When love turns to heartbreak the emotional stress can be difficult. But keeping an eye on your money can help you maintain a sense of security during a divorce or breakup. Follow these six tips – and while you may still have a few sleepless nights, it won’t be because you’re worrying about finances.
- Take control. Divorce or separation can be expensive. Be fully aware of what’s happening moneywise by getting your hands on all current financial documents. You can get a full picture by collecting and tracking bank, credit card and mortgage statements; retirement and investment accounts; tax returns and even your credit score. You want to make sure that a soon-to-be ex isn’t doing anything to sabotage your finances, and you’ll need most of this information anyway to plan how to divide your assets.
- Educate yourself. Some states follow a "common law" system while others use a “community property” system when dividing up assets. Sometimes, one partner may have taken on debt in secret – debt you may be on the hook to help pay off – and it only becomes known during divorce proceedings. How it’s handled will depend on the state where you live.
- Build a budget. Get a handle on how your income and expenses will change after the divorce or breakup is done. Track your expenses for 60 to 90 days to help you create a new budget. There are many digital tools available that can help you track spending and saving – for example, PNC's Virtual Wallet®.
- Be realistic. Your lifestyle and standard of living may change, even if it’s temporary. You may need to consider downsizing to an apartment or small home. Making modest choices now can help ensure financial freedom in the future.
- Support yourself. Though divorce can result in one person paying child support or alimony, it’s crucial to not depend solely on that income. Things happen. Your ex could lose a job or become unable to make payments. Take steps to ensure you can cover all your expenses on your own if something happens. Also keep in mind that divorce is one special instance where you may be able to access money in a retirement account early without penalty. Ask your financial advisor for more specifics.
- Look to the future. Consider divorce or separation a new financial beginning. In some cases, it may even mean financial independence from an ex who made poor financial choices that dragged you down, too. You can build confidence by making short-term changes that rebuild your financial wellness – and start planning for the financial future you want.