The emotional rollercoaster individuals endure during and after a divorce can be debilitating. Equally devastating are the financial fallouts that can ensue from these life transitions. However, there is a ray of sunshine beyond the storm when women take a moment to assess the facts of their newly single life and rebuild a strong financial foundation for their future.
Retitle Financial Accounts
By closing joint bank and credit card accounts, you can help ensure that your former spouse’s ongoing liabilities do not become your responsibility down the road. Equally important is checking your credit score to identify and resolve any issues that could tarnish your creditworthiness and affect your ability to stand on your own financially going forward. Once all prior debts are satisfied, you can open new accounts in your individual name and start establishing your own credit history, especially if prior credit was dependent on a former spouse.
When re-titling accounts, remember to update transfer on death (TOD) registrations and change the named beneficiaries on bank, investment and retirement accounts as well as insurance policies. This will help prevent your ex-spouse from laying claim to assets you hold at death. To make these revisions, you simply need to complete a form you may obtain from your bank or financial advisor.
Review, Update Estate Plans
If a will and/or trust are already in place, take the time to review them with legal and financial counsel to ensure they continue to reflect your specific wishes and goals. This may include naming persons to serve as guardians for your minor children; executors and trustees of your estate; and beneficiaries for trusts, employee health benefits and retirement accounts. Also, take the time to ensure you have in place health care proxies and durable financial powers of attorney naming a third party to make critical medical and financial decisions on your behalf should you become ill, incapacitated or physically or mentally unable to make those decisions on your own. Similarly, it is important to have in place a living will that documents your wishes concerning life-sustaining medical care.
Update Insurance Policies
Having health insurance for yourself and your children is critical throughout the divorce process, whether your coverage comes from a former spouse’s employer, a new employer for you, COBRA coverage or a new individual policy. Evaluating property/casualty, personal life and umbrella insurance policies can further ensure you have the right type and amount of coverage to meet your evolving needs. It is also important to recognize the benefits of disability insurance should you be unable to continue working as well as long-term care insurance to help pay for the rising costs of care you will likely require later in life.
Evaluate Career and Lifestyle
Following a divorce, both spouses may have fewer resources available to them. Women can take this as an opportunity to assess their career options and evaluate their lifestyle “needs” versus “wants.” A new home may be better suited for your new lifestyle, or a new career path may provide a renewed sense of purpose, fulfillment and earnings to preserve assets for long-term retirement needs.
Plan and Budget
You can more easily manage and achieve your financial goals when you map out a blueprint of your post-divorce finances and budget. While these plans likely will address the short-term realities of doing more with less, one of the major focuses of financial planning is preparing for the future, whether that includes establishing an emergency fund, saving for retirement or a child’s education, or taking control of your newly single tax reporting responsibilities. Oftentimes, a review of current and potential investments can help identify opportunities to help you manage risks and maximize returns.
Life transitions are never easy. However, taking the time to understand your financial options and address post-divorce issues and opportunities head-on, often with the help of financial advisors, will empower more women to move ahead and take control of the financial aspects of their new lives.
About the Author: Kathleen Marteney, CRPC, is a financial planner with Provenance Wealth Advisors, an Independent Registered Investment Advisor affiliated with Berkowitz Pollack Brant Advisors + CPAs, and a registered representative with Raymond James Financial Services. She can be reached at (800) 737-8804 or via email at email@example.com.
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Kathleen Montgomery is a registered representative of and offers securities through Raymond James Financial Services, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC.
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Updated September 27, 2022