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Getting Clients Through Divorce

Advisor Nancy Hetrick helps couples financially navigate marriage split-ups.

Kate Stalter, 02/04/2016

After going through a contentious and costly divorce, Nancy Hetrick was driven to improve the process for others. “I have yet to see any couple go through the litigation process and not come out feeling bitter, punished, and resentful. Nobody ever wins in a litigated case,” Hetrick says.

She founded Phoenix-based Smarter Divorce Solutions in 2011, after 12 years of serving clients at Charles Schwab.

Smarter Divorce Solutions conducts in-depth analysis, planning, and settlement negotiation for people in the midst of a split-up. Hetrick also manages assets through Houston-headquartered Clarity Financial, a Registered Investment Advisor.

Through her own experience, Hetrick learned that many attorneys are not equipped to oversee the financial aspects of divorce.

“Unfortunately, family law attorneys will make more money the more they encourage you to fight. It creates an inherent potential conflict of interest. I saw families just destroyed,” she says.

Hetrick serves as a neutral advisor, helping clients structure settlements to maximize the financial outcome for both parties. In addition to her own experience, economic conditions in Phoenix contributed to the development of the company’s focus. The city was hit especially hard in the housing-market collapse.

“I inadvertently became quite the expert on creative settlements of the primary home. Because so many people wanted to get divorced and they’re underwater on their homes, they don’t know how to handle that,” she says.

“If they litigate, or even if they mediate, they have two choices: One person keeps it and refinances, or they sell it. Well, guess what? There are about four other things you could do in that situation. I help people figure that out,” she says.

Thick and Thin
Hetrick left Schwab in 2011, having served the brokerage’s clients through the 1999–2000 Internet boom and bust, the market correction after Sept. 11, the financial crisis in 2008, and the subsequent rally that began in March 2009. Many of her Schwab clients followed as she went independent.

Around the same time she left Schwab, Hetrick began pursuing the Certified Divorce Financial Analyst credential, offered by the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts. After earning the CDFA credential, Hetrick spent the next several months networking, building her website and marketing her new business.

“In the first couple months, I had clients with litigated cases, mediated cases, and then what I didn’t expect was couples that showed up together, that weren’t using attorneys and really didn’t even need a mediator. But they’d been married 20 years or more, had a lot of financial things going on, and they just didn’t want to screw it up. As I worked with those three different models, I came to understand that for me, personally, the litigation process for divorce is just so destructive,” she says.

To develop plans, Hetrick uses Family Law Software, designed specifically to address the intricacies of divorce.

She likens the planning segment of client relationships to a puzzle. “I have all the different pieces, but I have to figure out how to put them together in such a way that we end up with a beautiful picture at the end and not a big mess,” she says.

In addition to her work with financial-planning clients, Hetrick runs an online mentoring program for other advisors who want to launch a divorce practice. She also offers consulting services to financial advisors and attorneys who have no expertise in the divorce process, but have clients whose marriages are breaking up.

She recently launched MediationPlus, a service that helps divorce mediators and CDFAs team up to share expertise.

Hetrick plans to ramp up the marketing effort for MediationPlus in 2016, starting with online outreach to divorce mediators. “A big part of the model is that all the practitioners need to submit blogs,” she says. Participants receive ideas for articles with good potential to be found on search engines. “My marketing people will make sure that we have a lot of content going out, so that when people are searching for mediators and divorce professionals, MediationPlus is coming up on their web searches.”

Close Collaborations
Hetrick bills for planning services on an hourly basis. The majority of her Smarter Divorce Solutions clients eventually ask her to manage their assets through Clarity Financial.

At Schwab Private Client Services, she had hands-on responsibility for managing client portfolios, and she continues in that role today.

She has access to Morningstar data through Clarity and uses Morningstar.com to review client portfolios. She invests in exchangetraded funds and mutual funds, and emphasizes behavioral components of investing over stock-picking.

She says the close collaboration with her planning clients, through a very difficult time in their lives, results in successful ongoing working relationships. “By the time we’re done with the planning process, it’s been anywhere from one month to a year that I’ve been working with these folks and becoming a trusted friend. My goal is to help them understand the decisions that they’re making in that divorce process. These clients are my family. I literally feel so close to them, and I think they would say the same thing about me,” she says.

Intent on spreading the word about a friendlier, more effective divorce process, Hetrick released a book in January, Divorce Is Not for Dummies: How to Cover Your Assets.

Having slogged through numerous divorce books crammed with factual information presented in a dry manner, Hetrick thinks the market was ready for something different.

“Every single divorce book I’ve ever seen reads like a textbook. Anybody who’s gone through a divorce knows that during the process, your ability to think rationally is cut by about 75%. You don’t process information well at all. The emotions of it are really exhausting and you can’t read that stuff. This book is very much from the heart, lots about my story. It’s very funny, it’s very irreverent, but very frank,” she says.

Ultimately, Hetrick wants clients and readers to get the right information about financial aspects of divorce. This, she says, will allow them to make better decisions as they look to the next chapters of their lives.

“I worry a lot about the folks that have been married 20 years that are doing their own divorces. There’s so much, and they don’t know what they don’t know,” she says. “People really need some help to understand these important decisions they’re making.”

 

Nancy Hetrick, founder and CEO, Smarter Divorce Solutions.

How she caught our eye: Advisor who saw the need to help divorcing couples reach the best possible financial settlements. Career path: Worked for Charles Schwab in the firm’s Private Client division before launching Smarter Divorce Solutions in 2011. She is also a senior financial advisor at Clarity Financial. She is a Master Analyst in Financial Forensics, a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, an Accredited Wealth Management Advisor, an Accredited Asset Management Specialist, a Chartered Mutual Fund Counselor, and a trained mediator. She was awarded the 2015 Business Owner of the Year by the Phoenix chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners. Author of Divorce Is Not for Dummies: How to Cover Your Assets.

Personal: Married, has four kids and one grandchild. Loves motorcycling, hiking, and yoga. She is the finance director for the National Association of Women Business Owners, was on the 2014 National Board of Advisors for the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts, and is a frequent volunteer for the Fresh Start Foundation for Women in Phoenix.

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