More often than not, the standard of living of both spouses drops in the first few years after divorce. Why? Because the same cumulative income and pool of assets now has to support two households instead of one. Unfortunately, most people don’t prepare themselves financially or emotionally for that consequence. So what can you do to better prepare yourself for this inevitability? The answer is simple, but it’s not easy to put into practice.
Divorce is an inherently stressful process. To alleviate some of the stress, it’s important to be proactive and in control. Here are the “Lucky Four” things you can do to help prepare yourself for your post-divorce financial future.
Review your financials and expenses
As you review your financial situation, look at your income sources, expenses, assets and tax situation. While every divorce is different, maintaining two separate households is more expensive than one. In order for you to know what you have to spend after the divorce, you have to know what you were spending before the divorce. Start by reviewing your past year’s credit card and bank statements.
As you go through this process, if you’ve got children, be sure you can cover their costs, including potential future expenses like braces, cars, insurance and activities. If child support is a part of your budget, remember that this amount can go up as your income increases.
Update your personal insurance coverage
Contact your insurance broker and update your automobile, homeowner’s, and umbrella liability coverage. Pay particular attention to the list of assets you scheduled on your homeowner’s policy. Often there will be jewelry, firearms, collectibles, and artwork that was listed but that may no longer apply if your spouse received these items in the divorce. There is no sense in paying insurance premiums for assets you do not own. For asset protection purposes, make sure you have an umbrella liability policy on yourself. This is cheap asset protection and a must-have.
Create a budget
Going from a two-income household to a single income is a major transition. If you haven’t adhered to a budget in the past, a divorce is a compelling reason to start doing so immediately. Make sure to outline everything, including both daily and monthly expenses, such as groceries, utilities, mortgage and car payments, scheduled maintenance on appliances and vehicles etc, and long-term expenses including retirement and tuition funds. This will help you avoid overspending as you adjust to your new financial norm.
Secure your own health insurance coverage
For many couples one spouse is the main policyholder on the health insurance coverage for the entire family. When you get divorced, there will be a grace period for one or both of you to find new coverage on separate policies. Make sure to talk to your employer to find out when the next open enrollment period is coming. If you do not have employer-sponsored health insurance available, you’ll need to research individual health insurance options.