Navigating Major Life Transitions: Advice from a Financial Specialist

By Lizzie Hickman

Change. What is your first thought as you read that word? Are you mesmerized by new and exotic opportunities, or do you find yourself hesitant and uncertain about what change means for you and your family? Luckily, there are people who build their careers on making change easier.

Some financial planners focus on helping their clients navigate finances during life transitions. Whether it’s retirement, the death of a spouse or a divorce, financial planners can ease the uncertainty and discomfort of big life changes. 

The Trust Company of Tennessee wants to help everyone live confidently despite life transitions. Kristine Davenport, CFP®, CDFA®, helps guide women – and men – through the financial next steps of transitional periods.

Trend: Can you tell us about what you do?

Kristine Davenport: Primarily, I’m a Certified Financial Planner, so I work with individuals and families to identify their financial goals and help them create and implement a plan to achieve those goals. I’m most passionate about serving women going through major life transitions like the death of a spouse or a divorce. But life transitions take other forms, such as retirement. I love helping clients navigate that as well.

Trend: What sparked your passion for working with life transitions?

Davenport: I think as a female, women gravitated toward working with me as a financial advisor – oftentimes they are making major financial decisions for the first time after a divorce. Because of this, I decided to seek out a specialized divorce certification (Certified Divorce Financial Analyst) so I could get involved earlier in the divorce process to help women make wise settlement decisions.

Trend: What myths would you like to dispel around what you do?

Davenport: I think the most common one is that a financial advisor is going to shame you for spending too much money on coffee. I don’t know what it is about the latte, but it always gets the brunt of budgeting decisions.

First of all, budgeting is just a small piece of what we help clients with. My job isn’t to tell you what you should be spending your money on. If you really need a latte every day, by all means, have one. My job is to help you align your values with your financial decisions.

I think another common myth is that it’s too late to change your financial future. I think that you can always make adjustments to change your financial outlook no matter when you start. One of my favorite quotes is often attributed to C.S. Lewis: ‘You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.’

Young professionals are reading articles that say they will never be able to retire. I have friends who are in their 30s and they’re worried that it’s already too late. That’s such a sad outlook because there are so many things you can do in your 30s that may not be options in your 60s. There is just a lot of doom and gloom around financial futures, and I’m trying to change that for people.

Trend: When should someone who senses a major life change come see you?

Davenport: I don’t think it’s ever too early to come see me. If I can’t help you, I can always point you in the direction of someone who can.

Keep in mind that I am not an attorney. A lot of times people think they can hire a CDFA rather than an attorney. But I don’t offer any legal advice; if they haven’t hired an attorney, I am happy to recommend one.

Trend: What can women do prior to changing circumstances?

Davenport: Awareness is key. Having an accurate inventory of your financial assets is vital – as well as having a good general understanding of how much you need to live each month. Having solid information around those two areas makes it a lot easier for a financial advisor to create a plan with you.

Often when a woman goes into a divorce or her spouse passes away, she has not been involved with managing finances. That is changing a lot now, but women may or may not have any understanding of their financial situation.

Even if you’re happily married and you’re both healthy, it doesn’t hurt to start asking questions so you can understand your finances.

Trend: Why should women seek a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst to navigate that specific life transition?

Davenport: It’s the same concept of going to see a medical specialist for specific medical issues. CDFAs just have a level of knowledge and experience with divorce, specifically, that other financial advisors don’t necessarily have.

Not to say that any financial advisor won’t offer decent advice around navigating a divorce. But if you want someone that has seen these issues before and has experience navigating them, that’s when it’s important to seek someone with the right experience.

Trend: What top three things should women in transition know before contacting a financial specialist?

Davenport: It’s always a good idea to seek financial advice even if you don’t think you’re ‘wealthy enough’ to need an advisor. You probably do need someone to help make unbiased financial decisions during a life transition.

Secondly, there is no such thing as a stupid question. The financial industry is complex, and we’re here to help.

The most important thing to keep in mind during a transition is to not feel pressured to make any immediate financial decisions. Give yourself at least a year to settle into a new normal before you make any major life decisions like buying a house. Your life might look a lot different a year from now than you anticipated it would. You don’t want to lock yourself into permanent decisions before you know for sure what it’s going to look like.

Trend: What financial traps do women fall into?

Davenport: I think women, especially, like the feeling of home and of comfort and normalization of our lives. I think a lot of times women try to get there too quickly, sometimes by making decisions that aren’t the best for them in the future.

Trend: Why do you think it’s important for financial firms to have a CDFA on staff?

Davenport: As with any specialty, it takes a certain skill set and level of empathy to help clients navigate divorce. There are a lot of challenges and emotions accompanying this life change and having a financial advisor equipped to handle these specific issues makes the process easier.

It was a natural progression for me to offer these services at the Trust Company of Tennessee. We are unique in that our company was founded by a woman, Sharon Pryse, which is not common in the financial industry. We also have several female relationship managers. We are all passionate about helping women.

The Trust Company of Tennessee also hosts Wise Women events regularly. It’s a good, supportive group where women, clients and other industry professionals have conversations that empower each other through different financial challenges.

Trend: Anything else you’d like to add?

Davenport: It never hurts to give me a call if you think you might need financial advice. If I can’t help you, I will point you in the right direction. We don’t charge anything for an initial consultation. It’s a time for us to get to know each other and see if we’re a good fit.


About The Trust Company of Tennessee

Founded in 1987 by Sharon J. Pryse, The Trust Company of Tennessee is a state-chartered bank with more than $3.5 billion under management and more than 75 employees. Based in Knoxville, the firm also has offices in Chattanooga and the Tri-Cities. The company helps individuals, families, business owners and charities make better decisions with money through wealth management, corporate retirement and personal trust services. For more information, visit thetrust.com.