On the Bezos Divorce as a Sudden Money® Event


With so much media time and space being occupied with stories about the Bezos divorce, what we haven’t seen is commentary from experts regarding this divorce as a sudden money® event. I’m a Certified Financial Transitionist® who works mostly with women divorcees, and I’d like to address some obvious and not-so-obvious human issues from the perspective of MacKenzie Bezos. As a professional trained in the art and science of Financial Transitions Planning, I know that this case isn’t simply about divorce. It’s a major life transition that includes a substantial windfall; it’s a sudden money® event. Here are my thoughts.

High Net Worth Doesn’t Equal Financial Well-Being

Whether the settlement is 60 billion or 30 billion, MacKenzie will have plenty of money to pay for the best advisors and services and take care of all her needs and her children’s needs. When she receives the settlement and has control over such a large amount suddenly, she could become the wealthiest woman in the world. But having a high net worth is not equal to having financial well-being.

This is a big financial transition, and that opens new possibilities, expectations, responsibilities, and a mixed bag of positive and negative emotions. There are stages to transitions that have somewhat predictable challenges and that require the ability to deal skillfully with uncertainties inherent to transitions. She must take time to think, explore and identify the new meaning and purpose of her life and money. She could use the money wisely and responsibly to better the world and make a big impact.

New Dynamics

When she has a new relationship, this wealth can create interesting dynamics that she and Jeff never had. She needs to be aware of that and communicate, setting the right expectations and agreements in advance. This also affects her relationship with her children. One easy trap for a divorced woman is to ally with her kids and use the money to get closer with them (through gifting, etc). She may also want to protect her children’s interests in estate planning, in case Jeff remarries and/or has new kids.

Protect Wealth

As the majority of this couple’s wealth is tied with Amazon stock, I would be careful when splitting the shares, to reassure Amazon stakeholders about Jeff’s continuity and stability as CEO, and MacKenzie’s intention about holding/divesting shares or being involved as a major shareholder after divorce. I am sure they are getting good advice on that sensing from the friendly tone of their public announcement, but you never know what’s behind the door.

It’s easy for most people to get resentful and make moves intended to punish someone who has wronged them, but that ends up hurting both of them. In times of transition, emotions come to the fore and can be the driver of unfortunate, regrettable decisions. And some of them are irrevocable, which makes them so much worse.

One thing is for sure: no matter how quickly and amicably divorces appear to settle from the outside, there is always so much more going on inside. Divorce is a major life transition whether or not it’s also a sudden money® event.

~Linda Cao