If you are recently divorced and managing money on your own for the first time, you are not alone. Many of the women who I work with are dealing with not only the stress of their divorce but also the need to become educated on their own personal finances. I was curious to get some feedback from some of my colleagues so I reached out to get their top money management tips for recently divorced women.
The good news? Divorce doesn’t have to threaten your financial freedom. Whether you’re newly divorced or contemplating divorce, here are steps you can take to feel confident and in control as you head into this next chapter.
Set goals. Your situation has changed and so have your financial goals. Where do you see yourself in five or ten years? When do you want to retire? How will you invest your money? Setting goals may seem stressful but think of it as an opportunity to create the type of life you want.
Create a budget. If you weren’t the financial decision-maker when you were married, budgeting may be a new concept for you. There are free budgeting tools available online.
Organize yourself. Set up a filing system to keep track of important documents, tax information, bank accounts, etc. By having a system in place, you can easily access the information you need to make smart financial decisions.
Don’t try to tackle everything at once. Take small steps each day toward your financial goals. Most importantly, go easy on yourself. Hit the pause button and recharge. This will help you move forward with a clear mind and leave the past where it belongs.
You may not want to continue with the financial advisor you and your ex used. Get referrals, ask about their process, their fees and their experience with divorced clients.
Work with your financial advisor to develop a plan and monitor it periodically. Look for tax-efficient ways to save for retirement, like Roth IRAs and Roth 401ks.
Get a copy of your credit report. Use your cards regularly and pay off the balance on time every month.
1. When you prepare your budget, prioritize your discretionary spending and decide what your "must-have" discretionary expenses are. If you know you won't bend on some discretionary expenses, like veterinary bills for your pet or getting your hair done, be realistic and if possible, treat those like fixed expenses because you are probably going to spend that money anyway. That way you won't beat yourself up when you spend that money because you have prioritized your needs.
2. That being said, get creative and treat saving money as a game and find ways to do what you like to do for less. It may be a new thing, but using coupons, looking for sales and finding deals can be fun and rewarding. No one will know but you that your dress was from a consignment shop or that you had your hair or nails done at the local cosmetology school.
3. Support is essential after a divorce but find ways to get your emotional needs met that don't involve spending money. You may need to find new friends who can have fun in ways other than eating and drinking out and shopping. Exercise and doing for others is more emotionally gratifying and you might find +your new group of friends more interesting!
Pay Yourself First. Transfer a set amount from your earnings to your savings each month. Even a small amount in the beginning helps. If your employer offers a 401K match, strive to set aside at least enough to receive the full match.
Maintain Good Credit. You can obtain one free annual credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus: TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. Order one report from one of the credit bureaus every four months to monitor changes on a timely basis. Good credit is required for obtaining loans and low-interest rates. Monitoring your credit can also help you guard against identity theft.
Update Your Estate Plan. Have your will and any trusts reviewed by a legal professional as soon as your divorce is final. Prepare advance directives, such as a durable power of attorney, living will, and health care proxy. Your financial advisor can help you update your beneficiary designations on all of your accounts. This is important for everyone at any time, regardless of age.
My best tip is to find an ally! Make sure that the advisor you choose feels like your best friend and not your rich grandpa. You need to be able to be honest with them and know that they'll be honest with you. We all have the same products and services available so find the person that you connect with at a heart level. You'll be so glad you did!
Tip #1: Educate yourself. I know that going through a divorce and then being on your own for the first time can be incredibly stressful and overwhelming. If you are not familiar with your finances, it might be the very last thing you want to deal with. However, knowledge really is power! There are tons of free resources to begin educating yourself. The first personal finance book that I ever read was David Bach's Smart Women Finish Rich and I highly recommend it.
Tip #2: Don't make any large purchases. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. Within a month of my divorce, I spent a large sum of money on two things: 1) I went on a cruise with some friends for a bachelorette party (the irony, I know!) and 2) I bought a new suite of bedroom furniture. Still, if I put my financial advisor hat on, I would highly encourage you to get used to your new life (and your new budget) before making any large purchases.
Tip #3: Have a plan. Regardless of how much or how little money you have, it's important to have a written financial plan. A plan gives you control. It will help you to know when it's okay to make those large purchases so you don't have to feel anxious about spending the money. It will also help keep you on track to reaching your long-term goals.
I hope that some of these tips will help make your transition from married to single a little easier. Do you have a tip that we missed? Please leave a comment.