BOOK REVIEW: ‘When Life Strikes’: Dealing With Expected — and Unexpected — Occurences That Affect Your Family’s Finances

  •  Reviewed by David M. Kinchen
BOOK REVIEW: 'When Life Strikes': Dealing With Expected -- and Unexpected -- Occurences That Affect Your Family's Finances

It’s time for New Year’s resolutions for many people, time to finally straighten up and fly right in 2012. Not for this guy, a firm believer in the old adage “Man plans, God laughs.” I make my resolutions as I go along.

Cal Brown mentions the saying in his new financial planning book “When Life Strikes: Weathering Financial Storms” (Brown Book Publishing Group, Dallas, TX, 280 pages, no index, $24.95) but he fails to give it the proper attribution. “Man plans, God laughs” (Mann traoch, Gott Lauch) is a Yiddish proverb and historically Jews have known first hand about unexpected events — or even expected ones.

As the title indicates, Brown’s book covers crises such as “What if I lose my spouse?” “What if I lose my career?” “What if I lost my investments?” and “What if I lost my marriage?”

The latter intrigued me as I saw in my old newspaper, the Los Angeles Times,  that the NBA’s highest paid player, Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers,  has been sued for divorce by his wife of 10 years — a benchmark which qualifies Vanessa Bryant for a bigger cut of Kobe’s fortune.

Believe it or not, Kobe and Vanessa didn’t have a prenuptial agreement, a subject Cal Brown discusses in his chapter on marriages. A marriage lasting longer than 10 years  is defined as a lengthy one in the great state of California (funny, I thought it was 10 MONTHS!)

Cal Brown

Cal Brown
Attorney Dmitry Gorin is quoted in the Times’ story of the upcoming divorce as saying that after passing the 10-year mark, Vanessa is allowed to maintain her standard of living after splitsville.

Big Mistake for Kobe!    Absent a prenup — which Brown recommends in many circumstances — Vanessa is entitled to half their community property in community property state California.  The story has a comment from Christopher C. Melcher, a Woodland Hills, CA family attorney: With a prenup Kobe “could have saved half his fortune.” Estimates put Kobe’s net worth at $150 million and Vanessa will probably get at least $75 million of that “in addition to ongoing spousal and child support.”

Divorce is something Cal Brown knows first hand, and he gives sound advice about when to get a prenup — and when not to. Throughout the book he cautions readers with the usual disclaimer about legal advice — consult your attorney, ideally  one with the proper specialty. From the circumstances of the Bryant marriage, I’m pretty sure Brown would have recommended a prenup. Kobe made almost $25 million last year for running around the hardwood in his shorts and endorsing many products.

Brown practices his profession of fee only financial planner with the Monitor Group in Virginia, a non-community property state. (The community property states are Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin).   In addition to divorce, Cal Brown has experienced most of the life crises he deals with in his very useful book, with the exception of having his identity stolen. Thanks to his years of experience as a financial planner, coupled with various tumultuous events in his own life, Brown is able to give general guidance and specific financial tips to help ease the stress of these inevitabilities.

I’m not much on financial planning tomes, but I actually read “When Life Strikes” and found it an excellent resource for coping with unexpected tragedies, learning how to prepare for them, and looking ahead for the sake of your spouse, children, and personal future.There are certain life events that are as stressful as they are unavoidable and Brown discusses them with applicable real-life situations, with names changed, of course. All of these events may not happen to every individual, but they each cause emotional heartache and financial headache, Brown says.
 What I didn’t see in the book was advice about financing college for your kids; having graduated from college in 1961, I can’t believe what it costs for a year — or four — at even an ordinary state college. There are resources on 529 plans, named for the IRS’s section on college plans, and I advise anyone with kids in elementary school to investigate these plans. The are often useful, but there are many pitfalls.
  Late  in 2006 I reviewed  Joseph Hurley’s  ”The Best Way to Save for College 2007: A Complete Guide to 529 Plans” ( LLC, Pittsford, NY, $22.95, 295 pages). I recommend Joe Hurley as the best source on 529 plans. I’m sure he has a new edition.
“When Life Strikes” offers sound advice on a variety of financial areas and I recommend it.

About the author

Cal Brown, CFP, MST  has over twenty-five years of experience in the financial services field. He received his master of science in taxation (MST) from American University in Washington, DC, and his undergraduate BSBA degree from the University of Arkansas. He is currently an adjunct professor in the MST program at American University, teaching estate planning. Brown is vice president of planning for The Monitor Group in Virginia, a wealth management firm working with over 250 clients and managing approximately $500 million in assets.He also plays guitar in a classic rock cover band in northern Virginia.

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