Today we’d like to introduce you to Renee Senes.
Renee, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I grew up in New York. In fact, I grew up in the Bronx back when the Bronx was really a lovely place. I’m an only child. Actually I’m the only child of an only child.
Like my Mom, I became a teacher. I have a master’s degree in special education and taught mostly at the high school level where the kids were all bigger than me. After teaching for a while I moved back to NY and went to paralegal school. I joined a law firm in New Hampshire that represented all of the school districts in southern NH. This was in the early days of special education law litigation. Since the firm, in their wisdom, decided that I couldn’t simply read a book when we weren’t litigating the taught me how to probate estates, write wills and trusts, do estate tax returns and estate income tax returns. I became very aware of where and how financial plans fell apart once someone died. I also realized that I loved helping people and that I didn’t miss litigating and the adversarial process.
Eventually, I joined a law firm in Acton as their estate and probate paralegal. In 1991, I partnered with an attorney in Harvard, Massachusetts who also had a financial planning firm. At that time I got my license as a stock broker, an investment advisor and as an insurance agent. In 1998 I went into solo practice.
Since that time, 2 events have shaped the direction of my practice. My Dad died unexpectedly and I watched my Mom struggle with learning to manage finances in a crisis. Several years later, shortly before my 50th birthday, I found myself on the receiving end of a divorce. Even though I knew all of our finances, I still panicked. From those two events came the realization that there were other people like my mom and me who needed help. I created Suddenly Single, a course for women who through separation, divorce, or death find themselves suddenly single. Numerous variations on that course have followed leading to the present two courses: Money & Divorce –Costly Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make and Powerful Retirement Strategies for Women. I also became a certified divorce financial analyst which allows me not only to work with clients and attorneys but also to testify in court as an expert witness.
Seven years ago, I merged my practice with David Chwalek to form Senes & Chwalek Financial Advisors. David brings to the firm expertise in the areas of portfolio design and development and college planning. Together we manage money for clients, provide financial planning for retirement, college savings, and insurance needs.
My background in probate and estate planning gives me a unique perspective on financial planning. I no longer do the legal work but I have a firm enough understanding of what needs to be done, that I’m confident working with complex estate issues.
My personal experience with divorce, and subsequent training as a divorce mediator and collaborative law training, allow me to guide clients through the financial quagmire of a divorce. I will represent a client as their advocate or serve as a neutral 3rd party financial mediator for the couple. My approach is hands on and practical: can you afford the house, how much do you need to live, will there be money left at the end of the month.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Of course not, although I do feel very blessed to run my own business and thoroughly like and enjoy my clients.
The main struggle is the perennial “work/life balance”. I pride myself on my handholding and attention when clients are in crisis. With internet, email and 24/7 ability to connect it’s easy to find myself working on a weekend, holiday, and vacation or at 2 a.m. because a client needs information to take to court or to mediation the next day. I’m always gratified when I learn that the analysis I provided helped my client to advocate for him or herself and get an outcome that enabled them to go forward.
Please tell us about Senes & Chwalek Financial Advisors.
Senes & Chwalek provides investment advice, asset management, retirement planning and hourly financial consulting. What sets us apart is our long time relationships with our clients, our knowledge of their family, personal life, interests and desires. When doing retirement planning we coach our clients through their wants and desires for the future and remind them that it’s not just about the numbers: where will you live, will you travel, do you want to fund college for grandchildren?
Our specialty is divorce financial analysis. David and I have both been divorced and I feel that gives us a unique perspective on the process and on what our clients are feeling. I am trained in both mediation and collaborative law and will act as a financial neutral for both parties in the divorce process. Often clients come to us before they’ve even hired an attorney to get some idea of what life might look like financially after a divorce. We like to serve as the hub in a wheel for our clients and connect them with the mortgage lender they need, the real estate agent, the mediator, as well as appraisers and contractors.
Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
I have so many wonderful childhood memories. As both an only child and an only grandchild I was surrounded by strong, loving adults throughout. Every Friday night my parents, grandparents, aunt and uncle gathered for dinner, my parents and I were avid New York Theater and ballet goers, we spent summers in the country and later I went to summer camp. By the age of 12, I could navigate NY on my own by subway and with a girlfriend we would spend the entire day roaming Manhattan and later Greenwich Village. Mom just asked me to be home by dinner!
- Hourly financial consulting available at $185.00 per hour
- Address: Senes & Chwalek Financial Advisors
81 Middle Street
- Website: www.senesandchwalek.com
- Phone: 978-456-9600 and 978-369-2255
- Email: email@example.com
Lea Ferrante Photography, Concord, MA