Divorced Women and Finances: Navigating the Path Forward
Divorce can be a challenging and emotionally draining experience for anyone, but for women, the financial repercussions add an additional layer of complexity and struggle. Studies show that the financial aftermath of divorce can be grim for many women, with many never fully recovering financially. However, amidst the disquieting statistics, there is hope. Stepping into managing their finances, divorced women can navigate the path to financial independence. Embracing opportunities for learning, growth, and empowerment helps them create a secure and prosperous future.
The reality about divorced women and their finances – the big picture
I hope that you are sitting down while you read this next section because it is shocking. Research tells us that women face significant financial challenges after divorce – men, not so much. According to the Gender Differences in the Consequences of Divorce study, women’s standard of living declines by an estimate of 27%, while men’s income tends to increase by 10%, after divorce.
You may see this as not right or just downright unfair, but there are some real reasons for the disparity. A woman may have much lower earnings over her lifetime. This is due to career interruptions for childcare or taking care of other family members. Time out of the workforce can also hinder her job opportunities. This requires an employer to “take a chance” on her due to years of inactivity. For young parents, ongoing childrearing responsibilities add even more difficulty in securing a stable and secure job.
In addition, many women are behind the eight ball when it comes to finances and lack important financial literacy skills, and more limited financial experience and less money savvy can show up in many ways.
For example, some women make mistakes that they cannot recover from during divorce asset division negotiations. Others lack experience in managing cashflow and investing. This can lead to difficulties after the settlement agreement is finalized. It is crucial for divorced women to acknowledge these challenges and take proactive steps to overcome them.However somber the statistics, divorce can serve as a turning point. It prompts women to take control of finances and develop newfound independence.
Divorce can be the harsh kick in the butt some women need to put themselves first and focus on their financial goals, build resilience, and cultivate financial literacy.
Financial considerations during divorce
During the divorce process, it is crucial for women to prioritize their financial well-being to make sure that they walk away with the divorce settlement that they are entitled to, and one that works for their long-term financial security. Here are some recommendations to consider:
Seek professional guidance
Consult with a financially astute divorce attorney and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® (CDFA®). These professionals can provide invaluable advice on asset division, alimony, child support, and financial planning. By understanding the nuances of the financial aspects of divorce, you can make informed decisions that will have a positive long-term impact on your financial security.
Understand your financial situation
Gather all relevant financial documents, including bank statements, tax returns, property deeds, and investment portfolios. Having a comprehensive understanding of your financial position will help you be on par with your ex and ensure a more equitable division of assets. You cannot negotiate powerfully if you do not know your assets and liabilities.
For a list of the documents you need to access and organize,
check out “Thinking About Divorce? Important Steps to Being Prepared.”
Create a realistic budget
Analyze your income and expenses to establish a post-divorce budget. This will help you make informed decisions about lifestyle adjustments and prioritize essential expenses. It is also nearly impossible to know what you need or can afford to pay for child support or spousal support without knowing the inflows and outflows each month.
Protect your credit
Open an individual credit card ASAP to beef up your credit score. Close joint accounts once you are divorced to prevent any negative impact of your ex’s spending on your credit score. Monitor your credit report regularly to detect any fraudulent activity and take immediate action. You can get a copy of your most recent credit report at www.annualcreditreport.org.
Best financial practices to be financially independent post-divorce
Once your divorce is finalized, and now that you are on your own, it is essential to keep yourself on financial track. Here are some steps to consider:
Build an emergency fund
Start saving for unexpected expenses by setting aside three to six months’ worth of living expenses. An emergency fund provides a safety net during unforeseen circumstances such as a large expense, job loss or medical issues. Having a well-cushioned emergency fund is the best defense against getting sucked into using financially dangerous high-interest credit cards.
Invest for the future
With proper guidance and planning, divorced women can make informed decisions about managing their assets, investing, and building wealth over time. Begin investing in retirement accounts, such as a 401(k) or an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). Take advantage of employer-matching contributions and put your money to work through a diversified investment portfolio to grow your wealth over time.
Prioritize insurance coverage
Review your insurance policies, including health, life, and disability insurance. Don’t forget to also review your auto, homeowners, and umbrella insurance. The insurance you had with your ex is not necessarily right for you now.
Develop a long-term financial plan
Imagine being presented with a step-by-step guide that ensures your financial security is delivered on a silver plate. If that sounds like something you are looking for, consult with a financial advisor to create a comprehensive financial plan aligned with your goals. This plan would involve saving for retirement, investing in diversified assets, and creating a roadmap for achieving financial milestones.
Explore career opportunities
Evaluate your skills and interests to identify potential career advancements or alternative job prospects. Enhancing your skills through education or training programs could open doors to higher-paying positions and increase earning potential.
Inspire yourself and savor your hard-won independence,
read “100 Must Do’s for the Newly Divorced Independent Woman.”
Seek additional sources of income
Explore side hustles or freelance opportunities to supplement your income. Generating extra income could accelerate savings, investments, and debt reduction. By diversifying income streams, you can further strengthen your financial foundation and set yourself up for success.
Get financially savvy
Expand your financial knowledge through books, online resources, videos, and workshops. Learn how much you need to save and smart investment strategies that are right for your situation and goals. Stay up to date on personal finance topics by committing at least one hour a week to further educating yourself. I promise that it will become fun! Take our Financial Fitness quiz to test what kind of financial shape you’re in and start your financially savvy journey here.
Talk is not taboo
Talking about money is NOT taboo. Connect with other divorced women, join divorce support groups, and participate in networking events. Money talk can provide emotional support and valuable insights into financial management. Better yet, get an accountability partner who will help you create your money-savvy community to foster growth and empowerment.
While divorce can present financial challenges for women, it is a huge opportunity for a remarkable journey of self-discovery, resilience, and discovering your unlimited potential. What I can confidently tell you is that you can get financially savvy no matter where you are today. In my practice as a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst®, I have seen that the most financially secure women, post-divorce, are the ones who realize that diving into their finances and getting smart about money is non-negotiable. The measure of success is not about how involved or knowledgeable she was with finances during her marriage, but how she embraces her finances now. By proactively managing their finances, seeking professional guidance, and investing in financial education, these fantastic women thrive beyond divorce, achieving a secure and prosperous future.
Every woman deserves the confidence to make informed decisions about her money, create abundance in her life and build a future of security and fulfillment. Divorce is not the end, but a powerful catalyst for a brighter future.
Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA®, CES™ is the President and CEO of Francis Financial, a fee-only boutique wealth management, financial planning and divorce financial planning firm dedicated to providing ongoing comprehensive advice for women in transition such as divorce or widowhood. She is a Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP®), Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® (CDFA®), and Certified Estate and Trust Specialist (CES™) with over 20 years of experience in the financial industry. Stacy is also the founder of the non-profit, Savvy Ladies™, and host of the Financially Ever After podcast.
If you need financial planning and wealth management guidance, feel free to reach out to us to schedule your complimentary consultation by visiting our website at www.francisfinancial.com.
Since 2012, SAS for Women has been entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience and its confusing afterward. SAS offers every woman six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists, and support strategies for you, and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.
*We support same-sex marriages. For the sake of simplicity in this article, however, we refer to your spouse as your “husband” or a “he.”