Starting over financially after a divorce is often tough, especially if shared assets like a mortgage were involved. Not to mention, it’s not something people usually prepare for, either.
Here are some tips to help you reclaim your financial independence after a divorce, according to the experts.
Review Your Finances
“Going through a divorce is often emotional and stressful, so it’s easy to lose sight of the financial ramifications that result,” says Shomari Hearn, of Palisades Hudson Financial Group in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “The first step to getting a handle on your finances following a divorce should be to evaluate your living expenses, any outstanding debt you may have, and your income, including any alimony or child support,” says Hearn.
Trevor Scotto, of Fiduciary Financial Group, suggests laying out your monthly bills and your bank and credit card statements. “This can help identify any potential spending habits that may need to be corrected as well as payments that can be put on auto payment,” says Scotto. “You may experience a significant reduction in household income, which may require you to make adjustments to your spending,” he says.
Set Up a Financial Plan
“The sooner you get a solid financial plan in place, the faster you can take the steps to progress financially in the future,” says Monica Mizzi, of Legal Templates. “Financial planning should encompass your short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals, and the steps you will take to get there – including gradual milestones to keep you motivated and on track.”
Consider a Financial Planner
If your spouse managed all of the finances during your relationship, starting over on your own may seem complicated. If you need help trying to figure everything out, a financial planner may be able to help get you on the right track to financial independence.
“A credentialed financial planner can help gather the financial pieces of the puzzle and lay out a game plan for your financial life after divorce,” suggests Scotto. He says, “If you’re new to managing your own financial affairs it’s best to look for an advisor who specializes in financial planning and can educate you along the way.”
Create a New Budget
New Jersey attorney Jef Henninger says he advises his clients to use the divorce process as a reset button on their lives.
“Since you are laying everything out there anyway, this is the best time to examine your spending and saving habits,” he says. “Seek professional advice if you need it but use this as an opportunity to start over and change your habits.”
Jessie C., who has been divorced since November 2016, says creating a spreadsheet helped her budget. “I created a spreadsheet of the bills that I had and when they were due, and I use that to keep track of what I need to pay each time I get paid,” she says. “Keep track of your expenses and do not live above your means,” she says. “Only do things if you can afford them – even if that means you need to live on PB&J for a little while.”
Update the Title of the Home
Once your divorce is final, you may want to remove your former spouse from the title of your home. This can be done by refinancing and executing a quit-claim deed. A divorce decree and marital settlement agreement is needed to do this. Experts recommend talking to your mortgage company for next steps.
Get Rid of Any Joint Accounts
Relationship and personal finance blogger Jeff Campbell says it’s important to do away with any joint accounts to better protect both parties.
“From a credit rating standpoint, it is very important to have no accounts remaining that are joint accounts as it could be very easy for the ex-spouse to damage your credit or take on additional credit under your name without your knowledge,” he says. “A clean break is the only way to proceed.”
Update Your Beneficiaries
Most of the time, people name their spouse their primary beneficiary on insurance policies and retirement accounts. If you’re no longer married, it may be best to change that. “Update the beneficiary designations on your retirement accounts, such as a 401(k) or an IRA, and on your life insurance policies,” says Hearn. “You want to avoid having these assets and benefits passing to your former spouse upon your death.”
Keep Track of Your Documentation
If you decide to apply for new home loan after your divorce, you’re going to need your divorce decree. It’s important to keep any documents related to your divorce for your financial records. “This includes tax returns, mortgage documents, bank statements, and all other financial records,” says Scotto. “Make copies of all financial records in case you need them down the road.”
If you’re looking to buy a home after a divorce, be sure to check out these five tips.
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