I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed on Impact Makers Radio.
The theme of the interview was “getting your financial house in order,” and we talked about budgeting and finance for people going through a Utah divorce. I saw Utah divorce, but, honestly, the principles we discussed would benefit anyone anywhere going through divorce.
You can listen to the interview here.
And, for you readers out there, below is a transcript of the interview:
Impact Makers Radio Interview – Marco Brown
Welcome to Impact Makers Radio, featuring industry thought leaders sharing problem-solving insights to help grow your business, and live the life you love. And here’s your host, Stewart Andrew Alexander.
Stewart: Hi, and welcome to another “Let’s Talk Divorce!” conversation! On this segment of the show, ladies and gentlemen, I have Divorce Attorney Marco Brown, founder of Brown Family Law, calling in all the way from Salt Lake City.
Marco has a wealth of experience in the area of Family Law, and will be talking to you today about getting your financial house in order, as in budgeting and investing for the divorcee. Now, that sounds really interesting, so if you are a divorcee, you might want to stop what you’re doing right now, and just tune in for the next 20 minutes or so, and listen to what Marco has to share.
With that said, let’s not keep him waiting any longer. Welcome to the show, Marco!
Marco: Hi! Great to be here.
Stewart: You are so welcome. So, Marco, if you could, just briefly describe the kinds of people who you serve, and the various types of situations they find themselves in, when they come to you for your help.
Marco: Sure. We take divorce and child custody cases, and those are the only types of cases we take. We limit ourselves like this because we want to be able to help people to the best of our abilities, and if we try to be a jack of all trades and a master of none, we’re not really helping people. So, we only take one type of case.
The people we help all really find themselves in a tough situation. Their marriages are ending, their families are breaking apart, they’re scared, they worry about not having enough money, and about losing friends, family members. A lot of times, we really serve people who don’t have enough money, because there’s almost never enough money to go around, in the divorce.
You use more resources when you get divorced, because you give up things like economies of scale, and specialization inside your marriage. More resources means more money. Most people live right up against their financial precipice. They live paycheck to paycheck, so there’s no slack in the system. One thing goes wrong, like a divorce, and they’re over the edge, financially. There’s just not money there.
Most people we get in, they don’t know their assets, they don’t know their debts, they don’t know what they spend per month, they don’t even know what their income is. We get a lot of people that don’t know what their spouse’s income is. And that’s how they’ve lived their lives.
I can’t imagine living my life like that, but a lot of people do. And then, when they get divorced, a difficult situation becomes a really untenable situation. That’s the most common situation we serve people with.
Stewart: Okay. Thanks for sharing that with us, Marco. So, keeping all of that in mind, and obviously, anything that you share with us today is not divorce advice or legal assistance, can you briefly share one of the most common misconceptions? I’m quite sure there are quite a few of them out there, that you come across on a regular basis. But if you could just share one of the most common misconceptions, surrounding budgeting and investing for divorcees, that would be great. Thank you.
Marco: I think the most common misconception is people think they can’t get ahead financially when they’re going through a divorce, or after a divorce. And that’s just not true. I’m not going to lie to you. Divorce is tough. We all know divorce is tough. But if you have a financial game plan while you’re going through divorce, and one for after divorce, you can be successful with money.
You can pay off your debt. You can become debt-free. You can invest in yourself and your family. You can do all of these things, with the right plan, and the willingness to follow the plan. As I said before, people don’t have budgets, they don’t have plans, and that’s really where they fall down. When they have those things, and they’re willing to follow them, they can get up. They can be successful with money during divorce, and after divorce.
Stewart: Let’s look into a little bit of a case study, if you will. Based on what you just shared with us then, Marco, and obviously, keeping client confidentiality in mind, share an example of how you have helped somebody who came to you with those challenges, with those misconceptions that you just shared with us, and what kind of transformational results you were able gain for them.
Marco: There was a really nice lady who came in for what we call a Roadmap and Recovery session. The Roadmap and Recovery session is our initial consultation, when we go over peoples’ situations, we go over their goals, and we go over a strategy in order to obtain those goals. She actually didn’t end up hiring us, so it’s kind of an odd story. She hired another Attorney who she had gone to high school with.
But she took advantage of our personal finance one-on-one training, that we offer people. We offer it to the clients and non-clients, alike. During that training, she and I discussed family budgeting, how to pay off debt, and she had never done a family budget before. Her husband had always done those things. But she took to it like a fish to water, because she realized that now, in her life, she wouldn’t be able to lean on him anymore.
So, I went through and explained the system that my family and I use to budget. This system helped us cut our family spending by 25 to 33 percent. Like I said, she really took to it. She took the training home, she implemented the system. She had started having good success with it, and she actually still emails me probably every three or four weeks, and asks me “How do you deal with this, in this system? How do you deal with that, in this system?” And we have this conversation about it.
She’s doing really well, and it’s great to see her succeed while she’s going through divorce, with money and budgeting, because I know that she’s going to be super successful with it, after she gets divorced. At that point, she’s going to be able to do things like invest. Even if it’s small amounts of money, she’ll get in that habit, and she’ll be able to invest more and more.
That’s the kind of transformation that a lot of people think they can’t do, in divorce, but you absolutely can. You just have to have a good plan.
Stewart: Okay, Marco. Today’s topic is Getting Your Financial House in Order, especially when it comes to budgeting and investing. With that in mind, and for those divorcees wanting to know more, what is the most common, but unknown, pitfall, that you would like to bring to their attention today?
Marco: I think the most common pitfall is that no matter how well you budget, no matter how well you plan, no matter how well you map things out, emergencies happen. Cars break down, kids go to the ER, whatever it is. Stuff happens.
What you have to do is, you have to build a cushion, or some slack, into your financial system, into your budget, to deal with these types of emergencies. Otherwise, you’ll get off track, because you’ll have this emergency, and you’ll spend money that would otherwise go somewhere else, and you get off track, right? And then, it’s harder to get back on track, and to get back to the plan.
What you have to do is, you have to set something aside, for emergencies. There is a very well-known financial guru who says, “Start with $1,000 in your emergency fund.” That might be kind of a high number, for someone getting divorced. So, maybe you start out with $500, and you work your way up to $1,000.
The point really is that you put away something at least somewhat significant for emergencies, so you can stay on track when life happens.
Stewart: I just had a thought then, Marco. Based on what you just shared with us, I’m thinking about a divorcing couple, maybe it’s the wife, and she’s been at home for the last 20 years. For whatever reason it is, she finds herself in a situation where she is being divorced.
Now, in terms of finances, her credit rating may not be that attractive. What does she do, in that situation, when she is approaching the divorce procedure? What kind of things should she bear in mind? What kind of pitfalls should she be aware of?
Marco: Let me take it from the aspect of what she should do. The first thing we tell people to do, when they come in, is to figure out every cent of income that the family receives; wages, rents, investments, trusts, whatever it is.
The second thing is to figure out every expense you pay: mortgages, credit cards, student loans, daycare, whatever it might be. In doing step number two, you automatically figure out what your debts are.
And then, third is to piece together every asset you have. We define an asset as anything you own that you don’t make payments on. So, a house, unless it’s paid off, would be a debt, in our world. You would put together all of those assets, and then you would put together your kind of bare bones budget.
What that does is it allows you to know exactly what you need, not only during the divorce, but after it, to kind of get along. And if you get more than that, then that’s fantastic.
That’s what we tell people to do in the beginning, and that really helps them get on with a plan. Now, on the credit side of things, most people have credit. They’ve had consumer loans, so credit is not really that much of an issue.
If you don’t have good credit, I think you have to ask yourself whether you need credit, in order to get by. Hopefully, you don’t. You don’t want that sort of debt, but there are ways that you can build your credit, if you really have to. But I think the point is you set up a plan, where you don’t have to rely on debt at all.
Stewart: Okay then, Marco. Thanks for sharing that. They are some really great insights, and I’m sure the listener is going to find that really, really helpful. With that said, I’m sure they’ll also want to know a little bit about Marco Brown. I mean, who is he? What makes him tick? How does he feel when he gets up in the morning?
If you could just share a little bit about yourself, Marco, and especially in terms of your background and your education, and the kinds of experience you have, as relates to the topic of Family Law.
Marco: I grew up in a little village in Alaska, on the Aleutian Peninsula. By little, I mean 85 people little. It was this place called Cold Bay. My dad ran a salmon hatchery, of all things. My mom was an air traffic controller. It was this really kind of this wonderful lifestyle for a little kid, because all I did was hunt and fish and play with my dog. I loved it. It really is that kind of ideal situation for a little kid.
I grew up there, and learned to be pretty independent. I left home when I was 17, went to college, and studied psychology. I was actually going to be a clinical psychologist. And then, I decided to go to law school, where I graduated with honors.
After that, I clerked for judges in the 3rd district in Iowa. I helped the with their trials, helped them write their trial opinions, their orders. Then I worked for a big law firm, for a little bit. I didn’t particularly like that. It didn’t really suit me too well, so I came to Salt Lake City in 2010. My wife wanted to get a doctorate. She sings opera, so we came here to allow her to do that, and to get a doctorate.
And then, I started the law firm. But to be honest, none of that really prepared me for helping people with divorce, especially helping people with money in divorce. What helped me do that is working with thousands of people, and talking with thousands of people going through divorce.
You really have to get in that muck and that mire to help people. When you do that, you see patterns. You see patterns of the problems people have, and how they face them, who is successful with it. And that really started me thinking “How can I help people fix these problems? How can I help people get their financial house in order?”
Stewart: Okay. Thanks for sharing that with us, Marco. It’s good just to learn a little bit more about the personal side of our guests, so thank you for doing that.
At this stage then, Marco, when you’re thinking about the kinds of people who you help, the ones that walk in through your door, and they’re wanting to know more about getting their financial house in order, a.k.a. their budgets and their future investments; with that in mind, what would be your final thoughts, that you would like to leave them with, before we find out how to connect with you?
Marco: I think if there’s one thing I’m going to tell people, it’s sit down today and create a monthly budget. And I mean a real budget, that accounts for every dollar coming in and every dollar going out of your household. That’s going to sound simplistic, but it’s not.
If you do this, and you create this monthly budget, you’ll figure out what your debts are, you’ll figure out what your assets are, you’ll figure out where you spend too much money, where you can save that money, and how much money you can start investing for yourself, on a consistent basis. That allows you to put together that plan, that you can then stick with.
But it all starts with that monthly budget. Really, it’s the idea that by small and simple things, are great things brought to pass.
Stewart: Right. So, if there is somebody who feels they want to know more about getting their financial house in order, how can they connect with you, Marco? Where would they find you?
Marco: I think the best way is probably our website and the blog, and you can find that at utdivorceattorney.com. We’re also on Facebook, at utdivorceattorney, or you can put in Brown Family Law LLC on Facebook, and search it, and we’ll come on up. LinkedIn is another way. Just search Marco Brown, and it should come up. I believe that’s how we found each other.
Stewart: So, for all of you out there tuning in, maybe you’re driving in your car. Take care while you’re doing that. Or maybe you’re even still at work, and you know you should not be listening while you’re at work, but we don’t mind! Maybe you’re even listening in on your cell phone, or a tablet. Whatever the case may be, we do have to go.
However, a reminder again, that was Marco Brown. Thank you so much, for sharing so generously with us today, Marco. You certainly have proven that you’re a true educator and advocate for your clients’ success. Thank you so much.
Marco: Thank you. It was great.
Stewart: You are so welcome. And of course, a big thank you to you, the listener, for joining us on this insightful and informative discussion, with one of the leading Divorce Attorneys in the greater Salt Lake City area today. Make sure you do check him out. Give him a call. You’re going to be in good hands.
Until the next time, my name is Stewart Andrew Alexander. We’re going to be back shortly, with some more leading divorce professionals, in this, our series of “Let’s Talk Divorce!” conversation. Until then, take care, have a great day, and we’ll talk real soon.
Thank you for tuning in to Impact Makers Radio. To listen to all past, present and future industry thought leaders and trendsetters, visit us at impactmakersradio.com.