In general, there is a lot of confusion around different types of retirement accounts. Some people refer to all retirement accounts as pensions or all retirement accounts as 401Ks. Referring to retirement accounts by the wrong account type becomes problematic in divorce cases because the accounts don't all have the same rules, and they need to be correctly identified. If you are not sure which type(s) of accounts you are negotiating, contact a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA).
This post is referring specifically to how to divide a 401K in a divorce. A 401K is an employer-sponsored retirement account that is governed by ERISA. The division of a 401K in a divorce is different from how some other retirement accounts get divided. You can see some of my other posts regarding how to divide other types of retirement accounts below.
It may or may not come as a surprise to you that a pension is frequently the most significant asset divided in a divorce. With that said, it's not a foregone conclusion that you'll have to give up a portion of your pension as part of your divorce settlement. I'm surprised by the number of cases I see in which the parties decide the pension owner will retain it in its entirety. So, how can you keep your pension in a divorce?
First, consider your overall financial picture. If you want to keep the pension and it's one of the more significant assets in your marital estate, you're likely going to be giving up other assets. What are you willing to give up in exchange for the pension?
To get a full financial picture, start by determining the value of the pension. Please note that this is not the value shown on the pension statement. A pension is valued by discounting the future benefit back to the present value. Keep in mind that only...
Written by Denise French, MAFF, CVA, CDFA, CRPC
Divorce itself is an emotionally charged, troubling process. Add major financial decisions to the mix and divorce can be a recipe for disaster. Litigants are forced to make life-altering financial decisions during a time of emotional turmoil. Anyone walking through a divorce knows this can feel like an insurmountable task. There is hope! You can do this!
Our next few articles will focus on different types of assets we see divided on a regular basis in divorce. We will discuss the different types of financial accounts, their tax benefits or consequences and their pros and cons.
The ROTH IRA is a powerful financial tool which differs in many ways from a Traditional IRA or a Rollover IRA. The ROTH IRA can be used for a variety of needs sometimes without taxation or penalties. If you have a ROTH IRA to divide in your divorce you have potential access to a powerful financial tool.
Let's start with the basics. There are so many different types of retirement accounts out there - IRAs, ROTH IRAs, and 401(K)s just to name a few. While those are probably the most common, there are numerous others. For someone who is not dealing with them every day, it can be confusing. More importantly, not all retirement assets are the same nor should they be treated as if they are. Thus, we are dedicating this blog post to one of the less commonly known retirement plans. That is the Thrift Savings Plan, also known as a TSP for short.
What is a Thrift Savings Plan? If you have been working for the Federal government or the military for much of your career, you may already be very familiar. However, those in the private sector may not be. The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) is a retirement plan. It is available to civilian Federal employees and members of the uniformed services. If you are familiar with a 401(K) in the private sector or a Deferred Compensation account for state...
Valuing and dividing retirement accounts is more complex than most divorcing couples expect. Below are five common questions we receive regarding divorce and retirement accounts.
Imagine that only one spouse worked for most of the marriage while the other cared for the kids. If that's the case, most of the retirement assets are likely only in one spouse's name. It is common for clients who own retirement accounts to believe that they are entitled to the entire account since it's in their name. However, money earned during the marriage is a marital asset and subject to division in a divorce.
In contrast, retirement assets earned prior to the marriage are typically considered separate assets and not subject to division in the divorce. In addition, the growth on those separate assets during the marriage is considered separate property. For an accurate appraisal of what portion of a retirement account is...
Divorce can be one of the most stressful changes in your life. It’s common for just one party in a marriage to be responsible for all the finances. Even if both parties are aware of the day-to-day finances, it’s even more common for only one party to handle all the investments.
The combination of learning about your investments for the first time and watching the value of those investments decline in a volatile stock market can be overwhelming. How does a declining stock market impact your divorce settlement agreement? And as you look beyond the divorce, what do those declines mean for your longer-term financial future?
If you have not been involved with your investments or even if you could use a refresher, I encourage you to start by sitting down with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) to review each of your assets. When you do this review, I want you to understand the following about each asset:
(1) What type of asset is it?
(2) How is the...
It is common for one partner to handle all of the retirement accounts in a marriage. In fact, I get calls all the time from individuals who are extremely frustrated. After they've been divorced for over a year, they still have not moved all the relevant accounts into their own name. There is often a lot of confusion around this issue.
With respect to receiving a portion of an ex's 401(k), here's the first question:
One of the biggest mistakes that a person can make after a divorce is not following up on the QDRO. I really encourage clients to have the QDRO drafted prior to their final court appearance if at all possible. That way, it can be signed by the Judge and submitted to the plan administrator right away. Keep in mind each plan has its own QDRO...
Worried about splitting assets in divorce? Worry over financial decisions is normal on an average day but when going through a divorce, it can be paralyzing. The fear around these issues is completely warranted. You only have one chance to get it right and your divorce could quite possibly be the largest financial transaction of your life - not to mention the fact that you are likely overwhelmed by emotions related to all the changes happening in your life.
One way to handle the financial fears is to take control over your situation. Did you know that you don't have to divide your assets 50-50 right down the middle when you get a divorce? In fact, you may not even want to! If it's not simply 50-50 then how do you split assets in a divorce?
One way to have greater control over how assets are divided in a divorce is to consider alternatives to the traditional litigation process. An important benefit of...
Dividing pensions in a divorce can be confusing. For starters, some clients that I see are often confused (even after negotiating their divorce settlement) regarding what type of retirement account(s) that they have. In this blog, I am referring specifically to defined benefit plans. Defined benefit plans are retirement plans where the employee spouse has earned a monthly benefit, which will be paid out once s/he retires. In some divorce cases, the employee spouse and his/her former spouse agree to divide the future benefit via a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO).
Unfortunately, most settlement agreements that I see where pensions were divided do not adequately address the options allowed by the defined benefit plan. To be clear, the options are not consistent across all plans. Thus, it does take some research to know what the options are before they can be considered. The easiest way to avoid some very common mistakes is to request a copy of the plan summary document and...
Most of the time, when I sit down with couples preparing to dissolve their marriage, individuals assume that each account will be divided in half. Did you know that's not always the case? In states like Ohio, where the law requires an equitable distribution of assets in a divorce, it's important to remember that equitable is not always equal. If you have options, how do you determine which assets to keep in a divorce? Rather than ramble on about all of the issues to consider, let's take a look at an example of a couple with whom I recently worked. I will refer to them as Michelle and James and have tweaked the details so as not to divulge their confidential information.
James and Michelle were married for the last 18 years. Michelle is a teacher who has worked in a local Ohio public school district for 23 years. James has a job in IT in the private sector and has worked at various companies throughout his career. He has been with his...