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Michelle Smith Headshot

The "Ex Factor"

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I've observed an interesting phenomenon after handling the financial aspects of hundreds of divorces and witnessed post-divorce financial behaviors and decisions for over 20 years. Wall Street and corporate ex wives have a hard time separating their financial thought process from their ex's long after the settlement check has cleared. As an expert -- think of me as your Divorce Consigliore™ and as a woman who represents women and men equally -- I'd like to talk straight to The Ladies on this one just as if I were your best guy friend. You and your ex may thank me.

You've told me he's "brilliant." A "genius," actually. He's even called himself a "Rock Star." You still want to trust him when it comes to investment and financial advice.

Look, no one likes to make mistakes with their money. That usually results in losing money -- never a fun thing. What's more, feeling like you are "practicing" with your own divorce settlement can feel overwhelming, scary and dangerous, especially if you long ago turned the reigns of money management over to Him. But something else can be equally as dangerous. And that is believing any and everyone else is smarter than you at managing your personal finances. Even your Ex.

I definitely have my own ideas and experience as to why this is a natural tendency. Better yet, many of you Exes have shared your secret thinking with me. It goes something like this: He may have cheated. He may have lied. He may have "blue ice in his soul," as one of you told me. But he made millions of dollars on "The Street" or building his company so he "must" be brilliant and know more than you ever could or will, right? So why shouldn't you still listen to his advice or follow his lead on how to manage your post-divorce finances?

Maybe you still can or should. I can't answer that for anyone. But I can tell you to take a pause and ask yourself why. There are reasons that may have more logic than others. If you are taking a portion of your money and following his advice because you still want to "profit" from his investment prowess, I get that. As long as you have surrounded yourself with your own wise financial team and have vetted with them the "why" behind this choice, it could be a perfectly sensible thing to do. Many women who chose to stay home and either not start or give up careers and their own income-producing ability feel concern, angst and often anger that he will continue to amass a fortune while yours has been cut off as of your settlement. All reasonable feelings as to why you may still want to listen to his financial advice.

However, if your thought process isn't as balanced and doesn't follow some version of the theme I just described, then perhaps you are doing something which is very common. Which is to feel like you either can't or don't want to take responsibility for managing your own financial affairs. Maybe you are afraid to "screw it up." After all, this may be "it" -- the money you have to live on for the rest of your life. Many of you have told me you don't ever want to "have to" marry again for financial reasons and that independence is critical. So I get it. Completely. You don't want to make a mistake with your Life Settlement. Because it's not just a divorce settlement.

I hear countless renditions of the following story: "I was talking to some very smart guys (last night, at a party, at a benefit). And I am telling you, these guys are geniuses. I am lucky they even shared their intellect with me. Well, they told me that I should/shouldn't invest/or not invest in x, y, or z."

What is it about the perception that everyone else who looks, acts and appears brilliant, or looks, acts and appears financially well off MUST know more than anyone else? A lot of smart, talented people almost took our financial system down. My advice to you is the same I would give to anyone, X or Y chromosome:

Whatever you decide to do, look in the mirror before you let your Ex or anyone tell you they know what you need, especially after the crisis of divorce. With the right team around you, and with your own sound thinking, you may just be looking at the best person for the job.