the negative emotions and conflict must somehow  affect them as well. I also feel it as their mortgage professional because of the emotions attached to the  martial home, but I think they we are all affected on a different level.  

The very same week, while sitting with another attorney discussing this very subject, he mentioned that  he integrates recommendations to his clients to start meditating, practicing yoga, and using therapeutic  breathing techniques. I was impressed with the way he guides his clients to a healthier place to shift  their energy. 

If you are reading this, you may be someone who has gone through divorce, someone contemplating  divorce, or you work in the divorce space like me. Regardless of who you are, please take care of  yourself. Especially if you’re surrounded by it on a daily basis. Even if you’re just someone’s confidant… a  friend or family member of someone going through it, it will affect you. Negativity, stress and emotion  can permeate your space. It’s easy to allow it to shape and determine how you view or move through  your own world.  

We must treat divorce the same way we would work through any other loss or tragedy. It became so  clear to me through these two particular instances, and I’m so grateful to these colleagues for teaching  me by example.  

When I reflect on my own divorce, I was grateful to learn about the world of self-healing, self-reflection,  and energy work. It helped me through those difficult times. I eventually reached a place where I  understood that my marriage was a season of my life that gave me some wonderful memories, two  beautiful children and 20 years of growth. I had a better understanding that the relationship was ending  as we knew it, but this person—the father of my children—would always be in my life and our family  would just look very different moving forward.  

This family law attorney I mentioned earlier told me, “Even if my client doesn’t embrace this for  themselves, it is my priority to practice this. I am working and serving a community of people who are in  pain, anxious, sad, full of grief, angry, and carrying a high level of negative emotions. I cannot allow that  to penetrate my space and energy.” The old adage is true—we need to put the oxygen mask on  ourselves first before we can truly help others. This rang so true to me at that moment. We cannot save  the world from experiencing pain, but we can open up possibilities to guide people to work within  themselves and self-reflect. That is an enormous part of self-care. The goal is to get out of your own way  and shift the voice inside your head to a more compassionate voice, a voice that is your own biggest  cheerleader. These are steps toward achieving emotional intelligence. This is a daily practice. As you get  better at navigating it, you will find your own inner peace. Whether you are a person going through a  divorce, or a professional helping someone on that journey, be kind to yourself.  

I’ve always been an advocate for self-care, I just never knew I could integrate it into my business like  this. Thanks to those professionals who have exuded this in your daily work life, reminding me that we  can all make a difference in more ways than one.  

Tami Wollensak is a Senior Mortgage Loan Originator and a Certified Divorce Lending Professional NMLS 1963450 at Oak Leaf  Community Mortgage, A Division of Mutual Federal Bank. An Equal Housing Lender insured by FDIC.

Tami Wollensak, CDLP

Tami Wollensak, CDLP

Sr. Mortgage Loan Officer

Women supporting woman is an incredible gift. I find that the relationships, bonds and friendships that I have built while helping others make sense of things during a life transition and what can be a very dark and challenging time makes my work extremely fulfilling. If I can help someone to be a little bit less stressed and shine some light on a subject that might feel daunting and overwhelming then I have done what I have set out to do. Surrounding myself with a tribe of like minded people women is what gives me the drive in my day to continue to pursue my passions.

We will provide you useful and timely information you can use to be #financiallyfearless

Social Security and Divorce

Purse Strings Approved Professional

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Social Security and Divorce

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The first thing to know about social security payments in retirement is that your divorce terms do not determine how much social security you’ll get FROM SOCIAL SECURITY e.g. the government program that is social security.

Here are the two general rules for social security:

  1. If you were married for 10 years and then divorce, you may “claim” on your former spouse’s work record.
  2. To claim, you cannot remarry unless you were over 60 when the remarriage took place.

If these rules are met, you are eligible for the greater of:

  • Half of your former spouses’ full retirement age (FRA) social security amount when you are at your FRA or
  • Whatever social security you are eligible for based on your own work record

Full retirement age (FRA) for those born after 1960 is 67. The FRA is two months earlier for each year before that, back until birthdays from 1943 – 1955 when it stops at age 66 (see the Social Security website). Divorcing spouses do not need to file or inform the Social Security Administration. There is no court order needed.

You must be at least 62 years of age to claim on your ex-spouse’s record, although there are exceptions (for example if you are disabled, or your ex-spouse is deceased). You can claim before your FRA although benefits are reduced by approximately 6.5% and 7.5% for each year taken earlier. If you were married more than once for 10 years each, you can choose only one ex’s work record.

Your ex-spouse’s social security payment stays the same. It is not impacted by a claim by a former. Social security will not notify your ex that you are claiming on his/her record and there is no need to communicate with your ex to accomplish any of this.

One more thing:

Your ex-spouse must be eligible to claim social security benefits but doesn’t have to be taking them. If your ex-spouse is not taking benefits but is eligible, your divorce must be two years prior to your claim – unless your ex-spouse was receiving benefits before the divorce.

For example:  Ann a stay-at-home mom divorces Joe a worker after 10 years of marriage. Ann gets half of Joe’s FRA social security amount ($1,500) at her full retirement age. If she takes it earlier, the amount is reduced. Joes gets all his ($3,000/month). If Joe dies, Ann gets the full amount Joe would have received ($3,000).


Here’s the not-so-good news:


  • To get an estimate based on ex’s work record you’ll have to call or visit your local social security office. You need you ex’s social security number, date of birth and parent’s names in addition to your marriage certificate and divorce decree.


  • If you were born in 1954 or after, you choose between your own benefit or 50% of the benefit based on your ex’s work record. Remember your benefit increases each year after your FRA, up until age 70. If you choose your ex’s benefit, you lose that opportunity. You’ll have to crunch numbers. If you were born before 1954, there is an option to file for your ex’s benefits and then switch to your own later.


  •  There are other Social Security Administration rules that may apply due to your or your ex-spouse’s unique circumstances (government pension offsets, something that is called the ‘windfall elimination provision’ and military benefits)


  • Everything I’ve just written is subject to change.

As you can see this is complicated. What you will receive is already determined by the Social Security Administration and is not negotiated in your divorce. A consultation at your local SSA office may be needed. And please remember, their answers can change by the time you are able to make a claim with changes in the law.



Investment advisory services offered through Robertson Stephens Wealth Management, LLC (“Robertson Stephens”), an SEC-registered investment advisor. Registration does not imply any specific level of skill or training and does not constitute an endorsement of the firm by the Commission. This material is for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice. Please consult with your Advisor prior to making any Investment decisions. This material is an investment advisory publication intended for investment advisory clients and prospective clients only. Robertson Stephens only transacts business in states in which it is properly registered or is excluded or exempted from registration. A copy of Robertson Stephens’ current written disclosure brochure filed with the SEC which discusses, among other things, Robertson Stephens’ business practices, services and fees, is available through the SEC’s website at: © 2022 Robertson Stephens Wealth Management, LLC. All rights reserved. Robertson Stephens is a registered trademark of Robertson Stephens Wealth Management, LLC in the United States and elsewhere.

Pam Friedman, CFP®, CDFA®

Pam Friedman, CFP®, CDFA®

Managing Director and Principal

Pam Friedman, CFP®, CDFA®, is a Managing Director and Principal at Robertson Stephens. She has nearly 30 years of financial planning and investment experience. Prior to joining Robertson Stephens, Pam was a co-founder of Silicon Hills Wealth Management and founder of Divorce Planning of Austin. She previously worked in both New York and London at CIBC and UBS, respectively, raising capital for both public and private companies. More recently, Pam spent six years on the faculty of the Finance Department in the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin.

We will provide you useful and timely information you can use to be #financiallyfearless

Financial Considerations for Life After Divorce

Purse Strings Approved Professional

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Financial Considerations for Life After Divorce

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A divorce can be an emotional journey and no one’s path will be the same. It can place you in a whole new financial situation and you will be faced with unique challenges during and after your separation. The future might feel unknown without the support of your spouse, but there are positive steps that can be taken to help secure a bright outlook for tomorrow. An Oppenheimer Financial Professional can help you navigate this challenging time by reassessing your personal and financial goals. Together, you can develop a secure financial future for you and your loved ones.

Taking the time to invest in yourself and your future will help establish a firm footing in your journey to a happy and secure lifestyle.

To begin the process of preparing for your next steps, here are some planning considerations:

Set Financial Goals
As you go through this process, establish financial and legacy goals that are important to you.

  • What lifestyle do you envision as you take the next steps in your new journey?
  • Are you planning on relocating or moving for a fresh start?
  • Are you considering starting a new career?
  • At what age are you considering retirement? Are there other income sources that you can draw upon?

Build a Team

Our Financial Professionals can work with your Accountant and Attorney to develop a plan that is custom-tailored to your specific goals.

Budget for Expenses
As you continue on this new journey, expenses will arise. Consider the different types:

  • Fixed are the everyday living expenses, such as rent, mortgage and car payments. These expenses reoccur in the same increments each month.
  • Variable are bills that arrive regularly but not always in the same amount, such as utilities and groceries.
  • Periodic can be car and home repairs, gifts to mark special occasions, vacations, etc.

Setting a budget that incorporates these expenses will help you start your path to a financial future that is within your control.

Create an Emergency Fund
In addition to the expenses that can arise and that have been budgeted for, have you established a savings/emergency fund? Anything can happen in life, and it is important to have a reserve to be financially prepared for any unforeseen events.

Health Care Costs
Health care costs can be the number one expense experienced in retirement. There are many ways you can prevent these cost from depleting your retirement savings.

  • If you are currently working, have you taken advantage of benefits from your employer-sponsored programs?
  • If you are close to or in retirement, do you have a complete understanding of Medicare and the Medigap programs that are available?
  • Have you thought about what age you might consider taking Social Security? Did you know that delaying these benefits each year to age 70 will increase your payments?
  • Will your emergency fund or savings that you have accumulated over the years be enough to cover any unforeseen medical costs?

These steps will ensure that your wishes and objectives regarding your health and legacy will be carried through.

Update Your Estate Plan
Estate plans created during your marriage should be revisited and estate planning documents should be reviewed and updated to reflect your current health and legacy objectives.

Establish a new will or trust
Update beneficiary designations on all pertinent documentation, including your bank accounts, brokerage accounts, and life insurance policies. Create powers of attorney with new directives. These steps will ensure that your wishes and objectives regarding your health and legacy will be carried through.

Protect Your Financial Future
Your loved ones depend on you, whether you are a caregiver or parent. Have you considered protecting them by investing in the following?

Life Insurance

Life insurance can fill a multitude of needs, including financial support for loved ones. It can provide you with confidence, knowing your heirs will be taken care of in the event of your death. It can also help fund educational costs, supplemental retirement income and much more.

Long-Term Care Insurance

One of the biggest risks to your retirement can be a long-term care (LTC) event. LTC insurance can protect your assets in the event you cannot care for yourself. It can cover care in a nursing home, assisted living facility, adult day care center, hospice care and even in-home care. It can provide you with the confidence that you or your loved ones can afford the help should the need arise.

Disability Insurance

Your income is the driving force behind all the plans you set into motion, such as purchasing a home, everyday living expenses, planning for your children’s education, vacations and saving for retirement. If you were to fall ill or become injured and unable to work, disability insurance can provide the support to maintain your current lifestyle, covering expenses and avoiding debt.

As your life changes, so will your insurance needs. If you currently have coverage in these areas it is important to review the policies you may own. This will ensure that you have the appropriate protections in place for you and your loved ones.

Quotation from Aenean Pretium: “Divorce can be difficult, but an Oppenheimer Financial Professional will guide you along the way, building a path that will bring confidence through the planning process for a secured financial future.”


Gary Domoracki

Gary Domoracki

Managing Director - Investments | Branch Manager

I strive to help educate all of my clients about the power and importance of investing, as I still do with my daughters. Making sure that our girls have the confidence to make educated financial decisions is a must in our household, because, all too often in the wealth management industry, women are overlooked and mistreated. One of my goals, as a financial advisor, is to facilitate change in the finance world to make it a space where women feel powerful, knowledgeable and confident when talking about money.

“A Plan for Change – An action guide for women who are divorced or widowed.” Brigthhouse Financial, 2020.
“How to Work with Female Spouses Through Divorce.” U.S. News & World Report, 2020.
“Women Don’t Consult with Financial Advisors When They Get Divorced. Here’s Why They Should.” Forbes, 2020.
“Financial Tips and Advice for Women in a Divorce.” Mass Mutual, 2020.

©2021 Oppenheimer & Co. Inc. Transacts Business on All Principal Exchanges and Member SIPC.

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Guide to Financially Surviving a Divorce

Purse Strings Approved Professional

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Guide to Financially Surviving a Divorce

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Divorce is a difficult enough process on an emotional level without having to worry about the financial costs. Nationally, the average divorce takes nearly eleven months and costs around $15,500, including $12,800 in attorney’s fees at an average of $250.00 per hour. Divorces that go to trial cost even more, averaging $19,600, while those that settle privately pay an average of $14,500.

One of the most basic and important requirements for divorce court is a financial affidavit that provides an accurate picture of your income, expenses, assets, and liabilities. Compiling this document can be sometimes frightening and always at least a little bit overwhelming, if you’re doing it alone.
In this article, we will look at how to financially survive a divorce by doing what is legally required of you while still protecting yourself and your assets.

Dividing Assets & Liabilities

Most couples going through a divorce decide on splitting their assets and liabilities on their own or with a mediator rather than leaving it up to a judge. In fact, some experts estimate that only five percent of cases go to court. If you and your former spouse end up in front of a judge, don’t worry. It is important to look beyond the present and keep the big picture in mind to avoid making any emotional decisions.

There are two different sets of rules when it comes to splitting assets and liabilities, depending on the state you live in:

  • Community Property – This is the rule here in Washington, as well as Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Wisconsin, and Puerto Rico. It means that assets and liabilities are classified as either community property or separate property. Community property is equally divided between spouses, while each spouse keeps their own separate property.
  • Equitable Distribution – All other states are equitable distribution states, which means that assets and liabilities accrued during marriage are divided as equitably as the court sees fit. It’s important to note that equitable isn’t the same thing as equal. For example, in some states, a judge might order one spouse to dip into what other states would consider separate property to make the settlement fair to both spouses.

Community property includes everything that was accumulated during the marriage. Separate property includes everything prior to the marriage along with gifts, inheritances, personal injury awards, pension proceeds (vested before the marriage), or similar types of property given to one of the spouses.

The house is often the most difficult decision. If there are young children involved, the house often goes to the parent that will spend the most time with the kids. If no children are involved, the house goes to the spouse that owns the house as separate property. If the house is community property, the situation becomes a bit trickier and a court may decide for the couple during divorce proceedings or as part of a temporary order.

If you’re a business owner, you’ll have a whole other set of concerns to address (assuming you don’t already have some sort of prenuptial agreement in place).
In addition, you’ll need to sort out distribution of any retirement plans, 401(k), and/or pension plans. Often, courts will implement a QDRO (Qualified Domestic Relations Order) that recognizes the joint interest in such plans and splits them accordingly.

The long and short of it is this: when you end up in divorce court, you and your spouse lose a lot of decision-making power. It is in your best interest to settle privately.
This may require you to give up some items that you feel are rightfully yours. Try to look at the big picture and think about whether these things will make much of a difference to you in five years. If not, then let them go.

One other option to consider is a practice called “collaborative divorce.” This one really only works if you and your former spouse are parting on relatively amicable terms and can decide on the terms of your divorce amongst yourselves without taking it to court. It’s less expensive and lower stress for everyone involved. Check out the International Association of Collaborative Professionals for more information.


Determining Income & Expenses

Fewer than one-third of Americans prepare a detailed household budget each month that tracks their income and expenses. Maybe you never felt a need for one before. You will likely wish you had a budget during your divorce proceedings, because the financial affidavit requires a detailed look at your income and expenses each year.

Before you go into court, take the time to build out a spreadsheet of your income and expenses. Do not rely on your spouse to present an accurate picture of your financial situation. Even if you do not think he or she will be dishonest, it’s still important to present your side of the story in all regards.

This can be a particularly difficult process if your spouse handled the lion’s share of financial matters. Get login information for all your accounts, request statements from your bank, meet with your financial advisor, and take any other steps to build as accurate of a picture as possible.

Click here to download our retirement planning guide.

Many fixed costs are easy to find, such as your mortgage, real estate taxes, insurance, cable bill, internet bill, car payment, gym membership, and cell phone bill, which makes them a perfect starting point. You can usually find these numbers on account statements that are mailed or emailed or by looking at your bank statement for the past month.

The next step is calculating weekly costs, such as groceries, child care, gas, parking, lawn care, dry cleaning, entertainment, and allowances. While it may be tempting to just look at last month’s bill, you should take an average throughout the year to get a more accurate picture. After all, you may have gone on vacation last month and not paid for groceries or child care, which would give you an unrealistically low estimate for these categories.

The final step is to take a look at your uneven and/or random costs that occur throughout a given year, such as utilities, car repair, medical costs, holiday gifts, and vet bills. It’s also important to include spending that doesn’t necessarily occur every year, such as vacations that you might take every other year or major medical procedures. Average out these expenses to come up with a monthly cost, as if you were saving for them on a regular basis.

Household Inventories

Most people are aware of the need to calculate their assets, liabilities, income, and expenses, but it’s easy to forget special or sentimental items in the process. During a divorce, each spouse should create a separate checklist of household items that are important to them.

The easiest way to create this checklist is to create categories for different items, such as artwork, furniture, books, and clothing. When adding items to these categories, it’s important to assign a monetary value to each of them. Courts usually assign flea market values, even when items are new, so if you have documentation of value, it’s important to include it.

Finally, be sure to capture video or still images of everything in the order that they appear in the checklist. If your list seems too long to document, at least photograph the items with the greatest value to you. It’s important that the court understands what item is being considered when it assigns ownership rights to one spouse or the other.

What to Ask a Lawyer

Divorce attorneys constitute the bulk of most divorce expenses. At a cost of between $150 and $350 per hour, you’ll want to come to meetings prepared to ask important questions and get the answers you need quickly.
You’ll want to discuss a few issues up front with your lawyer:

  • Fee Structure – Will they bill you for each hour spent on the case, including the time spent answering questions? Or is it a fixed fee? Since divorces can take months to finalize, you need to be prepared to cover the costs.
  • Divorce Procedure – What is the divorce procedure in your state? Most attorneys can provide an estimate of the timeline. If you work full-time or have a busy life with children, this knowledge can help prepare you for what lies ahead.
  • Alimony Issues – Different states have different rules when it comes to seeking alimony from the other spouse. For example, some alimony issues depend on the length of the marriage or discrepancy in earnings between spouses. Ask your attorney about these laws to provide an idea of your liability or benefit.
  • Child Custody – This is the most important, and potentially most difficult, matter in any divorce with children. If you can’t privately agree on who will retain custody, it’s important to understand the factors that are important to state judges from the beginning. Your attorney should provide some idea of the odds of custody and any challenges. Keep your children out of the proceedings as much as possible and try not to speak negatively about your former spouse around them. While you are understandably upset, that other person is still their other parent.
  • Asset Splitting – Lawyers should be able to tell you how states handle splitting assets, which can help you prepare ahead of time.

It’s also important to shop around for the right divorce attorney. Choose three potential attorneys and meet with each of them before making your decision. If the cost is out of your range or if there are any red flags, move on to the next attorney and find one that is right for you.

The Bottom Line

Divorce is a stressful and expensive time, but there’s a high cost to making any mistakes during the process. By following these tips, you can help ensure that you financially survive a divorce.

A financial advisor can also help during these times by providing objective advice to help minimize costs and divide assets in ways that make sense.
Contact us today for a free consultation to learn more about how we can help.

Dale Terwedo, CFP, ChFC, CLU, BFA

Dale Terwedo, CFP, ChFC, CLU, BFA

Certified Financial Planner and Founder

When I founded my original practice in 1983 and then TFS Advisors in 2008, I had one goal – to bring confidence and clarity to my clients’ financial lives. As I worked with clients for over 38 years, it became apparent that the pre-retirement transition was often the most challenging both financially and emotionally. With so many moving parts, clients felt overwhelmed and fearful that they’d miss a key detail that could jeopardize the retirement lifestyle they’d been working toward.

We will provide you useful and timely information you can use to be #financiallyfearless