“Happily ever after” has not panned out. The relationship you have invested time, emotions, energy and money in has been deemed – either by you or your now ex-partner – to be irrevocably broken.
Divorce is something that the Australian Bureau of Statistics says affects about 50,000 women in this country each year.
Most are in their 40s and have been married, on average, 12 years. Half will have children in tow.
Women I know tend to think in terms of “before” and “after” the end of their marriage. I take a different four-phase view – pre-settlement, negotiation, post-settlement and rebuild – and use these distinct phases to provide focus and determine actions for getting your share of the settlement pie.
It’s an emotional time, and there’s a lot to think about. Here are 10 top tips to help you cope financially and avoid money mistakes when the words “it’s over” are still echoing:
10 ways to avoid break-up money mistakes
1. If you’re even contemplating leaving (or have any reason to believe it is on the cards), make sure you have an emergency fund.
This is a pot of money you, and only you, can access. It is not a joint account. It is not a credit card.
Every woman, regardless of marital status, needs one. “Emergency” does not have to be about Heartbreak Road.
2. Close any joint bank accounts as soon as possible.
3. Know the full extent of any outstanding debts on joint credit cards, loans and mortgages, utilities and leases.
You can be held responsible and non-payment can impact your credit rating.
4. Work out what assets are in your name and joint names, and know what assets fit with your values and goals for the future.
It doesn’t matter whose name the asset is in: all assets must be considered.
5. Never rely on income that may cease, for example, spousal maintenance, child support or a pension.
6. Kids do (eventually) understand the difference between presence and presents.
You may need to explain that sometimes, as much as you want something, it just cannot be yours, right now. That’s an important lesson that will stand them in good stead in the future. Remember, money – stuff – does not buy love.
7. Check who you nominated as the beneficiary of your superannuation and life insurance. If you don’t change it, your ex-partner could receive an unintended windfall if you suddenly die.
8. Seek expert financial advice about money matters. Don’t ask your lawyer. They’re neither trained nor authorised to give it.
A financial adviser will work with you to plan a secure financial future long after this uncertain time, taking into consideration your lifestyle now and what you want.
9. Restrain yourself from a celebratory spending spree and make your money work for you through wise, informed investments. What difference does it make?
Let’s say a conservative $6000 a year in interest repayments if, for example, you have $100,000 as a deposit on a new home instead of $200,000. Investments do work better over time; the more you can start with, the better.
10. Establish a holiday fund. When planned within your means, holidays are good for your physical and emotional health. Start planning and saving: this is a positive thing to look forward to.