There is no part of getting divorced that’s easy. And as anyone who’s been through it will tell you, the financial aspects can quickly become complicated. With this in mind, we’ll explore three of the most common mistakes women make during a divorce and offer tips for avoiding them.
- Leaving your emotions in charge. Your marriage was based on an emotional bond, so when it ends—especially if it’s a particularly painful ending—it can be difficult to set emotions aside during the settlement process. But it’s imperative for your financial future that decisions are made based on what’s going to bring you economic security, not revenge.
This means you shouldn’t just get your child support and alimony payments, but you should also consider securing them via a life insurance policy in your former spouse’s name that makes those payments enforceable if he were to die. It also means accepting that your standard of living will likely need to adjust based on your new post-divorce reality. None of this is easy. But there is good news: By taking charge of your financial life—instead of letting your emotions take over—you’ll be able to build a healthy financial future just for you.
- Leaving retirement benefits on the table. The number of people getting divorced over the age of 50 doubled between 1990 and 2010. This phenomenon, which has come to be known as gray divorce, has caught many women unprepared from a financial perspective. For example, while retirement funds are a significant asset at this age, many women getting divorced don’t claim them. Why? Sometimes they don’t know they can. In fact, this was the case in a recent study, where 31 percent of participants didn’t stake their claim because they didn’t know they could.
That’s why it pays to learn all you can about the financial implications of divorce and the entitlements that come with it. For example, in most states, assets acquired during marriage—no matter whose name is on the title—are fair game when it comes to dividing them in a divorce agreement. Many professionals recommend choosing retirement funds over assets and income such as the home or alimony, so talk to your legal counsel to find out what makes the most financial sense for you. The same advice goes for Social Security benefits: If you were married for at least 10 years and you’re 62 or older, you could be eligible for up to half of your spouse’s Social Security retirement benefits.
- Leaving finances to your legal team. In the same way that you don’t call a plumber when you need to update your will or other legal documents, your attorney may not be the best person to put in charge of your finances. Instead, look to a knowledgeable professional on the topic: a financial advisor. They can advise you on topics that could have a profound effect on your financial life after getting divorced—from the tax considerations of various assets to helping you value stock options and identify hidden income. So make sure you include a financial advisor as part of your team.
Need more help sorting through your finances after getting divorced? Our ebook, “A Guide to Post-Divorce Financial Recovery,” can guide you through the process. Or feel free to reach out to us. We’re always here to help.
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