Finances can be a huge source of stress before, during and after a divorce. Much of the anxiety arises from a lack of control.
Thankfully, you are smart, talented and have the power to control your financial fate. It may not be easy, but the result is worth the effort. Here are steps you can take to regain control of your finances.
- Embrace the possibility of financial independence. You may be receiving spousal support, but the reality is your ex's money could disappear at any time. He could lose his job, become disabled or pass away. He could defy the court and stop paying (which is illegal). You cannot control what happens to your ex-spouse, so do not be emotionally dependent on receiving money from him.
- Get a clear picture of how much money is going out and how much is coming in. Whether you use pencil and paper or an online tool, gather the details from your bank account, credit cards and income sources.
- Set financial goals. Short-term goals could be earning more than you spend, building your savings or getting out of debt. Long-term goals could include saving for retirement or your children's higher education.
- Cover the necessities first. Focus on what personal finance writer Dave Ramsey calls the four walls: food, shelter, clothing and transportation. Take care of those first, then move on to other challenges.
- Make more money. Overlooking or ignoring this possibility is a mistake. Start by taking a mentor or colleague to lunch in order to learn about opportunities in your profession or industry. The world of work changes quickly; new possibilities might have popped up while you were focused on dealing with your divorce.
- Stop spending money on things you do not need. Examine where the money is going and ask whether you truly must have it. Examples are: gym membership, landline phone, big data cell phone packages, cable or satellite TV packages, satellite radio, a monthly spa package or one more pair of heels.
- Sell stuff. When was the last time you sold something on Poshmark or had a garage sale? If it has been more than five years, then you probably could make hundreds of dollars with a sale. It is a big project, but when it is over you will feel great about the newfound money and storage space. For big-ticket items (like your engagement ring, if you are ready to sell it), use an online auction platform.
- Do not make big purchases. It might make you feel better to buy a new car or new house, but those types of decisions will only distract you from your goal.
Remember that your goal is financial security. Examine every decision through the lens of whether it will make you more or less secure.