Divorce can make it really hard to think straight about what to do next when it comes to most things and especially financial planning. Believe me, I know. The intelligent, together person you are can turn into an emotional, brain-fogged, unorganized mess. You try really, really hard to keep it together but you know this will not go down as “the best of times.” You want to sit down and get it together and plan your future but feel paralyzed and surrounded by a pea-soup cloud of indecision. What’s a person to do to ensure they’re doing the right things to financially plan for your divorce?
Well first, let’s get real.
ADMIT WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW
When it comes to the finances, what’s your role? Do you handle the family’s finances and investments? Are you on top of your investment accounts, retirement plans, bank accounts, etc.? If you’re in the dark, you need someone to help you turn the lights on and fast! Gather all your financial statements on your asset accounts and your most recent tax returns, then find a CDFA to help you out and bring you up to speed. A CDFA is specially trained in the financial aspects of divorce and will be your best friend in this process. If you and your spouse are able to cooperate, you can use a CDFA-Mediator who will educate you and your spouse on the realities of your financial health and what your future might look like under various settlement options.
START ENVISIONING YOUR FUTURE
Maybe you’ve already been fantasizing about your future life or perhaps this has all taken you by surprise. Regardless, it’s time to start really thinking about what the next phase of your life looks like. Unfortunately, this has to happen at the same time that you are grieving what you thought the next phase might look like. But if you allow yourself some space, it can actually be very productive. You now have the chance to start from scratch. What did you used to dream of doing that got lost while you were married? Is it time to go back to school? Maybe live on a sailboat for awhile or move closer to family? Whatever you dream of, you have to have your budget and financial picture top of mind. So the step above has to come first so your dreams don’t outsize your wallet!
BUILD A SINGLE IDENTITY
Often through marriage many of the credit cards, mortgages, loans, etc. are in the names of both spouses. All of those accounts will have to be closed or converted. After the marriage is over, your credit picture may not be nearly as strong, so you want to be sure to put some things in place while you’re still married. Immediately open a checking and savings account in your own name to begin the process of establishing your own financial identity. Get a credit report and start monitoring it. Track your expenses and create a budget for now and post-divorce. Find a good rewards credit card to apply for in your name alone so that you will be assured of having access to credit through the divorce and beyond.
These steps seem small but are valuable first steps to get you thinking financially and looking out for your future. You can get through this but a little help from the right divorce professionals will be of great benefit to you.
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