Welcome to the Life Unlimited podcast with Larry Heller. You deserve complete financial advice so you can confidently live your life your way for life. Now, let’s get into this week’s podcast episode.
Matt: Hello, and welcome to another Life Unlimited podcast with your host, Larry Heller. Episode 138 has a wonderful guest.
Gabrielle Clemens is an award winning attorney with expertise in divorce, taxation, estate planning, and finance. She is a certified divorce financial analyst, a CDFA, and an accredited estate planner. Gabrielle shares her knowledge through divorce workshops and is the author of marriage is about love, Divorce is about money. That’s such a good book name. And her career spans roles as a divorce and an estate planning attorney, tax manager and wealth management executive. Gabrielle has received numerous accolades, including being named number one [00:01:00] woman to watch by advisor hub and Forbes top women, wealth advisors. And many more. All right, Larry, take it away.
Larry: Thanks Matt. Hi Gabrielle. Welcome to the podcast. Welcome to the show. I’m excited to dig into the book, but before we kind of talk about the book look, talking about your background and that Matt mentioned there, and it’s a kind of an interesting take on how you got into this business and working with divorce. So why don’t you let the audience know, you know, you’re an attorney and how have you transformed from being an attorney to doing what you’re doing now?
Gabrielle: Oh, well, thanks, Larry. And hi, everybody. And thank you, Matt. Thank you, Larry, for having me here today. I truly appreciate it. You know, it’s an interesting journey, one that, uh, it takes its twists and turns and things I wasn’t expecting.
But you know, when I was when I was In law school, I truly enjoyed the tax area. I like money. I like handling money. I’m a numbers person, but I also liked family law as well. I’m divorced. My mom was divorced. [00:02:00] A lot of people around me are going through divorce. And so when I was working as an estate and tax attorney, I did see that oftentimes divorce women in particular at the time.
This is, you know, over 25 years ago. You know, women didn’t understand all of the different aspects and the financial aspects of their divorce agreements at the time. Alimony was taxable and things were just a little bit more complicated than in some ways they are now. Now we have complex executive compensation packages that we have to to work through for for working understanding of how the money flows.
But generally I, when I had my first son and he is now 26. I decided you know, a partnership track and billable hour format, business format just wasn’t going to work for me. So I transitioned over to wealth management and and, and truly my goal was to help women go through the divorce process, understand every page of their agreement as an attorney, tax specialist and wealth [00:03:00] manager.
You know, I was. I am uniquely qualified to, to unpack an agreement and to, in layman’s terms, go through what was expected what people can can depend on, what’s modifiable, what’s not non modifiable in an agreement and help them understand, map out, and project their post divorce lifestyle, at least in terms of the finances. So that’s how it happened.
Larry: Oh, interesting, interesting direction on how you got to where you are. But did a lot of that have to do with your own personal divorce? I’m divorced and we work with a lot of divorced clients as well, especially the gray divorce, and that kind of was an impetus.What about for yourself?
Gabrielle: You know, not as much for me, but more for my mother. My mother was divorced after up to 30 plus years. She was a stay at home mom. My dad is an attorney. They’re both passed now. But, you know, just watching what people go through when they don’t know what they don’t know. They don’t understand the language.They don’t understand how the numbers flow. They don’t [00:04:00] understand taxes. They don’t know the questions to ask. So, so I think find this educational this part of the education that I can provide to people. So at least they, they may not like their agreement and most people don’t like their agreement.
A good agreement is like a good real estate deal. Everybody’s a little bit unhappy. But at least they’re going to understand that and understand where the weak points are, what’s modifiable, which is always, you know, which is always a risk modifiable up or down, depending on, you know, on what the circumstances are and how things have changed.
But at least they’re going to understand it and feel confident that, you know, they did the best they could do. They were understood, they were heard, somebody ran the numbers and, you know, and they understand the projection, uh, into their post divorce lifestyle.
Larry:Right. I want to, I don’t want to get back to that and talking about that as going through the divorce and especially with a not only called a non financial spouse and when to start this, because we, a lot of times we get involved, it’s after the divorce. So, [00:05:00] but I want to talk about that a little bit before we actually delve into that. What then really inspired you to, to write the book marriage is about love. Divorce is about money.
Gabrielle: Yeah, it’s a good question. And I’m asked that a lot. You know, I feel like the book just wrote itself. I mean, this is, it’s divided up into three, three sections before the divorce, after the divorce and during the divorce.
And it’s really, what do you need to know before, during and after in that space that you’re in? How do I pick an attorney? How do I pick a process? Do I want a divorce? How should I approach this? When do I tell my, my, my spouse? And it’s everything that, you know that we talk about every day when you’re addressing the divorce process.
And then once you’ve made the decision to then move into, uh, you know, how to hire an attorney. You know, what questions to ask? What documents do I need? What should I get? When should I get it? And, you know, what’s the best process? Can I do mediation? What’s the difference [00:06:00] between mediation, solicitation, arbitration, uh, conciliation?
You know, it’s really it’s really, it’s a lot to unpack for somebody who is faced with this, whether they want it or not. It’s still you’re just thrown into a process and a legal paradigm that you just need preparation for. And that was the purpose of the book is to think about a way to approach this and really keep in mind the future.
And get through this and how to successfully navigate your team and understanding that, you know, the subtitle of the book and the theme throughout the books to come is really the business of divorce. This is a business. You hire your attorneys, you hire financial advisors, you hire your therapist, and really, you know, to you, this is your life and you have to understand to other people, this is truly a business.
And, you know, there’s no insurance. Whether be have medical insurance, if you’re faced with a, a medical challenge, there’s no insurance to sort of, to, to help offset your [00:07:00] costs. And you have to understand, uh, the cost benefit of the choices that you’re making both for yourself and your future. Um, as you’re going through,
Larry: So it sounds, it’s more than just talking about finances as money.It sounds like it’s a how to book or a kind of a direction where the steps that you should take even before your divorce, that correct?
Gabrielle: Exactly. Yes. It’s a handbook, a guide. And frankly, some people decide not to get divorced after they read the book and you know, and. You know, how bad are things? Because you know, it could, it could be a good or bad situation. And obviously, I’m not talking about people who are in, you know, you know, you know, violent situations or unsafe situations but really, it’s having a clear picture of, you know, what this process is going to look like before, during and after. You know, you’re done.
Larry: So let’s talk kind of, kind of about more that a little bit about the before and the, and the during, especially kind of from a financial standpoint. So usually when [00:08:00] someone’s made the decision to get divorced, their first and maybe only phone call is to the attorney. So a lot of times they’re not putting a team together, especially on a financial advisor or financial planner until the agreement is finalize, what are your thoughts on something like that? And what do you, what do you see out there?
Gabrielle: Yeah, I agree with you. I think a lot of people don’t even start to think about using a financial advisor until it’s over. And at that point, I wouldn’t say it’s too late. I just think you’ve lost some of the benefit of having an expert in the financial aspects of life not be available to you to, to opine and participate as you’re creating a divorce agreement. So I think the first thing, and it’s in the book, the first thing to do is build your team. Get a therapist. Don’t use your, your attorney as your therapist. Don’t use your attorney as your financial advisor. Don’t use your therapist As your attorney and
Everybody has the role of [00:09:00] your team and you are hiring these people. It’s as if you’re building a house and you know, you have your architect, you have your builder, you have your electrician, you have your subcontractors, you have your landscape architect, you have everybody who’s going to help you build this agreement and participate and give their two cents on the different aspects of this process.
So I think the earlier you can have a financial advisor, you know, in place as well as your therapist in your attorney. They will work together throughout the whole process to ensure that you have the outcome that you understand and that, you know, that you and, you know, projected out what this post divorce life is going to look like and feel like.
Larry: Yeah, I couldn’t agree with you more you know, the matrimony to some of the attorneys. Do you say that? Get a team, get started right away. Others, they handle everything from the financial and do all the legwork and that and don’t even bring that up. But I’m sure you can relate to certain [00:10:00] stories, but we’ve seen so many stories where it would have been so much of it advantageous.
We just had a recent, a new client and their attorney, he wanted to pay All up front. No, no alimony. And when he came to us and said, well, now you’re going to have a huge tax it to raise all the money to pay for this one time payment. He didn’t have any idea. Where if he had a team that maybe the settlement would have been arranged better. So I couldn’t agree with you more. And then getting that word out there that it’s important to have somebody look at that and creating something for you. So when they usually brought in on your CDFA, are you practicing kind of as the CDFA right in the beginning, why don’t you kind of tell us how that works?
Gabrielle: Yes, I am a certified divorce financial analyst, and people will come to me either, you know, at any stage in the process. So some people will come to me saying, I’m thinking [00:11:00] about divorce. I want to get my ducks in a row. What should I be doing? What should I be collecting? Right now I have access to all of the brokerage statements the mortgage information, the tax returns.
I, I can get all of that. What should I be doing? How should we be looking at this? Other people come to me on the advice of their attorney or their mediator to run the numbers just on their agreement or their proposed agreement, just to see whether or not this makes sense or not. Other people come to me after when it’s over and say, well, I’m divorced and I need somewhere.
I need a quadro qualified divorce for like, you know, relations order. I need somewhere to put the IRA money that I just received. What do I do? How do I, I don’t know. We sold our house. I want to buy a house now. What do I, you know, what can I afford? So, so people come to me various times throughout the process.
And I can, I offer. I have value throughout the process, given whichever, wherever time that you’re bringing me in, but I have the most values. [00:12:00] Most CDFAs, I can, I believe, have the most value from the beginning. And then you’re building a relationship and you’re, you understand what the core issues are around finances in this, with this person, with your client.
But also you know, the choices that they need to make and how they feel about, you know, liquid assets versus illiquid assets. Do you want a building, you know, in Manhattan or do you want a bunch of money in the banks? There’s a big difference to that asset, even though on paper it looks like the same value.
So, so those are the kinds of analysis that, that we provide as you’re going through the process which can be very advantageous when you’re done.
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Larry: So, for those that are reading the book, what would you say the three top takeaways are for people?
Gabrielle: Well, one of my first favorite takeaways is, you know, focus on the future. That, you know, divorce is not about avenging the past. It’s not about revenge. It’s not about [00:13:00] equality. You know, it’s all, it’s about equity. It’s not about equality. That’s a big if. And you know, and really from the beginning, think about whether you want this divorce or not. Think about how you want your post-divorce life to look.
Think about where do you truly want to live? I know if you have children, you have to stay in a school district, you have to stay in the town, but let’s look beyond that. What do you want to, where do you want to go? What do you want to do on vacation? What are the types of things if you’ve got to live your life?
Strictly by your own terms, you know, what would that look like? And let’s let’s set that to be the goal. Let’s we’ll know if we’re reaching those goals and if we’re being successful throughout the process, if we’re reaching the goals that we’ve set for ourselves, it’s not as much about what percentage am I going to get or when is this going to end or how much am I going to have?
That’s important. That’s critical. But let’s tie that to definite concrete goals that we have for ourselves and our Children and our families to, you know, to [00:14:00] post divorce. And what do we want that to look like? Some people, oddly enough, say, you know, it’s my spouse who wanted the big house. It’s my spouse who wanted the big vacation.
I just wanted to go camping like like I did when I was a kid. I’d be perfectly happy with that. It was actually easier and more fun and cheaper. You know, so sort of go back to your roots and think about the things that that you want. So, so first order of business for me, for everybody’s, let’s think about the future, not about the past.
I have a client right now who really wants to depose her spouse, and, you know, it’s going to cost so much money, and it’s really not going to add any value, but, you know, but she wants him under oath and to say the things that she wants to hear. And so that’s important to her.
And that’s, you know, that I value that but let’s, after that, let’s move on. So, I think, understand, I think setting up your post divorce life and planning for that is the number one, number one goal. Number two goal, I think, would be [00:15:00] You know, everybody who knows me knows this.
It’s, it’s cost benefit analysis. So what are we truly going to get out of that 20, 000 deposition? We’re going to have to pay the stenographer, we’re going to have to pay the two attorneys, we’re going to have to, you know, suffer the emotional preparation and sitting in the room and watching for a whole day.
What’s the goodwill that it’s going to cost us? I mean, there’s energy expense, financial expense future goodwill expense. What is that really going to get us? What are we going to net out from that that’s going to help you reach those future goals that we had just laid out? And think in terms of that, because if you can process through that with your therapist, not your attorney, maybe not your financial advisor, but if you can go back to your therapist and say, this is really what’s at the core of why I want to see that person squirm or why dollar for dollar.
You know, you can attorneys here say this all the time. You can send my kids to college or your kids to college. What do you want to do? Because you’re not going to get any [00:16:00] more information. So fact, you have cost benefit analysis to the dollars that you’re spending with your attorney. And the process is something to really think about.
And the last part is what’s going to make you happy. I know this is a difficult process, but think of your children. Think of your post divorce life. And build it out on, you know, on a piece by piece. This is, this divorce is not going to define you. You, you’re coming out, you’ve learned a lesson.
Let’s hope we’re not going to make these whatever mistakes again. Again, a therapist issue, not a financial advisor, a lawyer issue. But let’s work on, on, on being better, smarter, clearer self reliant maybe get a job, you know, that’s always good for some people just to get out of your own head.
So that’s how I feel. It’s really about the future.
Larry: Yeah. So those are three super amazing takeaways. And when you, when you’re working with somebody and they’re going through this prosperous and beginning process, you’re dealing with a lot of emotional [00:17:00] aspects of it. So if you, they can kind of rely on you, not only somebody who’s doing it as a profession, but someone who’s gone through it personally.So when you say some of these things is get a little bit more, I guess, credibility, right?
Gabrielle: Right, right. Absolutely. And, you know, I tried to match some of my clients up with friends and people who are on the other side and they thought they would never date again, or they would never be attractive again, or they’d never have a certain lifestyle again and just showing people that there is life after this process.
And you’ll be a whole life ahead of you. Let’s focus on that. And just let’s get through this. Thank you. And, you know, the best way possible and focus on the future, just focus on the future.
Larry: So I guess the book, at what point in the divorce process do you think the book is most useful? I’m guessing, I’m guessing you’re going to say the beginning.
Gabrielle: Yeah, I’d say the pre, pre, pre divorce you know, process. I would read it through just to get a [00:18:00] sense of what you’re getting into and the types of decisions that you need to make. Think about who you want on your team. Who do you know? Ask friends, family, clients, you know, you know, people at school, whatever you know, build your team out. But, you know, if you’re just, if you’re just picking up the book and you’re halfway through, there are your divorce, there are things that before the divorce, you can, you know, you can still get value from.
One of the first questions when people are hiring attorneys today, I say when the first most important question is, do you have time for my case? So as you work as you’re maybe thinking of hiring a new attorney Which people do they didn’t hire the right the first time or they’re just no longer comfortable You want to go back to if you’re, if you’re looking at a new attorney, a new relationship, go back to some of those questions and make sure they have time for you.
Make sure their interests align with yours. You don’t need, you know, the top, top, top attorney, most expensive attorney in your city. If you are, you know, if you [00:19:00] don’t have the assets to to support that, you don’t need that. So there, if you’re changing if you’re changing process as well. So, so even if you’re, if You can start from the end, you can read the whole book, see how things are going to end up, read the last chapter about your state plan, and you know, the types of things that you have to do post divorce, do you want to keep the house, do you want to sell the house, what is that going to look like, and then you can, you know, you can then go back and see what this whole process is going to look like, and I, you know, I suggest you, you get the book and or meet with these advisors, build your team as early as possible.
So I don’t want to give everything away from the book, but do you actually have a recommendation in the book, the type of divorce you should go through, whether it’s mediation, collaboration, traditional divorce. So you, I know you said you mentioned all those. Do you have a recommendation that you put in the book?
Well, you know, I don’t. I explained the process of each and they each have their pros and cons. I think [00:20:00] mediation is a fabulous way to go. If you trust that your spouse is going to be forthcoming with information. You don’t have subpoena power. You don’t have discovery. You don’t have any of the, you know, of the You know, just, just the tools that are available in the litigation process to get the information that you need.
Now, if you’ve started the litigation process, it doesn’t mean that you can’t leave that process and try to mediate. If that doesn’t work, come back to litigation. It also doesn’t mean to say that, well, if you can’t agree and you don’t want to judge agreeing what your visitation schedule is going to, your parenting schedule is going to look like, You can take just that one issue and go off to mediation, decide that with the mediator, and then bring that agreement back to the litigation process and say, okay, we’ve decided on those points.
Now, let’s get back to, you know, figuring out the financials. So, arbitration is very can be very tough because you have an arbitrator. Typically a retired judge that [00:21:00] is going to make a decision and supposed to be binding. That’s sort of what you agreed to, then, you know, that’s good. That could be tough if it doesn’t go your way.
So if you want to have the most control over the outcome of your case, mediation is a great way to go. But you have to go in with the understanding that the risk could be. That you’re not getting all the information and you don’t have the power, the support system to get that. So if you don’t trust your spouse, if you’re not, if you know, if you don’t have a good handle yourself of what your finances are going into this process then, you know, mediation could be a disadvantage and, you know, litigation might be a better advantage.
But again, litigation can take years. It’s expensive. You’re putting your family and the hands of a judge who has seen, you know, 40 cases the same day that they’re hearing yours. You know, you’re just, are you truly getting their [00:22:00] attention? And you know, are they hearing everything that you’re saying?
So that’s a risk too. So, so there’s no one right answer. It depends. It depends, which is what we lawyers always like to say.
Larry: Yeah. But there’s a lot of education because there are so many people that have gone through this, have no idea that there are these other options available to them. So by reading about this, knowing about this, it gives us other things to, to, to think about. So is the book kind of, is it primarily geared to women or men?
Gabrielle: No, not at all. In fact, it’s gender neutral and it applies to anyone going through this process. You know, with the years ago when I started, We, I was dealing mostly with women, but now with the, with how we’ve evolved as a culture and there are many stay at home dads, you know, they’re in the same position that stay at home moms were, you know, 25 years ago.
So, same sex couples, you know, that the book is written [00:23:00] to be, you know, non gender or gender neutral, I should say. And it’s, you know, it really doesn’t matter whichever role that you’re in whether you’re the moneyed spouse, the non moneyed spouse the more familiar with the court process and the divorce process and legal terms.
It really doesn’t matter. And and. You know, the courts don’t make a distinction either. So it’s really all about, this is the process. This is these are your choices. This is how to hire attorneys, how to think about this process. And it’s, like I said, right.
Larry: And the book, you know, the title is, you know, divorce is about money, but is there. Do you have to have a certain amount of money? Do you think that will you benefit from this book or it doesn’t really doesn’t really matter?
Gabrielle: It’s neutral. As far as that, you really just need 24. 95 to buy the book or 9. 99 to down to download the book. And if, you know, it’s interesting because I’ve had a lot of people downloading it because they don’t.
want it hanging around the [00:24:00] house or by the bedside table for obvious reasons. And you know, just to have it handy to pick it up when you have a quick question about where you are in the process and what some of your choices may be or what questions to ask your attorney. You know, it could be useful.
So I think for the cost benefit of the 24 95, it is to buy it. I think you’ll make your money back in spades. But, you know, no, you don’t. This doesn’t necessarily apply to high net worth litigants or, you know, spouses going through this process or, you for low income people, it really, it really doesn’t, um, doesn’t necessarily apply to any particular.
Larry: Since they, you just mentioned the price of the book, if someone wants to get the book, where would they go?
Gabrielle: It’s on, available on Amazon and on barnesandnoble. com. I am also doing a book signing in Wellesley, Massachusetts next week, and also in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts next week.
People can come by and buy it in person if they’re interested. [00:25:00] So, it’s widely available. And independent bookstores throughout the country. But those vary.
Larry: Any, this has been very, uh, very educational about audiences learning a lot or learning a lot that they should go out and buy the book so they can be educated even more. Any final words that you’d like to, uh, mention to our audience, Gabrielle?
Gabrielle: No, I guess not in, in parting, I would just like to I hope that everybody Really just focuses on the future. Just see this as a process when, remember when you were buying your house and you were negotiating and it was the most important thing for about, you know, three weeks and you know, it’s the same thing.
This will pass. Don’t make more of it. Make sure you’re okay. The biggest fear factor obviously would be around your children and their safety and their happiness, but it’s financial. And if you can demystify and detangle. The financial piece and see on paper what these numbers look like, you’re going to feel a lot better and more in [00:26:00] control of the outcome of your process saying, okay, I’m not loving this, but I can live with it.
And this is why and now I know I need what I need to do. I have an action plan. I know I need to, or I need to spend less. Or I need to, you know, do whatever. I, I think it’s, I think that’s the most empowering part of having a handbook such as this because it will help you make better decisions.
Larry: I mean, such a great message to be able to, you know, talk about the future and going through what you are now emotionally and seeing that there is a plan. There is a way of getting past this and going through. So thank you so much for being here today. Thank you so much for writing the book.
Gabrielle: My pleasure. Thank you for having me. All right now. Thank you
Matt: And thank you everybody for listening now. We’re going to make sure that we have links to be able to buy the book marriage is about love divorce is about money So we’ll make sure that we have those in the show notes But [00:27:00] listen what everything that was just discussed city really is about transition, right?
This is a transition in your life. And I love Gabrielle, how you talked about, you know, you need to look at this as where you are in moving forward, right? So many people get so stuck in what happened in the past, instead of being able to go ahead and move forward. Larry has actually talked about that on previous episodes. And I just want to close with this very quickly. The other thing that happens in transition is you need to be able to see how resilient you are. And if you go to hellerwealthmanagement. com, you can take your free financial resilience score to really find out how resilient you are in this transition.
And most importantly in life. So for Larry and Gabrielle and everybody at Heller Wealth Management, this is Matt Halloran, and we’ll see on the other side of the mic. Very soon.