Subscribe to Perrotto Wealth Reasons why you should fire your advisor, and start looking for a new one
To put it bluntly, many consumers trust their advisors with one of the most precious things in their lives’, their retirement. The difference in an advisor that does well for you, and one that doesn’t can be the difference in retiring on time, or being set back 5,10, or even 15 years. In 2013 Financial Advisor magazine surveyed 1400 advisors on why they lost clients. Let’s see if you, the client, fall into any of these situations where an advisor was fired. The fifth reason, answered by...
Repairing Your Credit Score
To put it bluntly, many consumers trust their advisors with one of the most precious things in their lives’, their retirement. The difference in an advisor that does well for you, and one that doesn’t can be the difference in retiring on time, or being set back 5,10, or even 15 years. In 2013 Financial Advisor magazine surveyed 1400 advisors on why they lost clients. Let’s see if you, the client, fall into any of these situations where an advisor was fired.
The fifth reason, answered by over 23% of advisors, was that the advisor made claims in which they could not deliver. How does this happen? Usually the advisor doesn’t speak in goals, and brings up returns right away, locking themselves into a performance based relationship. An example of this would be “We’re targeting 8% a year for you.” No one should be targeting a specific percent return with your retirement, they should be planning goals and needs, as future performance is not guaranteed. Think about this, the market itself, hits its own average roughly once every quarter century.
The forth reason, that was answered by over 34% of advisors, was poor performance. Clearly, if an advisor is telling you an unachievable return to get your business, and that advisor fails to hit their own benchmark, most likely you will leave that advisor. When advisors don’t educate their client’s on risk vs return, asset allocation, and go based straight to returns, it’s a lose-lose situation. Usually you will ask “Why is my portfolio not beating the market?” or “why are you not hitting the returns we talked about”. Either way, if you were properly educated on what type of portfolio was constructed, this should not come up.
Coming in at number three, with over 44% of advisors saying they lost a client over, was failure to return phone calls promptly. This is just being plain out disrespectful. A client should never have to wait to have their calls returned in an orderly manner. The best advisors, either have multiple ways for client’s to get in touch, have an easy way to have most of their questions answered, or are proactive with their client’s so they don’t have a reason to reach out. Are you being neglected by your current advisor when you reach out to them?
The second reason, which is one of the main reasons why client’s go to a professional, with 51% of all advisor’s saying the lost client’s from, said the advisor failed to understand their goals and objectives. For most advisors, educating your client’s is the top job. With all the different products, accounts, and investment jargon, it’s very easy to get lost in it all. What a good advisor will do, is break it all down for you, in easy to understand language, and from there, will construct a profile of what you want, where you are, and where you need to go to get to your goals. Client’s want their advisors to put their best interests in front of them, and help them get to where they need to. Is your advisor doing this now? Do you know where you want to be in 3 years? 5 years? Maybe these are questions you should ask if they haven’t been answered.
And now, the number one reason advisors said they lost a client, a whopping 72% of them said, they failed to communicate with the client. The best advisors have a clear plan in place and proactively reach out and build lifelong relationships with their clients. Yet nearly 2/3’s of those advisors surveyed said they have lost a client to no communication. If your advisor is not communicating with you, how are they making sure you’re staying on track? How do they know if something has changed? Marriage, children, new jobs? All these things need to be talked about with your advisor. Make sure your advisor knows it’s a two-way street.
So there you have it. The top five reasons advisors lose their clients. Do you think you fall into any of those area’s? Ask yourself, if I am paying for the services of a professional, why am I not getting value for it. At the end of the day, any of these reasons could create a setback in your overall life plan, and set you back years. Make sure you are working with someone that actually tailors their advice to you, doesn’t forget about you, and is proactive in the relationship.
Credit score is by far the most important “score” in your life. It is how banks, credit cards, and even car insurance companies rate you. According to MyFico the difference between a 620 score and a 760 credit score for mortgages is over 150 basis points. On a 300,000 loan that translate to an extra 290 dollars a month! Here is some info on how to check your credit score, ways to drive your score higher, as well as great habits to keep that score high. Finding Your Credit ScoreUnlike your...
Is your Financial Advisor truly tax friendly?
Credit score is by far the most important “score” in your life. It is how banks, credit cards, and even car insurance companies rate you. According to MyFico
the difference between a 620 score and a 760 credit score for mortgages is over 150 basis points. On a 300,000 loan that translate to an extra 290 dollars a month! Here is some info on how to check your credit score, ways to drive your score higher, as well as great habits to keep that score high.
Finding Your Credit Score
Unlike your credit report, credit bureaus are not obligated to tell you what your credit score is once a year. It helps to get a frame of reference to start from when you’re trying to repair your credit which is why I’d recommend using either Credit Karma
or Credit Sesame
to find your credit score, otherwise known as your VantageScore
. This is what most credit card companies and other lenders will use in determining your creditworthiness. You can also pay for a $1 trial at any of the 3 major credit bureau websites (Equifax, Transunion and Experian) but it only lasts 7 days and they automatically re-bill you between $20-$30 a month after the seven days are up.
At the same time, I’d also suggest getting your credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com
. This is the website the three major bureaus use to satisfy their annual credit report requirements to consumers. If you’re trying to work on your credit score, I’d suggest drawing all three reports at once since they look different for about 90% of people who have used credit in the past. You’ll be able to get updated credit reports in the future before the year is up, which I will touch on a bit lower.
Once you have your scores and credit reports in hand, it should be fairly easy to see what’s hurting your credit score. High balances on credit cards, collection accounts, charged-off accounts, settled accounts, etc.
Paying Down Credit Card/HELOC Balances
This is probably the easiest way to raise your credit score since credit utilization is one of the biggest factors that go into determining what kind of score you have. People who might lend to you would much rather see you using $50 of a $1000 credit line (5% utilization) as opposed to $950 (95% utilization). Getting your utilization down under 10% is ideal and your credit score will reflect it within a month. It is not uncommon to see a credit score rise 40 points or more just from paying down a credit card.
Credit Report Investigations
Making the credit reporting bureaus investigate items on your credit report is something they are required to do by law. Take note of everything that looks bad on your reports with the exception of accounts that are one or two months late right now. Give your creditor a call on accounts that are just a month or two late, ask them to waive the late payment/fee that is associated with the late payment and many times the late mark will come off of your credit report, or prevent it from going on in the first place.
You’re going to be writing three letters - one to each of the credit reporting bureaus. In the letters, start off with your name/address/DOB and a sentence that basically says
“My credit report file number is (enter the file number of your report here)
“I request an investigation into the following accounts confirming the accuracy of all reported data:”
You’ll then list the creditor name and your account number (or the last few digits, whatever the report shows) for every account with negative information in it.
Sign/date it and ship it to the credit bureaus, here are the addresses you’ll need:
Equifax P.O. Box 740256 Atlanta, GA 30374
Transunion Consumer Dispute Center P.O. Box 2000 Chester, PA 19016
Experian P.O. Box 4500 Allen, TX 75013
Be sure to send these via certified mail in order to receive a tracking number. The bureaus will have 30 days to complete their investigation starting the business day after they receive your letter.
It’s also possible to dispute accounts online but for credit repair purposes you don’t want everything to be completely automated. A human may never see or touch your data if you file the disputes online, causing everything to be done automatically just from accessing databases. The creditor is supposed to actually conduct an investigation but it can be hard to prove whether they did or did not. Getting your letter into the hands of a human adds another step for the bureaus and your creditors to follow which can increase the chances that the negative information will fall off of your report.
After 30 days, you should be informed by the bureau what the investigation found. If there was an error, it will most likely be corrected. If they don’t hear anything back from the creditor, the account should come off of your credit report. No matter what, you will be entitled to see an updated copy of your credit report, even if you’ve already used your free copy from AnnualCreditReport.com.
While a removal due to an investigation or lack thereof may remove an account, there is always a chance that it might be placed back on there in the future.
Removing Collections Accounts
Collections accounts are placed on your credit report by agents acting on behalf of creditors. Debt collectors, especially shady ones, might try just throwing an account onto your credit report and hoping that you pay it off. This is referred to as “parking” a debt, which isn’t necessarily illegal, but in many cases a debt collector does not follow the law when doing this.
The FDCPA and FCRA come into play when trying to remove a collections account. There is a laundry list of rules that debt collectors have to abide by to legally come after you for money but the one many of them fail to follow involves giving you required written notices.
Debt collectors can call you before writing you but they are required to send you a letter detailing your debt within 5 days of first contact with you. If they fail to do that, it’s an FDCPA violation, same goes for failing to tell you that they are going to report negative information to a credit reporting agency regarding your account. Catching them doing this can almost always result in an offer to pull the account from your credit and possibly wipe out your debt depending on what you owe. You might need to talk to a consumer attorney about this however, but most should readily take you as a client since they get to charge their fees separately, which can quickly climb into the thousands.
If you’re learning about a collection account for the first time from a letter in the mail, you need to send them a debt validation letter to make sure that your right to dispute the debt stays intact. Even if you receive the letter a long time ago, you can still send the validation letter to get them to acknowledge the facts about the debt. A surprise collections account on your credit report, assuming it wasn’t added in the last few days, is almost always going to result in an FCRA violation for failing to tell you they are giving negative information about you and your account to a credit reporting agency.
Collection accounts stemming from a credit card company and some auto loans may be eligible for binding arbitration. Many debt collectors will drop your case immediately once you elect arbitration because it can easily cost them several times more than the amount of your debt. Consumers trying to repair their credit can use arbitration their advantage by electing it immediately with a debt validation letter, preventing a debt collector from suing. Most debt collectors will actually wait until you pay your portion of the arbitration fees ($200-250 max, $0 for California residents) before either reaching out to settle (which can result in a removal of the account from your credit report) or just dropping it entirely.
Some debt collectors will ignore arbitration demands, even if it clearly spells out the procedure for it in your original contract. When this happens, you can force it in small claims court, or pony up the $400 for a federal court case. Going either of these routes will almost always result in the arbitrator awarding you the fees that you had to spend up till that point in order to force the debt collector to the table, at the very least.
Other than electing arbitration, if a credit agency investigation concludes the debt is valid, you can write another letter demanding to know exactly how the investigation took place and who was in charge of the investigation. Sometimes the credit reporting bureau will respond back with the information, sometimes they will just drop the account themselves.
Dealing with Charge-Offs/Settled Accounts
Charge-offs and settled accounts are a tougher nut to crack as opposed to collection accounts. Most of these types of accounts will come from credit card or personal loan companies. Your local payday lender might go out of business within a couple of years, or may not be quite as diligent about records, but a major credit card company is going to have everything documented and readily available.
The above information about credit reporting investigations applies to these accounts as well, just do not be surprised if they tend to stick. Some credit card companies might remove your payment history from the account, which can help with your on-time payment percentage, but the line will still remain visible to others who pull your credit.
If you believe that they may have committed an FCRA violation, talk to a consumer attorney about starting a case against them. Like I said, even if you only get awarded $100 for the violation, your attorney might make thousands. Part of your agreement should mandate that they remove the entire account from your credit report, possibly in lieu of payment (to you).
As a last ditch effort, you can try writing goodwill letters to individuals high up the chain-o-command at the credit card companies. Most likely, you will get rejected, but you may be able to find someone compassionate enough to forward your letter to someone who can remove the information. It never hurts to try.
Statute of Limitations
New York residents only need to wait 5 years before negative information comes off of their credit report while everyone else has to wait 7 years. The kicker here is that most consumer debts have a statute of limitations of only 3-6 years (except Iowa and Rhode Island, both at 10 years) depending on which state you live in. The information can still stay on your credit report for the full 5/7 years, but the creditor or debt collector cannot attempt to collect the debt.
In these cases, when all else has failed, you can write a debt validation letter but be extra careful to not claim the debt as yours. Refer to the debt as “alleged” and make no mention of wanting to pay anything. At this late stage, the creditor or debt collector doesn’t have to respond to your letter, if that happens, there isn’t much you can do. What you’ll often find with validation requests though is the creditor will include a letter stating that this debt is “valid” and giving you a phone number to call to discuss payment options, along with documentation proving the debt is valid. Count yourself lucky if this happens because you’ve got them on (probably multiple) FDCPA violations. Get your attorney and get the process started, just be sure one of the terms of your settlement (debt collectors will almost always settle if they know they will not win in court) is to have the negative information take off your credit report.
One important thing to note here is that the FDCPA only applies to debt collectors, not to the original creditor. A Capital One account that defaults and is sold or assigned to a debt collector means the debt collector needs to follow the FDCPA. If Capital One wanted to keep the debt themselves, they wouldn’t have to follow FDCPA guidelines.
Federal Student Loans/Tax Liens - You can dispute, validate, send goodwill letters, and argue until your face turns blue, but these types of cases are going to stay on your credit report until they are paid. Once you’ve paid a tax lien, there is a form, called “Form 12277” you can file with the IRS to get the process of removing it from your credit report started. Federal student loan information will stay on your credit report for 7 years after it is paid off.
Court Judgements - Disputes may work with court judgements but you will still owe the money they say you owe. It can help your credit score but pay off the judgement or they will still have grounds to put it back on your credit report, this time in the form of a collections account. It may also be possible to have the judgement vacated, which will remove it from your credit report, but that only happens in certain circumstances
Goodwill letters for late payments - I explained that goodwill letters are a last resort measure if nothing else works for accounts. You may have slightly better luck with a goodwill letter if you just want late payment information removed, though there is a much better chance than not you will still be rejected.
Being added as an authorized user on someone else’s credit card - This can help your credit score in the short-term but any lender taking a close look at your credit will see exactly what you are trying to do.
Hard Inquiries - For the most part, don’t worry about them. Shopping around for rates is expected and your credit score might take a slight dip after 30 days that it will recover from within a few months.
For most of us, tax season ends mid-April. The stress and preparation of going through a complete review of your finances for the year can be harsh. The last thing most of us want to think about our taxes again. So let me be the first and say sorry, but thinking about your taxes for this year, couldn't happen at a better time. Lets find out if your advisor is truly tax friendly. A review of your tax situation on your investment side might reveal some areas of concern. If you used an advisor...
How I saved over 700 a year on car insurance.
For most of us, tax season ends mid-April. The stress and preparation of going through a complete review of your finances for the year can be harsh. The last thing most of us want to think about our taxes again. So let me be the first and say sorry, but thinking about your taxes for this year, couldn't happen at a better time. Lets find out if your advisor is truly tax friendly.
A review of your tax situation on your investment side might reveal some areas of concern. If you used an advisor to help manage your wealth, or an online platform to help you do it yourself, you may want to go into the details to see how much the advice affected your tax efficiency. Here are some areas to check when seeking to understand how tax-efficient your portfolio performed in a given year.
Tax-loss harvesting. According to Betterment.com, tax loss harvesting is the practice of selling a security that has experienced a loss. By realizing, or "harvesting" a loss, investors are able to offset taxes on both gains and income. The sold security is replaced by a similar one, maintaining the optimal asset allocation and expected returns. Instead of accepting that it dropped and hoping for it be profitable in the future, you can sell the investment and reinvest the rest, in a similar asset to maintain your desired asset allocation. The loss can be claimed on your taxes, and your market exposure and investment cash flow will remain the same.
These aren't the kinds of moves you can make at the end of a quarter and expect the market to wait for you. You or your advisor would have to be proactive in managing the portfolio. Every advisor or online platform today should have access to technology that alerts him or her to act. With the advent of better and better technology there's no excuse for an advisor who isn't harvesting your losses. If you own a large gain in a stock that you need to offset, tax-harvesting can help you offset that large tax bill, while keeping your asset allocation in place.
While tax-loss harvesting is a straightforward idea, that many advisors have in place, this next strategy requires a little bit more work, and your advisor needs to know what all your assets are. This is what we call location optimization, and many advisor's don't use it.
For the sake of keeping things simple, we are going to use a simple 50/50 portfolio. That's 50% equities, and 50% bonds, and this investor has four different portfolios. Two taxable accounts, one Roth IRA and one IRA. If each of those accounts are in their own 50/50 portfolio, then the tax implications for the investor may need to be reconsidered.
If your advisor has considered location optimization, you should see the most aggressive investments, sitting inside of your Roth IRA because they are growing tax free. A much larger selection of bonds should sit inside of your IRA, where the monthly or quarterly dividends or interest would be completely tax deferred. Taxable accounts should have less volatility, so you can hold them for more than one year to take advantage of the lower long-term capital gains tax rate. The 50 bond/50 stock allocation can be achieved inside your total portfolio as all four of your portfolios.
Your situation is no doubt much more detailed than what I described, but having a conversation with your advisor around optimizing your portfolios is a good idea. If your portfolio doesn't fit the traditional mold, it's feasibly of even greater importance. Think about the tax drag on your portfolio every year, when you could take steps to correct it.
And what about short-term capital gains? Where did the money from those requests come from? Did your advisor take short-term and long-term gains into account before he or she sent money? If not, you may have paid a higher tax rate on that withdrawal. A good advisor would hold positions you've held for less than one year and release money from assets you've held longer than a year to incur a much lower tax rate. This translates to between 20 percent and 15 percent, but could be as low as 0 percent, depending on your income. That's a pretty obvious tax move to make.
It's no small task to make and keep your portfolio as tax-efficient as possible. If your advisor isn't talking with you about your taxes, and your CPA isn't talking with you about your investments, you can run into a major tax mess. Ask yourself, why aren't they? It's time to break down those walls and have a real conversation before you pay taxes you never needed to pay. So much money is thrown away, and after years, it adds up, and so much is there for the taking, if you have some tax techniques in play.
As many of us know in New York, car insurance is not optional. If you have a car, you need car insurance, and if you finance/lease a car, you need comprehensive car insurance. Many of us really love our cars. I love my Nissan Altima. I am on my second Nissan lease now, it drives like a dream, and is great on gas. One thing I don't love? My car insurance costs. The last 5 years I've had the two leases I have paid an ever-increasing cost for my insurance.Even though I have been getting older,...
The tiny difference in 0.50% a year makes
As many of us know in New York, car insurance is not optional. If you have a car, you need car insurance, and if you finance/lease a car, you need comprehensive car insurance. Many of us really love our cars. I love my Nissan Altima. I am on my second Nissan lease now, it drives like a dream, and is great on gas. One thing I don't love? My car insurance costs. The last 5 years I've had the two leases I have paid an ever-increasing cost for my insurance.
Even though I have been getting older, I haven't had an accident, and I have a clean driving record. I've heard excuses of raising my rate from anywhere glass being broken in my neighborhood, to Ice hail storms in midwest. Anything and everything to raise my payment every 6 months. Quite frankly, I was sick of it, and as many of you know, getting quotes from every carrier, all the time, is a time consuming tedious process, with tons of going back and forth to make sure the plan and discounts you are looking for match what you have now.
In comes Gabi
is a new type of insurance company. They even call themselves an insurance concierge. They are a full-service, online advisor who compares all your insurance options to find you the right policy, all in under two minutes. They hook directly up into your current policy and searches out cheaper policies. Gabi
not only does auto insurance, but rentals, homeowners, and everything in between.
So how does it work? Gabi first scans your existing insurance plan, then compares rates from the 20 largest auto insurers that do business in your area. They then show you the rates of every carrier for the same policy and discounts and gives you the option to sign up on the spot for the cheapest insurance. Not only that, but they continue to monitor rates for you looking for the cheapest rate. Gabi says it finds an average savings of over $460 per year for more than 60% of its customers. 460 dollars can go a long way into a 529 plan, an IRA account, or even an HSA account. I myself was paying 185 a month for my insurance policy, and I now pay 119 through Gabi
. A savings of almost 800 dollars a month!
There's no reason you’re still paying the same rate you were paying back in your youthful, less responsible years as a driver. Most of these insurance companies don't care for loyalty anymore, so why pay more to keep something that wouldn't do the same for you?
And as always, if you need any help with getting this going, don't hesitate to reach out to me at (718) 551 - 7131 or DPerrotto@ceteraadvisors.com
Can you imagine something as small as 0.50% making a truly large difference in your life? You goto the store to buy some groceries and it cost 100.50 dollars instead of 100 dollars. You buy a car and instead of it costing 25,000 dollars, it cost 25,125. Not a large difference right? But in reality, when you are investing and with the power of time and compounding interest, the difference in 0.50% a year makes a HUGE difference. The explanation is actually really simple, imagine long-term...
7 steps you can use to bounce back from divorce.
Can you imagine something as small as 0.50% making a truly large difference in your life? You goto the store to buy some groceries and it cost 100.50 dollars instead of 100 dollars. You buy a car and instead of it costing 25,000 dollars, it cost 25,125. Not a large difference right? But in reality, when you are investing and with the power of time and compounding interest, the difference in 0.50% a year makes a HUGE difference. The explanation is actually really simple, imagine long-term effects on your portfolio. Many investors have s short-term mentality when it comes to gain's and losses. What did Bonds do THIS YEAR? What did the S&P 500 do THIS YEAR? How did my portfolio compare to the benchmarks THIS YEAR? When we think in terms of what we gain or fall in a short period: a month, a quarter, a year, even a half of a decade, all pale in comparison to 30 to 40 years. And even then, once you do get to retirement, that extra half a percent a year makes a difference for the eventuality of living off your portfolio.
First, let's actually break down what that 0.50% a year looks like if you put 5000 dollars a year in your IRA. We'll start at 25 and end it at 65, so that is 40 years of returns. If I told you that the obviously small difference a year equals almost as much money you contributed to the portfolio in 40 years? As you can see from both charts, a portfolio that grows at 7% a year ends with 1,142,920 dollars, and a portfolio that grows at 7.5% a year ends with 1,311,724 dollars. You would retire with 12.9% more or in dollar terms, 168,804 dollars!
Now let's keep it going. If you take out 75,000 a year while still earning 7% from your portfolio, your estimated total is $1,132,851 after 20 years. Now if you took out 85,000 a year from your 7.5% portfolio, your estimated total is $1,615,043 after 20 years. So imagine just that small difference in returns, would give you almost an extra 12% a year to live! That translates into another 240,000 in your golden years. Money that could be used for healthcare, traveling, and enjoying life.
Now imagine if you didn't touch the money, how large of a difference would it be for your children and grandchildren who inherit your money? At 90 years old, that 7.5% portfolio would be worth $7,999,338. What about the 7% portfolio? $6,203,121. The difference, about $1.8 million. Remember this is just from a half percent difference in return over the life of the portfolio!
So this sounds great, right? Now how could we find a way to get better returns, or cut costs to get a better net return? The first choice to look would be what you are investing in. If you are investing in actively managed equity funds, take a look at what type of share class it is. If it's an A share class, they usually charge you a 12b-1 fee of 0.25% if it's a C share class it usually charges you a 1.00% 12b-1 fee! A better route to go would be a low-cost index fund, or an institutional share class if it is available for you. The next place I would look to get the extra bump is by taking on a little bit more equity, ones that have outperformed the S&P 500 over long periods of time, such as small-cap stocks, and emerging markets. Lastly, if you are paying a professional management fee, call your advisor, tell him you are not happy with the costs, and you want to renegotiate your fee. If you are paying 2.00 a year, getting it down to 1.50% gets you where you want to be. Doing any one of these things, and even a few, could get you that extra 0.50% bump. Don't delay or fret about it, because this could significantly change your financial growth and retirement income.
If you have an advisor that you think is not leading you in the right direction, or have an advisor that is still bringing you A and C share mutual funds and are paying heavy upfront fees, don't be afraid to call me at (718)551-7131.
These examples are hypothetical only, and do not represent the actual performance of any particular investments. Investments in securities do not offer a fixed rate of return. Principal, yield and/or share price will fluctuate with changes in market conditions and when sold or redeemed, you may receive more or less than originally invested.
Investing in mutual funds is subject to risk and potential loss of principal. There is no assurance or certainty that any investment or strategy will be successful in meeting its objectives.
Investors should consider the investment objectives, risks and charges and expenses of the fund carefully before investing. The prospectus contains this and other information about the funds. Contact <rep name> at <rep address and phone number> to obtain a prospectus which should be read carefully before investing or sending money
Between forty to fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce. Maybe you have gone through it, or chances are, you know someone who has, you don’t need me to tell you how financially devastating divorce can be. Many people lose half of everything they’ve saved over their lives. Considering the high cost of legal fees, even more money is depleted. Sometimes the home needs to be sold, retirement accounts split up, investments divvied up, basically every asset you own. If that doesn’t sound...
Between forty to fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce. Maybe you have gone through it, or chances are, you know someone who has, you don’t need me to tell you how financially devastating divorce can be. Many people lose half of everything they’ve saved over their lives. Considering the high cost of legal fees, even more money is depleted. Sometimes the home needs to be sold, retirement accounts split up, investments divvied up, basically every asset you own. If that doesn’t sound bad enough, divorcees often see their income go down while their expenses go up. No doubt about it, divorce is terrible news financially.
Even though this looks bad, don’t worry, there are plenty of things you can do to improve your financial situation significantly. If you have gone through divorce recently, here are seven things you can do now to help yourself get back to some level of normalcy as quickly as possible.
Do Not Panic or do anything irrational. This is easier said than done for obvious reasons, but you need every ounce of energy you can keep to rebuild your financial life. Don’t waste time worrying, and taking no actions, it won’t get you anywhere. Also, please know that you are not alone, there are many ways you can use to turn things around. You have many choices, many avenues, and as bad as it may look right now, you probably aren’t going to be out in the street or penniless.
Take stock of Your Financial Life. You may have never needed to, or may not understand what stocks or bonds are, or what a mutual fund is right now, but in time, you will improve your knowledge. At this moment, it’s time to account for where you are and that means painting the full picture of your financial life; income, expenses, assets and liabilities. My suggestion is to either use Excel or Google Sheets to catalog everything. You can create four sheets, one for each category. Sites like Mint.com also can help you with this. It’s great to have one place where you literately can see a snap shot of your financial life. Lastly, take a look at your credit report. Both spouses most of the time take a ding when they get divorced, so it will give you a good starting point to repair your credit.
Time to balance Your Budget. This is a priority. After a split, it may take you time to adjust to your new lifestyle with the income you take in alone and the expenses you need to payout. If you are not careful you could put yourself into more debt during this period. Work as hard as you can to not let this happen. If you don’t know what you spend on average right now, start keeping track. This is the most important piece of financial information you can have. With it, you’ll know if you need to cut back or go back to work or if your situation is sustainable. If you figure out that your spending exceeds your income, it may not make you happy, but ignoring a bad situation doesn’t make it go away.
Start naming Priorities. Divorce often comes as a shock after many months/years of trying to make it work. When people have too much on their plate they can easily become overwhelmed and then freeze up. That’s understandable but dangerous. If you determine that you don’t have enough income to make sure your bills are paid, this has to be your number one priority. If you depend on your ex-spouse for continued support, make sure they are required to buy life insurance and name you and the children as beneficiaries. If budgeting isn’t the biggest problem, phenomenal. What do you want to focus on? Improving your finances? Finding new work? Moving? Make yourself a list of everything you want to do and discuss it with your objective friend in order to come up with an action plan and time frame. A goal without a time frame is just a dream.
Start building your financial team. In picking yourself up financially, you can do a lot of this yourself, but you don’t have to. Don’t be shy about getting expert tax, legal and financial advice. Of course, you want to get referrals from trusted sources but don’t stop there. Make sure your team empowers you and makes you feel comfortable. It’s their job to make sure you understand what they propose doing and why. Make sure they are all on the same page with you. And remember, It’s your money. If you feel intimidated or confused, go to someone else. You have the right to expect a professional and supportive team.
Now is the time to learn. By taking inventory, balancing your budget, creating a priority list and assembling a strong team, you’ll learn a great deal about finances in general. But keep the wagon rolling. Devote 20 to 30 minutes a day to expand your education. Ask questions, attend webinars and seminars. Never stop learning. You will learn something new every day.
Lay out a Plan for your future. By now you’ll be well on your way to a more solid financial house than when you first divorced. Now is the time to create a financial plan for yourself with your new lifestyle. Take broad strokes; Do you want to have a yearly vacation? Do you want to own a home? Do you want to save for retirement? A financial plan tells you where you will likely end up if you continue on your current path and what you might consider doing differently in order to have a different outcome. If you have a financial advisor, you should already have a solid plan you can refer to.
These seven steps won’t change your life as quick as you may want, but by taking it one day at a time, and doing each of these steps, things will improve. If you need a hand, ask for help from people you trust and who care about you. You don’t have to rush, there is nothing here you can’t do. You’ll see that rebuilding your life after divorce isn’t as bad as it seems.