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.

 

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

12 Sep Do I have to keep saying no to my kids?

 

One of my clients described how her son was afraid to tell her that he’d outgrown his running shoes. Another said her daughter declined invitations to go to the movies with her friends because she didn’t want to have to ask for movie money. Kids understand the financial changes that occur after divorce.

How can you make ends meet and maintain your family’s lifestyle if your income after divorce is insufficient?

Child support payments are not intended to cover all costs associated with raising a child, and often fall far short. They take into account the cost of food, housing, and clothing. But they do not cover a range of other expenses from after school activities like music lessons or sport lessons to vacations, or cell phones to school supplies. These expenses rise significantly as children get older. Does everyone under the age of 18 really have an I-Phone?

The first thing to do, whether you’re contemplating divorce or are in the process of divorcing, is quantify how much your lifestyle truly costs. As a divorce financial professional, I help clients put together projected budgets. It’s important to account for as many details as possible:  the cost of summer camp, rep hockey, tutoring, a computer the child will need for school in later years.

Then we weigh these financial needs against a couple’s ability to pay. Does the family income cover this budget plus a reasonable amount for the non-custodial parent?  If not, can a division of marital assets help supplement the difference? Can we scale back to a bare-bones budget? Can we distinguish between wants and needs?

In divorce, financial support comes from 4 sources: Employment Income, Child support, Division of marital assets, spousal support. Each of these sources has different tax and financial consequences.  Yet because household spending on adults and children is intertwined, all three can contribute to a child’s financial welfare.

I work with clients to look at the financial and tax implications of proposed child support and spousal support payments along with the proposed division of marital assets.  I use software to project the short and long-term impact of a proposed divorce settlement. These projections can be really powerful.

 

What if you’re already divorced and find that you can’t make ends meet,  a financial planner specializing in divorce can work with you to put together a saving and spending plan and help give you a holistic picture of your finances.

Wouldn’t it be nice to say “yes” to your kids once again?

 

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

01 Jun Financial Homework in Grey Divorce

When you’re considering divorce in your 50’s,    a big concern is the financial impact for you and your spouse at this stage of your lives.  If you delayed having children, they may be young and child support payments may derail retirement plans/savings. You may still be faced with funding post secondary education. You may be supporting aging parents. One spouse may already be retired.

Part of divorce is dissolving your family’s joint financial relationship. This can’t be done unless you know the total financial picture. All the facts need to be on the table so you can determine how best to separate your finances allowing both of you to make the best choices of how you will move forward on your own.

This means doing some homework in advance.  As a start, you need to find and prepare the following documents:

  • Tax returns from most recent tax years
  • Recent paystubs that show payroll deductions
  • List of personal property  such as cars, boats, valuable art, jewellery, antiques
  • Recent statement from Assets:
    • Bank accounts
    • Investment accounts including open, RRSP, RRIF accounts
    • Education savings Accounts
    • Other assets such as Stock options, other Company awards
    • Company Pension
  • Recent statements of Debts: Mortgage, Line of Credit both personal and joint, Car loans
  • Miscellaneous Info: Life insurance, Medical benefit plans
  • Business Ownership details

Doing your homework takes time.  Documents may be hard to locate. You may have to request copies from the bank or your employer. You may not have looked at some of these documents for a very long time.

You can hire a divorce financial professional to “tutor” you with your homework. They can help explain and organize it all so everyone is ready to start.

10 Apr Grey Divorce

In 2009, people ages 50 and older were twice as likely to divorce as their counterparts in 1990. Researchers have just begun to explore why. They know that, for many boomer couples, the kids are out of the house and it’s time to face reality. Who gets to keep what is  even more stressful at this age when  you have to consider the financial impact  this will have on the rest  of your life.

If you or someone you know is facing divorce in their 50’s, this is a  reminder that we are hosting “Late in Life” Divorce Talks on Thurs Apr 12th. Join us to hear about the what the financial  effects might be depending on whether you’re the dumper or the dumpee.

To register click here  http://www.eventbrite.com/event/2544127554

03 Apr Grey Divorce

For   “empty – nesters”, divorce is increasingly common. Though overall divorce rates have declined since spiking in the 1980s, there has been a rise in “grey divorce”.

At this stage of your life, you probably didn’t think divorce would be something you’d be contemplating when also having to consider things like investing in your business, funding your retirement, paying for your kid’s weddings or ending your working years.   The issues are significantly different than for someone in their 50’s or older than someone in their 30’s or 40’s.   You are concerned with your financial future.. can I afford to got  it alone ? How will this affect my retirement? What will I have to give up?

If you or someone you know is contemplating divorce at this stage of their lives, join us on Thurs. April 12th  for a discussion about unique issues of the older divorcing population.

Click Here for details and registration

21 Feb Divorce and the New Financial Reality

As  the  ups and downs of in the economy  increase,  so does the stress on married people to deal with the  inevitable pressure points that develop in the relationship.

Couples now have to deal with financial problems that are new to their relationship.

  • How to pay the bills if both of you are unemployed?
  • How to cope with the primary bread winner working less, or not at all
  • What if your spouse is spending more time at home?
  • How to accept a change in who is the primary earner in the marriage? (Wives making more than husbands is a fast growing trend because more men are being laid off than women).
  • How to live with the threat, or the reality, of being forced to move due to a mortgage foreclosure or rental eviction?
  • How to handle the added tension when grown children move back into the home due to their being laid off or not finding a job?

Dealing with these financial realities in an adversarial process doesn’t help anyone in the long run.   Working in a mediation or collaborative setting can help both spouses and families work through options and solutions that may ease these financial realities and help everyone transition to a secure future.

06 Jan What the Supreme Court of Canada has to say about making changes to spousal support

This article explains what the Supreme Court of Canada has said about making changes to spousal support in the years after an agreement has been signed.  If you want to be able to make changes in the future, then your agreement today should say so- and it should also say what future events would be considered if one person or both want to make changes. 

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/supreme-court-takes-firm-stand-on-spousal-support-payments/article2279213/

The more open the negotiations in the first place, the more likely you are to have the conversation about the future “what-if’s”.  Both mediation and Collaborative Practice encourage these conversations.  For more information, go to www.mutualsolutions45.com .

02 Feb Do you hide your spending from your spouse?

Financial dishonesty is a common problem among couples. According to a December 2010 online survey commissioned by the National Endowment for Financial Education® (NEFE)® and conducted by Harris Interactive in the US, three in 10 Americans who have co-mingled their finances with a partner admit to lying to their partner about their finances. The survey also found 30 percent of adults said they had been lied to about money by their partners. I’m assuming survey would have similar results in Canada.

Of the offenders, the NEFE-Harris survey found:
• 30 percent hid a bill
• 16 percent hid a major purchase
• 15 percent had a secret bank account
• 11 percent lied about their debt
• 11 percent lied about the money they earned
• 15 percent percent said the lies led to separation or divorce

The money deception occurred equally across all income levels, and men and women were equally guilty of financial infidelity.
“Couples from every walk of life are facing new financial challenges, but adding deception about money to the mix can make these tough economic times even tougher,” says Ted Beck, president and CEO of NEFE. “Couples need to face their money realities before they can work as a team to improve their financial lives.”

What financial items/issues do you find yourself hiding from your spouse?

03 Aug When You Are the One Paying Support

Nearly one third of all married women make more money than their spouses. This economic statistic is certainly a factor why women increasingly are paying support. However, in our society, women seem surprised to have to pay support even if they earn more. As the financial gender gap continues to narrow, an increasing number of women involved in a divorce must confront the possibility of paying support to their spouse. (AKA, “Manimony”).

I have assisted many divorcing women who face the prospect of paying support. Women who have worked hard building careers, taking care of children, dealing with aging parents, feel that they have contributed more than their fair share while married.

Are you someone who make more money than your spouse? If you found yourself in this situation, how did you deal with this issue?