As a financial planner, I tend to have a plan sketched out for everything. I play things out in my mind over and over and try to imagine every possible scenario that could happen. When I was faced with divorce back in 2016, I did what I knew how to do best: I tried to plan out every aspect of the process, and I had an answer for everything my attorney asked me.
That is, until none of the process went as I planned.
I had a plan for everything that could happen on paper as part of the settlement, but I didn’t have a plan for how it would emotionally impact me, or how it would drain my time and energy. Simply put — I didn’t have a plan for how I was going to take care of myself during the most stressful rollercoaster of my life.
In hindsight, I am able to reflect on some overarching strategies that can bring peace during the chaos of divorce. In this article, I want to share five thoughts that might help you or someone you know with the process.
#1. Know What’s Important to You (And Keep It Front & Center)
Divorce is a very emotional process, but it’s important not to let emotions dictate your approach . At the beginning of the divorce process, take time to consider your goals for the divorce and write them down. This will be your “mission statement,” and it will serve as a guide to help you stay focused and manage the highs and lows of the process.
This mission statement may include things like defining your vision of success, making sure your children feel loved and taken care of, being the best parent/friend/sibling possible, or remaining on speaking terms with your ex-spouse.
Defining these goals can help support your mental well-being and help you stay focused on the big picture. In doing so, it can help you avoid getting sidetracked by little things that may be emotionally draining or even counterproductive to your long-term objectives.
So, if you find yourself fighting with your ex-spouse over something that feels important, think back to your mission statement and ask yourself: Why am I fighting for this? Does it align with my mission and long-term goals?
#2. Really Understand Your Balance Sheet
Too often, one person lacks visibility into their complete financial picture. It’s important to have a clear understanding of your entire financial life as soon as possible, as this helps streamline the process for your legal team and will smooth the transition to post-divorce financial independence.
It’s a good idea to take a deep dive into your household income, expenses, assets, and liabilities to give yourself and your legal team an accurate financial snapshot. Investment account statements, tax returns, banks/credit card statements, and credit reports are all helpful records to gather. Getting organized and up to speed will give you a full, clear picture of your shared financial life which will, in turn, help you craft realistic expectations for how to divide the marital estate. It will also accelerate your successful transition into your new life after the divorce.
#3. Remember, This is a Business Transaction
There will always be an emotional component to divorce proceedings, but it’s important to minimize the role your emotions play. Remember, this person is no longer your spouse, and the divorce proceeding is now a business negotiation. Achieving this shift in your mindset can be difficult, but it is necessary. By doing so, you can give yourself some much-needed distance from the divorce itself and support your emotional well-being during a very difficult time in your life. In doing this, try to avoid falling into the zero-sum trap of, “If my spouse gets X, then they can’t have Y.” Remember: No one wins this game!
#4. Create Your Vision for the Future
Take time to envision what you want your life to look like once your divorce is over: What do you really need? What do you really want? And how are you going to move forward? Answering these questions may require some soul-searching, but there are two big reasons why it’s worth it.
First, it helps you define your path forward, which allows you to prioritize your time and energy on the things that matter most. Second, it helps to put divorce into perspective. Many people think of divorce as an unfortunate end, and it can be — but it’s also a new chapter in your life that you alone will write, and you should focus on the beauty of a fresh start and the opportunities that will be available to you.
#5. Build Your Own Team
While you were married, you and your ex-spouse may have worked with a financial advisor, accountant, attorney, and therapist to help guide you. Now that you’re divorcing, you’ll need to put together YOUR team. Whatever your team looks like, please be sure to surround yourself with the right people who you can trust. Don’t be shy about asking for help and finding the right resources for you. I failed to do this early on in my divorce. Once I realized the importance of my team, it literally changed the trajectory of my personal wellness and growth.
This team should be able to give you the honest truth (tough love) to help you navigate this rollercoaster-of-a-process and ensure you come out of your divorce financially secure and prepared for the next chapter in your life. You also want to make sure your team will help you stay positive and motivated because you are entering a marathon, not a sprint.
If you’re building a team, we can be part of it. If you’d like to discuss specifics about your divorce, the team at Strategic Wealth Partners is here to help. Please don’t hesitate to reach out and get the conversation started.
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