Divorce can be a seismic shift in your life, especially when it comes to finances. In the United States, nearly 700,000 people go through divorce each year. A staggering reality is the disproportionate impact on women's household incomes, plummeting by 41 percent compared to a 22 percent decrease for men. However, amidst the challenges, there lies an opportunity for personal and financial growth. Now is the time to reclaim control over your money, and with strategic steps, you can not only recover but thrive post-divorce.
Assessing Your Financial Landscape
1. Get the Lay of the Land
Before making any financial decisions, it's crucial to understand your current financial situation. Transitioning from a dual-income household to a single one requires a meticulous examination of your income, expenses, and financial responsibilities. Create a comprehensive overview, including mortgage or rent payments, bills, daily spending, loan or credit card repayments, retirement plans, bank balances, and educational expenses.
2. Educate Yourself
For those less confident in financial matters, empowerment starts with education. Tori Dunlap's book, "Financial Feminist," offers valuable insights. Supplement your knowledge with resources like Netflix's "How to Get Rich," and podcasts such as "The Women’s Investor Community Podcast," "The Money With Katie Show," and Dunlap’s "Financial Feminist." Avoid the temptation to immediately seek a financial adviser; self-empowerment is the key.
Building Financial Security
3. Create an Emergency Fund
If your divorce settlement included financial assets, prioritize building an emergency fund equivalent to three to six months of living expenses. This financial cushion provides peace of mind during turbulent times. If your settlement didn’t include a lump sum, focus on building this fund before addressing other financial goals.
4. Manage Your Credit Score
A healthy credit score is essential for future financial endeavors. Use services like Credit Karma or Credit Sesame to check your score. If you've been a cosigner on your partner's credit card, take steps to build your individual credit. Pay bills on time, maintain low credit card balances, and consider increasing your credit limit strategically to improve your credit utilization rate.
Planning for the Future
5. Visualize Your Financial Goals
Financial planning is not just about numbers; it's about creating a roadmap to the life you desire. Envision your future, whether it's owning a mortgage-free home or embarking on adventures. Once you have a clear vision, work backward to set realistic savings goals and payoff plans. Schedule monthly money dates to track your progress and celebrate achievements.
Navigating the financial aftermath of divorce requires diligence and a proactive approach. By comprehensively assessing your financial landscape, educating yourself, building financial security, managing your credit score, and planning for the future, you can not only recover but emerge stronger and more financially savvy. Take control of your financial destiny and use money as a tool to build a life you love.