A variation of this writing appeared on http://www.nasdaq.com.
Money is blood.
My grandfather would lob sentences like this at me all the time.
Then walk away leaving me confused.
I never forgot this one; I have a clearer understanding of what he meant. At the time, I thought he was silly.
Heck, I was in first grade. What do you expect?
The people most successful at managing finances detect, understand and respect how strong feelings and on occasion, irrational thoughts, affect their net worth.
Emotions flow deep and dark like the ink in cash. Don’t kid yourself about it.
Money has the potential to become “emotions squared” during and after a separation or divorce.
Decision-making fueled by vulnerability, can weaken financial foundations. Nobody’s immune. Unclear thinking followed by poor short-term actions has the potential to wreak years of financial havoc just at a time when you need to be most diligent with debt, spending and savings.
I’ve counseled people through money mishaps; I’ve witnessed even the most level-headed individuals make numerous money mistakes through this tumultuous time.
So how do you do your best to avoid the top money mistakes I’ve witnessed over the last 27 years?
Watch vanity expenses. From expensive plastic surgery to lavish trips and wallet-busting new wardrobes, people have a tendency to spend impulsively and deal with the mounting debt later. Restraint is lost and stuff becomes salve for ailing pride. An attitude of “I deserve this: I’m working through a tough time,” has the potential to override common fiscal sense. Before blowing up credit card debt, consider a “FGS” exercise – (Feel-Good Spending) Exercise!
Start a wish list. Boundaries don’t exist when it comes to feel-good wishes. What will it take financially to enhance your handsome, pretty, smart, and your self-esteem?
Total the expenses required to turn desires into reality. Now, cut the sum in half. Next, categorize items from the least to most expensive. Splurge on the first two. This exercise will help you think through each purchase ostensibly minimizing emotional reaction. Also, crossing off a couple of the items can foster a positive feelings which may be enough to halt further spending on the more expensive items.
Rein in the ego dollars. I’ve seen it many times, especially with newly-divorced men. They’ll shower expensive gifts, dinners and excursions on (mostly younger) members of the opposite sex to impress and feed their bruised egos.
I’ve witnessed the spending border on reckless so much that I have helped ego spenders create “sugar-momma” and “sugar-daddy” budgets. Having an objective, non-judgmental discussion with a trusted financial partner about these expenditures can help avoid financial pitfalls and rein in the ego dollars.
For example, a gentleman asked me my thoughts about his new girlfriend’s request for $10,000 for cosmetic dentistry. We both talked through providing $2,000 (still a lot but an improvement), for a less expensive option. Unfortunately, she was upset by the offering and moved on; fortunately, a hefty financial mistake was avoided and a lesson gained.
Don’t allow anger to cost you big bucks in the long term. On occasion, separating parties are so blinded by anger they fail to comprehend how it can truly cost them. I worked with a couple who decided to split amicably.
They came in to discuss the impact of divorce on their finances which was minimal due in part to reasonable legal costs – less than $7,000, until a fight erupted over who would be primarily responsible for the family dog. The attorneys involved created additional doubts which made the situation worse. Now this once amicable, reasonable couple have spent $37,000 in legal fees with no resolution in sight. I explained they could have worked out a plan and just split the $30,000, keeping the assets for their own balance sheets, not the lawyers.
Seek perspective on every expense greater than $200. Yes, you’re an adult. However, you’re an adult with much on your mind and about to face a big life transition. The perspective is primarily about keeping one foot outside of the situation and gathering feedback from a trusted friend or financial partner. Think of it as validation for keeping a level head about spending and a good habit to consider in the early stages of a breakup. It’s also a potential confidence builder, a foundation to rebuilding self-esteem if your thought processes and expenses are validated by a confidante.
Take a full accounting of all assets and liabilities. What’s fair is fair: Make sure you receive what is due. Party members will occasionally bend over backwards to relinquish assets or overlook a full accounting based on the faith that conflicts will work out and ultimately reconciliation. Hope is one thing. Protection is another.
In good faith, a couple should be transparent with all assets and liabilities. Also, each person should prepare an “impact” budget to determine new lifestyle costs. It’s a vision of your household expenses post-divorce or separation.
A second income could be lost – that’s an impact. You may require greater childcare expenses if you’re a working adult with custody. Perhaps a smaller residence is required and you’re renting now, which can affect deductions. How will your tax situation be affected? Is there alimony or child support – how long will it last? Good questions for professionals. Best to envision what’s to come and begin a budgeting exercise.
Divorce is never easy. In the early stage, there’s a raw, emotional cord that can vibrate and throw off your financial footing.
It’s best to step back and recognize possible mental pitfalls early on.