As the co-owners of Earth Inc., a successful landscape design firm in Toronto, Kennedy McRae and James Dale have the opportunity to meet (and create beautiful backyards for) some powerhouse women of influence. In this Q&A, they’re introducing the WOI community to their client, Eva Sachs, a certified financial planner who specializes in separation and divorce.
By James Dale and Kennedy McRae
We met Eva Sachs while transforming her backyard. Two busy professionals with grown children, Eva and her husband wanted their yard to function as their cottage oasis in the city. We were happy to oblige. As we got to know Eva, we were impressed with her entrepreneurial journey. A certified financial planner, Eva specializes in separation and divorce. She not only runs her own business as a divorce financial consultant, but also works with a business partner, family lawyer Marion Korn, to run Mutual Solutions — a financial divorce mediation practice. What we find most interesting about Eva is that despite her great knowledge and understanding of the separation and divorce process, she’s been married to the same man for more than 40 years. We sat down with Eva to chat about business ownership, family finances, and her advice for success.
How did you come to specialize in separation and divorce? What is it you do for your clients?
Twelve years ago, I had a traditional financial planning practice and I discovered there was a specialization in separation and divorce — Certified Divorce Financial Analyst — a certification on top of financial planning. As I started working in this area I realized that this was too big and too important to contain within my traditional practice. Few financial planners specialize in this area, so it set me apart. I established a company, a consulting practice, and have been doing this work exclusively for the past 10 years. I consult with clients who are contemplating separation and divorce, providing them with the clarity and confidence to move forward, educating them on what they should know about their family finances, and guiding them through the process from a financial perspective. Once they’re in negotiations, I help them determine what adjustments they may have to make, in terms of lifestyle and retirement planning, and look at the impact of settlement options in order to account for what will become their new financial situation.
You also wrote a book about divorce, but targeted to older men and women. How did that come about?
Beyond my financial planning practice, I have a financial mediation business, Mutual Solutions, which I run with my business partner Marion, a family lawyer. We work with couples interested in getting to settlement through mediation, looking at the financial side of things like property and debt. One area of divorce that we’re seeing growth in is ‘grey divorce’ — couples divorcing after long-term marriages. These separations often require creative solutions when it comes to dividing finances and property. In 2014, we wrote a book on the subject entitled When Harry Left Sally – Finding your way through Grey Divorce.
We’re always interested in how other small business partnerships work. How have you made it work with Marion over the years, while also running your own business?
As with all partnerships there have been ups and downs, but Marion and I bring our two skill sets and perspectives together and create better strategies that work for our clients. Having worked for myself for so long, it’s actually really nice to be working with someone else, to have someone to bounce ideas off and develop strategies with. Some of our most satisfying times are when we’re working together.
But you have to have mutual respect, you have to have that greater understanding, you have to have empathy and compassion. And you have to communicate. Sometimes it means being locked in a room and hashing stuff out. But a lot of it is just appreciating where the other person is coming from, and being able to work together as a team.
We’ve found, working closely with our wives over the years, that a partnership takes a lot of openness and honesty. How do you advise couples when it comes to finances?
Breakdowns often come from financial infidelity — finding out things aren’t always as they seem. This happens when one spouse lets the other manage finances completely. It’s essential that both spouses are aware of the family finances; you must go beyond trusting that the other person can handle it all. Many women come in to see me who are smart business women, executives, and there’s one small gap in their knowledge and that’s the family finances and investments. And they feel guilty about this lack of information. If one of the spouses owns a business, there are more layers of complexity. Even if your spouse isn’t involved in your business, he or she should know what’s going on and have access to the financial statements.
Have you ever had trouble balancing both businesses, a full roster of clients, and family life?
My husband and I both come from entrepreneurial families and their businesses (retail and food services) required much more challenging hours than mine ever has. I’ve always felt fortunate that I’ve been able to keep more regular hours. I’m a pretty easy-going person and I don’t get too stressed. I have two grown sons who are now 32 and 36, but they’ve always been very supportive. Fortunately, I’ve also been able to attract the kind of clients who are great to work with, who are looking for mutual solutions, and cause us very little, if any, stress.
In terms of downtime, we’ve never had a cottage, but our backyard is really important to us. As you know, when we did our renovation we wanted to create an oasis in the city, with water, green space, and lighting. A space my husband and I can use to unwind and entertain. And, while we didn’t set it up this way, it’s turned out our backyard is perfect for hosting outdoor movie nights with friends.
Speaking of your husband, we know you’ve been happily married for a long time. How does that impact your line of work?
Yes, our 42nd wedding anniversary was February 14. People often ask me what’s my divorce story that brought me to this line of work — but that’s not the case. I think not having gone through divorce keeps me neutral. I can relate to my female clients in that I’ve been married for so long, I’m a mom, and a business woman, and part of the sandwich generation. I can empathize with what they’re going through and remain neutral in terms of what divorce looks and feels like. And at the end of the day when I come home and vent, my husband is hugely supportive.