TIME Books

Here Are Some Sex Tips From Amy Poehler’s New Book (Plus Insight on Motherhood and Divorce)

2014 ELLE Women In Hollywood Awards - Arrivals
Amy Poehler arrives at the 2014 ELLE Women In Hollywood Awards at Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills on Oct. 20, 2014 in Beverly Hills. Steve Granitz—WireImage

The Parks & Rec star's new book, Yes Please, is out on Oct. 28

Amy Poehler’s new book, Yes Please is out today, and the title pretty much sums up everyone’s attitude when we heard the notoriously nice funnywoman was finally writing a book. An Amy Poehler book? Yes please! That’s probably where she got her title.

The Parks & Rec star explains where she got her title, in a winning yet insightful passage in the book’s introduction:

It’s called Yes Please because it is the constant struggle and often the right answer. Can we figure out what we want, ask for it, and stop talking? Yes please. Is being vulnerable a power position? Yes please. Am I allowed to take up space? Yes please. Would I like to be left alone? Yes please…”Yes Please” sounds powerful and concise. It is a response and a request. It is not about being a good girl; it is about being a real woman.”

But if you can’t pick up the book, or your bookstore is out of it, or you’re waiting in a line behind everyone else in the world and just want to know the highlights, here they are:

On hot sex tips:

In the “World Famous Sex Tips” chapter, Poehler has some choice advice for women and men about how to get it on:

For women:

Try not to fake it: I know you are tired/nervous/eager to please/unsure of how to get there. Just remember to allow yourself real pleasure and not worry about how long it takes…God punished us with the gift of being able to fake it. Show God who the real boss is by getting off and getting yours.

For men:

Be nice, tell your woman she is hot, never shame her, and never hurt her.

Also, she advises not to let your kids sleep in your bed, which is probably a good idea for both men and women.

On her mantra for women who make different choices:

Poehler describes the experience of giving birth to her first son, and making choices about delivery that were different from what her friends were doing (she opted for lots of drugs, not a “natural birth.”)

Good for her! Not for me. That is the motto women should constantly repeat over and over again. Good for her! Not for me.

Poehler also notes that her OB-GYN had delivered Sophia Loren’s children, which was fitting because she (Poehler) has “the Angelina Jolie of vaginas.” This celebrity gyno doesn’t end up delivering Poehler’s son, but you’ll have to read the book to find out why…

On motherhood, and why “every mother needs a wife:”

Poehler has an excellent chapter on motherhood, titled “Every Mother Needs a Wife.” At first, she gets into the down-and-dirty of the mommy wars (perfectly lampooning the subtle digs of working and stay-at-home moms.)

“The ‘I don’t know how you do it’ statement used to get my blood boiling. When I heard those words, I didn’t hear ‘I don’t know HOW you do it.’ I just heard ‘I don’t know how you COULD do it.’ I would be feeling overworked and guilty and overwhelmed and suddenly I would be struck over the head by what felt like someone else’s bullsh*t. It was an emotional drive-by. A random act of woman-on-woman violence…

But then Poehler gets to what she actually means by “every mother needs a wife.” The chapter ends with a touching tribute to the nannies who care for her children, similar to the tear-jerking toast she gave at the TIME100 gala in 2011. These women, she says, are her wives.

“Do you know how I do it? I can do it because I have a wife. Every mother needs a wife… Some mothers’ wives are their mothers. Some mothers’ wives are their husbands. Some mothers’ wives are their friends and neighbors. Every working person needs a wife who takes care of her and helps her become a better mother… the biggest lie and biggest crime is that we all do this alone and look down on people who can’t.

On divorce:

True to form, Poehler doesn’t dish any juicy details at all about her 2013 divorce from comedian Will Arnett, but does write insightfully about how difficult the process was.

“Imagine spreading everything you care about on a blanket and then tossing the whole thing up in the air. The process of divorce is about loading up that blanket, throwing it up, watching it all spin, and worrying what stuff will break when it lands.

She notes that she isn’t going to get into any specifics, because it’s “too sad and too personal,” but she will say this:

“I am proud of how my ex husband, Will, and I have been taking care of our children; I am beyond grateful he is their father and I don’t think a ten-year marriage constitutes failure. That being said, getting a divorce really sucks. But as my dear friend and relationship sponsor Louis CK has noted, “divorce is always good news because no good marriage has ever ended in divorce.

On awards shows:

Poehler has been nominated for many acting awards (mostly for Parks & Rec, although she was nominated for two Emmys for her time at SNL, and for some movies). Although she has not yet won an Emmy for Parks & Rec, she is known for staging “bits” with other nominees to take some of the pressure off who wins. Here’s why:

“The worst part of being nominated for any award is that despite your best efforts, you start to want the pudding. You spend weeks thinking about how it doesn’t matter and it’s all just an honor, and then seconds before the name of the winner is announced everything inside you screams… “GIMME THAT PUDDING!!” Then comes the adrenaline dump, followed by shame.

She describes all the various stunts she’s pulled at awards shows, from wearing fake mustaches to pretending to be in a beauty pageant to switching speeches with Julia Louis Dreyfus, to a fake flirtation with George Clooney.

“The lessons? Women are mighty. George Clooney loves bits. Doing something together is often more fun than doing it alone. And you don’t always have to win to get the pudding.”

On doing drugs:

She’s pretty open about her drug use, which is kind of awesome. The verdict: weed rocks, cocaine feels great but terrible the next day, and everything else ruins lives.

“In my twenties I tried cocaine, which I instantly loved but eventually hated. Cocaine is terrific if you want to hang out with people you don’t know very well and play Ping-Pong all night. It’s bad for almost everything else… The day after cocaine is rough…The next day is the thing I can’t pull off anymore. How do you explain to a four-and-six-year old that you can’t play Rescue Bots because you have to spend all day in bed eating Cape Cod potato chips and watching The Bicycle Thief?

But is she worried that her kids will read the book and think drugs are okay? Nah.

“What’s more boring than your own mother’s take on her own life? Yawn. Also, I am counting on everyone living on the moon by the time my children are teenagers, and that they’ll have really interesting space friends who are kind and good students and think drugs are lame and “totally, like, Earthish.”

More, please!

Read next: Marcel the Shell (With Shoes On) Is Back

MONEY Financial Planning

A Simple Tool for Getting Better Financial Advice

financial advisor with couple
Ned Frisk—Getty Images

If a financial adviser doesn't know what's going on in a client's life, the advice will suffer. Here's one easy way to fix that.

True story: Many years ago, I was meeting with a married couple for an initial data-gathering session. Halfway through the three-hour meeting — the first stage in developing a comprehensive financial plan — the husband excused himself for a bathroom break. As soon as the door shut, the wife turned to me and said, “I guess this is as good a time as any to let you know that I’m about to divorce him.”

That’s just one example of why exploring a client’s financial interior is a worthwhile investment for both the adviser and client. All the effort we had expended on their financial plan, for which they were paying me, was for naught.

So how can an adviser really understand what’s going on with his or her clients?

A great first step is to fully explore the simple question “How are you doing?” Not “How are your investments doing?” or “How is your business doing?” but “How are you doing?”

As financial planners, we are quick to put on our analytical hats. We will gladly examine numbers down to three decimal places, but we often fail to delve below the superficial on a relational level.

Here’s a tool that can help. I include it with permission from Money Quotient, a nonprofit that creates tools and techniques to aid financial advisers in exploring the interior elements of client interaction. It’s called the “Wheel of Life”:

Wheel of Life

The instructions are simple: you rate your satisfaction with each of the nine regions of life listed on the wheel. Your level of satisfaction can range from zero to 10—10 being the highest. Plot a dot corresponding to your rating along each spoke of the wheel. Then you connect the dots, unveiling a wheel that may — or may not — roll very well.

If you’re wondering what value this could bring to your client interaction, consider these five possibilities:

  • It’s an incredibly efficient way to effectively answer the question, “How are you doing?” In a matter of seconds, you know exactly where your client stands. You now have an opportunity to congratulate them in their successes and encourage them in their struggles.
  • It demonstrates that you care about more than just your client’s money. It shows that your cordial greeting was something more than just obligatory. It shows that you recognize the inherently comprehensive nature of financial planning.
  • It helps in gauging how much value you can add to a client’s overall situation. For example, if this is a new client, and all the numbers are nines and tens except for a two on the “Finances” spoke, then it stands to reason that good financial planning could have a powerfully positive impact on the client’s life. If, on the other hand, a prospective client’s wheel is cratering, you might conclude that his or her problems lie beyond the scope of your process. Your efforts may be in vain, and a referral to an external source may be in order.
  • It could tip you off to a major event in a client’s life that should trump your agenda for the day. Many advisers use this exercise as a personal checkup at annual client meetings, sending clients the “Wheel of Life” in advance. Doing so encourages clients to share if they have suffered one of life’s deeper pains, like the loss of a loved one. That’s likely your cue to recognize that now isn’t a time to talk about asset allocation. It’s simply time to be a friend and, as appropriate, address any inherent financial planning implications.
  • You’ll likely find it a beneficial practice for you, too! I don’t recommend putting a client through any introspective exercises that you haven’t completed yourself. So please, complete your own “Wheel of Life” exercise. You’re likely to see this tool in a new light and find valuable uses for it that I’ve not uncovered here.

———-

Financial planner, speaker, and author Tim Maurer, is a wealth adviser at Buckingham Asset Management and the director of personal finance for the BAM Alliance. A certified financial planner practitioner working with individuals, families and organizations, he also educates at private events and via TV, radio, print, and online media. “Personal finance is more personal than it is finance” is the central theme that drives his writing and speaking.

TIME Books

30 Self-Help Books That Permanently Changed My Life

Dimitri Otis—Getty Images

If you met me in high school or college, you would not recognize me as the self-assured chick I am today. I owe it all to these 30 books

xojane

This story originally appeared on xoJane.com.

I was the kid in high school who agonized over whether I had interacted with the popular girls the “right” way as we passed in the hallway between classes. Every moment a potential minefield or humiliation. To seem stupid. To look like a loser. There was this fakey hug-kiss thing that started when I was a freshman that was so hard for me to not feel like a dork when I mimicked. I mean, I didn’t feel comfortable in my own too-tall skin let alone embracing someone else, all the while trying to act as if I, you know, actually felt good about myself or something.

It was all so stressful. I would fret when someone looked at me the wrong way, if a teacher said a potentially critical thing (because obviously one’s entire worth as a human being is determined by academic accomplishments), or most mortifying of all, if a “friend” who talked to me in private then gave me shade when a more cliquey group of girls passed our way.

I felt wrong, wrong, wrong.

I don’t know how much was nature and how much was nurture, but I know I was a very sensitive, hyper-aware kid who felt things very intensely. This physical makeup was also molded by a dysfunctional, boundary-less childhood with some trauma along the way.

Then, everything in my life and perspective dramatically changed — when I got divorced at the age of 30.

The dark wrongness now permeated everywhere in my life, and somewhere along the way I think I realized: If everything is wrong, then maybe nothing is.

This is when I first wholeheartedly gave the whole stupid embarrassing oeuvre of self-help a chance.

God, how glad I am that I did.

My brain is totally different now and I know that I control my happiness — not anyone outside of myself.

P.S. One quick contextual anecdote before I get to The List. I dated a guy once who said, very concerned as he saw me poring through some of these books, “It’s like one day you’re into this self-help author and the next you’re into another one. I mean: What’s next?” I believe he was afraid that I was addicted to seeking, which I do think can be an actual problem (see: Scientology), when you don’t trust your own self and intuition, but I also disagree with his thesis.

You would never say to an MBA student: “One day it’s this course, and then the next day it’s this other one. I mean: What’s next, statistics?” I think that investment in your own personal development is one of the best investments you can ever make in your own life and happiness, even if isn’t cool to admit to doing so.

My progress from a weepy self-hating paralytically over-apologetic constantly worrying shy chick to a person who is quite the opposite is absolute testament to that, I believe. (Also: Having done Caron Institute’s exquisite Breakthrough Program, I wholeheartedly recommend their suggested reading list as well. It is excellent.)

And here’s mine.

1. “The Breakout Principle — This audio book got me through my divorce. I used the principle of “severing” immediately when I found myself going into a trauma cycle by drawing a picture (changing my state) or going for a walk or taking a shower. It also taught me (through legit scientific examples of functional MRI) that when you work your brain intensely, by giving it a break, you’re giving yourself a chance for the “a-ha” moments to come to the fore.

2. “Awaken the Giant Within — Goofy Tony Robbins. He’s ridiculous, sure, but he’s also boiled down a ton of cognitive theory about how to change your interior world view, and he gives incredible motivation that can offer critical fuel in the very toxic at times world we live in.

3. “The Secret — Take it with a major grain of salt. All I know is that when I started employing the whole law of attraction hocus pocus, I saw results again and again. Is it placebo? Fine. I’ll take it. Are people responsible for their own cancer? Nope. That’s looney-pants.

4. “You Can Heal Your LifeandYou Can Heal Your Life: Workbook — My favorite. My absolute favorite. I buy this book for people on the street sometimes. If you don’t change the way you talk to yourself — or continue slogging yourself down with criticism — nothing will change.

5. “The Road Less Traveled — This book almost made me break down it hurt so much at times to read. All of the advice the author gives to parents for teaching children about their inherent value above all else — and categorizing the two fundamental neuroses of the world (you either think YOU are responsible for all the world’s problems or you think the WORLD is responsible for yours) — hit spot on. No one said self-awareness and looking within was easy, but it’s worth the discomfort. I promise.

6. “The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem — Another book I will randomly buy for strangers. I like my self-help books like I like my math: straightforward, logical and broken down into units. I listened to this book after a year of sobriety, and I could feel my backbone strengthening.

7. “Many Lives, Many Masters — Self-help? Maybe not, but this book gave me incredible peace about death in a way I never dreamed possible. It also contains the beautiful analogy of our souls being shined like diamonds amidst the pressure along the way.

8. “A Return to Love — An atheist comic friend, who I had a 48-hour-romance with, recommended this book to me and told me just to ignore “all the Holy Spirit mumbo jumbo.” I love that. My atheist ex-boyfriend saw me reading the book one time and said, “Ah, Marianne Williamson. So what does that charlatan have to say for herself now?” God I do love atheists. They’re so fucking funny. So, sure. Like “The Secret,” there’s a lot of woo-woo hoo-hoo. But it gave me peace. It helped me get better at loving myself. Two things which aren’t easy to do.

9. “How to Survive the Loss of a Love — This is one of the most popular self-help books ever written. Millions sold. It is very sweet. One of the only books to gently, as a person might, take your hand and help you through the grieving and mourning process: whether the death be an actual person, a relationship, a job, or even a past incarnation of yourself.

10. “Use Your Body to Heal Your Mind — This book taught me how to do EMDR on myself and also helped me to understand to stop bartering for love. I’m getting better. That’s all I ask.

11. “Your Inner Awakening: The Work of Byron Katie — Even if you don’t read the book, the Cliff Notes version of her work is worth checking out, or as this Oprah blog on it asks: “Can these 4 questions change your life?” My mom and I listened to this one together, and it was very epiphany generating. Essentially, it helps you break down all those assumptions that might be screwing you up by helping you “turn it around.” Crying that your partner isn’t giving you enough love? Break it down using her process, and you might end up examining how YOU aren’t giving enough love. Challenging, in the best way possible.

12. “Waking the Tiger — A dear friend gave me this book, and it altered the way I looked at my body’s responses. For instance, I jump out of my seat at any loud noise, just like my father who is a combat vet. I have in the past started to cry when someone seemed to care and give me love genuinely, because it was hard for me to take. This book is a wonderful mind-body connector.

13. “Courage to Change — Even if you don’t do Al-Anon, if you’ve had any kind of dysfunction in childhood, this book reads as if it was written directly for you. So nurturing and life changing.

14. “Anatomy of the Spirit: The Seven Stages of Power and Healing” — I do not care for a lot of Carolyn Myss’s stuff, but this book has always stayed with me. Particularly the idea, the metaphor, of the “cell tissue” you are expending through lower-energy emotions of jealousy, hatred, bitterness, etc. If you like spiritual works, you may find this book healing.

15. “Zero Limits — “I love you, I’m sorry, Please forgive me, Thank you.” These four sentences as a little prayer of offering are explained as a “secret Hawaiian system” to all wonder of prosperity. I say it to myself quite often when I’m walking my dog or even as an alternate to stressful thoughts that seem to come on like a panic attack. It’s a beautiful clearing, just like doing one of my favorite meditations, the Metta Bhavana.

16. “New Psycho-Cybernetics — Written by a plastic surgeon who dealt with so many people who wanted to cut themselves up because they hated what was inside, he knows of what he speaks.

17. “Your Erroneous Zones — One of the original Wayne Dyer books. It’s quite simple, but like some of Tony Robbins’ takes on dealing with emotions, and choosing the way you use them, it’s incredibly practical and positive.

18. “A New Earth — Can there be such a thing as addiction to misery? Absolutely. Give this fakey-guru a chance and soak it in. You’ll be glad you did.

19. “Women Who Love Too Much — Crappy relationship after crappy relationship where you put up with abuse and keep trying to “fix” someone? Read this puppy.

20. “Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts — So, so ridic, including making a damn mold of your vagina out of Play-Doh or some shit, but I swear to God, if you need to give yourself some sexy energetic female juju, this book is a good kick in the pants. Bubble baths! Candles! Weeee!

21. “A Gentle Path Through the 12 Steps — If you’re interested in recovery, this is a classic. Even if you’re not in recovery, the 12-step principles can be very practically applied, especially the idea of “turning it over.” Doesn’t even need to be to God. Can simply be to just “forces of good.” Letting go is everything. And so damn easy to forget.

23. “7 Habits of Highly Effective People — Do you like what I’m writing, reader? Tell me about that. I’m interested in what you have to say… (Ha-ha, gotcha! Just used a principle.) So it’s hokey and a little schmarmy, but hey, if you’re not naturally Mr. or Ms. Charisma by nature, this book will help you learn how to deconstruct the scariness of intimidating social situations.

24. “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway — I bought this ridiculous, yet helpful, book when I was 20 years old. It was a start. It helped.

25. “The Power of Your Subconscious Mind — Kind of like an early version of “The Secret.” For some reason, it speaks to me. I tried it the night that I read it, thinking to myself, “I’m going to wake up at 8 a.m. tomorrow,” and do you know that I woke up at exactly 8 a.m.? Ha. Yes, that miracle alone is reason enough to recommend.

26. “Love is Letting Go of Fear — This is a quick, beautiful little book. Illustrated and sweet, and definitely the title says it all, but like many of the simplest truisms, can be so hard to integrate into your consciousness. The psychologist who wrote this helps you do that, and the entire book feels like a hug to the soul.

27. “iWant — Know that tabloidy CNN anchor who got sober and then became a lesbian? She wrote this book. It was on the “free shelf” at The Post where I picked it up. Free meaning a publicist sent it, and whichever reporter received it discarded it for anyone who might be interested. I picked it up in my early days of sobriety, and it helped me a lot to read someone who worked in my field talking about the whole upheaval-inducing (in a positive way) process.

28. “The Wounded Heart — If you have any kind of sexual abuse in your past, this book is a must. Stop what you are doing right now and purchase it. I’ve never felt some of my dysfunction related so compassionately to me before as when this author explained about the “weed” of abuse becoming entangled in the “rose” of sexuality, and how the human reaction can be to hate yourself for wanting to be loved. Gorgeous.

29. “The Four Agreements — God this book helped me. Mostly the idea of not taking things personally, something I suck at quite often. Many folks do, I think. The book is boiled down here, which is definitely worth a glance. If you can come from that place of not taking things personally (and the other three agreements are stellar as well), your happiness will increase a hundredfold.

One caveat for “not taking things personally”: I do think that there are people who (be they sick or suffering or perhaps clinically sociopathic) are not good-hearted, well-intentioned people. (Fuck, just read “The 48 Laws of Power” or “The Art of Seduction” if you want a little primer on that.) So in those cases of the baddies, I always say STILL don’t take it personally — but protect yourself.

Here’s how: Stop trying to win the unwinnable and do what you need to do to take care of yourself. For me, in the past, that’s meant just agreeing with a sadistic boss, “Oh I agree, yes, yes. I’m wrong, yes, yes, I agree, uh-huh, you’re right, absolutely,” even when I knew the fighting wasn’t fair. My friend Jessica Delfino actually wrote a song about my tactic called “Nod, Smile and Apologize.” I took care of myself, didn’t take it personally and just got through. Life ain’t fair, kiddos. Use what tools you have.

30. “Handbook to Higher Consciousness — Last but not least, I found this gem on my parents’ bookshelves. They met when they were getting their masters in counseling at San Diego State University so they have a plethora of crap like this tucked away they’ve never actually read. My favorite idea from this book is the very Buddhist notion that all unhappiness in life stems from your addiction of what you EXPECT to happen and how things “should” be. Let go of that sucker, and boom: Freedom.

Honestly, this list was incredibly hard to put together because I wanted to include so many other books also lodged permanently in my subconscious. Like, even, “The Game” by Neil Strauss, which while largely about picking up women provides awesome bullshit-zapping tactical training for women and also boils down tons of NLP and confidence-boosting skills for those who struggle with shyness or social intimidation.

Strauss’s buddy, the semi-conman-ish (but filled with terrific ideas) Timothy Ferriss also wrote a classic in “The 4-Hour Workweek,” which is worth it for the email and media condensing advice alone. Another embarrassing-ish book I like? Well, the subtitle on “Why Men Love Bitches,” which is “From Doormat to Dreamgirl” explains why that book has a soft space in my heart pretty clearly I think.

I also like “Change or Die,” which pinpoints the reason change is so hard for so many: The human egoic fear that to change would to be to admit that You Might Have Been Doing it Wrong All Along. By that token, zeitgeist-plunderer and idea-man Malcolm Gladwell’s books are all worth the effort, especially the chapter on predicting the failure or success of relationships in “Blink.”

I’m also a big fan of quoting the Olympic athletes who visualized their routines beforehand who then won the gold medal anecdote from “The Success Principles” as a justification or motivation for imagining something going well. (I do it with career all the time; now I just need to be better about doing this in my dating life.)

Gary Zukav’s “The Seat of the Soul” is magnificent, and I only read after Jane Lynch recommended it in her lovely, self-help-riddled (in a good way) autobiography “Happy Accidents.” Lynch also loves “Goddesses in Everywoman,” which is fascinating and thought-provoking and leads me to look at Persephone archetypes in my own life to this day.

Also, special thanks to my Facebook friends for helping me remember “Way of the Peaceful Warrior” a book that I was blanking on and spent a half hour Googling “wheelchair,” “motorcycle,” “paralyzed” and “inspirational movie” to no avail tracking it down — and really loved. At the least, watch the Amazon Instant DVD if you’re looking for a shot in the arm of inspiration (unless you are a born and bred cynic, which means I’ll probably love hanging out with you, but yeah this movie is probably not for you).

So… what books have had the most impact on your life (even if they’re not classically stocked in the “personal development” row, or whatever that hidden way, way in the back section at Barnes & Noble is called nowadays)?

What books on this list do you absolutely despise? Let me guess. “The Secret,” right? I feel you. With all of these books, please know I’m recommending with that old unofficial 12-step-ism, “take what you like and leave the rest.”

Mandy Stadtmiller is Editor-at-Large at xoJane.com.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME relationships

Why Your Grandparents Are Divorcing

Dan Chung—Dan Chung / Aurora Photos

And why you might need to worry about it

For several years now, sociologists have noticed that education is a great protector against divorce. College-educated couples are about half as likely to divorce as high-school-educated couples. In fact, the rate of divorce among the college-educated is lower than it was 30 years ago. All except in one case: people older than 50.

Nearly 1 in 4 people who is experiencing divorce in the U.S. is over 50. Almost 1 in 10 is older than 64. People over the age of 50 are twice as likely to divorce as their forebears were as recently as 1990. And for that age, education doesn’t matter: those with degrees and those without are having the divorce papers drawn up in equal numbers.

Some of this can be attributed to the fact that older people are often on their second or third marriages, which traditionally are less stable than first marriages. But a lot aren’t. “More than half of gray divorces are to couples in first marriages,” write Susan L. Brown and I-Fen Lin in a new paper for a Council on Contemporary Families symposium, adding that even more than half of these late-life breakups were between couples who had been married more than 20 years.

You’d think after two decades of living in close quarters, people would have ironed out their differences. And you could well be right, but that doesn’t mean they’re happy. “Many of these marriages have not been marked by severe discord,” says the study Gray Divorce: A Growing Risk Regardless of Class or Education, which went online on Oct 8. Instead, it seems like empty-nesters, having finished that joint project known as raising the kids, now find they don’t have so much in common. And since divorce can be free (at least theoretically) of finger-pointing and blame — no-fault divorce is now available in every state — they go their separate ways once the children are grown.

Brown doesn’t think there’s a direct link between no-fault divorce and the uptick in elderly divorces, but rather that they are both part of the same reshaping of marriage that has been under way for several decades. “Marriage is now more individualized,” she says. “For couples who aren’t happy, divorce is an acceptable solution. Neither partner has to be ‘at fault’ — instead, the couple could have simply grown apart.”

The other new realities that make splitting up an increasingly attractive option for the AARP crowd are the fact that women are more financially independent and don’t need to stay with a spouse who really gets on their nerves, nor do their spouses need to stay with them, and the increasing length of time people are living after they stop being in paid employment. “They might spend another 15 to 20 years together beyond retirement, which is a long time if you don’t love someone anymore,” says Brown. Add to that the low stigma attached to divorce and the high level of thrill people expect their marriages to provide (plus let’s throw in, say, the way their spouse crunches on grapes), and it just seems easier to cut bait.

(MORE: Your Facebook Habits Can Help Predict if You’ll Get a Divorce)

But while gray divorce is not bad for children in the way an earlier divorce can be, it still has a significant cost. Older divorced people tend to have only a fifth of the wealth that older married couples or even older widowed folk have. “The net wealth of those who were widowed after age 50 is more than twice as high as the net wealth of gray divorceds,” says the study. “And … on average, gray divorceds can count on less than $14,000 per year from Social Security.”

Brown is worried about this trend on more than just economic grounds, however. “I think there is good reason for serious concern,” she says. “A growing share of older adults is on the brink of old age alone.” These are the years, after all, when the vows about sickness and health really get tested. “Traditionally, spouses have been the first line of defense in caring for frail elders. But now, an increasing share of older adults don’t have a spouse who can care for them.” Asks Brown: “Who will step in and provide this care?”

MONEY Divorce

When Alimony is Forever

Man and wife handcuffed together
Marcus Lund—Getty Images/

A good place to start in the long, slow process of reforming alimony laws: payments that last a lifetime.

Want to provoke powerful emotions and painful stories? Write about alimony.

That’s what I learned after publishing “Alimony Is Broken —But Let’s Not Fix It.” My e-mail inbox was flooded with strong reactions and personal stories of deep pain, dredged up for a combination of reasons: outdated state laws, confusion concerning alimony’s purpose, and courts’ inconsistency in awarding it.

There’s a historical basis linking emotions and alimony. In earlier times, divorce could stem only from marital misconduct. As a result, the requirement to pay alimony became linked to the factor of guilt. Alimony was the right of the state to penalize publicly a guilty spouse who broke bonds of matrimony. No-fault divorce laws eliminated the right to alimony and replaced it with an entitlement system that better reflects socio-economic events and progress.

Alimony usually is the last piece of the financial puzzle to be finalized in divorce, following child support and division of assets. Because alimony closely follows the gamesmanship surrounding these other issues, alimony itself — the amount due annually and the length of time it’s paid — is unpredictable.

Alimony laws in many states are flawed and deserve reform; some states do not put a time limit on alimony, and others make alimony nearly impossible to attain. People sometimes shop for a favorable state in which to divorce, simply to gain financial advantage. Individuals who want to cheat or defeat the system will find a way to do so, no matter what the law or their divorce decree mandates. Alimony modification and enforcement are costly efforts subject to complications and errors, and they don’t guarantee compliance with either the intent of the original agreement or subsequent circumstances.

But the hottest hot button driving most alimony reform is lifetime alimony. Both parties, whether they’re receiving or paying, feel shackled by a legal obligation that fails often to produce financial remedy and finality for the long term. To paraphrase the opponents of lifetime alimony: It is welfare, it is goldbricking, it enslaves payors for the rest of their lives, and it unfairly impacts divorced spouses and their entire families.

It is vitally important that proposed reforms must not be a knee-jerk reaction that swings the pendulum from one extreme to the opposite extreme. Proposed reforms have to address many factors of alimony. This will take a long time to test, gain a consensus, and finally, be enacted into law.

A reform movement by its nature depends on social movement with people influencing judicial application to mirror public desires. The defenders of laws have a duty to deliberate all nuances relating to content and context of proposed changes in the law. This sets up the dynamic for lengthy debate and slow changes in law. This is how most states adopted eventually no-fault divorce and all states accepted uniform child support standards. “Smart” laws are meant to eliminate never-ending litigation and fear of the unknown.

Steve Hitner, a Massachusetts businessman who divorced and later remarried, led the Massachusetts Alimony Reform Act that went into effect in March 2012. The law abolished most lifetime alimony. It ended alimony when the payor reaches age of retirement or when the recipient begins sharing a common household with a partner. The law provides guidelines and structure, consistency and predictability for divorce. It also provides for judges’ discretion in exceptional cases as well as for modifications of prior lifetime alimony cases.

In my recent conversations with Steve, he described the eight-year process of getting the law passed as challenging for both lawyers and the public. Not everyone is happy with the Act. Judges want clarification, attorneys see more people avoiding litigation to negotiate settlements, and still others want to continue to appeal its meaning. I asked Steve why other states were not rushing to adopt comparable reform laws and his response was that this is a social policy change that they may feel uncomfortable with. “The Massachusetts legislation establishes the correct public policy of encouraging parties to terminate their relationships upon divorce and live independently as soon as is practical,” Rep. John Fernandes, a Milford Democrat and House Chairman of the Alimony Reform Task Force, said during the debate.

One of my hopes is to incentivize adults to become fiscally responsible, knowledgeable and accountable for their own financial behaviors and decisions earlier in life. I want them to be full economic partners in their marriage. Men and women can be vulnerable to threats of the consequences of divorce; more often, they are prey for lawyers who extort significant fees from them by magnifying their hopes and fears. Alimony appears to be a lightning rod for all ailments related to these fundamental problems.

We have tools for targeting and measuring fiscal accountability. We also have a ripe teaching opportunity for spouses to embrace during divorce if they did not share financial experience, responsibilities, and decision-making during marriage.

And this is how a divorce financial planner brings critical expertise to supplement the legal process, in my opinion. Divorce financial planners help parties to determine if financial decisions are practical, achieve specific goals, and fit with spouses’ needs and ability to pay. Among their contributions:

  • Assessing current and future economic well-being
  • Ensuring that costly financial mistakes are not made
  • Performing projections of future cash flow and net worth
  • Validating the accuracy of parties’ lifestyle needs and ability to pay, so judges can apply their discretion in deviating from guidelines

This is the essence for creating and preserving a workable divorce agreement in which both spouses can return to their separate lives with dignity and security.

———-

Vasileff received the Association of Divorce Financial Planners’ 2013 Pioneering Award for her public advocacy and leadership in the field of divorce financial planning. Vasileff is president emeritus of the ADFP and is a member of NAPFA, FPA, and IACP. She is president and founder of Divorce and Money Matters, serving clients nationwide from Greenwich, Conn. Her website is www.divorcematters.com.

MONEY financial advisers

Why Financial Advisers Should Discuss Their Own Money Problems

pen stain on white business shirt
FineCollection—Getty Images

Talking about medical bills, divorces, college funds, and past money mistakes can help an adviser and client connect.

Recently, a prospective client of financial adviser Robert Wyrick Jr. wanted to know exactly how Wyrick handles his own finances.

Wyrick, of MFA Capital Advisors in Houston, wasn’t fazed; he had plenty to say. Seven years after spending more than $1 million for his wife’s costly and ultimately losing battle against ovarian cancer, he still had managed to start his own company and make sure his two kids had enough money for college. He felt confident he could share the bad and the good, so he answered the prospect’s questions, even sharing screenshot of his investments. And Wyrick won the client’s business.

“I say, ‘Why not?'” said Wyrick. “If a person is sitting there with their life savings, and they’re interested in talking with an adviser, everything should be on the table,” he added.

It can be tricky for an adviser to introduce his or her own point of view and experiences into the conversation — after all, the focus needs to remain on the client — but advisers say dropping a veil or two goes a long way to building trust and the client relationship.

The key is making the conversation about the client, and picking up on cues. Some clients may want to know everything, down to the last mutual fund sale, while others may just want to hear that they are understood.

David Edwards, of Heron Financial in New York, lets prospects and clients know that he went through a divorce, and that he has kids in college. He said it helps to establish commonality.

“People feel very vulnerable,” he said. “They are in their underwear. And anything I can do to get into my underwear with them goes such a long way to easing the conversation.”

Of course, it’s easier to share financial successes, such as fully funded college accounts, than it is financial missteps, but Rick Kahler of Kahler Financial Group in Rapid City, S.D., has learned to be open even about those. He often emphasizes to his clients that most millionaires have more financial failures than less wealthy people.

“I tell my clients, ‘My job is to make every mistake I can possibly make, so you don’t have to,'” he said. Kahler, who’s 59 and been in the business over 30 years, said he used to think it would be bad to admit missteps to clients, but he’s changed his mind. “Now I’ve done a 360. It comes with the gray hair.”

Emily Sanders, a managing director at United Capital in Atlanta, has also found that sometimes, sharing a personal story can help a client avoid a misstep.

When she was married to her ex-husband, for example, Sanders contributed less to her 401(k) than her husband did to his, because she of course did not guess the marriage wouldn’t last. When she sees women making the same mistake, she gently refers to her own experience and suggests a more practical course. Relating her own experience makes it a friendly conversation, not a scold, Sanders said.

“It comes down to being a genuine person,” Sanders said. “Even though I’m a financial adviser, I’m not perfect.”

TIME Fatherhood

Mark Sanford’s Oversharing Doesn’t Make Him a Bad Dad

Sure, the S.C. senator wrote a 2300-plus-word breakup post on Facebook that reads like a romance novel--but that doesn't mean he shouldn't be allowed to see his kids

Being a hideously tone-deaf oversharer and terrible husband does not necessarily make you a bad father. An embarrassing one, yes, but not a let’s-keep-him-away-from-the-kids one. I’m speaking, of course, of South Carolina Senator Mark Sanford and his latest Facebook rant.

There are so many things wrong with the way the Senator runs his personal affairs. First and foremost, he too often seems lose sight of the “personal” part of that phrase. He justified his 2300-plus-word Facebook post of Sept. 12 by saying he believes he owes the taxpayers of South Carolina an explanation: “In as much as you sign my paycheck and you have elected me to represent you in Washington, I think I owe you my thinking on this personal, but now public matter.”

This feels a little like a butcher forcing his or her customers to watch him make the sausages, because later they’re going to buy them and eat them. No, really, sir: we’re fine.

The “sausage,” in this case, is that Sanford and his wife, Jenny, with whom he split after falling in love with an Argentinian women, Maria Belén Chapur, are fighting over how much access he has to their four sons. Attorneys are involved, and while Sanford proclaims a huge aversion to the legal profession, he’s decided to lawyer up. (Jenny’s side claims he always had a lawyer.) All of this, one would think, might merit a crisply worded 250 word press release, noting that the Senator, having tried all avenues to reach an amicable settlement with his former wife, has retained legal counsel and blah blah blah et cetera. Nothing to see here; move along.

But no. The public has to endure another in a series of Heartfelt Sanford Outpourings, which–for those who haven’t been following along–so far include the one about how he was not on the Appalachian Trail but with a woman (June 24, 2009), and how Maria Belén, the woman he was with not-on-the-Appalachian-Trail, was his soulmate and how theirs was “a forbidden, tragic love story,” (July 1, 2009).

These communications always seems to come from the Harlequin playbook, full of emotional pleas and heartsore teeth gnashing. “No relationship can stand forever this tension of being forced to pick between the one you love and your own son or daughter,” writes the former Love Guv in his latest post on Facebook.

The one difference is that Harlequin novels are blessedly brief. As one wit noted, Sanford’s post contains more words than the Senator has uttered in Congress this year. It’s a small mercy that there is no accompanying video to go with this announcement, as that’s where Senator Soulmate really seems to let his emotions get the better of him.

It’s clear, though, that this post too was written in the heat of the moment and without much forethought. One sentence uses the word “way ” four times. Other phrases in his Facebook tome, with their references to faith, smack of that kid in a church youth group who always used prayer requests as an excuse to gossip about other kids in the youth group who weren’t in the room.

Still other pieces of this confessional quilt have enough lashings of self-pity to make Uriah Heep throw up a little in his mouth. “It seems that history well documents that those who work to avoid conflict at all costs wind up being those destined in many instances to find much conflict,” writes Sanford. Quick, alert the Nobel Committee: Mark Sanford, Peacemaker at a Price.

What transpires is this: Sanford and his wife continue to tussle, legally, over how often he gets to see his sons. He’s accusing her of playing dirty pool–all pretty standard high-conflict divorce shenanigans–and it is stressing him out, people. As a result of this, he’s calling off his engagement to his Argentinian soulmate, whom he has “always loved.” (Not quite enough to let her know in advance of the announcement, though, reports say.)

But while Sanford may be about the most ridiculously inept and cheesy cheating ex of all time, none of it should disqualify him from being able to see his four sons. He says, somewhere in there among all the crazy, that he didn’t get to see one of them for 17 weeks. It’s hard to tell if that’s just the anguish speaking or if it’s true and it’s generally a fool’s errand to try and second guess the family courts. Maybe there are extenuating circumstances. But if true, that’s too long. There’s already enough fatherlessness in the land.

Custody battles can be ugly messy businesses and can end up in disaster and tragedy. Posting a public tear on a well-visited social media site about a mean ex-wife is clearly bad for the kids (and avert-your-eyes embarrassing for everyone else), but it does not disqualify someone from being a dad. One definite upside of regular contact with one’s offspring is that they’re not afraid to opine on how irrevocably lame attempts at social media are. Now that is advice which Sanford desperately needs to hear right now. And which we, the public, need him to hear.

TIME Love and Money

Wealthy Kids Are More Affected by Divorce Than Poor Kids

wealth family divorce
Getty Images

And study says it's not just because they suddenly have less money

Children of wealthy families that come apart have a bigger spike in behavior problems than children of poor families who experience the same thing. But wealthier children benefit more from being incorporated into stepfamilies than poorer children do. So says a new study in the latest issue of Child Development, which also noted the kids’ age when parents separate plays a key role, with the most vulnerable stage being from 3 to 5 years old.

The study was conducted by researchers at Georgetown University, in Washington, D.C., and the University of Chicago, using a national sample of nearly 4,000 children from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. Researchers divided the kids into three groups by income and studied the effect of a change in family structure on each group.

“Our findings suggest that family changes affect children’s behavior in higher-income families more than children’s behavior in lower-income families — for better and for worse,” says Rebecca Ryan, assistant professor of psychology at Georgetown University, the study’s lead author.

Why do children of high-income parents act out more after separation than children from low-income parents? Ryan isn’t sure. “To be honest, our study finds most conclusively that they do act up more, but says less about why that might be.”

But she has some guesses. The first is that dads, who are usually the breadwinners, often move out of the home so there’s a big dip in household income. Or it could be that the kids have to move to a new neighborhood/school/friend group and the instability takes a toll. Or maybe less-wealthy families don’t take it so hard. “Parental separation is more common among lower-income families,” says Ryan. “Parents and children may perceive family changes as more normative, more predictable, and, thus, less stressful.”

However Ryan says, it’s not just about the money. “Changes in income itself did not seem to explain the increase in behavior problems, which surprised us.” Moreover the changes in behavior were only noticeable if the kids were younger than 5 years old. “We found no effect of parental separation on children ages 6 to 12,” says Ryan.

Another surprise was that wealthier kids older than 6, who were blended into stepfamilies had improvements in their behavior. Ryan and her crew first noticed this when she did a prior study back in 2012, but was still surprised to have those findings confirmed. That study also suggested that parental separation affects kids whose parents were actually married more than those who were cohabiting.

Ryan cautions that the differences between kids whose parents were separated and those who were together was not as strong as the differences among low-, middle- and higher-income families. “These results suggest that many factors other than family structure influence children’s behavior, particularly for children in low-income families. For them, the quality of the home environment, regardless of family structure, mattered most to social and emotional well-being.”

She even wades a little into the debate on whether fixing marriage will help fix poverty or whether you need to fix the poverty to have a shot at saving marriage. She’s on the side of the latter. Programs designed to save marriage, she says, will not be as effective as programs that “enhance the quality of the socio-emotional or educational environments in the home.”

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser