By Ann Marsh
Financial Planning Magazine
A 25-year-old divorce workshop founded and run by two planners in San Diego has received funding from a former attendee to enhance its website, with an eye to going national.
“We recognize not everyone can get to a workshop,” says Elizabeth Bryan, outreach coordinator for the Second Saturday workshops, run by the nonprofit Women’s Institute for Financial Education, founded by planners Candace Bahr and Ginita Wall. “Now that we have the finances we are rallying everyone into a community for a more global effort.”
A past attendee at the workshops — a California woman who the institute identifies as “Karen C.” — made a donation in “the low six figures” to build out an expanded website with a repository of divorce advice, Bryan says.
Wall says the new website will include information from planners, attorneys, tax professionals, mediators and others. One thing the website won’t host, however, is live streaming video of any workshops — except for, possibly, short excerpts on general topics.
That’s because the laws governing divorce vary so widely from state to state, Wall says. “We don’t want people in Texas thinking what they heard about California law is what they’ve got there,” she adds.
The gift is also intended to support a national expansion of in-person Second Saturday divorce workshops.
The institute plans to use the funds to put together an operating manual and other support materials to help qualified planners launch the workshops elsewhere in the country, Wall says.
Until now, Wall had allowed planners, attorneys, counselors and mediators to start their own Second Saturday workshops — modeled on the first one in San Diego — with no strings attached.
But going forward, she says, any planners or professionals who want to start such a workshop will need to apply for and qualify for certification as a Women’s Choice Award planner — a certification awarded by the institute to identify planners capable of serving the needs of female clients.
“That’s the only way we can be sure they are truly qualified,” Wall says.
Although the workshops are generally offered for free or a modest fee — in San Diego, attendees pay $45 to cover the facility costs and support the institute — both Wall and Bryan say that planners attract many clients from them.
“Around the country, I’ve heard conversion rates ranging from 30% to 50%,” Bryan says of the roughly 15 workshops operating elsewhere nationwide.
“About half of my clients today came from the workshops,” Wall says. “That’s their introduction to me. I often talk with advisors who say, ‘I’d like to get involved with the divorce aspect.’ What they mean is they want to work with people who’ve gone through divorce and have money in motion. People going through divorce end up with money in motion.”