A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

December 15, 2019

When you want to convey important information, a picture can sometimes be more meaningful than words. And at times of high stress, like a divorce, visuals can be especially important in helping your client make decisions.

Despite much of life involving textual inputs (take this newsletter for example) we are visual creatures; half of our brains are devoted to processing visual information. Additionally, the human brain processes images faster than words, so a picture can convey more information in a shorter period of time. As an example, you might recall the TV ad campaign in the 90’s, “This is your brain on drugs”, in which an egg was cracked into a hot frying pan and proceeded to sizzle. This quick ad conveyed a message instantly. For another example, can you imagine following the directions to assemble a bicycle from written instructions without the pictures?

Now, consider that your client is coming to you at a very distressing time of life. Whether they were the initiator of the divorce or not, this is a time of significant stress. During such times, our brain tends to go into the “fight or flight” mode and emotions become intensified. The pre-frontal cortex, the part of the brain that makes decisions, shuts down, lowering our ability to make rational, smart choices.  And yet, in a relatively short period of time, your client is expected to make very important decisions that will impact the rest of her life.

So now you have a client who isn’t thinking straight, maybe also hates thinking about money or feels she isn’t “good at money”, and you need her to make major decisions such as whether the amount of alimony being proposed is enough, or whether to accept the IRA and give up the bank account. Maybe she freezes up, unable to respond, fearing the worst, or maybe grappling with a tendency to give up more than is fair – and maybe without even realizing it. How can you help her get through the divorce process?

Enter the Certified Divorce Financial Analyst. Using graph reports we can show the projected outcome of a financial proposal. Would your client be able to live on her salary and the proposed amount of alimony? Our graphs will project out 5 or 10 years (and beyond) and answer that question. In other cases, the visualization doesn’t need to be a graph, rather sometimes just seeing two numbers – the value of her IRA today and the value in 10 years when she’s spent it down to almost nothing (if alimony wasn’t sufficient) – would be enough of a visual stimulation to bring a clear understanding of her financial situation. Or it could be the other way around: the value of the IRA has doubled in 10 years whereas the bank account balance has stayed flat. This could be the one visual that your client needs in order to sign the decree.

Whether it is a graph or a number, help your clients see what they are being asked to give up or take on as part of the divorce. This allows them to move forward, having a good picture of these financial decisions and their future impact.

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