Seek pre-settlement financial advice immediately. I believe you need a team around you — legal, financial and emotional support by professionals who specialise in this area. So many women don’t seek financial advice because they don’t understand what we (those who specialise in this area) do. I think they think we just sell investments. This is the opportunity to understand your options and the pros and cons of those options. Avoiding a mistake will set you up for the long term.
As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce Or Breakup” I had the pleasure of interviewing Helen Baker. Helen is the owner and financial adviser at On Your Own Two Feet.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My background was to go into businesses and situations and “fix” them. After working in Australia and then overseas I returned home to Australia. An opportunity came up to be the General Manager of a financial planning firm. During the time there, Rob Berens suggested I become a financial adviser — he said it’s about people and you care about people. So, I married up my finance knowledge, with my “fix” knowledge and my care for people, and here I am.
Can you explain to our readers why you are an authority about “divorce”?
My business is called On Your Own Two Feet which tends to attract women — (professional woman, widows, couples, divorced, terminally ill, etc). I tended to attract women who wished to seek financial advice from another woman where they could be open and feel safe. Over the years I saw so many women come to see divorce, primarily post-divorce i.e. they had already signed on the dotted line and I saw quite a lot of the same mistakes. I saw women under strength in the negotiation phase not understanding the mistakes they were making and suffering the consequences thereafter. So, I wrote my book specifically on these issues. I also have some wonderful lawyers who I touch base with regularly to ensure I am on top of the issues in divorce overall.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
I think being asked to be on television has been interesting. I spend all of my time making sure my clients are ok and focusing on them, not me, so I never dreamt of being on TV. When it happened the first time, I thought wow that was challenging but different, never thinking it would continue. Getting your hair and makeup was done with TV presenters/on show guests is interesting and always fun to meet them face to face. When I used to work in the music industry (I worked for Robbie Williams management team, Sia’s, etc. when I lived in London), it was about them, now that I’m the person on stage it is quite different.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I presented to an audience of around 55 women about “why they need to financially plan…..and how to buy more shoes! “ They say if you get 10% of the audience to book a meeting with you afterward then you are doing well. I had 52 people request an appointment. So instead of going wow that’s fantastic, my perfectionist head went “oh, didn’t the other 3 like it?”. Unfortunately, I didn’t know too much at the start, I had no process, didn’t know much about what I was looking for and how to identify the needs of the client, so it was quite a disaster in hindsight. If the same thing happened today I’m sure I would be able to help them, if not personally, guide them about the issues and connect them with someone appropriate.
If you had a close friend come to you for advice after a divorce, what are 5 things you would advise in order to survive and thrive after the divorce? Can you please give a story or example for each?
1. Do not sign anything until you have done steps 2–5.
2. The next thing I would say is buy the book. The book is designed to settle you down and get you empowered about the process and the mistakes to avoid. If the situation is simple, then the book should help you, if it is complicated, then you can read the book and realise why you need to seek financial advice.
3. Seek pre-settlement financial advice immediately. I believe you need a team around you — legal, financial and emotional support by professionals who specialise in this area. So many women don’t seek financial advice because they don’t understand what we (those who specialise in this area) do. I think they think we just sell investments. This is the opportunity to understand your options and the pros and cons of those options. Avoiding a mistake will set you up for the long term.
4. Ensure you get the “Five Foundations” in place. This is something you can take control of immediately and continue to control going forward. Avoiding a mistake here will try to ensure you don’t have your “walk away money” destroyed.
5. Plan for the long term by focusing on rebuilding your finances. Protect what you have against any future relationships and ensure you build for retirement.
What are the most common mistakes people make after they go through a divorce? What can be done to avoid that?
1. Signing off before you got pre-settlement advice leaving you with less than you perhaps should have got.
2. Spending what you walk away with. So many people need a holiday after the stress, but once the money is gone it is gone.
3. Not seeking ongoing financial advice to help you rebuild from here and maximise your position.
4. Going into another relationship without having a legal document to protect what you walked into the relationship with.
5. Not having their “Five Foundations” in place, so if you get sick or didn’t maximise these foundations, you could end up losing the lot.
6. If you took the house, how are you financially able to maintain the house going forward? Does it mean that you can’t afford a holiday or repairs and therefore are forced to sell the house?
7. Not knowing what investments to take and then losing money through the sale or taxes.
Seek financial advice from a Divorce specialist.
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources related to this topic that you would recommend to our readers?
There are some legal and emotional books out there that can also help clients going through this. I like the professionals to “stay in their lane”, so that the reader gets quality, correct information. There are tonnes of podcasts and resources on this topic from a range of angles — legal, emotional, wellbeing, property, investments all the way to how to deal with someone with a disorder. And there’s also the TV series “divorce” by Sarah Jessica Parker — though I haven’t watched it so I’m not sure if it has any tips in it or if it is just a soap.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that helped you in this work? Can you share how that was relevant in your real life?
“If you take care of people, money takes care of itself”. So many people are obsessed with money and it is a never-ending game. Some people will focus on the money first and people second. I think if you do the right thing by people, money takes care of itself. Sure occasionally you get a person who does the wrong thing, but that’s on them, not you. The other is my Dad who said “why do you have to learn everything the hard way?” and I would say “I don’t know Dad but I’m really good at it”. So sometimes I have had to suffer in order to make changes I wouldn’t have changed if it maybe didn’t hurt so much.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I have just re-written my first book to update it from 5 years ago. I use the money from the books to help disadvantaged women, so I’m hoping that by selling more, we can change more people’s lives. It’s a two-edged sword because we help women in the first world who read the book and we move the money to help those in the third world so we are changing lives.
Because of the position that you are in, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would like to see us honour and respect women and girls more. Sex trafficking is a massive issue in the world today, women in their 60’s are the new homeless, women are leaving their financial stability because they have left domestically violent relationships, women need to be safe to walk the streets. We still have massive issues with the gender pay gap and smaller superannuation. It seems women are often fighting for women’s rights and I would love to see more and more men fighting for us too. Why do we have to always be fighting? They say violence against women we say “no”, but I don’t think I see that reflected in sentencing. We have such massive expectations of women that are unrealistic — they are to be a wife, a mother, a career woman, keep the household together, carer of their Mum/Mother-in-law, be fit, be beautiful, be a person….and the list goes on.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 😊
I’m hoping to meet Suzie Orman through a contact I have. I’d like to meet Victoria Osteen. I would also like to meet Arsene Wenger because I have some questions for him as an Arsenal fan.