First Person: The Bright Side of Recession

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COMMENTARY | A jobless recovery is a phrase that we hear so much that it has become a cliche, however the fact remains that too many of our citizens are out of work or underemployed, working in jobs that are beneath their previous income and levels of experience.

While I am self-employed, I am not immune from these economic conditions. The services which I provide to the public all involve money. It doesn't matter if I am simply reviewing a client's spending habits, developing or managing a portfolio, crafting a retirement plan or assisting them with divorce planning, they all require a look at financial assets.

The bright side of living in such troubling times is that people are more willing to act in a thrifty manner. They realize that they do need to tighten that proverbial belt. Clients are actually calling me, seeking agreement that it is alright for them to make that unexpected purchase. If these spending habits continue into better times then people may be better off in the long run. Certain excesses and bad habits are being reversed.

However, I have seen a more surprising effect in my area devoted to divorce planning. Yes, people actually see me either before filing for a divorce, or after filing to help them get a better handle on what they will need in order to live separate lives. I cannot put my finger on the exact reason, but I am seeing more clients looking for a "reasonable" outcome as opposed to the punitive ones which I have witnessed in the past.

During the past year, there have been two clients who, upon realizing that their net worth and assets were not nearly as much as they thought they were, decided to delay filing for divorce. The assets in question which were problematic were the value of their homes, substantially less than they had thought. When that was explained, coupled with the realization that the sale of a house could take up to a year, one couple decided to seek marriage counseling. Whether that will be successful or not is anybody's guess, but it may be a step in the right direction if the issues prompting the divorce were not too severe. Both couples also were not certain that they wanted to fork over thirty thousand dollars to attorneys at this time. That number by the way is at the low end of divorce fees in Connecticut.

While I know, or at least hope, that there will be genuine improvement in the economy in the future, I can take some comfort in the fact that my clients are adapting and perhaps fewer families dissolving.

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