A divorce can be a stressful, emotionally draining process that affects your personal relationships, living situation, and finances. During this time, it’s more important than ever to gain control over your finances and create a realistic, practical plan.
"You have to think about your financial future," says Jeff A. Landers, Founder of Bedrock Divorce Advisors, LLC.
While a financial professional can help you determine the best settlement and financial choices going forward, Landers recommends three general ways to plan, budget, and save to gain firm financial independence after a divorce.
Educate Yourself About Your Finances
The biggest hurdle for many people is understanding their current financial situation. Assess the money and assets you have, as well as the financial responsibilities you shared with your spouse. List your monthly and long-term expenses. Build an accurate picture of your finances by reviewing your current monthly budget, financial documents, and credit card statements and bills over the past 12 months.
If you haven't been involved in the household finances, improve your financial literacy so that you understand where your money is going. Consider talking to a financial professional, like your banker, or taking online courses, which some financial institutions, like Regions, offer to their customers at no charge.
Consider Your Stage in Life
As you discuss the best financial settlement with your divorce attorney, think about your age, children, health, career status, and professional skills. Landers says the "gray divorce" — divorce for couples in their 50s or older — can be particularly difficult if you have been a stay-at-home spouse or if you are in poor health and can't work.
If you have young kids and will return to work, consider child care costs. You may even consider the cost of going back to school or getting retrained so that you can secure a higher-paying job.
Revise Your Budget for Current and Future Needs
Equipped with your complete financial picture and needs, it's time to revise your budget. Remember to account for items you may have paid for jointly as a couple, including:
- Mortgage and home repairs
- Child care and college savings
- Retirement and investments
- Insurance, such as health, life, auto, property, disability, and long-term care
As with any budget planning, Landers suggests considering fixed and variable costs, as well as wants versus needs — then looking for areas you can reduce costs and save money.
The cost of divorce can be expensive, requiring attorney fees and additional costs for professional consultants. If you have savings, some or all of that money may be required for divorce expenses, so work on rebuilding your savings into your new budget.
Strong financial planning during and after your divorce can minimize stress and encourage confidence as you attain financial independence and security.Learn more about the costs of divorce.