Well, that certainly sounds ominous, doesn’t it? “Divorce is just the beginning.”
Something better? Something worse?
It could, actually be either. It’s a choice. And it’s up to you.
Unfortunately, it’s not obvious, to many women, that it is a choice in the first place.
As a CPA, a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, and a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® professional, I’m talking about financial choices. You only have one shot, one chance, one opportunity, to get this right.
Let me give you some examples.
Where you can’t turn
Don’t expect your attorney to help you with this. In addition to simply not being a financial expert, your attorney basically considers the job done once the divorce decree is signed and filed with the court. And even if you do ask your attorney financial questions, post-divorce, expect to get billed for the answers… which aren’t even his or her area of expertise.
And lots of questions will surface when the divorce goes through. The biggest one, the one that women always ask me, is “How do I get what’s mine?”
You’ll want to get that. And you’ll want to get it as quickly as possible.
These things don’t happen automatically. Trust me on this. I’m working on a case right now where the ex-husband is dragging his feet on turning over retirement assets (involving what’s known as a QDRO or qualified domestic relations order). He’s saying things like “I can’t get statements from my 401(k) when it was at a different provider.”
That might sound reasonable to you, but it triggers my B.S. meter real fast. Fortunately, I know my way around these shoals, and can get the info—and thus the money—that my client needs.
Quick example: Ever hear of an IRS transcript? Of course you haven’t. But I have. It’s a special document that I know how to get, when copies of tax returns aren’t readily forthcoming.
Here’s another one: I recently asked an attorney for his “work papers” so I could check his calculations for part of a settlement. He told me, “They’re all on paper; I’ll have to scan them.”
Paper? Scan? Yikes. You think I’m gonna just trust his math? No. I won’t.
Taking things into account
During your marriage, you may not have been handling financial matters. That’s not unusual; in fact, it’s typically the case for most of my clients. Post-divorce, however, these things take on new importance. There are numerous intricate differences between, say, a traditional IRA, a Roth IRA, a SEP-IRA, and a 401(k). (And that’s not including Social Security, which is a whole other huge topic.)
When it’s time for you to get your share of the retirement assets (whatever flavor they may be), you may be asked whether you’d like it as a lump sum, a transfer to another IRA, or as a series of payments.
Uh-oh. Those are three huge choices, and you’ve only got one chance to provide the best answer. For many women, the knee-jerk response is “lump sum,” but that’s not always the best option.
Similarly, how do you manage the money you end up with? How do you make sure it grows as much it can, within your comfortable limits of risk? And how do you make sure you pay the least amount of taxes that’s legally possible? Should you use it pay off the house? (Spoiler alert: Don’t!)
As you can hopefully appreciate, this is not a DIY project. Trying to Google the answers is like asking the internet to diagnose a medical condition; you don’t want to confuse a mosquito bite with a tumor!
In other words, contact me. Let me help you through this now, and also after the divorce is concluded, when the new part—the better part—of your life begins.