Divorce is one of the most life-altering experiences to go through. It not only changes our relationship dynamics, but in most cases, it completely alters our lifestyle.
No matter how hard we’ve worked to live the life we’ve dreamed of, more often than not, divorces are financially devastating. Many people lose half or more of everything they’ve saved over the course of their life. This includes their home, their savings, their retirement, business and other investments.
If that isn’t painful enough, divorcing people often see their income wither and their expenses explode. We cannot forget to factor in the outrageous expenses for attorney fees on both sides, with the higher earning partner often having to pay for half or more of the lower earning partner’s fees. No doubt about it, divorce is usually bad news financially. Having said this, all is not lost. There is much we can to do improve our financial situation significantly post-divorce.
1. Try not to waste energy panicking.
Obviously, this is much easier said than done. Nonetheless, we must be diligent in making sure every ounce of our available energy is focused toward saving and rebuilding our finances wherever we can.
Worry wastes the valuable time and energy we need, and it keeps our minds too jumbled to find reasonable solutions. As powerless as we may feel, we are never powerless. Where there is the will, and a little creativity, there is a way. After a divorce, we have a multitude of choices to explore, so as bad as things may seem, we will certainly not end up on the streets. We must do all we can to shift our focus onto solutions and away from problems. This mental shift puts us into a proactive mindset, which has the immediate impact of changing our mood to hopeful.
2. Take inventory.
Because divorces are so twisting and confusing, it may be difficult to understand how or what is going to happen with our finances and investments. Remember that knowledge is power. We must do our research and gather the information necessary to know how to rebuild.
It is helpful to create spreadsheets, making a separate sheet for our varying incomes, another for our expenses and another for assets and liabilities. On each sheet enter the type of account, who owns it, what the rate is and the contact information for each institution. As we gain more information through the divorce process, we become clear on where and how things are going to land. This gives us a better idea on the areas where we need to stay conservative, and the areas where we can afford to take some calculated risks to start rebuilding. It’s astonishing how empowering it is to have one place to go when we feel stressed and need an overview of our finances. Our spreadsheets provide us exactly that.
3. Balance your budget.
After a divorce it will undoubtedly take some time to adjust to the income/expense story of our new life. This isn’t fun, but feeling resentful doesn’t bring any less stress and nor does it bring us more freedom.
We must accept what is and work with what we have. If we feel unclear on the average amount we can spend, we should be more conservative and start keeping track until things become clear. This is the most important piece of financial information we have. With it, we’ll know if we need to cut back and take on a heavier load at work to increase our income, or if our situation is stable enough where we can live within the means of what we currently have and still rebuild.
If we figure out that our spending exceeds our income, this situation is dire and must change immediately. We are better off knowing this information than pretending it doesn’t exist and driving ourselves into an even deeper level of financial ruin.
4. Set up accounts correctly.
Resetting our lives in an organized and simple way can be confusing while we’re traversing a divorce. It is important to count on our legal representatives to advise us on how to take over the title of our accounts, and also who the beneficiaries on our accounts should be.
This topic is especially important when it comes to dealing with retirement accounts. We must learn and familiarize ourselves with the rules on this, but we must also be mindful not to act as our own attorney. Good legal advice is key when it comes to the proper vesting and naming our beneficiaries. All these steps are what help to bring us back to a sense of normalcy, security and balance in our life.
5. Organize priorities.
The realities that come with divorce include huge doses of emotional shock and disbelief. When we’re divorcing it can feel as if everything is coming at us all at once, which causes us tremendous anxiety. When we are full of anxiety we start thinking in terms of dooms day. This type of thinking is highly dangerous because it leads us into emotional shutdown.
If we determine that we don’t have enough money to survive month to month, then first priority will need to be our budget. If need be, we must seek a financial advisor who will help us to save and grow our income. If money isn’t our issue, we must turn our focus on increasing our finances, moving and creating our new life.
6. Pick your supports.
Divorce separates our friends and family just as it divides the marriage. It is vital to pick the people who support us unconditionally, and who we know will have our back no matter what.
Part of the pain of divorce is that we not only lose a marriage, but we also lose many of the friends that were made during the course of the marriage. If our ex is talking poorly about us to everyone we love and care for, we must do all we can to stay quiet and not fuel that fire. Those who are true to us will not believe everything they hear, and nor will they put us in a position to have to defend ourselves or our decision- making.
It can also be important to get into some form of therapy, or a divorce support group, especially if we have children who have been placed in the middle. Our community of support is what keeps us resilient.
By taking inventory, balancing our finances, organizing our priorities and establishing our supports, it helps to keep us moving forward even when we feel as if we don’t have the energy.
It is hard not to let the stress of a divorce kill our motivation and faith in people. However, the more proactive we are, the more we learn, reflect and take care of ourselves the healthier we are when going through the divorce and the more easily we move on after the divorce. We must put all of our energy into not letting our divorce cause us to lose direction. We must force ourselves to focus on staying on task and moving in a new and positive direction. Our happiness and continued success, at the end of the day, becomes our greatest retribution.