Are you somewhere in your divorce recovery, facing your fear — the sudden, terrifying reality of managing your money?
Or, are you a brave woman saying, “It’s time to get real and start acting on behalf of myself!”? No matter what brings you to this point, a split, a divorce, or the fact that you are suddenly single, first thing – take a deep breath! There are many who have come before you, many who have taught themselves how to get out of this dark place of disempowerment. They’ve successfully navigated full divorce recovery, they’ve successfully broken from their past and it’s patterns, to become fully empowered women. Embrace this idea — that you are not alone — and accept the learning process. It’s the beginning of your showing yourself just what you can do.
After you’ve considered this learning process, let’s roll up our sleeves so to speak and discuss where to begin:
1. Get organized
Start your divorce recovery, your new, financial “taking over” by understanding what you have TODAY. Just like setting your GPS before starting a road trip, knowing where you are today is key to planning out where to go next. Start by collecting reports such as bank statements, recent tax returns, insurance policies, retirement accounts and estate and trust documents. You will soon see why you need this step and the importance of maintaining your incoming data. Take this time to create a list of passwords and log on instructions to sites that involve the financial items listed above. Keep this newly minted list in a safe place, but make sure someone you trust knows where it is, too.
“If you don’t know where you are how do you know where you’re going?”
2. Define your goals
Once you know where you are (YOU ARE HERE on the map), identifying your goals will give you the destinations. Allow yourself to dream big with goals like owning that summer cabin by the lake, or traveling around the world without a budget, to the more realistic goals such as “I want MONEY for a down payment”, or “I want to have a fun life when I retire — how much money will I need?” Knowing your goals will give you parameters and focus on how to move forward. Knowing your goals directs you to where you need to go.
3. Know what you OWN
Sounds simple, but do you know where every items, asset or thing that you own or has your name on it is kept? How is it titled? What is it’s value, and how do you access it? If your answer is, “Umm, I’m not sure,” you’ve just reinforced your vital need to go through this process. Refer again to Step 1 and list the assets you have. The more precise your statements and documents are, the more accurate this part of the equation (as well as steps 4, 5 and 6) will be.
4. Know what you OWE
Again, what accounts have your name attached to them, meaning you are obligated to pay back monies that were borrowed to maybe, buy a house? What credit cards are issued to you? Car loans? Student loans that are yours or that you co-signed? Do you know what each debt charges you in interest? Do you know when you have to pay it back? Again, “Umm, I am not sure” is not the answer you want. The good news is, you are going to change this.
5. Know what you are spending money on and how much
EXPENSES include both the essentials as well as the discretionary which is best looked at as the stuff you spend money on that you can live without or change when push comes to shove. Services such as doing your nails yourself versus having them done, or cutting back on new shoe acquisitions are just two examples. Although I know to some they are mandatory purchases, let’s face it, if you really have to cut back temporarily, these really are discretionary and not mandatory. Learn to hold yourself accountable for separating out the “must-pays” from the “I can cut this expense for now” when calculating your cash flow. There may need to be some short-term compromises as you get your financial house in order. And that’s all right. You can do this.
6. Know what you are earning
INCOME can come from several sources, not just your job. So don’t forget to list interest income from investments, possible royalties from work sold in the past, residual income, and others.
7. Know how much risk is right for you
Try to recall how you reacted to market changes in the past. When you heard on the news that the market corrected or crashed by X% did you react by crying out “I can’t lose another dollar or I’ll be living out of a shoebox!” or did you call your broker and say “buy, buy, buy!” Your reaction to these corrections will help you assess how much risk your portfolios can tolerate. Since you may be feeling some anxiety set in right about now, I may suggest that you arrange to meet with a recommended financial advisor who can look at your financial story and help you take your next best steps.
8. Be tax smart
Create an environment of teamwork between your accountant and your financial advisor so that together your investments and taxes are aligned to pursue more efficient returns. Begin by making sure each one has the other’s name and email address. Encourage them to connect.
9. Avoid common investor pitfalls
Try not to panic at every news cycle or market change by switching course within your portfolio. In other words, second guessing yourself and your team will invariably mean you’ll buy high and sell low which is exactly the opposite of what you want to do.
10. Get involved with the pros
Meet at least quarterly with your financial advisor, who should be a fiduciary. This term means he or she is structured in a practice that is meant to have your best interest at the core of her/his advice. In other words, getting commissions paid out is not the priority, aligning your needs is. Working for you and with you should be the goal. You are on the right track with the right advisor if s/he asks you a lot of questions, not just about now, but those long term goals, answers your questions with patience, and is willing to educate you no matter how silly you think your question is.
Finding the best financial advisor for you and your needs — one who understands you as a woman in the crossroads of your life — will give you the sense of security you need as you move forward another step in your divorce recovery and your new, exciting, second chapter.
If you live in the New York Metro/Long Island area and have particular financial challenges related to divorce, I invite you to contact me via email.
Ronit Rogoszinski, CFP® has been providing financial life guidance for individuals, families, and business owners for over 25 years in her role as a Senior Wealth Advisor for Women&Wealth Solutions DBA at American Portfolios RIA as a registered investment adviser and in her capacity as a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER professional. Ronit specializes in transitioning widows and widowers, pre-retirees and divorced individuals through major life changes and provides guidance on financial planning and investment strategy. Ronit focuses on understanding the personal values and goals of her clients and then translates that knowledge into actionable steps to craft a customized plan suitable to her client’s unique situation. Ronit has, as a result, become a trusted advisor to her clients, developing lifelong friendships while partnering collaboratively for their success.