Are you going through a divorce and wondering what steps you should take with your finances? I’ll go over the important financial decisions you need to make before, during and after a divorce and I’ll talk about how a financial planner can help you all along the way.
If you haven’t filed yet or are just considering getting a divorce, you may be wondering what you should be doing in terms of your finances. It’s good to be planning ahead and thinking about your future, but there isn’t a lot to do at that point in the process. The best thing you can do is get a good idea of your expenses and what it will cost you to live. That way, when it comes time to evaluate income and settlement options, you’ll know what your needs are.
Other than that, there’s not a lot you can do in terms of planning because you don’t know the specifics of your situation yet. You’re not going to know how assets are going to be split, you won’t know what your income will look like, whether you’ll receive or pay support, so it’s going to be hard to come up with a plan. For now, I would just work on your your budget and getting your finances organized. If you’re considering working with a financial planner, you might want to hold off until a little later in the process when you have more information.
If you are in the middle of a divorce, there is a lot more you can do at that point because you’ll have more information. One of the most important decisions you’ll be making is when it comes to settlements. If you are looking at a proposed settlement and wondering if it is fair or enough, it’s incredibly important but also complicated analysis.
As an example, let’s say there is a divorcing couple who has $100k in home equity and $100k in an IRA account. When it comes to splitting the assets, it might seem like it makes sense for one spouse to take the house and the other spouse take the IRA, since the two assets have the same market value. In reality, those two assets are very different in terms of the long term effects on your finances. For example, if one spouse sells the home later down the line, they can sell the house and access the $100k, or maybe even a little more if the house has gone up in value. Most likely they won’t pay tax on the proceeds of the house, unless they had some large gains. However, the spouse with the IRA would have to pay ordinary income taxes on the entire amount, so instead of $100k they’d really get $60k after taxes. Those two assets in the long run are really not equal.
You also have to consider how different types of assets grow over time. In the same example, if the IRA was invested in some aggressive stocks, the value could have easily doubled in a matter of years, and maybe the house is located in an area where property values haven’t changed much. Again, in the long run, these 2 options are going to look totally different.
It’s important that you consider all of the nuances of these financial decisions. Even a regular financial advisor who doesn’t have experience with divorce may not consider all of the complexities of those decisions. An attorney is obviously familiar with divorce, but the long term financial impact of these decisions isn’t really their specialty. It’s important that you have someone with financial planning expertise specifically in divorce. There is a designation called a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst certain advisors get who specialize in exactly that. I really recommend seeking someone out with that credential, because you have so many important financial decisions to make that will impact your short-term and long-term financial future. It’s worth it to spend some money to meet with a professional to walk you through those decisions.
Once things have settled down after your divorce, you’ll have a better idea of what your finances will look like post divorce. It’s also a good time to do some in depth financial planning. Your circumstances have changed so much: your assets, income, expenses, and goals have all changed, and you need to adapt your plan to the new circumstances. An advisor can help you define your new goals as a single person, and come up with specific, practical advice to make sure you achieve your goals.
There is something to be done at each stage of the divorce process in terms of your finances. There is definitely more to do later on in the process. Just know that there is help available to you. You can seek out a financial advisor who can work in conjunction with your attorney, or separately if you’d prefer. I know these financial decisions seem overwhelming and confusing, but don’t put them off. Get the help you need to make sure you’re in the best financial position in the long run.