In this episode and the next couple of episodes, I want to get into the top 10 must follow divorce tips. I want to cover a bunch of different areas quickly so that you can… If you only have to focus on 10 things, these are the 10 items to focus on. And I’m going to cover them and get into them, and in this episode I want to cover three areas of the top 10 in particular. The first is face reality head on, the second is know you can do this and the third is to get organized. The first tip is to face reality head on. When it comes to divorce and it comes to planning for a divorce or being in the middle of divorce, one of the things that you have to think about is understanding and accepting that this is happening.
Yes, it’s happening to you. Yes, this is your life and this is real. And many times during this process, it can be easy to want to feel denial. Feel like you’re not going through this or not want to deal with the hard and harsh reality of a relationship and maybe you want to bury your head in the sand, not accept what’s happening. Maybe you’re overwhelmed or anxious or depressed or filled with emotion. And unfortunately, when it comes to making decisions during divorce, particularly financial decisions, but much of many of the decisions during divorce, is you need to face the reality head on and accept that it’s happening and put your emotions to the side. And even though you feel like you may have or you may have a lot of emotions floating around, when it comes to making the best financial decisions, whether you keep a house or retirement account or when to divorce or how to best protect yourself, emotions can’t really play into it.
If you want to end up in the best decision possible, you have to treat it like you would a business deal. Now, it doesn’t mean that you can’t work through your emotions, but those are for a therapist, those are for your friends, those are for your emotional support team, but when it comes to your financial team and making financial decisions, accept it’s happening and now, okay, the divorce process is happening or about to happen, what can I do to best protect myself, my kids and my future?
The second tip when it comes to the top 10 tips is understand that you got this. You have to keep in mind that the decisions that you make today are going to potentially affect you for the rest of your life. And so understand that also, you’re going to get through this. Divorce in most cases last six months, a year, two years for most people, and then you’re going to have the rest of your life ahead of you. And even though this may be the first time and hopefully the only time you have to go through this process, you probably have most, if not all the skills you need to get through it and make it through in one piece. And the phrase that I like to say when it comes to divorce is you have to treat yourself like you are the CEO of your divorce process. You are the chief executive officer. You are the conductor. You’re the person they’re in charge and making the key decisions as you navigate your life and you navigate all of the different complications in the divorce process.
Now, some of you listening, I know because I talked to you are the CEOs or are executives in companies, in which case although the situation is personal, deeply personal, you’re used to making hard decisions on a daily basis, just this time it applies to your life. Others, you might have been a stay at home parent or may not have been involved in the finances or just may feel overwhelmed with the divorce process, but the funny thing about it is 100% of the people I’ve ever spoken to, worked with, talked to through the divorce process, have the skills to navigate through this process even if they don’t feel like they have the skills to navigate the divorce process and make those key decisions and be the CEO of the divorce process.
I’ll give you just a very simple example is if you are a stay at home parent, you’ve probably been used to running the family. You are the CEO of the family, making sure the kids got to the right place, making sure all of the appointments were handled and their lives ran smoothly. And so you may have been the CEO for the kids and the family and so it’s taking this very, the skill set that you have, you may not realize you have and applying it to this really difficult and challenging area of your life, but you already have those skills. And so it’s just realizing that you have those skills, those capabilities, and it doesn’t mean you have to go it alone. It doesn’t mean you can’t get help. A good CEO has help for various divisions, so it might be legal help, might be financial help, might be emotional help, might be help with a specific issue as it comes to the divorce process. Being a CEO is not a solo job necessarily, but it does mean that you do have the power, the capability to get through this process.
And the third topic is get organized. Third tip is get organized. One of the best, most helpful things, whether you’re at the beginning of the process, in the middle of the process, is just having everything organized. In fact, myself, I spend much of December and January just organizing my year because once you do it and get most of it done, it’s very easy to formulate plans of attack going forward. But if you don’t, if you’re disorganized, it’s very hard to make decisions, know where to go, be able to check to make sure you’re on track with certain things, to formulate a plan, and there’s a lot of different elements related to just getting organized the first time. In fact, I’ve spent the last two weeks and I still have another week where I am literally just spending every day, a few minutes a day organizing everything from last year and my plan for this year because that’s how important it is and it makes the rest of the year regardless, I know there’s going to be challenges and hiccups, but it makes it go much smoother.
And so in my new book, Divorce and Your Money, called How to Avoid Costly Divorce Mistakes, right in the beginning of the book around page 20 or so or 21, 22, is I have a really good getting organized checklist, and it covers all of the different documents that you will need to start thinking about as you go through the divorce process and I encourage you to put together a binder or if you use computer, electronic folders with all of this information, but when you get organized for divorce, it’s things like when you got married, your kids’ names, personal information, social security numbers, stuff like that. Just the basics, but it also includes things like listing out your major assets. When did you acquire them? What dates did you acquire them?
It has information like getting tax returns, income statements, pay stubs, things like that. Employment records, whether you have stock options. I talked to a lot of people who have stock options or incentive compensation, financial records like bank statements, investment account statements, loan statements, whether you have pension plans, there’s lots of different financial details to gather regarding retirement accounts, debt, getting your credit cards and most recent credit card statements together, real estate statements, figuring out home values, mortgage balances, et cetera, but what I encourage you to do is gather up all your financial information, put it in a folder or save it on your computer somewhere, save it on a thumb drive, and when you have it organized, it’s something that you can, once you… It will take you some time to sit down and gather all of your documentation and put it in the appropriate folders and file it appropriately and determine what you have and make sure you have it.
It will take you several hours, but once you have it, whether it comes to working with a divorce attorney or working with financial team, be it someone, a certified divorce financial analyst like me or an accountant or your home appraisal person, whoever is helping you during this process, you’ll have the information ready and if you need to find something else, you already have such a good base. It’ll make the process, all things considered, smoother and easier for everyone involved, not just you when you get organized up front. And so one of the favorite parts of my book is just there’s probably five to eight or 10 pages of all the different documents you can do or you can gather to get organized and formulate a document, be it a folder or an electronic folder of information when it comes to the divorce.
Because one of the things your accountant may ask you or one of the things your attorney’s going to ask you or that I might ask you is, “Hey, do you have the account statement from December, 2019, the year end account statement for your IRA account from fidelity?” And because we want to figure out the value and what to do with that state, what that account or get an approximate value for it. And if you have that information handy, it makes it very quick for us to analyze and know what to do with something versus, “Oh, hey, let me dig it out.” And in two weeks you finally get access to the account. But if you have it upfront, it’ll make things much easier.
So those are the first three tips in terms of my top 10 tips to start the year and top 10 tips for getting divorced that you should follow as you think about going through this process. And just a quick recap, first is, look, face reality head on. It’s happening, deal with it, accept it. That’s that. Second is even though you understand that it’s happening and it’s going to be hard, it’s going to be really, really difficult. Know you’ve got this. This process will end. You will get through it. Take it a day at a time, take it a minute at a time. Sometimes take it a few seconds at a time, but you will get through it step by step.
And then the third thing, at least for this episode, is get organized. People who are organized, it will just make the process much smoother, much more efficient. You’ll save a lot of money and time just from the organizational process. The more you can do the better. And it is one of my most important tips in terms of everything is just getting organized even if you just got organized and handed those documents off to your attorney or to me, or to whomever and just said, “Just take it.” It is much better to have a set of organized documents than nothing at all or a bunch of scattered and sporadic documentation.