We have all heard that divorce can be a devastating financial event. You may find yourself in the position of being the sole financial decision maker for the first time and not feel equipped for the challenge. Transitions can be scary, but in the search for a silver lining, what if this life transition is an opportunity to rewrite your role in your financial life?
Often women have been convinced by others (or themselves!) that they “don’t have a head for numbers” or just could never understand finance. In truth, finance is like any other skill we learn. You just need some guidance and support.
With direction and coaching, every woman is capable of taking the reins of her financial life on terms that work for her. For some women, that may mean handling all decision on her own, for other women it may mean creating the appropriate team to support her. However you choose to take control, the important thing is to not be a bystander in your financial life, but an active participant in understanding the choices you make.
And you can. Yes, you can!
Here are four steps you can take to begin your journey for financial independence:
What are my goals?
As women we are used to thinking about everyone else’s needs first. Now is the time to give yourself permission to make yourself your priority. As they say in the airlines, you need to put your oxygen mask on first before you can help others.
The first thing to do is figure out where you are headed. Each individual will have unique goals given their lifestyle and resources. Do you need to protect wealth, create income, save for retirement? Defining realistic short term and long term goals will build the foundation on which to create a financial plan that will be focused on your needs.
How much do I need?
Budget- you just hate that word! It’s like stepping on a financial scale. So why do it? Because it is the reality check we need to move forward. It is the building block of a true financial plan because you need to know how much cashflow you need to get through today, and tomorrow, and the next day. Knowing your cashflow will drive the decisions you make about your settlement, housing, spending, saving etc.
Who can help me?
Just because you are taking responsibility for your financial life doesn’t mean you need to go it alone. In fact, most often, the most responsible thing you can do for yourself is to create a team of trusted individuals to support you in your financial life. These individuals often include a financial advisor and a CPA. You may also consider working with a bookkeeper, insurance professionals, and an estate attorney among others. This sounds like a lot of people, but your team is on your bus and you are the driver. These professionals provide the information you need to make good decisions, but ultimately the decisions are yours. It goes without saying, that you need to find people you can trust and it works a lot better if you like them too. The goal is to create a team that can support you for many years.
This is the time to educate yourself. Start by use your newly developed budget to create a financial plan with an advisor. Think of the plan as the roadmap to get you to reach your goals. As life changes, you will need to revisit the plan and make adjustments along the way. Look at your plan and communicate with your advisor quarterly. Make a commitment to meet with your advisor at least once a year to review and possibly revise your financial plan. Take some time to learn about savings and investments so you can be a confident and informed investor. There are many online resources (try wife.org) and community classes on finance and investing.
As women we face unique challenges in our financial lives. We live longer, earn less and spend more time outside the workforce. As we age, financial stability becomes increasingly important as more of our working years are behind us.
Here in Marin we pride ourselves on taking care of our health and wellbeing. Taking responsibility for our finances is simply another component of taking good care of ourselves. That sounds like a pretty good silver lining to us.
Laurie Fried and Michele Heisler are the principals of New Leaf Financial Advisory. New Leaf is focused on helping individuals and families navigate the financial aspects of life’s transitions.www.newleaffa.com