Rebuilding Your Financial Future After Divorce

By: Michelle Buonincontri, CFP®, CDFA

If you are like most, your divorce ends with debt, and the last thing we are thinking about is retirement. I know, I've been there; nothing kills a retirement plan like a divorce. There are no student loans or government bailouts to help us.

According to a report released by the National Institute on Retirement Security on March 1, 2016, 80% of women over 64 are already more likely to live an impoverished life than men.

So what’s a gal to do?

Cut Discretionary Spending

This might sound obvious, but life is not the same. The income that once supported one household may now be supporting two, and you may be entering the workforce again or for the first time. Things will need to change, and you are the catalyst for that change!

For example, renting instead of owning a home may make more sense, even if just in the interim to keep expenses down. We need to remove the emotion from our financial decisions and take a longer range view.

Take Advantage of Any Employer Retirement Match

Many employers offer workplace savings plans that match employee contributions—often up to 6% of your salary. Execute the strategy above so you may contribute enough to your tax-deferred employer plan to earn 100% of the employer match in a 401(k), 401(b) or 457 plan. Earning the match is like receiving a 100% return on your investment. Where can you find a 100% return? This will help your nest egg grow and boost your retirement security. Not contributing enough to utilize the employer match is like leaving free money on the table.

View Your Divorce Debt Like An Investment

Like a what? I know that intuitively does not make sense. But there are competing resources for paying off debt and saving. Start by comparing the interest rate on the debt to that of an expected investment return and the power of compounding of retirement savings.

If, for example, your student loan or mortgage has a before-tax interest rate of 3–5 % (which may be even less after a tax deduction) and you can reasonably earn 5% with compounding over a longer time horizon in retirement, it may make more sense to put money in your retirement account than pay off that debt early—always considering cash flow and remembering that market returns are not certain. 

But if your credit card is charging 10%, put more money there. Once you stop paying that 10% it’s like earning 10%, because it is no longer being spent and is available in your budget for other items. Look at the interest rates you are paying like market returns that are leaving your pocket, and try to consolidate debt into a lower interest rate whenever possible.

Get in Touch With Where You Are in Your Story

What is going on for you right now, in this moment? Are you living in the past with regret, bringing the past into the present, or maybe even living in the future with fear?  What messages have you taken in and believe about yourself? This can be scary. For me, being grateful for what I have, acknowledging a point of view or a set of expectations I have of a situation, or others that are coloring my perspective, is freeing. Once done, I can choose to see things differently and I can choose to take actions so that I may be the architect of my life.

When we are not blaming and we are choosing, it can be very empowering!

Yes, these are the basics. We need to lay the foundation before we can move onto planning strategies. Consult a certified financial planner for comprehensive advice on strategies that address your retirement planning needs.

This article originally appeared on Investopedia.


Michelle Buonincontri Circle Headshot.png

Michelle Buonincontri is the Founder of Being Mindful in Divorce. She’s a divorced single mom, passionate about using her professional experience as a CFP® & CDFA™ and personal journey to support women in transition; creating confidence through education so they can make financial choices with peace of mind. Bringing together a background in investment management, tax prep and retirement planning, to provide Divorce planning (with singles or couples) and Financial Coaching services, financial literacy workshops and writings.

Be Your Own Knight in Shining Armor

by Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA

Are you still looking for your knight in shining armor? Or have you already found him? Either way you have your work cut out for you when it comes to finances!

$ More than 50 percent of all marriages fail.

$ After a divorce, the average woman sees her standard of living drop by as much as 30 percent.

$ The average age of widowhood is 56 years old.

$ The average woman lives to 80. (The average man, to age 74.)

$ The poverty rate for elderly women is twice that of elderly men.

Savvy Ladies’ Tip: Read Prince Charming Isn't Coming: How Women Get Smart About Money by Barbara Stanny.

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Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA

Stacy Francis is the Founder, CEO and President of Francis Financial, Inc., a Wealth Management and Financial Planning firm. With over 18 years of experience in the financial industry, she is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®), a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst™ (CDFA™), and a Certified Estate Planning Specialist (CES™). She is the Co-Director of the Association of Divorce Financial Planners’ (ADFP) Greater New York Metro Chapter and a member of the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO) and an honoree member of the Private Risk Management Association (PRMA). A nationally recognized financial expert, Stacy has appeared on ABC News, CNBC, CNN, PBS Nightly Business Report, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Fine Living Network, and The O’Reilly Factor. Stacy attended the New York University Center for Finance, Law and Taxation.

On the 12 Days of Christmas

by Susan Hirshman

As I was driving the other day, the song … On the twelve days of Christmas my true love gave to me….came on the radio.  It made me think – who really is our true love and what is it really that we want.

Who really is our true love?  Well, I am not Dr. Phil but we must first start with ourselves. And what is it that we really want? From a financial perspective most people tell me it’s “ peace of mind.”

So I took a little literary license and came up with a new song for the holidays.

On the 12 days of Christmas I gave to me the best gift of all…peace of mind….

Here are twelve things you should think about and examine

Day 1 – Review your life insurance coverage.  Is it working as projected?  Is the pricing up to date? Is the coverage in line with your needs?

Day 2 – Examine (or create) your retirement goals.  Are the assumptions realistic?  Is it a priority?  Are you on track?

Day 3 – Look at your emergency savings.  Do you have any? Is it liquid? What do you want it to cover?

Day 4 – Review your disability coverage.  Do you have any?  Do you know what your policy covers, for example is it your own occupation or any occupation?

Day 5 – Go thru your estate plan (or lack thereof.) Are the guardians you named for your children still the right choice?  Is the executor the right choice?  Has your life circumstances changed and those changes are not reflected in your will?

Day 6 – Appraise your need for long-term care insurance.  What is your family’s health and longevity history?  Do you have family members that would be willing and able to take care of you in the manner that you choose?

Day 7  - Assess your diet. Studies have found that discrimination based on weight in the work place is more prevalent for women than men, especially white women in professional occupations.

Day 8:  Study your portfolio performance.  Are you an emotional investor? Do you end up buying high and selling low?  How long do you usually hold on to a mutual fund?

Day 9: Take a break from TV.  Reduce your TV watching by less than 8 hours a year and you can gain financial success. Snookie won’t be able to help you but by taking a few hours to get financially educated (read Does this Make My Assets Look Fat? A woman’s guide to finding financial empowerment and success), then take around 5 hours to get organized and develop a plan, and then take an hour 2x a year to review your plan.

Day 10 – Re-evaluate your umbrella policy.  Do you have one?  Is it sufficient? When was the last time you revisited it? Experts report that only 10%of people have the proper umbrella policy.

Day 11: Make sure you are familiar with all your finances. Do you know what would happen to you financially if you were to get divorced? 25% of couples married for twenty years get divorced.  Furthermore, the “grey divorce” (people over 65) is the fasting growing group of people to get divorced

Day 12:  Go over your credit cards.  Understand your interest rates, payment options.  Make sure you are not paying more than you have to.

Ex-Couples: How Alimony Works

by Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA

“It is easy to preach financial independence,” a new Savvy Ladies member remarked at a recent seminar, “but I have already spent ten years as a housewife. My husband and I are miserable together, but there’s no way I would survive without his financial support.”

Unfortunately, her situation is far from uncommon. But the good news is: she can get divorced and still maintain a fair standard of living while she gets back on her feet and starts a career of her own. How? The answer is alimony.

While not a given right, US law mentions that parties in a divorce should be able to live “according to the means to which they have become accustomed.” Meaning, if during the past ten years you made zero dollars while your spouse made $300,000 per year, chances are pretty good that you’ll be able to maintain a decent lifestyle on your own.

The length during which an ex-spouse receives alimony depends on many things, from age (younger individuals are generally considered as having better chances to move on with their lives) to how long the marriage lasted. So while nothing is guaranteed, there is still hope!

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Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA

Stacy Francis is the Founder, CEO and President of Francis Financial, Inc., a Wealth Management and Financial Planning firm. With over 18 years of experience in the financial industry, she is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®), a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst™ (CDFA™), and a Certified Estate Planning Specialist (CES™). She is the Co-Director of the Association of Divorce Financial Planners’ (ADFP) Greater New York Metro Chapter and a member of the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO) and an honoree member of the Private Risk Management Association (PRMA). A nationally recognized financial expert, Stacy has appeared on ABC News, CNBC, CNN, PBS Nightly Business Report, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Fine Living Network, and The O’Reilly Factor. Stacy attended the New York University Center for Finance, Law and Taxation.