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Attaining Financial Independence After a Divorce (Part 1)

May 23, 2020

As Certified Divorce Financial Analysts who work with divorcing couples, we see many spouses who want to bury their heads in the sand even when their post divorce financial reality is staring them in the face. We believe that when you face your finances clear eyed and informed, with a forward facing plan, you can not only gain confidence but work towards financial independence post divorce.

Financial independence is when you have enough financial resources to pay your living expenses without being dependent on someone else or being employed. We recognize financial independence might seem like an audacious goal but it is possible with the right resources and commitment. You can gain the knowledge and lay the framework during and after your divorce.

Financial independence is NOT financial literacy. Financial literacy is the ability to understand and effectively apply various financial skills, including personal financial management, budgeting, and investing. Investopedia

In this blog we cover:

  1. The importance of creating, implementing and monitoring your spending plan. Notice we didn't say budget. A spending plan has a more positive connotation that a belt-tightening budget.
  2. Choosing between a bank, online or brick and mortar and credit union or traditional bank.
  3. What you need to know about checking and savings accounts.

Create Your Spending Plan

Before you head off on a road trip, you need to check the gas tank, right? One of the most important rules, and we can't stress this enough, is to PAY YOURSELF FIRST by contributing to your savings each month. If you don't look out for your future and instead pay all other expenses first, you might not have enough money to "make your trip."

Understand what your net take home pay is and how much your fixed, variable and discretionary expenses are. Fixed expenses are the same amount every time they're due and variable can change depending on usage, think utilities or water for instance.

As far as discretionary expenses go, if it's not groceries, rent or mortgage and utilities, it's essentially discretionary. A discretionary expense is something you can absolutely live without. For examples and a sample worksheet, see here.

Once you understand how much money you have coming in and going out, you are ready to implement a spending plan. A spending plan includes inputting your net income, your expenses and carves out what you can set aside to reach your goal. Your goal does not have to be financial independence, but without a goal, you are essentially monitoring inputs and outputs with the only "goal" of not being in debt. We want more for you and you should want that for yourself. Check out some other worthy financial goals.

Monitor Your Expenses

Goodbye to adding machines, reams of receipt paper and spending late nights at your kitchen table and welcome to smart phone apps. It's important to find the one that works best for your lifestyle so be prepared to try more than one. The Divorce Resource Centre of Colorado recommends YNAB.com, Mint, Quicken and Pocketguard.com. YNAB stands for "You Need a Budget," Mint.com is a widely popular and intuitive app, Quicken has more bells and whistles and integrates with your business and Pocketguard.com is like a watchdog always looking to save you money.

Your online banking platform may divide your expenses up into categories but there is a usually a lot of manual work on the user's end to ensure that it's an accurate representation of where your money is going. The choice is yours to use an app, or your bank or both, but the important part is to keep track regardless.

Choosing a Bank, Credit Union or Online Banking Option

Traditional big bank options in the Denver Metro Area include Wells Fargo, Chase, and 1st Bank. The benefits of a big bank are the number of locations and ATMs and that they are usually first adopters when it comes to online banking features like Zelle and online bill pay. Credit unions are nonprofit member-owned version of a banks that, rather than pay their Presidents and CEOs outrageous salaries, return the profits in the form of lower rates to their members. Online only banking options we recommend include ally.com and capitalone360.com. To help you evaluate online banks, click here.

We understand concerns about the online safety of financial information, but with precautions, banking online is not only safe and convenient but can also save you headaches during and after a divorce. As long as you set up strong passwords that do not include any personal identifying information, store this information in a place only you can access, you are banking smarter and safer. You will only have to log on and not wait on hold to talk to a human, or a robot screener, when you have a question or an issue. It also means that your hardcopy financial statements don't end up at your home when you've moved to a new residence during the divorce.

Checking and Savings Accounts

Watch out for overdraft protection no matter what financial institution you choose. While having it can help when you've overdrawn your account, there's no such thing as a free lunch and many banks' overdraft fees will make you feel like you paid for a steak dinner with a bottle of wine.

When it comes to savings accounts, there are many to choose from. However, for our purposes, we're focused on deposit savings accounts and money market savings accounts. The main difference is that money market accounts may earn a higher interest rate since they are funded differently than deposit savings accounts. But this is not always true so check the fine print and shop around.

The FDIC, aka Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, insures all bank accounts up to $250,000. Note that this is per accountant not per customer so if you're a high roller, be sure to split your money into various accounts.

Final Financial Tips

Our parting tips to face your financial fears head on include:

1) Just like in college or high school when you had an assignment or paper to complete, make sure your environment is set up in a way that invites calm. If you need to light a candle, play some light music or reward yourself with a glass of wine afterwards, cozy up with your statements and get clear on your priorities.

2) Break up tasks that seem overwhelming into three manageable parts. When you complete one part, you become more confident and able to handle the entire process.

The Divorce Resource Centre of Colorado will give you the tools to take control and gain confidence in your post divorce financial reality. We take a deep dive into your finances, the tax implications of divorce and provide a cash flow analysis to clients. Call us at 303 468-5626 or schedule a time to talk that works with your schedule.

For Important Divorce Documents, Complete the Form Below!

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Documents include: Asset Worksheet, Household Goods Inventory, Financial Checkup, Priorities Worksheet and Mandatory Financial Disclosures.

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At Divorce Resource Centre of Colorado, we have a team of seasoned Certified Divorce Financial Analysts (CDFA) who provide a cost-effective, respectful mediation process that allows couples and families to rebuild a secure post-divorce future.
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