No one gets married thinking they will someday get divorced. No one. But it still happens, doesn’t it? Perhaps it was a short marriage with no children, or maybe it was a longer marriage with one or more kids involved. Suddenly, you’re dealing with the stigma of being divorced, a label you never wanted but are now stuck with.
Logistically, you have to check the “divorced” box when you fill out paperwork. You have to change your personal information at school for your kids. You never wanted them to grow up without both parents side-by-side, but that’s the new world you’re all living in.
Regardless, now you’re left to pick up the pieces of your life socially, emotionally, and even financially. Maybe you worked outside the home full time, so at least you still have your job (even though your household income has dramatically dropped). If you were a stay-at-home mom or worked very part time, you could be feeling a bit panicked about how exactly you will survive on your own.
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Let’s face it—you hope that child support and/or alimony will come through, but realistically, you know you can’t depend on it. You have to find a way to manage your finances after your divorce so you can financially make it on your own two feet. So maybe you live with family for a while so you can figure things out. All you know is that you want to feel like you have some control over your life again, and you want to set yourself and your kids up to succeed financially and in every other way too. You know it’s up to you, but where do you start?
Tip #1: Choose your mind-set.
Okay, this may sound a little cheesy or superficial, but it’s incredibly important. If you worry and doubt that you’ll be able to make it as a single woman or a single mom, then you’re already defeated.
Decide that you WILL have a good life, no matter your financial situation. Of course, having enough money to live comfortably is the goal, but it’s not everything. Decide that you will learn what you need to learn and that you’ll ask for help. Decide that you won’t stress about money because that won’t help anything. Take some time to envision yourself doing the things you enjoy and being able to provide for yourself and your family.
You have to believe it before you can achieve it. (Sorry, that was pretty cheesy sounding, too, but it’s SO true!) Don’t let your mind sabotage you, and don’t let any “Debbie downers” speak negativity into your situation either. Surround yourself with people who believe in you, care about you, and can share financial wisdom with you.
Tip #2: Know your numbers.
Now that you have your mind-set established, you have to determine where you’re at before you can get to where you want to be financially. This can be hard because maybe where you are is a little scary. But you need to face it in order to change it.
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This is where getting some help from a wise friend, parent, or financial advisor can make all the difference.
Create a spreadsheet or grab the old standby (pencil and paper), and begin to list your income and expenses. This will help you put a doable plan into place.
If you received a cash settlement (maybe from the sale of your shared family home, for example), then consulting with a financial advisor to determine the best ways to utilize that settlement and to manage your finances after your divorce is critical for your future.
As you create your post-divorce budget, be honest about your spending and debt. Ask the hard questions; make the tough choices:
- Do you need to sell your newer (more costly car) and get a more affordable one instead?
- In which areas can you cut back (eating out, dry cleaning, car washes, etc.)?
- What can you sell that you can turn into immediate cash?
- What are your real costs of living going to be (utilities, insurance, rent/mortgage, daycare, etc.)?
- Do you need to get a better or different job?
- What kind of emergency fund should you have?
Tip #3: Know your goals.
If you don’t know where you want to go, it’s going to be harder to get there. Managing your finances after divorce will help you make those dreams a reality.
So, is your goal to eventually be able to purchase your own home? Fund your retirement? Be able to send your kids to a private school? Retire by age 50? Vacation in Hawaii?
With a realistic, working budget, you’ll have a plan to follow so you can reach your goals.
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Tip #4: Adjust your life insurance and beneficiaries.
Now … this is assuming that you, in fact, have life insurance. If you don’t, then you’ll definitely want to look into getting it sooner rather than later. Don’t delay—especially if you have children still in the house.
If you already have life insurance, be sure to change your beneficiary information to either your children or another trusted family member or friend. You may also want to consider taking out life insurance on your ex-husband because if he dies, your child support and alimony go with him. Protect yourself and your future.
Tip #5: Keep an eye on your credit rating.
Your credit rating can take a hit after a divorce, especially if you have any joint unsecured debts from credit cards or unsecured loans.
Remember that the two biggest factors that affect your credit score are payment history and debt level. So the best thing you can do to maintain a positive credit rating is to minimize your debt during and after the divorce. And, of course, stay on top of your payment schedule so you stay current.
You need to deal with your joint debt so that your credit isn’t penalized by an ex-spouse who pays late or not at all. It’s better to have joint debt divided between the two parties so that each of you are responsible for your own portion. (Hopefully, this is something you took care of during the divorce proceedings.)
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Don’t let your money manage you.
You can take this truth to the bank (pun intended): If you don’t manage your money, your money will manage you.
Don’t let fear, lack of planning, or lack of knowledge set you on a path to financial tragedy.
You deserve to have a good and fulfilling life, and by managing your finances after divorce, you can still have the financial security and successful life you’ve always dreamed of having.