When a marriage ends, there are many questions and fears to address. After dealing with the emotional devastation and loss, often the next question is “Will I be ok financially?”
The answer is never simple and is highly individual. So, if you are facing divorce, the first step in answering this question is to gather complete information on all of your resources and needs. Gather information on all investments and assets, such as investment accounts; company retirement plans, pensions and other benefit plans; real estate; and insurance coverage. Next gather information on all income, both present and future (wages, investment income, deferred compensation, Social Security). Finally, get a complete understanding of your liabilities and spending needs. This will probably be the most time-consuming and difficult step, but it’s important to get an accurate understanding of your current spending needs and how these might change in the future. Here are some key questions to answer:
- What is your total housing cost and how might it change? (For example, is your mortgage fixed or adjustable? Does it have a balloon payment? Are you considering downsizing?)
- What other liabilities do you have (auto loans, credit card debt, etc.)?
- What expenses might increase (insurance, etc.)?
- What expenses might decrease (groceries, your ex’s auto expenses, etc.)?
We recommend you take at least three months of credit card and bank statements and get an accurate total of all money that “went out.” Use a budgeting program or spreadsheet tool to categorize your spending and capture expenses that might increase.
Once you have reached a settlement, you will know what assets you will retain/receive, amounts of alimony and/or child support received/owed and how ongoing expenses and liabilities will be allocated between you and your ex-spouse. If you determine your resources and income won’t cover your expenses, you have two choices: increase income or reduce expenses.
If the above tasks sound daunting, this is where an advisor can really be of help. For many people, divorce brings an almost overwhelming amount of change to every aspect of their life. It can be hard to envision all the possibilities available to adjust to a new financial reality. By working with a financial advisor who has experience navigating the challenges of divorce, you can develop a game plan that is right for you and your family.