GAR 239 | Savvy Ladies

 

With financial expertise, compassion, and kindness, Stacy Francis educates and empowers women in transition through divorce and widowhood to live their lives to the fullest.  During her childhood, Stacy watched her grandmother stay in an abusive marriage because she did not have the skills to effectively deal with money, and this insight both changed Stacy’s life and inspired her career in finance. She is a Certified Financial Planner, a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, a Certified Estate and Trust Specialist, and a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist who is the president and CEO of her company Francis Financial, and Stacy is also the founder of the non-profit Savvy Ladies, which has positively impacted the lives of over 30,000 women by offering invaluable resources, webinars, and personalized guidance from certified financial experts.  Join us for a heartwarming episode filled with wisdom, compassion, and inspiration, as Stacy highlights the significance of financial empowerment for women, explains how grief can affect a widow emotionally, physically, mentally, and even spiritually, describes self-care tools that allow women to take care of themselves emotionally, offers constructive ways a woman can cope with the effects of grief, and more!  

IN THIS EPISODE, YOU’LL HEAR THINGS LIKE:

  • The ways Stacy’s grandmother’s story inspired the current trajectory of Stacy’s life.
  • Why choosing a financial advisor is a “gut thing.”
  • The most objective and unbiased financial advisors are fee-only advisors who don’t get paid in any other way but from the client.
  • How the financial decisions a woman makes during her divorce impact her future, and the benefits of working with a Divorce Financial Planner.
  • Why the core values shared by Stacy and each member of her team is highly important for each of her clients.

SOME QUESTIONS IRENE ASKS STACY:

  • How does your work as a grief recovery specialist help you to support your clients who are experiencing and grieving the loss of a loved one?
  • In what ways can grief affect a widow emotionally, physically, mentally, and even spiritually?
  • What are the benefits of working with a Divorce Financial Planner?
  • How does the non-profit Savvy Ladies empower women to identify their goals, make proactive choices about their finances, and lead richer, more rewarding lives?
  • Why are the most important professionals a woman needs on her team an estate planning attorney, a financial advisor, and a therapist?

Watch the episode here

Listen to the podcast here

 

Stacy Francis: With Financial Expertise, Compassion and Kindness, Stacy Educates and Empowers Women in Transition Through Divorce and Widowhood to Live Their Lives to the Fullest!

 

 

 

 

 

I am delighted to have this opportunity to interview Stacy Francis, who is a Certified Financial Planner, a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, a Certified Estate and Trust Specialist, and a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist. Early in her childhood, Stacey watched her grandmother, Myra, stay in an abusive marriage because she did not have the skills to deal effectively with money.

This insight changed Stacey’s life and drove her towards a career in finance. She became inspired to found her company, Francis Financial. As the President and CEO of Francis Financial, it’s Stacey’s admirable goal for women in transition through divorce and widowhood to feel confident and comfortable with money in a judgment-free space. She has authored an informational document called a white paper, titled, Unveiling the Unspoken Truth: The Financial Challenges Women Face Before and After Divorce.

She has also crafted a guide titled Financial Help for Widows: A Complete Resource Guide, which helps women who have lost a spouse to prepare financially. Francis Financial has been honored with prestigious awards and recognitions as a top advisor in the industry, notably for women. Stacy also founded the nonprofit Savvy Ladies®, which helps women across the spectrum of ages, life experiences, and income levels. Savvy Ladies empowers them to identify their goals, make proactive choices about their finances, and lead richer, more rewarding lives.

I’m looking forward to talking with Stacy, whose office is in New York City, about the ways her grandmother Myra inspired the current trajectory of her life and how the financial decisions a woman makes during her divorce impact her future, the in-depth training Stacy has received helps her to support clients experiencing and grieving the loss of a loved one, her self-care guide addresses the physical impact of grief and how to cope with the effects, her resource guide titled Financial Help for Widows, and more for what is surely going to be a compassionate, highly impactful, and wisdom-filled Interview. Stacey, a warm, heartfelt welcome to the show.

Thank you, Irene. I am blushing. That was such a beautiful introduction.

GAR 239 | Savvy Ladies

My pleasure. I love bringing someone as remarkable as you onto the show because I know that you can help so many people in our audience, and they can pass it on. It’s so great. Let’s start with this question. I want everybody to know what generated who you are now. Could you tell us about your childhood, your relationship with your grandmother, Myra, and the ways your grandmother’s story inspired the trajectory of your life?

Thank you, Irene. My grandmother was one of the most important people in my life. My mother and my grandmother were the two most important people to me. I found myself, as a young girl, seeing that my grandfather didn’t treat her well. As I became older, it became more and more apparent that it wasn’t just not treating her well. It wasn’t only yelling at her. It was physically abusing her. Along with that is financial abuse. In fact, in 98% of domestic violence situations, there’s financial abuse as well. Grandma was one of those women. She was literally and also figuratively trapped in a marriage and never left. She ended, unfortunately, passing away because of the abuse. Growing up as this little girl and then losing one of the people who I love most in my life, I had a huge amount of grief and a huge amount of trauma.

That inspired me to start to educate myself about finances. I would have never expected that I was going to be doing this work when I was little. I will tell you, like you, I am called to this mission, and it is so powerful to be able to help. Primarily, we work with women to help them in their times of need of dealing with grief and dealing with trauma so that they can rebuild their lives and have financial security because every single person deserves that. I created a beautiful charity that we’ll talk about later called Savvy Ladies® in her memory. We’ve worked with over 30,000 women who are financially vulnerable pro bono. The year after I started that charity, I started Francis Financial to pay for it. Here we are two decades later. It’s a great place to be. I couldn’t be happier to be a social entrepreneur. I know I’m making a difference. It feels good.

It feels good to me to have you on to know that because my mother was a battered woman. I can remember begging my mother in my childhood, “Why don’t you leave him” My mother said, “Who’s going to do this for you? Who’s going to do that for you?” She had much more power than she thought she did. That’s for a whole other interview as to how you resolved your feelings with your grandfather.

We need a cocktail for that conversation.

I had the same issues with my father. Why do you say that choosing a financial advisor is a gut thing? There are so many people out there.

What’s difficult about choosing a financial advisor is we all look the same. I know we’re going to talk a little bit about what to look for and how to make sure that you’re working with someone who’s reputable and who is going to do a good job for you. The reason why I say it’s a gut thing is that you’re going to be sharing some of the deepest, most personal information with this person. You have to feel in your very gut that this is someone that you can have those conversations with. In fact, your financial advisor may know more about you than a lot of your closest friends. They can’t do the job that they need to do for you to make sure that you are on the right financial track unless they know everything, your hopes, your dreams, and what you want in the future.

Your financial advisor may know more about you than a lot of your closest friends. They can't do the job that they need to make sure that you are on the right financial track unless they know everything. Share on X

Many women that I work with come to us with feelings of shame as if, “I should have known this information and should have been more involved.” The should haves go on and should have blank. We can keep on filling them. You have to have that wonderful relationship with that advisor in your gut. This is someone who has your back, is not judging you, and that you can truly be open and honest with. The gut piece is important. Our guts tell us. If there’s something that’s not right when you’re talking to someone, listen to that gut. It’s usually right. It doesn’t mean that they’re a bad person, but maybe they’re not the right person for you.

My gut is looking at you and feeling how compassionate you are. I would imagine when you’re coming to someone with all of these issues. You’re frightened that you’re going through all of this. Not only do you want someone smart, but you want someone who can identify heart-wise with what you’re going through. That’s so important. That leads me to the core values shared by you and each member of your team. I know that you talk about that there are core values, and it’s important for people to know what they are and how they help each of your clients.

We’re a unique special financial advisory firm. Because I started it on my own, it has become, for me, more than a company and the wonderful people who work here. It’s a family. Our clients are also part of our family. Together, we chose these values. Everybody got a vote on what values they felt most resonated with us, how we serve our clients, and how we work together every day. That’s a passion for excellence, compassion, communication, integrity, and supportive attention. This is something that we bring to our work every day with each other but also with our clients. Our clients are in a place where they do need that compassion. They do need that supportive attention because they’re often going through some of the most difficult situations in their life.

That leads me to my next question because you also say that the most important professionals these hurting people will need on their team are an estate planning attorney, a financial advisor, and a therapist. Ideally, one specializing in grief recovery. That’s what happened to me. I had a financial advisor, but I also had a therapist, which made a huge difference for me. Would you like to tell everyone why that combination is important?

It is important. It’s interesting. I feel like a lot of people are surprised about the therapist as an important team member. I will tell you it’s extremely important. I’m going to start with that person first because anyone who is going through a divorce, even if you were the one to initiate that divorce, there is grief. It’s grief and it’s mourning the loss of the life you thought you were going to have, mourning the loss of the partner who you thought you had married. There are so many losses. Also, for someone whose spouse has a terminal illness or has passed away, there is the loss of that amazing person in your life. Often, we see secondary and even tertiary losses as well.

All of a sudden, you’re 100% responsible for your finances. Not only have you lost your most loved partner in the world, but you lost your financial advisor, that person who was dealing with the accountant and dealing with the investment portfolio. Putting the mask that falls from the ceiling on a plane on yourself first is important. I do see with a lot of our clients, whether it’s a divorce or a death, that they’re very much trying to help others, helping the kids, helping even friends or family members that they’re not often giving themselves that same love of in time and supportive healing. A therapist is a must-have for every person. Also, matching it up with that estate planning attorney with the loss of a spouse.

There are so many details. It is imperative to have a great attorney to help you through the legal morass of that so that you can move through that journey as whole as possible with as little stress as well. That’s important. If it’s a divorce, you want a fantastic matrimonial attorney. If anyone wants resources, we work in almost every state across the US, and we know great people that you can work with. For a matrimonial attorney and estate planning attorney, you’re going to need to work with a lawyer who’s passed the bar in your state. It is going to be more location-specific.

That’s so wonderful because they can come to you and give you all this knowledge so that they’re not googling like, “What am I going to do?” You also advise women who are going through divorce to work with a therapist.

Very much so. I will tell you that for those clients who work with either a therapist, a grief coach, or a divorce coach, I see them navigate that process of divorce in a much healthier way and come out much more whole at the end. I also see that they have more tools to be able to protect themselves from being triggered by their soon-to-be ex-spouse’s behavior and words. Ultimately, if there are children, the children also are in a much better place to recover in a wonderful, healthy way. I can’t say enough about working with coaches or therapists. I am here in New York City. We all have therapists, whether or not we’re going through a divorce or a significant loss. I can’t imagine someone getting through this on their own.

Clients that work with either a therapist, uh, a grief coach, or a divorce coach, navigate the process of divorce in a much healthier way, coming out much more whole at the end. Share on X

It’s horrible. The other thing I want everyone to know is you say that the most objective and unbiased financial advisors are fee-only advisors who don’t get paid in any other way but from the client. Can you educate me about that also?

GAR 239 | Savvy Ladies

There are two pieces that are important, fee-only and fiduciary. Fee-only mean that you would be paying someone an hourly fee, maybe a retainer if you’re working with them ongoing, or for us, if you have a portfolio, then you pay us a small percent from the portfolio based on the value. When your account goes up, we make more money. When your account goes down, we make less money. The pieces that you have to be careful of are those people who make money by selling you things, those who might make money by selling you annuities, or mutual funds that have commissions in them.

Asking how you get paid is important. Fiduciary is what it sounds like. That fiduciary has to put your interests ahead of their own no matter what. That’s important. When you’re interviewing an advisor too, that’s the second question, “Are you a fiduciary, and are you a fiduciary at all times?” Those are the questions that are important for you to understand. If anyone wants, I have a fantastic questionnaire that lists out the questions to ask a financial advisor, and I’m happy to share that with you, Irene. I know that interviewing an advisor can be a little overwhelming.

Please do share. We’ll talk about that later after our interview and get all those logistics done. I would love to have that for everyone to be able to source. I also wanted to ask you to give us an example. You have a story from a woman named Naomi and your company. I want you to tell everyone how your company helped her because she was contemplating a divorce. There could be women reading and thinking, “I don’t know how to go about this.” The other question I wanted to ask you is, do you work with women all across the country?

We sure do. We work with clients all across the country. Anyone who is going through a difficult time, like a divorce or the death of their spouse, has a piece of my heart. I am so committed to making sure that they’re on a financial track and that of all the things they have to worry about, they don’t have to worry about their money. Naomi is one of these women who came to us. She was in the middle of her divorce process. She had received a settlement proposal from her spouse. There were significant assets, and because of that, she didn’t understand everything about the proposal and what that would mean to her moving forward. What we did is we created a beautiful financial plan.

If you could think about it as a crystal ball into her future, looking at settlement, A) A proposal that he made, versus B) To see how this would affect her life. Also, what would be the best assets for her to take and what would be optimal for her financial future as well as the kids. We looked at all the different pieces, from bank accounts to non-retirement investment accounts, tax-sensitive accounts such as IRAs and 401(k)s, as well as the house. Once she was able to see that, she was able to make a good decision about, “Do I stay in the house? Do I not stay in the house?” Also, knowing that she has the best assets to support her and her future. She walked away with a nice number. She walked away with about $2.1 million.

She’s grieving the loss of all her fantasies and the loss of what she hoped for in her life and everything. This is all imploded.

A lot of people don’t think about that aspect of financial advisory, but what brought me to this field, in addition to never wanting to see another woman go through what my grandmother did, was to be in a helping profession. At least 50% of the work that we do is around that. That’s why one of our core values is communication. That’s so important because you can’t do a good job for someone unless you can have that open communication.

That’s wonderful. I know that you have a resource guide titled Financial Help for Widows, and it’s divided into three sections. I want to focus only on the section about a woman building her team of professionals. I’m getting from this interview that you have lots of professionals who you know and that you recommend, but I always call it a wagon train. Whenever I was going through something, I had my therapist and my professional or whatever. How do you advise women in your way to build this team? If you want to talk a little bit about your other two sections, please do.

In the book, we talk a lot about what you need to be doing with your finances during that first year and what things are very important. Before you’re even tackling that, you need to make sure you have your team, and I call it team whoever. It might be Team Irene. You’ve got everybody on Team Irene. The people that we would recommend and make introductions to would be recovery coaches, therapists, estate planners, and attorneys in your area. Ideally, we’re the right financial planner for you, but sometimes we’re not. We might not be the right one for someone.

We know hundreds of certified financial planners across the country. We know hundreds and hundreds of estate planning attorneys, and we also know hundreds of therapists. I’ve spent the last two decades getting to know these people, cultivating, and being able to help our clients. The reason why this is so important is that you don’t know what you don’t know. You’re making important decisions from a financial perspective, from a lifestyle perspective, and all these areas that are going to impact you for the rest of your life. It can be overwhelming.

GAR 239 | Savvy Ladies

I’m sure you also intuit or help women to find or figure out who’s the right person for them. If they have this whole group of people and they’re grieving, they’re not into all these discovery calls. Am I right about that?

Yes, there are different types of grief. There’s grief from the sudden death of a spouse, grief from having a long illness of ten years, grief with working with one woman who has a six-month-old and is very young. There are so many different types of grief, like grief of losing a child. Unfortunately, death does not discriminate. Grief is something that impacts everyone. The worst thing is that we typically don’t have a heads-up about when it’s coming.

Death does not discriminate. Grief is something that impacts everyone. And the worst thing s that we typically don't have a heads up about when it's coming. Share on X

That can also sometimes be the case with divorce. Sometimes we have no idea that this isn’t going to work out. There can be a lot of surprises with that. Getting your team in order is important. If you are even thinking about a divorce or your spouse has a terminal illness, try to put that team in place before. That is important. We know that once you sign the divorce papers to start or that person passes away, I don’t want to swear, but blank hits the fan. We all know that.

I experienced it too. You also talk about the ways grief affects a widow, but I would think divorce is also emotionally, physically, mentally, and even spiritually.

This is one of the hardest parts of someone going through either of these situations. It is people who say, “How are you doing?” How do you think I’m doing? Instead, “How are you doing right now?” That’s so much more thoughtful to ask because our emotions are tidal waves. They change from day to day. They change hour-t- hour. They change minute-to-minute. Physically, we also feel grief, and grief shows up in not being able to think as clearly, losing our keys, not being able to eat, being able to eat too much, not being able to sleep, and wanting to sleep all day. There are so many different ways that it will show up for you. Spiritually, there are some where grief will bring them closer to their spirituality.

For others, it might propel them away because of anger, “How could this happen to me?” The biggest thing that you’ve spoken about too is that you don’t do grief one way. It’s different for every single person, and whatever it is for you, that’s fine. Realize that you are not going to be like your coworkers and how they dealt with grief. You’re your own person, own unique situation, and own DNA. Your grief process is also going to be different.

What I’m perceiving because of the way you help and you yourself help them with grief is you encourage them to see a therapist to get them into the right professionals. They come out of your experience more empowered and much wiser to be more prepared for the rest of their lives. I know that you also provide women with self-care tools. You have a self-care guide. Do you want to talk about a little bit of that because here you are helping them that way to nurture themselves?

That self-care guide is how you start to take care of yourself again when sometimes you can’t even bear to get out of bed. We’ll talk about, do we want to put into your budget seeing a trainer, maybe going to yoga? It’s making sure that they have that in their budget or that they have money if they need to see a nutritionist. For us, what we’re doing is we’re taking all of the support that this person needs.

We’re translating it into numbers. We’re running it through her financial plan. When she sees that her financial plan works, that’s another way that she’s able to give herself permission to be able to have those resources. One of the number one concerns that someone has through a divorce and having lost their spouse is, “Am I going to be okay financially?”

I heard this from a woman and her husband with life insurance. She’s going to have $5 million. She came to me and said, “I feel like I can’t spend a penny.” She felt so poor. We all know that $5 million is a very large number, but that’s how she felt. She needed to see her financial plan to be able to give her permission to be able to take herself and do the right things to be able to see friends and go out to dinner. It looked beautiful, which was great.

Sometimes when we do a financial plan, it’s not as beautiful as someone who has $5 million. The thing that we can always do is there are always different scenarios that we can run to show what needs to happen if there isn’t a lot of life insurance money. If there are not a lot of assets to divide in the divorce, what needs to happen to make sure that you’re financially secure? It is extremely empowering. I will tell you that our clients, you see them 3, 5, 10, 15 years later, and it makes my heart so happy. They’re living a financially confident life. It’s so empowering to see.

You’re doing a great service to people. I’m going to turn to your other great service. Talk to me about this nonprofit Savvy Ladies®, and that’s for women who do not have a $5 million pot of gold waiting for them even though they don’t know quite how to enjoy it yet. How does Savvy Ladies empower them to identify their goals, make their proactive choices about their finances, and live richer, more rewarding lives when they don’t have a large pot, to begin with?

Savvy Ladies® is my love letter to my grandmother. With this, we’ve worked with over 30,000 women. We offer free financial education for all women. I want to say all women too because we don’t income test. All women can have important questions. A lot of the women who come to us are financially vulnerable. They are in financial need and they’re in crisis situations.

Savvy Ladies offers free financial education and one-on-one support to financially vulnerable women, helping them live richer, more rewarding lives. Share on X

We’re able to support them by offering these fantastic webinars and online live events where every financial topic you can imagine is there, from divorce and finance to how to save for your retirement while balancing saving for your kids’ college education. Those are fantastic programs. Then we also have 150 self-paced classes that you can take that are also FINRA-approved. The best part of it is that you get to work, if you like, one-on-one with a certified financial planner, with a certified Divorce Financial Analyst with a CPA, with no charge.

This is now June 2023, so in the last six months from June, we’ve matched 1,300 women with financial advisors to work free of charge. You can do that via phone, via Zoom, whatever works for you. It’s typically one hour, and it’s the most wonderful service. We have 250 advisors who have given their hearts and given their hours of volunteer. What’s great is that these are advisors with all different unique specialties.

You go to SavvyLadies.org and you put your question in for the helpline. It’s going to go to the advisors who are experts in debt management, credit scores, or Social Security questions. We get a lot of Social Security questions. We have some of the best advisors in the country. Again, it’s all free of charge. We’re a 501(c)(3). We are blessed to be able to do all of this work.

The other thing that you do there is so wonderful is you help people to heal. Everything that you do helps people to heal, which is the heart of this show.

It is about healing. There are so many economic headwinds that we face. Anything we can do to help women with financial education with that support is what Savvy Ladies® is all about. It’s a fantastic organization.

Is that what gives you the greatest joy? What would Stacy like to say about it?

I feel so blessed. I’m a mom. I have two kids. I have an amazing husband, which is interesting as a certified divorce financial analyst. I feel like I have the best husband in the world. We’ve been together for many years. My family is my number one, but I have to tell you and you’re going to be surprised by this. Francis Financial and Savvy Ladies® both mean the world to me.

The reason why is because I could not have built this charity, Savvy Ladies®, without having started Francis Financial. I have been able to pour hundreds of thousands of dollars into this charity because I built this amazing wealth management firm. I am so unbelievably grateful for that because something I learned when I was 26, very quickly when I started the charity, is you can only do as much good work as the amount of money you have. That was such an eye-opener for me.

You can only do as much good work as the amount of money you have. Share on X

It didn’t matter how passionate I was about this and how important this cause of helping financially vulnerable women is. No one was going to write me a check. Now we get hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants, sponsorships, and donations, but it’s because we had to build a track record of several decades. I feel so blessed for where we are. I know that it could not have happened without this amazing company called Francis Financial. We give big. We give a lot of money to Savvy Ladies®, but that’s who we are.

It’s interesting because if you go to the Francis Financial website, you’re going to see that every person who works here, and there are eighteen of us if you can believe, and we’re almost all women. 2 men and 16 women. We all have a personal story of what drives us to do this work. That’s why we’ve been able to attract such great people who believe in our values and believe in this work. Both Francis Financial and Savvy Ladies® are so important to me, and I feel so lucky to live this life.

Your grandmother suffered, but she also blessed you, and I’m sure she is with you every step of the way.

She is. I will tell you, Irene, I feel her all the time. I have a special dress that she left for me. Whenever I do something in honor of Savvy Ladies® where I spoke on Capitol Hill at International Widow’s Day, talking about the financial challenges women face as widows, I channel her, and I wear that dress. She also left me some beautiful jewelry that I wear, whether it’s our gala or I was in front of a large foundation asking for a grant. She’s here with us.

I have no doubt about it. Stacy, you provide women going through difficult transitions in their lives. What I love about what you do is you provide them with a judgment-free space in which you prioritize compassion and kindness, and you help them to feel confident and comfortable with money by educating them and empowering them. This is a true blessing. I want to thank you for helping women to live their life to the fullest.

Thank you from my heart for this compassionate, highly impactful, and wisdom-filled interview. Make sure to follow us and like us on social @IreneSWeinberg on Instagram, Facebook, and wherever you get your show, including YouTube. As I like to say, to be continued. Many thanks, Stacy. Many blessings, and bye for now. Thank you.

Thank you.

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About Stacy Francis

GAR 239 | Savvy LadiesStacy is a nationally recognized financial expert with over 20 years of experience in the financial industry. She is one of twenty of the nation’s leading wealth managers on CNBC’s Digital Financial Advisor Council , and frequently appears in media outlets such as Forbes, Kiplinger, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today. Stacy is dedicated to furthering the financial planning profession, and is the Director of the Association of Divorce Financial Planners’ (ADFP) Greater New York Metro Chapter, the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) and the Financial Planning Association (FPA). Stacy is committed to ongoing professional education, has attended the New York University Center for Finance, Law and Taxation, where she completed the Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP®) designation. Stacy is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® (CDFA®), a Divorce Financial Strategist™ as well as a Certified Estate and Trust Specialist (CES™). As much as 10% of all Francis Financial proceeds are donated to charities, including Savvy Ladies™, a nonprofit organization founded by Stacy to educate and empower women to take control of their finances. Savvy Ladies has helped over 20,000 women through free one-on-one financial counseling, workshops, and retreats.

 

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