After all this time, a false and dangerous myth persists about divorce between women and men. It’s that divorcing women drain men’s finances leaving ex-husbands with lint in their pockets while ex-wives lounge around in luxury. The reality of divorce is that women’s long-term finances clearly suffer more on average than men’s.
If you’re a woman whose marriage seems headed for divorce, it’s never too early to snap into action, getting your financial house in order and prepare for positive post-divorce life. The first step is to simply inventory and document where you and your spouse are now, financially.
Take the numbers in hand and understand them
If there was ever a time to sharpen pencils and dust off a calculator (or create a computer spreadsheet, of course), it’s now. You,ll need an exact and complete view of the assets in your marriage and the debts it owes.
Shoot for collecting 5 years of tax returns, pay stubs, retirement and other benefits statements, bank statements, investment documents, and documents on real estate and other major assets. Don’t forget jewelry, antiques and anyting else of value, and photograph them. Do the same for debts like the mortgage, car and loans, etc. If you or your spouse are business owners, shoot for at least 7 years.
Make your own copies of everything and keep them safe at friend’s or family’s house or in a safe-deposit box.
It’s common for marriages to split up household tasks, with one spouse monitoring (and often controlling) the finances. Typically, the partner who does the financing has an advantage in divorce and uses it. If your spouse has been the point-person for money, find the patience to research and understand what you’re seeing.
Pivot toward the future
Consider consulting a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) and/or a qualified and experienced divorce attorney. Unless you’re in the ideal but rare marriage that ends without any conflict, professional help is likely to be worth the expense.
Now may also be a good time to start monitoring your credit report, opening personal accounts in your name only, and carefully analyzing your cash flow, expenses and spending.