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

03 Oct Next Divorce Talks Topic – “Tips for Gathering Financial Information in Divorce”

It looks like you’re separating. One of the first steps you’ll be required to do is pull together your financial information … assets, debts, income, expenses.

Where to start? What is required? Where will it be used?

Join us for an information session that will have you learn:

What specific information you need t

o gather
Why this information is required and where it fits
Practical tools for making the information gathering easier
If you or someone you know is contemplating divorce, join us for a discussion about how to best deal with financial information in separation and divorce.

DATE: Wed. November 14th,  2012
TIME: 6:00 to 7:30 PM
LOCATION: 79 Shuter St. Suite 200 Toronto

http://www.eventbrite.com/event/4029811274

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

29 Jun Start thinking of “smart spending” when divorcing

If you are divorcing or newly divorced, and trying to figure out how you’ll manage financially, it’s hard to think about your spending along with all the other issues in divorce. However, while you’re working through your settlement, you can start to think about how to save in many ways without feeling like you are “penny pinching”.  Each savings will add up more than you could believe possible.

Did you know that every minute water flows down the drain wastes up to 2.5 gallons? So turn off the water while brushing your teeth or shaving. Only run the dishwasher and washing machine when you have full loads, water plants in the morning when the water is less likely to evaporate.

Drive the speed limit, go easy on the brakes, and carpool when you can. The more moderate your speed, and the less you rev the engine, the less gas you are going to use. This could save you $4 to $40 a month depending on how much you drive.

Almost a third of gift cards go unused. And more get used too late. If you read the fine print on the back of the card, you may be shocked to see that some cards expire as quickly as six months after their purchase. Others charge $1 to $2.50 for dormancy, maintenance, or inactivity fees if they’re not used within 6 to 24 months. Solution: Shop and save the face value of your card!

The average household gets 15 bills a month. At 61 cents a stamp that’s over $100 a year. See if your bank offers free online bill payments.

It may not seem like a lot, but most out-of-network banks charge $1.50 to $3.00 for a bank withdrawal. Would you like to take out money and only get 97 percent of what you asked for? That’s what you get if you take out $100. Plan ahead and go to your bank’s ATM. You could save as much as $30 a year.

The point of insurance is to protect you when something really bad happens, not for small claims. Raise that deductible on your car or homeowner insurance and save $200 to $300 a year.

If you followed all of these tips, you could save hundred a year!

05 Jun Measuring Your Lifestyle

A business metric is any type of measurement used to gauge some quantifiable component of a company’s performance. Business metrics are part of the broad area of business intelligence, which comprises a wide variety of applications and technologies for gathering, storing, analyzing, and providing access to data to help enterprise users make better business decisions. Creating a “metrics” to measure family lifestyle can be a valuable tool when you are separating. It useful information to have and it is usually part of the financial disclosure information required.

A family’s “lifestyle metrics” includes

  • The day to day living expenses incurred during the marriage
  • Spending habits of the individual family members
  • Recurring  expenses by category of expense
  • Unusual , non recurring seasonal expenses

Benefits to you :

  • Information is accurate rather than “best guesses”
  • Provides a reality check for couples of where their money is really going
  • Uncovers any gaps /discrepancies between reported income and non reported income
  • Provides more accurate picture of what is required by each spouse post separation
  •  Starting point for  each spouse to develop their own individual future budgets

Speak to me about the possibility of creating a metrics of your family’s lifestyle.

 

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