Starting over after divorce is overwhelming on all levels and readjusting to life without a partner can be a lot to deal with emotionally. You may find yourself questioning your wants, your needs, and your vision for the future. Where will you live now? What will your new lifestyle look like? And how much will it all cost?
The financial repercussions of divorce can be overshadowed by its emotional repercussions, but the financial repercussions don’t stay hidden for long. As difficult as divorce can be, it can also be a launching pad toward a strong financial future.
With the right financial plan in place, you can start fresh, get your spending on track, save money, increase your income, and achieve your financial goals.
Evaluate your income
Among the most noticeable financial changes, you’ll experience is the decrease in household income and net worth. You may find yourself needing to adjust to a new standard of living. Crunch the numbers and figure out if what you currently earn is enough to support your new single lifestyle.
To get an accurate view of your full financial picture, including any additional sources of income, like child support, alimony, and stock dividends.
If what you make isn’t enough to live comfortably on, you’ll need to take action. Consider picking up a side hustle or second job to earn additional income. The internet is a treasure chest of information and ideas on side hustles.
Type in “work from home” in Google and watch the opportunities populate. If you start bringing in extra dollars now, it can help take some financial pressure off later.
Reduce your expenses
In addition to knowing how much you earn, it’s equally as important to know how much you spend. Consider creating a detailed household budget to see where your money is going. Now that you’re budgeting for yourself, you might find that some expenses, like housing, will be higher, while others, like your grocery bill, will be lower. For instance, if you’re planning on buying a home on your own, you’ll need to consider how you’ll handle the costs and expenses.
If you find you’re spending more than you earn or you’d just like to see more cash end up in your savings account, look for areas where you can cut back.
What purchases do you make that aren’t necessary or spark more regret than joy? Can you cook more at home instead of ordering takeout? Could refinance your car loan to reduce the monthly payment?
Divorce is tricky, and change is hard. While it’s important to spend within your budget, it’s also important to take care of your mental well-being. You should never feel pressured to eliminate expenses that revolve around your mental health, wellness, and self-care.
Whether you have debt from your marriage, your divorce, or you’re still paying off a student loan, now is the time to create a plan to pay off your debt.
Paying off debt is no easy task, and it can often feel like progress in slow motion. Luckily, some debt payoff strategies can help accelerate your repayment plan. For instance, with the debt avalanche method, you make minimum payments on all outstanding accounts and then use any remaining money to pay off bills with the highest interest rates.
This strategy takes some discipline and a consistent amount of discretionary income, but it will drastically reduce the amount you’ll pay in interest in the long run.
You can also try the debt snowball method. With this strategy, you put all your money toward paying off the smallest debts first. This is the “get them out of the way” method, which is easy to implement and settles debt quickly. However, it will extend the life of any loans with higher interest rates, increasing the amount you pay in interest over time.
There is no right or wrong way to pay off debt. Take the time to understand each strategy, then decide which one is right for you.
Plan for the future
While rebuilding from divorce, your current financial situation often takes precedence. But you can’t avoid thinking about your financial future forever. Start rebuilding your finances and make building an emergency fund a top priority. A good rule of thumb is to keep between three and six months' worth of expenses in your emergency fund. If your income is inconsistent, you might consider saving even more.
It’s never too early to start thinking about retirement either. Set goals and choose a savings strategy that will help you reach them. You may already be contributing to an employer-sponsored or individual retirement account. If so, be sure to regularly check those accounts to ensure that you’re on track to meeting your retirement goals.
If you have no idea where to start or feel completely overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to hire help. Look into a money coach, financial planner, or financial advisor for additional guidance.
Though it may not feel like it, you can financially survive a divorce. Plan early, save and enjoy your money. It won’t be easy, but with a few clear steps and the right mindset, you can rebuild for a better and brighter financial future.
Call On Your Support Network
Being that buying a home and divorce are both in the top five most stressful life events, it’s wise to surround yourself with a support network of family, friends and experienced divorce professionals. Count on this network to keep their eyes peeled for any listings they stumble upon and they may come across someone in their network who is looking to sell. They also will keep you in good spirits as you conduct your new home and enter this next stage of life.
When visiting a property for sale, make sure to bring someone who is experienced in home maintenance if you are not. This individual will prove to be a valuable asset when it comes to surface-level issues with the property that wouldn’t be noticed by a novice in home maintenance. Also, be sure to communicate with your direct management at work that you’re house hunting. The majority of property visits will be scheduled during the week or around your realtor's schedule, often conflicting with work shifts. Plan ahead by switching shifts with co-workers or asking your management to make up time missed on another day.
About the Author
Cris Pastore, Main Line Family Law CenterCris Pastore, Esq. is co-founder and managing attorney-mediator at Main Line Family Law Center, a divorce mediation firm with seven offices along the Main Line and Center City, Philadelphia. A practicing attorney for over 20 years, Cris has focused exclusively on divorce mediation since 2007, when he grew increasingly frustrated by destructive nature of the court-contested divorce process. Cris has made it his personal mission to revolutionize this area of practice to preserve family relationships and help families emerge healthy and whole. Follow Cris at @healthy_divorce.
Topics: Get into Financial Shape