Sam Thornal | Using a CFP to Help Divorcing Clients Win Financially

We’re excited to welcome Sam Thornal, CFP®, CDFA® , ChFC® , CRPC® as our guest today on the “Texas Family Law Insiders” podcast. Sam is a graduate of Baylor University and is the CEO of Encircle Wealth Advisors, Ameriprise Financial Services, LLC. 

Early in his career, Sam met many people who were bankrupt within 5 years of their divorce. Right then, he knew he wanted to help people reach past the emotions and make the right financial decisions to not just survive divorce but thrive. Now, he helps clients with their post divorce financial planning.

I can’t stress enough to attorneys how important it is to have a relationship with someone like Sam who can help your client make sound financial decisions.

Listen as he shares with us:

  • Why it’s so important to involve financial experts early in the divorce process
  • A financial planning secret almost no one thinks about
  • Why it’s important to have a financial plan in place before mediation
  • Creative financial solutions for “keeping the house”
  • And much more

Mentioned in this episode:


Sam Thornal: Just because your column adds up to more, it doesn’t mean that you’re netting more at the end of the day.

Voiceover: You’re listening to the Texas Family Law Insiders podcast, your source for the latest news and trends in family law in the state of Texas. Now here’s your host, attorney Holly Draper.

Holly Draper: Today we’re excited to welcome Sam Thornal to the Texas Family Law Insiders podcast. Sam is a Baylor graduate and the Chief Executive Officer of Encircle Wealth Advisors, a private wealth advisory practice of Ameriprise Financial Services, LLC in McKinney, Texas. He’s been a financial advisor for over 19 years and is a Certified Financial Planner® practitioner, Behavioral Financial Advisor™, a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst®, a Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor® and a Chartered Financial Consultant®. Sam’s mission is to help clients feel more confident about their financial future, connected and in control of their financial life.

And Encircle Wealth Advisors has a team approach by working with their clients’ tax advisor, estate attorney, divorce attorney, mortgage broker and realtor to make strategic decisions about their investments and financial planning goals. One of his areas of concentration is helping clients plan for their life, post divorce. Sam is trained to deal with the financial impacts and long term implications that a divorce can create. Whether you started saving for your future, getting ready to retire, already retired, changing jobs, going through or finishing up a divorce, Encircle Wealth Advisors can help build your customized financial plan and work with you to achieve your financial goals. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Sam: Thanks for having me, Holly.

Holly: So why don’t you start by just telling us a little bit about yourself.

Sam: Let’s see. So born and raised here in Texas. Grew up in a little town, Groesbeck. Put myself through Baylor University. I wasn’t a financial adviser would have picked a cheaper school to put myself through. But I am a Baylor Bear. I actually graduated in a unique way and path to being a financial advisor. I actually graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science. So definitely a computer nerd. But realized I like the the problem solving, working with clients and helping them to where they want to go. And so when the opportunity coming up on 20 years ago, to transition to being a financial advisor came about I jumped on it.

So I’ve been with Ameriprise all 20 years, have my own financial advisory practice here in McKinney. And we get to work with clients for long periods of time, not just focused on the investment sides, which is important for most clients, but we get to help them do true planning. And and if someone asked me what the difference is between what I do and other people in my field is we embrace planning. We want to understand where the client is today financially, and where they want to be financially in the future.

And then we’re meeting with them on a regular basis of job changes of their ability to save. And so it’s just been rewarding for the last 20 years. I built out the practice with other associates joining. And so we were in growth mode and definitely through the recent events last year with the economy. We’ve definitely been taking on clients and really helping them navigate through the changes that are that are coming. So that is us at Encircle Wealth Advisors.

Holly: So when I was reading your bio, or a few minutes ago, we definitely went through a long list of certifications that you have. Can you tell us about those? What’s most important, what they mean?

Sam: Yeah, no, absolutely. I was teasing with you earlier. Like I have a lot of those designations that I got early on when I didn’t have as many gray hairs. But but all of them are a little bit different focused in the overall financial planning world. The one most people are probably most familiar about is the Certified Financial Planner. That’s kind of the the gold standard. When if you read an article it says hey, make sure your financial visor is a CFP, the acronym for it. And it just means we’re we’re going deep on understanding tax strategies. Where we may not be the tax expert, but we’ve learned enough in that tax area to be able to get clients over to the CPAs and to implement some strategies.

We understand estate planning. So we understand the questions to reach out to estate attorneys when our clients need help in that area. We know pension plans, we know retirement plans. So the CFP is a definitely a rigorous certification process to get financial advisors understanding a lot of different areas so that when a client comes in, we can point them in the right direction, or help start building that plan that’s going to get them to where they want to go. The Behavioral Financial Analyst is one of the most recent designations that I got. And it’s I think it’s really catching on around the country now because it’s people and money.

It’s it’s what are the, what are the emotions when they’re making decisions, where mistakes I made early on in my career, where building a perfect financial plan but it required you to be perfect with your budget and perfect with your money. And now it’s helping advisors understand the emotion of why a client’s making a decision. So if they come in and we build a goal based advice plan, and they come in and they start doing something different, we are now trained to ask the right questions to go is this, has your goals changed? If so, why? And help walk walk through that with them.

So sometimes they’ll come to the conclusion, or maybe we shouldn’t do that. It is an emotional decision that we’re making. So that one ties in very well with the Certified Divorce Financial Analyst. I’ve had that one, somewhere around about 17 of my 19 years, which is focused on helping clients understand what that divorce decree means to them with the asset separation. What, how much money goes into their column? What are they giving up? What are they getting? What are they going to have access to? And you and I have talked about that in the past of just what the client needs access to, to be able to continue moving forward for their own personal goals now that they’re losing a partner.

And so we can really be an asset to the client, but also the attorney through the process. The other one, Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor, expert on on retirement plans, understanding the different 401k’s versus IRA simple plans. And then a Chartered Financial Consultant, very similar to that of just understanding, understanding all the different questions that come up when somebody is planning long term.

Holly: So I know you do a lot of work with people involved in divorce. What made you decide to focus at least a portion of your business on that target market?

Sam: So that actually came up early on in my career. And the first two years of my career, I was coming across more single women that had just gone through divorce. And I saw the issues that were coming up of, hey I just went through a divorce six months ago, or two years ago. And the consequences of the decisions they made, were still showing up. Where maybe there was a house that financially didn’t make sense for them to keep, or they’ve run through their cash reserves at a faster pace than what they assumed. And so I saw a repetitive theme on the people I was meeting and I did research and came across this Certified Divorce Financial Analyst designation, and started doing research.

And that designation came actually from an attorney that saw a lot of the program came from an attorney, that’s saw a lot of her clients being bankrupt, within five years of divorce. And she realized there needed to be some changes on how she was helping her, her clients. So that’s where that CDFA came from. And I embraced it because I was seeing it firsthand, myself. And I really wanted to, to help this group of people. Because there’s so much emotion that’s going on in the decisions they’re making, a lot of them just wanted to get out of a divorce. And they they didn’t understand if you choose this, what this means some where 5, 10 years down the road for them, and maybe their kids. And so there was some passion around it. And I saw an under underserved community that I really wanted to jump into and help.

Holly: So for the family lawyers out there that are listening, I cannot express enough how valuable it is to have a relationship with somebody like Sam, who can help your clients with these financial issues. And not necessarily in the divorce financial, Certified Divorce Financial Analyst role. But in more of a financial planner role that has that knowledge and background. So can you talk a little bit about whether or not you’re you know, when you use specific criteria of Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, and when you don’t? And how those play together?

Sam: No, good question. And the biggest goal I try to help people understand is, as value is that CDFA, I’m going to use the acronym. The Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, as valuable as that is, and a lot of clients, that’s all they want. They want somebody who can understand the assets, division and making sure they’re getting an equitable solution at the end of the day. And they’ll work with the attorneys saying, hey, we need more cash, because of expenses that are coming up and they’ll make some baseline decisions, and they’ll help the attorney. What I’m trying to do in the practice, and the advisors here with me, is we believe that stops short of where we can really help the client.

Where we really need to be building a financial plan, we really need them to understand what is their cash flow going to look like? What are their expenses going to look like? Is that house a great house for them to stay in and for themselves and for their kids? And what are the consequences if they do stay there and it’s too expensive for them dropping down to one one salary? So that’s our biggest differential is we believe it shouldn’t stop at this asset division, but it should be an ongoing relationship. A plan, showing them what their post divorce life is going to look like.

Holly: So what is something attorneys can look for as signs that a particular client needs someone like you working alongside in their case?

Sam: I think this is easy. When they start asking you the questions that you don’t want to ask, an answer as an attorney. When they go hey, what should I do with with this, this money? Or what about the house? Or what kind of job do I need to get? All those are great, are the flags where every attorney has said that’s not what we do. We’re we want to help the client we want to go through and help them through the divorce process, but we’re not their their financial advisor.

So I think when the when the attorney catches themself going, you need to talk to a financial expert. That’s where I think that the segue and from what you’ve told me and the other attorneys that I work with, that’s usually a very common question. Where their mind starts to go that they they need to start understanding what their life is going to look like financially. Can they afford certain things? And what’s the retirement gonna look like? Are their kids taken care of? So I think any of those questions that come up is a great opportunity to refer them to a financial advisor they trust.

Holly: At what stage in the divorce process should attorneys be looking to make those kind of connections?

Sam: I don’t say this just to look for business opportunity, but I’m saying, as early as possible. Because even in that first interview that attorneys are doing with the clients, I believe some of these questions come up of well should I ask for this? Or should I, or should I keep this? Or all those things are going to start down a path of how the client is looking at their financial situation. So the earlier that we can jump in, into the process, not only can we help the clients, but I think we can also help the attorneys. From the feedback that I’ve gotten, is sometimes you know this, a client will get locked down on I have to have the house. I got to keep the house.

Holly: Right.

Sam: The earlier we can start talking to them about that word budget, you know, their spending plan as we like to call it sometimes. The earlier we can do that in the process sometimes we can help move them to what their their their spending is going to look like a post a divorce. So really I think it’s from the first meeting. Definitely when discovery is being done for divorce cases because as they’re gathering that financial information, we we read statements. I mean that is what we do for a living. And so we understand the difference between a Roth IRA and an a 401k and the pension plans. So the sooner we can be brought in, not only can we help the clients understand what’s out there, but we also want to be a resource for the attorneys on what this client’s going to need to start reaching what their bills are post divorce.

Holly: So you mentioned discovery. In a lot of our, almost all, divorce cases at least if there are any assets at all, we do what’s called a sworn inventory and appraisement, where we are getting gathering all of this financial information and putting it down on paper. Is that something that you help clients with? Do you work with attorneys on those? How do you play in on something like that?

Sam: Yeah, what’s interesting is we as financial advisors, as part of the financial planning process, we do the discovery with every single client. Our own, I mean we’re asking our, it’s also it’s kind of funny is y’all’s checklist that I see a lot of attorneys that have that they want, we have an even more extensive one in terms of all the items that we’re going into from Social Security statements to pension plans to life insurance and benefits at work. And so yeah, all of those all that that checklist of items that are that are out there we’re very familiar with and so if you get them to us sooner, we’re kind of doing a lot of legwork that we can then send them back to you guys and go hey we’ve gotten the most recent statement versus just a website print off.

We actually got a statement that shows history and allows you guys to be able to go go deeper. So yeah, we we definitely do discovery with every clients and long term clients we do discovery every year of what statements and what’s changing that’s out there. So that that’s why I think that we don’t get them in the before discovery. That’s that’s an area that we could definitely help attorneys.

Holly: So can you describe generally what you do on your end when you know say I call you up and I say hey, Sam, I’ve got Jane Doe and she’s going through divorce and I think that she could really use your services and I connect you two and then you go. Can you generally describe what do you do from there?

Sam: Yeah, that that first call when they’re calling in, once again, I know it’s very emotional because a lot of times when they’re first starting, it is the the emotions of I’m moving forward with this. Where do I even start? So, I take a step back with them, and really have them focus is is to do a quick x ray, and and go, okay, where are you at and your partner financially? But then I quickly jump to what are your goals? And so on that first phone call, I go what are some of your initial goals? What’s important to you? What are your going to be your, I’m asking for this. And I know that things may change, but the sooner I can understand the direction they’re going, the sooner is going to help me to start formatting some type of game plan to be able to help.

Help them through the entire process. So we’ll ask them, is the house important? What what kind of custody are you asking for the kids? What’s your job situation now? What do you think is going to change? So the sooner that we can get that all out in the open in that first call, the better we’re going to be able to help them. And so that first call starts, and then a lot of times, we determine if they’re, if we’re going to be able to provide the service that they need. And unfortunately, to your point, you’ve had these clients that come in, and they may be separating debt. Well, I’m gonna feel horrible having them come in and hire me to do something that I could give him some pointers over the phone with.

So not every single person that that I talk with, are we necessarily trying to turn into to a client. We want them to be in a situation where they need our advice, not only through the divorce, but also on a long term process. So that’s that first meeting of what we’re doing. If that first meeting determines that they do want help, we believe that we can help them, then we’ll schedule that first meeting. So we can have an in face, person to person, or in this day and age, a Zoom call, where we can talk through in more depth. And a lot of times, that’s a very emotional meeting for them. They’ve just explained it to an attorney, they’re they’re going through, they’ll share sometimes why the divorce is happening. Gives us some insight, not a requirement. But we can start to dig deeper in that first meeting, of why they’re asking for the house, or why they feel the need to get a hold of this asset.

And we can start to to help guide them to understand the complexities if they, if they go down that path, what we’ve seen other clients happen. And I think that’s that meeting is the biggest impact. Whenever I can show other other examples of clients and their similar situation, and how it’s come come out on the other side. I like to build their confidence. I really do in that first, when you build a confidence that I know they’re going through a tough time. But I’m trying to see the light at the end of the tunnel, that we can build a plan and work through that together. So after that first meeting, we send them home with that homework, the discovery, the same thing that you guys are doing out there in terms of what we’re going to need to move forward in the process.

The second meeting, we call it the data meeting, but it really is it’s making their pile of stuff, everything they’ve been able to get themselves. What ever they’ve been able to grab from a pile out on a desk, at the house. Just everything and anything so that we can grab that information and go back and start to build the the asset, the discovery spreadsheet or using our financial planning software and build it out. And then by that third meeting, Holly, that’s, that’s the one that I think is the most exciting for the client going through this tough situation is we’re able to put up on the big screen their financial life post divorce. We show them if if they’ve had to sell the house, we’ve showed them that they’re getting child support coming in what does that mean for their cash flow?

If they’re if they’re going back to work? What type of income do they need to shoot for to make their cash flow look strong? What does it mean for kids’ education? Are they on track for retirement? Or what are they going to have to do? So that, that meeting, that the plan presentation meeting is where they’re going to come back to the attorney. And I believe they’re going to feel the most confident because now they’ve seen what, why asking for this or not asking for this, what the impacts are on their financial life. And then we immediately go into a service process model where we’re sitting down with our clients, sometimes trimesters or quarterly.

So we’re not just meeting at the end of the year, we’re going to meet with them on a regular basis to let them know what’s going on with the economy, the market, tax changes that we need to get them back in front of the CPA. So that’s a normal client. But where changes after the plan presentation for clients that are going through divorces, we’re usually there. And every time there’s a new offer being made, settlement offer, we’re plugging that into the plan to see if there’s going to be any major impacts to their financial plan. So little slight difference for divorcing clients where there’s probably a lot more meetings that are happening as different offers are coming through the process, the divorce process.

Holly: So I know you sometimes are involved in mediation when divorces are trying to settle and you mentioned plugging things in when there’s a settlement offer. How do you get involved in mediation? What is your role and how can you help both attorneys and clients in that situation?

Sam: Well, try to avoid it as much as possible because man do y’all sit there for a long time, eight and 10 hours. I just, I’ve gone through that, I’ve sat down next to some of your colleagues through some of those and I, oh man, I empathize with y’all doing that. But what I’d rather do during the mediation is sometimes I can just be on call, meaning hey, if it falls, right, I’m here my office, I have their financial plan with technology now, I can share out their financial plan and literally just sit there and plug in the numbers with whatever offer the mediator came in with. So I’ve gone to them and me and my associates are, will go and do that, if it calls for it. What we seen over the last several years is with technology, it’s a hey, can you please be on standby mode. We’re going to need to reach out and ask some questions.

But if we’ve done our job, and we build out the plan, I know this may not seem like it’s, I’m under playing it, but it’s really not as complicated to make those quick changes. If we’re getting this asset versus this one, we’re switching a cash account for a 401k or vice versa. We know, and the planning software helps us understand the tax consequences. And that’s probably the biggest thing I would tell you during mediation. When when quick changes are being offered to swap assets, is we need to help the clients and help the attorneys understand what is this actual mean, they seem very generous, that all of a sudden extra 50,000 showed up on on this side of the ledger that your clients going to get. But then I remind them that, you do understand that’s all taxable.

And so that 50,000 gets eaten up by you don’t necessarily have the penalties associated with divorce for early distributions from from 401k. But the taxes are still there. And so we can, we can show that. Once again, we’re not we’re not a tax attorneys, we’re not CPAs. And we don’t play one on television, but we definitely understand the consequences. And our software will help explain that to the clients where just because your column adds up to more, it doesn’t mean that you’re netting more at the end of the day.

Holly: I think that’s one of the biggest mistakes that attorneys make in negotiating property settlements is not realizing that we’re looking at apples and oranges and lemons. They put it all on the chart, it’s all equal, they want to get 50/50 down the bottom or whatever percentage they’re trying to get. So it can really be helpful, especially if somebody can calculate those tax consequences on fly. Because, you know, most of us lawyers have far less tax knowledge than the financial planner does. And it’s it’s much more reliable information coming from there.

Sam: Well, y’all are playing two roles. You’re having to be an attorney and be a legal expert. And then you have to be a financial expert over here and then a tax expert over here. So all this wrapped up into one is the earlier we get in the process, you can start delegating some of those those questions and responsibilities off to the to other folks. And I’ll bring in, if it gets to a very complex situation, I’ll tap one of my tax experts to step in when it gets detailed in maybe stock options or or distributions where a client’s going to need to pull a lot of money from the, from the 401k that that they’re getting.

But any attorney that’s trying to do all of it, I believe they’re going to run into some some issues or unintended consequences for the client where you may have got a good settlement. But if you didn’t know the client needed $150,000 for a down payment for a house, if all they got was qualified assets, that’s going to lead where they’re going to have to pull a lot more money out for taxes. And so yeah, I, the understanding of the tax consequences or what their plan is all fits in, and y’all are having to make quick decisions sometimes in that mediation.

Holly: So you mentioned working with tax professionals. I know you have a you have a broad network and you bring in a lot of other people for different issues. What types of professionals do you like to pull in to help divorcing clients?

Sam: And I will, I will share this, this is for divorcing clients. And I’m most likely pulling the exact same professionals in a normal financial advising relationship that walks in because I really do want the experts in each area as part of the client’s team. And during divorce, it’s even that much more important that we do so. So the ones that most people may not think about is a mortgage broker. If they’re keeping that house, you know, Holly, most of the time they’re being, they’re going to require to refinance it, right to get the other spouse’s name name off. Or if they’re selling the house, they may be wanting to go buy another one. As you know, through that process, depending on what the income situation is, or the assets they’re going to get, we don’t know if they’re going to qualify for the house.

So I actually have mortgage experts that definitely I think need to be on one of your one of your future podcasts out there that they help look at the draft divorce decrees. They’ll even send it over to underwriting to understand hey, based on this divorce decree, do we believe that they will qualify? And we’ve had a couple of cases where the way spousal maintenance was paid out, it was a descending 3000, 2000, 1000. Well, come to find out mortgage underwriters do not like that descending income. I was able to come back with a strategy and go, what if we just made it 2000 for three years, the same amount of money being paid to the spouse, and the underwriters were happy, which I shook my head, but that makes them happy, it makes them be able to sell the mortgage.

And so we were able to help that client. So those mortgage brokers, a lot of times when the house is involved, we got to get, got them, get them in place. And when you count spousal maintenance or child support, how it can be counted to qualifying, the tax experts, once again, the assets being divided, if it gets complex with stock options, and if they’re going to need to take distributions, I always want to bring the tax expert in there. Our software does a good job of helping estimate some of those things.

But sometimes the tax expert can step in to decide should we take some of the distributions this year versus next year, based on what their new taxable income is going to be. One of the big ones that I think that attorneys lose an opportunity to refer and and we tried to capitalize on, is estate attorneys. I do not know a situation where a person through a divorce does not need a new estate plan. I mean, they, if they had one, it needs to be updated. And if they didn’t have one, they very much need one. So we we love bringing in the estate attorneys, post divorce not necessarily during during the divorce.

But we do get the clients thinking about it. And then a realtor. A realtor to be able to understand what is the valuation of the house, where if they’re needing to move, where they’re going to go. We’ll talk with the realtors to make sure that it stays within their new spending plan what their new plan looks like long term. So those are most likely the the the core experts that we’ll bring in and to be able to help with the client in a normal situation, but very much so in a divorce case.

Holly: So you mentioned, you talked about the mortgage lender and the issue with spousal maintenance decreasing versus keeping it steady and the underwriters and whatnot. So as attorneys, when we go into mediation, and we sign a meeting and settlement agreement, it is binding, and everybody is stuck with that. So to what extent do you ever make those decisions and conversations with mortgage lenders during mediation? And to what extent does that need to be done in advance?

Sam: And I think that’s, that’s one of the things that in advance of mediation, because to your point it’s too late, if it’s a binding agreement, and you’re done. We’ll have conversations, like I said, during the planning process of what kind of house, are they keeping this house, and bottom line is, a lot of times we can go in there and go, this is what the requirement is going to be. And so working with the mortgage expert who’s who does divorce and there are certifications for our mortgage professionals out there, they will sit there and go, you’re gonna need to walk out with this much in assets.

You’re gonna need this much in income. And by the way, that income for child support for different types of mortgages has to be in place for three months or six months. And I’ll let them be the experts on that. But I know enough to go, hey, if the decree comes back and says you have to refinance this house in 90 days, they actually may not be qualified because of what the underwriters want to see. So we usually try to put a game plan in place to know what the mortgage professionals have told us needs to be the outcome so we can stay within those guidelines. And then I I’ve reached out to the mortgage professionals and have them, they already have the client set up.

And now with their tools, we can sit there and have them estimate if they got this much from the 401k. This much in cash, this much from the sale of the house, they now have the tools where they can sit there go okay, that falls within the debt to income ratios that we need to get through underwriter. So it may not, if there’s a lot of movements, it may not be a guarantee that we’re going to qualify, but at least the mortgage broker has been through the process and can can understand what the big issues are with the clients that are going to keep them from qualifying on the other side.

Holly: So in general, how do you think it benefits an attorney to involve someone like you with the client early on?

Sam: I think it was back to the to the client questions that I know y’all want to help with. But you know, as soon as you give some advice, they’re respecting your opinion on this. And if the attorneys realize that we can have that question answered by someone that has dug deep into their financial situation, knows what their goals are, I think it’ll avoid some of those calls that you’ll get and the emails that you’ll get where you’re repeatedly going, hey, you need to talk to a financial expert on that, you need to talk to it. So I think if you can bring us on early on, it’ll start those, I don’t wanna call them nuisance questions, but the emotional questions that the client is asking.

It’ll, it’ll help push those where you guys can focus on what you’re experts at, we can focus on what we’re really good at with the client. So the earlier that happens, I think the sooner we can start to answer those questions, but also get the client off of the house, if it’s not going to make sense financially, because I keep bringing that up as an example. But I know in my my my cases that I’ve helped on, it’s usually the house is that emotional tie that comes up. And so if we can help show them where you may know, Sam, I’ve done this enough, I know financially it’s just the house, I don’t know how they’re going to be able to do it.

I’m able to talk to them through their own numbers. When I show them their budget, when I show them what their incomes gonna look like, after you’ve told me child support after we look at the assets, and I can show them, you’re going to be negative on the other side of this, then we can help them where y’all can get through going, you know what, we’re putting the house over on their column, we’re going over here in a different direction. The sooner we can help y’all with that, I think we can get through some of those roadblocks that y’all sometimes suffer through.

Holly: And I think in addition to helping us get through those types of roadblocks, I think it can also help us come up with a lot more creative solutions for our clients. I think the gut instinct of a lot of attorneys, especially if we’re dealing with a stay at home mom or something like that is to say, you can’t you’re not gonna qualify for the house, and just toss that idea to the side. But if there’s certain assets, and if you do it the right way, and you’re creative, there might be a way that this person could have the house. So having outside professionals help in something like that can help figure out can it happen. And is it a good idea to happen? And if so, how do we all work together to make it happen?

Sam: And I’ll give, I’ll give one that is not going to be right for every every client out there. But we knew the client was going to be able to go back to work and earn a good income. There wasn’t going to be enough cash for the down payment. And so we, instead of her keeping her 401k and the husband keeping his 401k, which doesn’t necessarily allow for distributions, we were able to do kind of a crisscross situation. And that case, the husband was okay with it. Where hey I understand the need for a QDRO in this situation, and we ran it past the attorney and they’re like, oh, that does help us pull money out that’s been needed for that for the downpayment, once again, not something we would typically typically do. But in this situation, the client really wanted to get into that house. And we showed a unique way of how to make that happen for them.

Holly: And you mentioned QDROs that’s another complicating factor in a lot of divorces. And a lot of attorneys have pretty limited knowledge when it comes to retirement plans. And you know, the number of people who have specialized knowledge is pretty limited. So is that something that you’re able to help attorneys to understand the plans, to understand, you know, whether it’s better to keep this Roth versus that 401k and things of that nature.

Sam: So on the on the plans, once again, understanding the tax consequences of each each one will play into the to the actual plan, but access to the plan, or that asset is also extremely valuable. So where we’re not the QDRO experts, we do know that when that QDRO is done, what the process is, we’re usually the ones helping that get to the right person over at the plan and actually working through getting the accounts separated, separated out. But yes, working with the attorneys to understand this looked like a very generous offer. But at the end of the day, you understand these stock options are taxed this way, this pension plan is taxed this way. It’s like, it looks like it’s more, but when it netted out, it really isn’t. So we I love providing education whenever I can. I have, a lot of my attorneys, have my my cell phone number, and I’ll get calls all the time going, hey, walk me through the difference between a SEP IRA or a simple IRA.

And I can help them understand what what that may mean or or why that’s a negative for the client. So I definitely, if an attorney establishes a great relationship with a financial advisor, who also is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, I think they’re gonna get a really good resource where they’re gonna be able to call and ask some questions because it’s a it’s a relationship that can go back and forth. Where we love the referral opportunities that the attorneys provide for us, and we can also be a resource. And then we do benefit sometimes where the attorneys, because we have the client come to us first, because of a previous relationship or our clients and so then we can actually refer out to the attorney if the opportunity presents itself.

Holly: So one of the questions I like to ask all my guests on the podcast is if you could give one piece of advice to family lawyers, what would it be?

Sam: I know you’re saying hey, a professional financial advisor, you need to ask them that question. But I do believe the attorneys are a little nervous because they don’t they don’t want to be responsible. We get that. We don’t want to be responsible if that financial adviser messes something up. Well, I will tell you, I think more can be messed up in the divorce or overlooked. If you’re not bringing that person in, where you’re saying, this looks like a good, you know, split. And then we’ve talked about the tax consequences, or what that what does this mean for the client. I want the attorneys to get, as silly as it sounds, I want them to get the best reviews possible for their divorce, you know, services.

And I think we do a great job working in concert with the attorneys of making this really, really bad situation, helping set expectations of what divorce life is going to look like in their, their situation. So if the attorneys would just go, I’m going to do the research, I’m going to find somebody that I trust, and I’m going to, I’m going to bring them into the to the situation or into the divorce process sooner. I think they’re going to, it’s going to help them be better attorneys and take some of those questions off their plate. So going back to the earlier we can be involved, the more I think we can help the attorneys.

Holly: And that’s excellent advice. A lot, especially a lot of younger attorneys, you don’t know what you don’t know. So if you can recognize the area that this particular client needs help, it is oftentimes better to bring in an expert on that particular area than to try and do it yourself.

Sam: Absolutely. I and the younger attorneys once again, they may be three or four years in where they’re still becoming experts in the law side, the legal side. And now they’re being asked to understand every type of retirement account that’s out there. Trust me, I’m not saying I have them all to memory. We just have the resources to very quickly go, and working with a great company like Ameriprise, we have our experts at our home office that we can reach up and tap into, so we’re it looks like it’s just me, we have a big company standing behind us that we can help provide really good services to our clients and attorneys.

Holly: So we’re just about out of time but where can our listeners go if they want to learn more about you?

Sam: So to find other advisors like myself, and you can search for Encircle Wealth Advisors. The name came from the idea that I tried to encircle my clients with experts. I have a really cool graph that shows the attorneys and the other professionals that I believe every client has. So search for Encircle Wealth Advisors and we’d love to help anyone that’s in need.

Holly: Great well thank you so much for joining us today. For our listeners if you enjoyed today’s podcast, go give us a review and subscribe to enjoy future episodes.

Voiceover: That Texas Family Law Insiders podcast is sponsored by the Draper Law firm. We help people navigate divorce and child custody cases and handle family law appellate matters. For more information, visit our website at

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