Knowing and managing your finances is one of the healthiest steps you can take to a new life during and after the divorce process. Our firm has always strived to assist clients in not only affording a lifestyle they love after divorce, but being healthier financially during and after divorce. It is important in marriage to develop a budget; however, it is even more important during and after divorce due to new expenses and reduced income, at least for a period of time. This article is dedicated to assisting those facing divorce by giving you 7 steps to build a budget for after divorce.
Financial health or financial wellness does not come from simply creating a budget. You need to identify your spending habits, as well as look at the facts of your spending in order to create a healthy budget and spending going forward.
Financial wellness will always evade you, if you do not plan; creating a budget is an important step in taking control of your financial health. During and after the divorce process a budget can assist you in getting a grasp on your money and learn to be a better manager of your money.
During the financially straining process of divorce, either developing a new lifestyle or trying to maintain your lifestyle after divorce, you must understand your expenses. The following seven steps to building a budget after divorce are a great start to better financial health, as well as, confidence in supporting yourself and/or your children after divorce.
The Wrong Way to Create a Post-Divorce Budget
The old adage of spend less than you make is not sufficient when seeking to protect yourself financially during and after divorce. You will leave money on the table, which you could have accessed, if you over simplify the process of creating a post-divorce budget. By thinking through and developing a realistic budget, you will be better able to achieve your financial goals and feel confident in your ability to support yourself after divorce.
You will be much closer to financial freedom after divorce, if you go beyond accepting that you can “afford your lifestyle now”, as that may not be the case after the divorce is finalized. The following 7 Steps to Build a Budget After Divorce will provide you an educated perspective on your finances and put you in a better position to make strategic decisions in your divorce case, as well as your personal life and spending.
7 Steps to Creating a Healthy Post-Divorce Budget
Step 1: Create a Marital Balance Sheet
Do not be scared by the term, “Marital Balance Sheet.” In this context, I’m simply telling you to list all your current income and expenses. You can begin by taking a sheet of paper, draw a line down the middle, and list all sources of income on one side and expenses on the other. Examples of the sources of income and expenses you should include are as follows:
Sources of Income:
- Social Security
- Support Alimony
- Child Support
- Retirement; and
- Any other sources of income
- Rent or Mortgage payments
- Vehicle Loan
- Credit Cards
- Vehicle Expenses
- Any other monthly expenses
At this point, do not worry about identifying every single expense, you will be able to refine your Marital Balance Sheet over-time, which is one reason we recommend keeping the information in a computer file.
Hopefully, when you tally your expenses they will be less than your income; however, do not celebrate or panic yet. Knowledge is power and the first step to creating financial health is to identify the facts and the problem if one exists.
You can increase your income, if it is vital to do so. You could begin freelance work in your industry, if it is not prohibited by your employer, sell property, or create a product to sell. However, if your expenses need to decrease drastically for financial independence after divorce, you can downsize your home or your vehicle easily in most scenarios.
You must start somewhere on the road to financial health during and after divorce. Tracking your income and expenses is the first step to giving you a handle on your money and peace of mind with your finances in divorce.
Step 2: Record Essential Expenses, Nothing Else
Once you have created a Marital Balance Sheet, including a detailed summary of your expenses, it is time to take a more critical look at your expenses. You must first identify your essential expenses, not the expenses you enjoy, but what you must spend per month in order to support you and your children, if applicable. Your essential expenses should include your rent or mortgage, child support or alimony, if in place, insurance, groceries (not your monthly tab for eating out), utilities, transportation, and only a few other expenses.
Your essential expenses do not include your gym membership, Cable, Netflix, or your Disney Plus account. By beginning with a identifying the essential expenses to support yourself, you’re developing a framework for understanding your spending habits and setting a course for financial security beyond divorce.
Step 3: Identify Non-Essential Expenses
After you have identified your essential expenses during or after divorce, you can begin to identify and prioritize non-essential expenses. Non-essential expenses, unfortunately in clude pleasure and eating out. Discretionary expenses are important to identify during divorce as they give you an easy option to reduce your expenditures or balance your monthly post-divorce budget.
Understanding your discretionary spending gives you the ability to be strategic in reducing or cutting expenses to maintain financial security during the divorce process and beyond. Some of the most common and most expensive types of discretionary spending including eating out and entertainment. Not that you should live without these things; however, if you pack your lunch four days a week and reduce your entertainment subscriptions, you will likely identify over $1,000 in savings each month.
Step 4: Understand your Net Income, Not Gross Income
Once you have a clear understanding of your essential expenses and discretionary expenses, your attention should turn to developing a more thoughtful understanding of your income. Most people choose to believe, if they make $5,000 a month, they have access to all that money for spending. Most people fail to remember that taxes, payroll deductions, and social security, are all taken out of your paycheck before you have access to these funds. Put simply, if your salary is $100,000, you do not have $100,000 to spend.
Knowing your net income, the funds you actually have access to each month, is essential to understanding your finances. In order to increase your net income, identifying a side business or additional employment can help increase your income. Whatever your income, your financial security during and after divorce will be improved with an acute understanding of your net income for purposes of your post-divorce budget.
Step 5: Meet with a Professional
It may sound simply here; however, it can be very complicated to identify and understand all of the numbers spinning around the issue of your post-divorce budget or any budget. Professionals, such as tax advisors, financial planners, and CPAs all exists to assist people with understanding their finances. All to say, you do not have to go it alone in identifying your divorce budget or post-divorce budget.
Step 6: Develop Healthy Spending Habits
You can more easily track and adjust your essential and discretionary spending when you have a detailed understanding of your divorce budget. When you track where your money is spent by month, you have the ability to identify spending habits and modify for your financial peace of mind during and after your divorce. Shocking as it may be, one single adjustment to your spending may save your thousands of dollars over the course of a year, which may be all it takes to give you financial security after divorce.
Step 7: Hire an Experienced Divorce Attorney
You will be in a far better position than most, if you follow through with the first six steps to creating a healthy post-divorce budget. Simply knowing what you can and can’t afford or what you must versus can spend money on will give you more financial peace of mind than most individuals facing divorce or recently divorce.
However, if you are facing an imminent divorce or a divorce has been filed against you, it is not wise to go through the process alone. By researching and identifying a skilled and experienced divorce attorney, you will be able to help protect your financial security during divorce and beyond.
An experienced Oklahoma divorce attorney can help you build a personal financial statement and marital balance sheet to help you fight for your financial future. When you work with the right attorney, you stand to save potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in property you acquire or maintain and through an equitable alimony and/or child support arraignment. Investing in experienced family law counsel will be just that, an investment that may provide you financial security for years to come.
Your Next Steps…
Whether you are ready to face the divorce process or not, developing a post-divorce budget will be helpful in knowing where you stand now and in the future. Keep in mind that the income your household receives each month now, will not be the income you have access to each month after divorce. Whether you are the recipient of or the obligor to alimony and child support, your income and finances will change during and after the divorce process.
Following the seven steps to building your post-divorce budget will give you peace of mind during and after the divorce process. However, you should not go it alone. When you are fighting for your financial security, you need Your Fierce Advocates™ on your side. Cannon & Associates cares deeply about those facing divorce and the financial insecurity divorce brings in Oklahoma.
Complete the CONTACT FORM ON THIS PAGE NOW or CALL at 405-657-2323 for answers to your questions about divorce and financial security during and beyond divorce in Oklahoma. We look forward to being Your Fierce Advocates™.