May 24, 2017

WTOP Interview: Financial Lessons I Learned From Joan Rivers

LISTEN NOW: Joan Rivers was $37 million in debt at age 54. What lessons can we learn from this model of reinvention?
Dawn Doebler, MBA, CPA, CFP®, CDFA®, Senior Wealth Advisor

Interview Transcript:

SHAWN ANDERSON: The late Joan Rivers is best known for her brash loudmouth comedy ''the snarky red-carpet fashion commentary'' and addition to plastic surgery, but most people don’t know the backstage details of her life fit include finding out she was $37 million in debt after the suicide of her husband and she was 54.

HILLARY HOWARD: Joining us live to talk about the financial lessons we can all learn from Joan Rivers is Dawn Doebler; Senior Wealth Advisor at Bridgewater Wealth in Bethesda and co-founder of Her Wealth®. Hello Dawn!

DAWN DOEBLER: Hello Hillary, how are you?

HILLARY HOWARD: Very well thank you. I'm really curious, what it is about Joan Rivers that you're focusing on and why?

DAWN DOEBLER: Well, you know we all know Joan is a comedic personality and what even I didn’t know is some of the lessons that she learned in her life related to managing money and also reinvention. At 54 she was single without a job and broke financially because of the suicide of her husband and mismanagement of the money. And we really think that a lot of women this will resonate with them either through death or divorce or really just inattention to the money they earned up to middle age or maybe not as strong financially as they should be. So, we had an event, we do a lot of events through Her Wealth with the goal of educating women, and the event was an author who wrote a book that's called Last Girl Before The Freeway - The life, loves, losses and liberation of Joan Rivers and really a lot of things about her life that many of us are not aware of and indications of some of the patterns we see in working with women.

SHAWN ANDERSON: What are some of the reasons why Joan Rivers lost that big of a fortune in her mid-50?

DAWN DOEBLER: Well, you know we wrote an article called The Top 10 Money Mistakes Women Make and Joan made six of those mistakes. So, I'll highlight just two of those:

  1. First of all, she didn’t pay attention to her money. She was married to Edgar, he was her professional manager and he also managed all of their personal finances. She was busy, like so many successful women making a lot of money. She had a child, she was breaking through a lot of barriers, so she offloaded the responsibility of financial management to her husband, and unfortunately, he didn't do a very good job and she didn't find out about that until he passed away. So not paying attention was a big mistake.
  2. ‍The second one I would just characterize overall, she never really adulted when it came to money. And we talk with a lot of people about what kind of messages and lessons did they learn in childhood about managing money and let’s make sure were not maybe repeating some of those patterns. So for example; Joan was taught that her value was in her beauty and that she needed to marry well and her mother also was someone who wanted to spend a lot of money, but her father never really made enough money to support her mother’s desires. So when Joan did make a lot of money, she spent a lot of money and that was something that did contribute to the issues that she had it midlife and that she eventually had to overcome.

HILLARY HOWARD: So, what is it that we can learn from her wealth and losses?

DAWN DOEBLER: That’s right, well; obviously if you read the book or our article you can get some tips on some of the mistakes that she made that led to the downfall. But, really we also want to focus on how successful she was at overcoming that. Really at middle age, as I said many people find themselves there and there are a lot of things that you can do. She reinvented herself, she was very open to doing whatever she needed to do and she started to pay attention. And lastly, we'll just say that her motto was ''never give up, never quit, never, never, never!

SHAWN ANDERSON: Alright, interesting stuff, thanks so much Dawn. Dawn Doebler; Bridgewater Wealth in Bethesda, you can read more at search Her Wealth.


Shawn: Now you hear all kinds of deals about leasing cars, how can you negotiate a better deal if you want to lease?

Nina: Okay, well many people don't realize that they can actually negotiate the sticker price on a leased car in the same way that you would do that if you're buying a car. And since when you lease -- when you're, you know, your lease payments basically cover the depreciation, the difference between the sales price and the residual value. So it's definitely in your best interest to try to reduce that sales price as much as possible because then you'll pay you know, smaller dollars over the life of the lease. Make sure you pay attention to the down payment at the lease signing. And so here's an example, you might see an ad that says you know, lease payment is only 1.99 a month and that sounds like a great deal for thirty six months. The catch is, is that it might require a $3,600 down payment. So, if you amortize the down payment, then actually that 1.99 special, becomes 2.99. So, you really have to kind of look at total costs. 

And then lastly, dealerships use the term, money or lease factor, when they're calculating your financing costs and a lease factor is not the same as an interest rate. So, you have to make sure the dealer converts that lease factor into a comparable interest rate so you know what your financing charges are. 

Shawn: At the end of the day, does one method wind up being more expensive more often than the other, or can we tell that?

Nina: You know what, it really depends on how long, if you're going to hold the car for a long time, you're better off buying. But if you know, and if you're not, if you just really enjoy driving and you want to have a new car, then go ahead and lease. I mean, there's pros and cons to both, to be honest with you, it's not one size fits all.

Shawn: Alright Nina, great. Happy Thanksgiving to you. Alright, Nina Mitchell is with The Colony Group, for more go to and search Her Wealth.

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Dawn Doebler, MBA, CPA, CFP®, CDFA®, Senior Wealth Advisor

Dawn’s experience spans more that 25 years providing wealth management, financial planning and corporate finance solutions for clients. As an MBA, CPA, Certified Financial Planner (CFP®), and a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA®), she is uniquely qualified to understand the challenges and financial needs of clients from executives to entrepreneurs, as well as single breadwinner parents. Dawn is a weekly contributor to WTOP radio.