Financial Adviser, Helen Baker shares her views on how to get your finances back on track after a divorce.
About 50,000 Australian women every year experience divorce. According to the Australian Bureau of statistics, most are aged in their 40s and had been married, on average, 12 years.
From my experience, women typically crave peace and financial security. Yet curiously, women are also less likely to seek professional financial advice at any time in life. While researching for my master’s in financial planning, I found this was due to a serious misunderstanding that financial advice was only for those who were ‘loaded’, and it was only about dollars. Not so.
I believe it’s about lifestyle, now and in the future. When divorcing, you need to know where you stand financially and what your options are to enable you to have the clarity to see the way forward, and you need to seize control of what is yours to control (your income, spending, investments, insurances, superannuation, estate planning, and an emergency fund). With a better understanding of what your ‘now’ and ‘future’ look like, you gain certainty—and that brings confidence. Feeling certain and informed brings stability and security: peace.
I recommend viewing this period of life in four phases—pre-settlement, negotiation, post-settlement and rebuild—rather than simply ‘before’ and ‘after’ the end of the marriage.
Pre-settlement can be emotionally raw, making it even more important to make rational, informed decisions. Pre-settlement is a time to define your values, needs, and future goals, and understand what assets are in the pool and which best align with your values, goals, and needs. While lawyers are the professionals of choice to turn to when facing a divorce, they are not authorised (or usually trained) to give financial advice.
Pre-settlement can take the heat out of the negotiation phase, often enabling a property settlement out of court. This saves time, money and stress: peace has no price tag. If the lawyers or mediators can’t generate a settlement at the agreed time, you have the advantage of understanding better what works for you—and why— as well as professionally organised paperwork to go to court.
Post-settlement, the material assets of your union have been divvied up and it can be tempting to want to splash out—retail therapy, holiday, nip and tuck! Were those factored in when you were envisioning your needs, values and goals? How good are you at managing money? Where you are positioned now, and how much you need to build—or rebuild—for your future will depend on factors including your age and lifestyle now, your planned lifestyle, assets, debts and future medical costs.
In the rebuilding phase, I encourage women to have all five financial foundations in place: a spending and investment plan, superannuation, insurances, an emergency fund, and estate planning. When it comes to investing (even small amounts), time is your friend.
I’ve made it my mission to see that more women know how to manage their financial assets independently. That doesn’t mean I advise on how to take Dearly Ex-Beloved to the cleaners: I want to enable a fair distribution of the asset pie—and that doesn’t always mean keeping the family home!
Helen Baker is an Australian financial adviser and founder of On Your Own Two Feet. Her latest book On Your Own Two Feet Divorce: Your Survive and Thrive Financial Guide is available pre-order now at www.onyourowntwofeet.com.au or in bookstores and Amazon.