Bonnie Sewell, CFP®, CDFA™, AIF®

Member Spotlight

Introduce yourself to our audience. Tell us who you are and what you are currently focused on.

Female, fee-only, flat fee and fiduciary - in personal finance in my 27th year. I own and run a boutique wealth management firm with one other employee (also female and a millennial). We have a niche in divorce financial planning. That means we model potential outcomes before a party signs off on a settlement. Not only does this prevent unintended or disastrous results, it can make one of life's toughest transitions, easier.

How would you define your professional mission?

I get up in the morning to work on changing the way we divorce. A typical scenario includes one of the parties who does not know their money well and might also include a lot of animosity. We have for over a hundred years made this a man vs. woman fight instead of a family who is transitioning to go forward differently. Both must be able to pay their bills on the other side of divorce and both must have a financial foundation on which to go forward. We do this through solid financial calculations, planning and modeling the math. Sounds dry but it isn't - it's great puzzle work.

What qualities does it take for someone to be successful in your line of work?

One must be an excellent, patient listener. And then you have to be a very good translator. We're taking math and making it tell a story, it must be understandable by both parties so we can get agreement. It helps to be agnostic to the outcome. We don't care what "Dick & Jane" decide to do with their funds as they split them, our job is to make sure they understand the financial impact of what they are deciding.

What is one of your most memorable career accomplishments?

We routinely have families go forward where they are able to re-build their personal lives because they have solid financial footing. These are memorable accomplishments because that's why we do the work we do. The vast majority of our cases also settle without court - very proud of this.

What are some career challenges on your radar?

Getting the word out to consumers who do not realize that they are going through a financial process without a financial expert. Attorneys are experts in the law, not finance. We get some horrific outcomes when the wrong professional does financial work, and there are no do-overs in divorce. We need a better tool to do the modeling - fintech. I have storyboards for the tool I want built but I'd have to quit my day job to get it done - very frustrating!

What project have you worked on that you’re most proud of? Why?

I trademarked a negotiation process we use in our work and I wrote a book which is currently being updated for an April 2017 re-release. "Love-jacked! Divorce Your Spouse, Not Your Dollars." I'm proud of these because neither was easy or convenient to complete but they mark important leaps in getting the message out and the negotiation process helps us in each case.

What legacy do you hope to leave through your work?

We are changing the way people divorce. If a family makes the decision to go forward differently, we want them to have the financial foundation to be able to grow and create a life they love.

What would you say your personal superpower is?

Resilience. A couple of examples. 1) In my first marriage, we moved often - Chicago to California, back to Chicago, Philly, eastern shore of Maryland, Rome Georgia, Chattanooga. I patched together a career by working in each place. I earned my CFP, CDFA, AIF and MS in financial planning along the way and served on several nonprofit boards including the national board for the Financial Planning Association. My mom and dad both died during those years along with my lifelong friend, Karen who succumbed to ALS at age 50. 2) both my ankles have been replaced and I had to learn to walk again each time (5 years apart). My newest ankle will be 6 months old tomorrow and this weekend I met my goal of walking 5 miles on it. I am the luckiest person I know and I credit my good fortune partly to being able to bounce back when trouble shows up.

Is work-life balance a problem for you? What is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?

Only occasionally is balance an issue. I have practiced TM (transcendental meditation) since age 16. Being outside is spiritual for me. My no-fail tactic is walking (every day). I read a lot for work, so when I walk if I want company, I may ask a friend, but I'm just as likely to enjoy music or audible books while I walk. I organize my work days to answer emails at the front and back of the day. Mondays/Fridays tend to be 'get work done' at the desk days and T-Th are days for appointments. I don't schedule more than 2 nights out a week for business and I work one weekend a month and take up to 4 weeks off each year - the benefit of owning your own business! Balance, to me, is also selecting good people to spend time with so I choose carefully and seek those with busy lives who are enjoying their lives in spite of what life throws their way.

Tell us about your favorite Ellevate Network memory or success story. Why are you a member?

I am a member for two reasons. 1) the diversity of women I've met is worth getting out of the office for - the women I've met are accomplished, have a healthy sense of humor and are continuing to set and work toward goals. 2) the events offered are different and fun. Getting to know each other is easier when you're enjoying an event for it's own sake.

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