My ex-husband , who is an accountant, recently divorced me after 30 years of marriage. I trusted him with our finances all those years, which was a mistake. This is the first time that I am on my own and could use some help with basic budgeting. I hired a forensic accountant during the divorce and she uncovered everything that he was hiding, which was a sizeable amt of money. Who do you suggest that I could hire to help me?

Terry Says: 

OK, this is such an interesting question that I am going to publish the answer, and then reach out to give you some contacts you might use.   Your situation is a warning to all spouses to be deeply involved in family finances, to read tax returns before they are filed, and to always check retirement investments.  You were fortunate enough to get the right help to get the settlement you deserved.  And now that there is money left over, you are smart to get the right help in financial planning.

You need three types of “consultants” — and you need to do some homework on our own.  Don’t be intimidated by the process.  Take it step by step — and always ask questions, never simply turn your money over to someone else  to handle.  I’m sure you won’t make that mistake again!

  • You need a new accountant, to manage the tax implications of the amount you received, any support/maintenance payments you receive, and any investment income or gains. If you are receiving regular support, you’ll need to start filing quarterly estimated taxes. (Ask the forensic accountant for a recommendation for a CPA — certified public accountant.
  • You’ll need someone to advise on investments — preferably not a stockbroker, but a financial planner who has a Fiduciary obligation to put your interests first when and fully disclose all fees and commissions.  You can find a fee only certified financial planner at www.CFPBoard.org.  But to understand how advisors work, first spend some time at www.CampaignforInvestors.org.  Many people reading this will wonder why you don’t just “turn everything over” to a financial planner.  But I like this system of checks and balances, where each will work with the other.
  • And for YOU, if you just want to start with a basic understanding of what’s going on, I will email and ask for your mailing address, and send you a copy of The Savage Truth on Money.  It is especially designed to take you through this entire process, basic understanding, finding an advisor, understanding investments, insurance etc.  What could be more important than getting this second chance and taking the time and energy to do it right!!
  • You need an estate planning attorney to make a new plan, preferably a Revocable Living Trust.   All your new investments will be titled in the name of your RLT, and you will report any gains, losses, or income from the investments on your own tax return.  Your forensic accountant might have a recommendation — or you can go to www.NAELA.org — the website of the national association of elder law attorneys, to find one who specializes in this area.  Or your accountant or attorney might recommend one.