28 Mar Your Housing Options after Divorce Just improved

Major banks in Canada recently announced a reduction to their fixed rate mortgages. It seems bank executives are more confident about the housing market and the likelihood of a major correction in housing prices.

This should provide good news for people who are separating and making decisions of how they split their assets, in particular, the matrimonial home. For many, keeping the house is important for couples with children and keeping a stable environment for them. For older couples, whether they choose to buy a partner out and remain in the matrimonial home or sell and each purchase a new home, lower interest rates allow for more flexibility when it comes to possible settlement options.

Managing two households costs more than maintaining one household. With late in life divorce, retirement plans are greatly affected by housing costs.

Many people finance equalization payments owing to spouses through refinancing existing mortgages, so lower mortgage rates in those situation helps.

If selling the matrimonial home is part of a settlement plan, lower mortgage rates make home buying more attractive. If keeping the matrimonial home is an option, managing cash flow is easier with lower monthly mortgage payments.

The home you want to keep or the home you want to buy after divorce may
now be a real possibility.

20 Nov Exciting News about “Grey Divorce” book

Announcing  the upcoming  publication of our book  “  When Harry Left Sally – Finding your way through Grey Divorce” .   It will be available in a couple of weeks.  I’ll keep you updated to let you know when it will be available to order from online retailers and dedicated website for “When Harry Left Sally”.

Co-authored by Marion Korn, a well known senior family lawyer and mediator, and Eva Sachs, a skilled Financial Planner, specializing in divorce, the book shines a light on the growing numbers of grey divorcees and their unique concerns and goals.  Through stories collected in their years of practice together, Marion and Eva challenge the reader to change the way they approach their divorce. This book is the roadmap every divorcing grey couple needs.

Here’s a preview look!

Finding your way through Grey Divorce

17 Sep Divorce Costs

According to a recent AVVO divorce study, couples are most concerned about the costs of divorce.  People today have more choice in how they will proceed with their divorce..from  doing it themselves , mediation, collaborative practice,  lawyer negotiations to court.  The survey  indicated that a majority of people  (58%)  site the cost of divorce as a major factor/concern  in moving forward with the divorce.  When reviewing what approach may work best for  a family, making the right choice in terms of professional fit , control, timing are all  things that need to be considered. However, the reality of the total  expense for the family appears  to be a big  part of the decision.

It’s important to establish from the beginning some sort of “divorce budget”and understanding the value proposition of any process  you ultimately choose.  Being quoted the hourly rate or first retainer  is not enough information. Getting the answer .. “it depends” to the question “How much will this cost”  may not be good enough anymore.  Understanding that other professionals are part of a divorce team and learning  what they all do in the process, what they charge, what their involvement may be , and  what couples can do on their own, helps  in understanding what the  ultimate  costs may be .

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11 Mar Divorce Costs Followup

As a followup to my previous blog today take a look at this article from the  BBC and UK about the rising costs of divorce.    It quotes a report by the Legal Ombudsman for England and Wales showed complaints by clients in divorce and family law were higher than in any other category.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-21611496

Have you gone through divorce recently? What do  you think of the costs involved?   At the end of it all, did you get value for what you paid for?

11 Mar Even billionaires are concerned about the “costs” of divorce

Billionaire T. Boone Pickens was recently divorced from his 4th wife and chose collaborative practice to settle his divorce.

For the whole story, go to http://www.bizjournals.com/dallas/blog/2013/03/t-boone-pickens-on-how-to-save.html?ana=e_abd&u=rk2Eh9uif4Sgj7UM9KhZGpj2jD7&goback=%2Egde_2936590_member_219548098

“The collaborative approach saves both money and emotional wear and tear on families.” Pickens said.

Should non billionaire couples consider the costs of divorce before choosing how they divorce?  Couples should do their research about different processes and the costs of each process.

Creating a  separation agreement with the help of a mediator means you share the cost of one mediator.   If you are choosing the collaborative law approach, you are each working with your own lawyers however,  much of the work can be taken on with the help of  other collaborative team members.

If you have a family professional, rather than your own lawyers,  they help to create and draft a parenting plan.  This is  a shared cost (usually at a lower hourly rate than lawyers).  If you use the assistance of a divorce financial professional, like a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (also usually at a lower hourly rate than lawyers) to help with gathering the financial information, you’re sharing that cost (and the work too as there is usually one spouse that has handled all the family finances and is better at accessing all the financial statements and documents).

Billionaires become billionaires not only because they make millions… they also recognize when they have the opportunity to save a million or two.

11 Jan Retiring and Divorcing at the same time?

Thought your retirement would be like this?

Thought your retirement would be like this?

But instead it turned out more like this?

But instead it turned out more like this?

The baby-boom generation is showing that it ‘s never too late to consider divorce.  As our life span extends,  people in their fifties and sixties with better health expectations figure they have a number of good years left. Why not live them to the fullest?  That may mean ending their long term marriage and going it alone.

The problem with getting divorced late in life, is that most people find it hard enough to save for retirement and don’t imagine living off of just half of their savings, whatever they may be.

If a couple had money in the marriage, there may be enough  money to go around after divorce.  The challenge is for normal middle-class couples who just scraped by.  Or those couples who lived beyond their means.  When they try to make their house and retirement assets cover two households instead of one, there’s simply not enough to go around.  And they’re not likely to go back to work.  They may be expecting to do the things they never allowed themselves to do while they were married like join a club, travel etc.

When people are relying on a pension or savings, there’s never going to be enough to duplicate the marital lifestyle.  If you’re divorcing at  55 or 60, it may be too late to go back to work or  too late to recover financially.

If you didn’t consider that divorce would be par t of your  retirement plan,  you may want to  work with a divorce team that consists of  both legal and financial professionals. They are there to help you navigate this difficult time, both in a legal and financial capacity.

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net <http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

11 Dec Dividing Property in Divorce

ID-10071842Deciding how to split assets is more than just dividing the values on paper.  People often make the mistake of believing that dividing everything in half is the simplest and fairest way of handling things.  This is not necessarily true.  People need to pay attention to the decisions they make about dividing property and consider the long term consequences.

Assets differ in a number of ways.  Some are liquid like cash.  Some assets like RRSP accounts are tax deferred.  Some assets need to be valued in a specific manner according to family law rules and regulations.  Investments may have a different value after taking into account possible capital gains taxes.

Sometimes assets have an emotional connection that may have more worth than the actual dollar value such as a house, business, or family heirloom.

Assets may have costs to consider.  A couple may have a $400,000 investment  account and a house worth $400,000 (mortgage free).  The assumption is that if one spouse takes the house and the other takes the cash, this results in an equal division.  Keeping the house has costs such as property taxes and upkeep and maintenance. The investment account will be growing over time earning interest. It may not seem quite the equal split over a period of time.

Debts are also part of the division of marital property.  Allocating debts in divorce may mean paying them off, refinancing, or applying for new debt.  Different types of debt carry different fees, charge, penalties and terms.   Just because you have $10,000 left on your car loan and $10,000 credit card debt doesn’t mean that the car loan should go to one spouse while the credit card debt goes to the other.

Divorce settlements are often agreed upon with limited insight into the long-term consequences.  As a result, settlements that seem to be fair and workable initially do not necessarily stand the test of time.  Therefore, it is highly recommended that a divorce financial planner be brought into the process so that you can see how decisions you make today will affect the rest of your life.

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

15 Nov Financial Literacy Month Quiz!

 

November is Financial Literacy month  in Canada,  http://www.financialliteracymonth.ca/ 

We experience dealing with money at an early age.  From getting money from the tooth fairy, saving coins in our piggy bank and opening our first bank account with allowance or birthday money.  We also learn how to spend money quickly.  Because we have experience with money throughout our daily lives, it doesn’t mean that we have  acquired the knowledge and skills to make responsible financial decisions.  After all, money doesn’t come with instructions.

When facing divorce, it’s crucial to acknowledge what level of financial literacy you have.  Take this simple quiz to assess your financial health:

http://www.womenindivorce.ca/womenfacingdivorce/tools/checkingmyfinancialhealth.html

 

Image courtesy of vichie81 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

15 Oct Divorce Settlement Options

When it comes to the financial aspects of divorce, it not just lack of understanding of the family’s finances, it’s the lack of information about a family’s financial picture that tends to make good financial decisions challenging  for couples when they decide to divorce.

One spouse may  know more because they managed the family investments or were in charge of paying the bills.  After all, the couple may have thought it would be a waste of time for both to balance the check book twice every month so one takes the responsibility and tends to keep doing it throughout the marriage.

Important decisions to be made when negotiating your settlement need high quality information from which to judge the options. The spouse with less knowledge may spend more time collecting documents,  working on past and go forward budgets. This is the most important part of divorce financial planning.   Decisions regarding finances are based on choosing one option relative to another. If you are confronted with a decision you must make based on limited information you risk  reaching a poor conclusion that may  affect you for a long time.   That’s why divorce financial planning before, during and after is critical to  your future when dealing with separation and divorce.

 

Image courtesy of Keerati at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

14 Sep Joys of Home Ownership… Or not

 

Elise (not her real name) was happy when she ended up as the sole owner of the family home as a result of her divorce property settlement. But getting the family home in a settlement isn’t always the best thing.

Located in a nice neighborhood, the home was valued at more than half a million dollars. The property had increased 4 fold since she and her ex-husband purchased it some 18 years ago.

Elise needed a mortgage to secure the home, but the monthly payment was well within her budget (or so she thought). She wanted to keep the house to minimize the impact of the divorce on her two kids, avoiding changing schools and uprooting friendships. “There’s no way I’d ever be able to find another home as nice as this one,” she told me.

Less than one year after the divorce, things started falling apart. First, the furnace needed to be replaced — a $900 expense, which she charged to her VISA card. Then, a leaky roof  needed to be replaced — $1,600,  which also went on her credit card. That spring, the fence along one side of her property fell down after a big storm and upon examination, it was discovered that the main posts were rotting so guess what, a unplanned new fence went up  while she was on vacation with the kids. (the fence and the vacation went on her  line of credit ). She wondered what might come next.

Then, toward the end of summer, her washer failed. Because the warranty had expired a year earlier, it made  more sense to buy a new, more energy efficient washer for $1200 than paying the $500 repair bill.

Her debt was piling up. Before she knew it, her credit card and line of credit debt had grown from zero to more than $21,000, all since the divorce.  Small repairs and routine maintenance  expenses never seem to stop  (like hiring someone to do lawn  and snow removal that her husband had done before)

I routinely call Elise to see how she’s doing and she voiced her concerns about the house which was approaching a point where more costly repairs might also become necessary.  I told her she had to consider the possibility she might be best off  selling this house and move to a newer home requiring less maintenance. I recommended she get a home inspection by a licensed home inspector while she considered her options. She knew she couldn’t sell it and get what she wanted for it without first doing some of repairs.  I called two realtors to get independent market appraisals. I requested assessments both with and without the repairs. Both agents agreed the repairs were necessary and would generate a higher selling price that would more than cover her costs. Elise concentrated on the things that most potential buyers focus on (the roof, new paint job and new tiles in the bathroom). The realtor also took her around and showed here what newer homes were available in the neighbourhood. With information provided by the realtor re selling and buying options, I was able to provide Elise with a budget of future housing costs. I showed her how she could pay off all her debt, putting herself in a far more comfortable financial position going forward.

The repairs were completed quickly. The house sold a few weeks after listing it. She and her kids moved to a lovely new home in the same neighbourhood. Elise later told me that moving to a new home was actually a great relief as it represented the fresh start she needed to move beyond the divorce. Having the right numbers and information paid off for her.  A Divorce Financial Professional can help you get the right numbers and information before you sign your settlement agreement which may lead to an even greater pay off for you.

 

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