Getting a fresh financial start after a divorce presents many questions. Take a deep breath. You’ve got this.
Anyone who’s been through a divorce knows it’s difficult and can feel overwhelming. While taking care of yourself mentally and emotionally is a top priority, here are some considerations to make the financial impacts of divorce less daunting.
Post-Divorce budgeting and emergency funds
Your family budget has now significantly changed, so you’ll need to reassess or recreate your monthly budget.
Here is a general spending rule of thumb: 10-15 percent for savings, 50 percent for essentials (housing, food and transportation) and 35 percent for non-essentials (entertainment, debts, vacation).
Plan for immediate expenses
If you’re not taking the furniture or other household items you once shared, be prepared to purchase new items — couch, towels, silverware, etc.
Do you need to pay a security deposit and first month’s rent for a new apartment or put a down payment on a new house or condominium? Be sure to plan for those as well.
Stick to your budget
Once your new budget has been created, stick to it. Research shows that finances are the number one source of daily stress for U.S. adults1 and financial stress can affect your overall health and wellness. Don’t let that happen to you. Set financial goals. Your goals should be specific, challenging and realistic.
Have a plan for financial emergencies
Perhaps one of your goals is to set up an emergency fund (a very important and respectable goal indeed!). Some financial experts say you should keep an emergency fund to cover three to six months of expenses.
For most people, that can add up to an intimidating number that can discourage the best-intentioned saver. Don’t give up before your start. Regularly setting money aside — even in small amounts — will eventually get you to your goal. It just takes time and consistency.
Keep your beneficiary designations up to date
Another item on your to-do list that often gets overlooked is updating your beneficiaries.
While beneficiary designations are probably not top-of-mind, you may have your ex-spouse listed as your beneficiary for life insurance, your 401(k) plan, bank accounts or other benefits.
Make sure you review and update your beneficiary designations so your benefits would be paid to someone you want to receive them if you pass away.
When thinking about new beneficiaries, remember that minors cannot directly receive life insurance proceeds. However, there are ways these benefits can be managed for minor children. To determine the best approach for your benefits, you may want to consult with a financial professional, advisor and/or attorney.
Revisit your retirement contributions
With everything going on in your life, you may feel like you don’t have time to think about or save for your retirement. Your financial picture has probably changed quite a bit and you are now relying on one income and your own savings for retirement. If you weren’t contributing to a retirement plan before, it’s critical to start now.
You may also be mid-career and in your peak earning years. Six out of 10 American workers feel very or somewhat confident about having enough money for a comfortable retirement, though just 18 percent feel very confident.2 Now is the time to start or increase the amount you are saving to take advantage of current investment opportunities. You may be able to “find” extra money for retirement by carefully reviewing your budget.
Start envisioning your future and make a retirement plan so you know where you want to go. Take advantage and participate in company-sponsored 401(k) plans. To help your funds accumulate faster, if you find yourself with extra money from a raise, bonus or paying off debt, add it to your retirement fund.
Make sure you’re protected
One of the main things you can do to strengthen your financial outlook after a divorce is make sure you’re are properly protected.
Research and better understand your employer’s benefits — especially group life insurance. You may also want to consider supplementing these benefits with an individual term or permanent life insurance policy.
Life insurance becomes even more important after a divorce, since you likely have less income now than you had when combined with your spouse.
If you don’t have children, life insurance could be used to pay off loans, car payments, credit cards and other debts or to give to your favorite charity. Your family could also use the insurance to cover your final expenses.
If you have children, you have even bigger responsibilities — perhaps a mortgage, childcare, education expenses and other monthly bills that you may now be paying for without a second income. If you die prematurely, life insurance will help provide for your children and help fulfill plans for their future education.
Consider accident and credit protection
Going through a divorce can be traumatic enough — but what if you’re also dealing with an unforeseen event like an accident, disability or unemployment?
In this situation, the last thing you’ll want to worry about is your bills. That’s why credit and payment protection products may make sense for you to consider. These products can help by paying, canceling or waiving what you owe on a mortgage, auto or other loan if you die, become ill or disabled, or lose your job.
Take care of yourself
Take a deep breath. Take that much-needed vacation or break. Pause to recharge. These are important to your physical and mental well-being.
When it comes to your financial well-being, make budgeting a priority. Automate your savings. Take some of the stress off and consider working with a financial advisor to help you stay on track.
Divorce can be messy and rough — but with self-care, a plan and a support system in place, it can lead to clarity — and a new and focused life.
1. PWC, Employee Financial Wellness Survey, 2017
2. Lisa Greenwald, Craig Copeland, and Jack VanDerhei, “The 2017 Retirement Confidence Survey—Many Workers Lack Retirement Confidence and Feel Stressed About Retirement Preparations,” EBRI Issue Brief, no. 431 (Employee Benefit Research Institute, March 21, 2017).
Life insurance products contain fees, such as mortality and expense charges (which may increase over time), and may contain restrictions, such as surrender periods.
Investments will fluctuate and when redeemed may be worth more or less than when originally invested.