the Fiscal Feminist

Kimberlee Davis is a Partner and Managing Director in The Bahnsen Group, a wealth management practice with offices in Newport Beach, California and New York City. She is also a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst.

I have been pondering the relationship of women and their fiscal responsibility to themselves for quite some time due to some very unfortunate financial problems that I personally had to circumnavigate over the years. My story could have had a very different ending – a SAD ending where mine and my children’s futures could have been negatively impacted and my retirement a nightmare. How did this happen? I would never do anything to purposefully put myself and my children at risk. It happened because I did not have my priorities straight, was not vigilant, didn’t take preventative action, and didn’t have “uncomfortable” money conversations. As a result, for several years I was entrapped by fear and uncertainty.

Women have unique financial issues and concerns that they must confront over the course of their lives that differ from men’s. Many of our base truths about money are formed by our upbringing and the people in our lives. We are not born with preconceived notions about money, hence it is within our control to change our mindset, reprogram and secure our financial futures.

My mission is to help ALL women — mothers, daughters, professional women, divorced women, widowed women, women of all ages and wealth levels –to embrace their responsibility to themselves to achieve solid financial footing in both calm and turbulent times. I want women to give themselves permission to be financially strategic, preventative and knowledgeable, while still enjoying all the things that money can’t buy. It is risky to live in denial and I am encouraging women to agree to get uncomfortable in the short-term by asking the right questions and taking preventative action to secure future calm financial waters however life unfolds.

If only I had...

I am a professional woman, a mother and a daughter of elderly parents. My career began as a Wall Street corporate lawyer. I then transitioned into investment banking and corporate finance, and finally wealth management. I have also been a stay-at-home mom when my three daughters were young. My experiences have covered the gamut of the diverse roles that women fulfill throughout their often very complex lives. Given my professional background, one might assume that I had the correct mindset and skill set to traverse multifaceted personal financial challenges with knowledge and ease.

My marriage ended after 23 years and my divorce was contentious. I experienced the “gray divorce” – which is a “financial double whammy for women” that results in less time for women to recoup lost earnings due to time taken off working due to marriage, and results in many women living at a much lesser standard in their elder age. During the course of my marriage, I had three children who are 2 years apart in age, supported the career of my husband, and pursued my own professional pursuits. It was a very hectic life and my primary focus was the family and its needs. Sound familiar?

If only I had my priorities straight…

As women, we often put the needs of others – children, husbands, boyfriends, parents and friends, before our own. I did not do any pre-marital or post-marital planning and, I never took the necessary time to keep my eye on the financial situation of my life, letting that to my husband. Yes, I was responsible for paying the monthly bills, but I did not have a grasp of the overall picture and what was actually going on. What I failed to recognize was that this behavior could ultimately cause great problems for me and my children, the very people I spent so much time trying to protect and nurture. Due to my lack of attention and preventative planning, this lead to a period of time fraught with uncertainty.

Although I was awarded a settlement and alimony for life (providing I didn’t remarry), and all looked secure for the future of my children and myself, things went south shortly after the court order was issued. Due to unforeseen circumstances, my ex-husband stopped paying the alimony and in one day, mine and my children’s financial future was very tenuous. My husband applied to the court for a revision of the court order to reduce his alimony and child support commitment to a very small amount which was ultimately awarded even after a valiant fight against it, and my financial situation was then set in stone. Luckily for me, I had the skill set to become a wealth manager, a profession that could provide for me and my children..