“Are you better off with him or without him?” the famous advice columnist Ann Landers used to ask. If your answer is, “without,” and you are still married, it’s time to gather your wits and your finances, and cure yourself of the Cinderella Complex.
The realization that your marriage is failing is already difficult. If you have the Cinderella Complex, it can be devastating.
Programmed throughout your life to think that women are weak and men are strong, you’ve relied on your spouse to take care of you. Perhaps you’ve never worked for money. Almost certainly you’ve let him control the family finances.
For a Cinderella, the idea of leaving your “father” figure and taking care of yourself can feel frightening, like walking a high-wire without a net. Uncontrolled, your fears may develop into panic, and cause you to make bad decisions that will haunt you for the rest of your life.
It’s time to take a breath, and get organized.
Facing the end of what had once seemed a secure life with all your needs met, you may have no idea how you will survive. Who will provide for you? Will dividing the marital assets sustain you and your children? What are those assets, and how much are they worth?
The time to get the answers to these questions is now, before you even mention the “D” word. Getting organized will not help you should the dreaded day ever come. And even if you stay in the marriage, apprising yourself of your financial situation will help you shed the helplessness the Cinderella Complex causes, and begin to live a life of empowerment.
Cover your assets
Taking stock of your financial situation involves gathering information in five areas. If this list seems overwhelming, take a breath and steady yourself: most of the answers you need will be readily at hand if only you look for them. Use this list to pull everything together, checking items off as you acquire them:
- Monthly budget/cash flow. What does your household spend in a month? How much money comes in, and where does it go? Take everything into account: mortgage, car payments, groceries, school supplies, utilities, clothing, dining out, etc.
- Documents on ownership of a business. Do you and your spouse, or just your spouse, own a business? If so, you’ll want to gather the business license, articles of incorporation, business income tax statements, and any other documents detailing the business’s financial activity.
- Credit report. You can request a free copy of your credit report every year from each of the three big reporting agencies: Equifax, Experion and TransUnion.
- Credit card bills. How much do you and your spouse owe, and on which cards? If you file for divorce, you will need this information to shield you from liability should your spouse use them later—that way, you won’t be liable for the added debt.
- Loan documents. You are jointly liable for loans, so knowing how much is owed and to whom is critical for a “big picture” look at your financial situation.
- Social security statements. If you or your spouse are collecting Social Security, the amount will be factored into a financial settlement. If you have been married for more than 10 years, you will be entitled to benefits on your spouse’s record, even if they remarry.
Gather statements for all these financial accounts for the past three months:
- Checking and savings accounts
- Brokerage accounts or investments
- Certificates of deposit
- Money market accounts
- College savings and UTMA accounts
- Annuities and life insurance
- Mutual funds
Collect documents, account numbers, and balances for all the accounts that apply to you or your spouse:
- Employer plans 401 k, 403B, 457
- Profit sharing
- IRAs: traditional, Roth, simple, SEP
- Deferred compensation
Gather policies, policy numbers, and statements
- Health insurance
- HSA and FSA accounts for health expenses
- Life and disability insurance
Collect these documents for all real estate owned: primary and secondary homes, vacation property, rental property, commercial, even undeveloped property
- Real estate ownership information
- Mortgage statements
- Real estate estimated values, tax bills
Collecting all this information may seem daunting, but if you break the list into small parts you will find it much more manageable. Tackle three a day, and you’ll have it all in one week!
As you go, you will learn so much about your financial situation, and able to enter a decision about your marriage that is informed and rational instead of one based on fear and uncertainty.
And when you have finished, you’ll be ready to talk with an attorney—at a lower cost, since your documents are organized and you can easily answer their questions.
We are here to help. We serve the suddenly single community and we would be happy to give you a complimentary consultation as you are getting organized to plan for your next step. Contact us to set up your confidential appointment today.
Divorce is always painful, but should you decide to pursue this path, you can do it in one of two ways. You can run away like Cinderella, hobbled and panicked, one shoe off and one shoe on. Or you can step forth into your new life like the empowered woman you are, walking that wire with confidence, knowing that the safety net you need—your own strength—is there, not below you but within. There’s a reason, after all, why it’s said that information is power: because it is true.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. Fulcrum Financial Group and LPL Financial do not provide tax or legal advice.