3 Smart “Money Moves” When You’re Getting a Divorce

Erin Hadary MBA, CFP®, CAP® | Partner

When I work with people who are going through a divorce, many of them wish there were an easy “1, 2, 3 Checklist” they could work through to stay focused.  The idea of suddenly untangling money, assets, and liabilities while ensuring the best for you and your family…well, it can be hard to know where to start.

One of my favorite things about my work as a Certified Financial Planning ™ (CFP™) professional is helping my clients get clear on what to consider, financially speaking, when they reach a crossroads in life. In my work as a financial planner, I help a lot of people get smart about their money.

My clients have often just come into sudden wealth from a divorce, an inheritance, or a life insurance payout after one of their loved ones has died. Many of them have never had a professional wealth advisor before. Common questions I hear all the time are: “Does this mean I can retire now?” or “Can you help me navigate this mess, without speaking down to me since I’m new to all of this?”

So, what kind of “money moves” might I recommend to someone who has spent years combining assets with their spouse and are now divorcing and going their own separate ways?

I’d have them keep these three things top of mind.

But first, take a deep breath.

Inhale and exhale. Do it again. Divorce is a big life change and whether or not this is on your terms, it takes a lot of courage to step into a new chapter. Change is difficult. It’s normal to wonder, “Will I be okay?” Uncoupling your life and your money can feel tricky. People don’t usually get married thinking that it may one day end in divorce.

Plus, in our culture, we don’t talk much about divorce and its financial impact. I’m not expecting anyone to be an expert at what to expect here. But trust me, there are measures we can take in an effort to recover and stabilize your finances. Be open to learning something new here. Root yourself in the present moment and let’s move on from here.

Get ready to make some lists.

Lists are going to be your best friend in this time of transition. When you feel lost or scared or nervous, turn to your list and know that you’ve got your priorities right here.

3 Smart Money Moves:


1. Get clarity on your income and expenses.

Depending on where you are at in the divorce process, your property and finances may be in the process of division or may have already been divided and you may be living on your own now. Your grocery bill may be lower or higher, depending on circumstances. Getting clarity and peace of mind about your financials will help you see that you will be okay. Avoiding the actual numbers will only lead to more angst and confusion. Get organized with tracking the money coming in and going out each month.

Every dollar counts here. Don’t simply hope it will all work out. Look at the numbers and track your spending. This doesn’t have to be complicated. Grab a pen or open your spreadsheet, and bring conscious attention to the money coming in and money going out.

Hot tip: Don’t allow the fear of not being “a money person” or “a numbers person” hold you back from a great financial future. The past is the past. If you need help, hire a financial partner to help you to become financially empowered to know exactly what is coming in and going out each month.

2. Set up a meeting with a fee-only fiduciary Certified Financial Planning® (CFP) professional.

A Certified Financial Planning professional is someone who can guide you through the seven-step financial planning process and prepare a comprehensive financial plan road map for you.

There are two sides of money: the technical side and the personal side. Both sides are equally important and complex. In my experience, I find it is often the personal side that drives decision-making. During this very personal time, working with a specialist (instead of getting generic life recommendations from friends and family) is like having your very own Chief Financial Officer guiding you through the “river rapids” of life. It can be the difference between success or disaster for your financial future.

Hot tip: A highly skilled financial planning advisor should be someone who really listens to you and your concerns, has demonstrable experience in the field, and who understands how divorce can impact your money and your decision-making process.

Hot tip: It’s important to work with only a fee-only fiduciary CFP® who is not going to sell you any commission-based products ever. Period. Before committing to an advisor, consider getting comprehensive wealth management advice with a holistic scope, where coordination with the right suite of professionals is just one of the many components that may be beneficial when working towards your dream of long-term success. Additionally, it may be a good idea to consider a fee-only advisor, asking about how potential conflicts of interest are disclosed. There are, unfortunately, financial advisors who are not always transparent about how they are getting paid. They may have hidden fees, so I encourage you to ask questions!

3. Start to consider your future.

Perhaps this divorce is a godsend. Perhaps it only feels like crushing heartache. The hardest thing coming out of a divorce is envisioning the future. What might this mean for how you re-envision retirement? It can be hard to restart in your 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s or beyond. I encourage you to spend at least some time daydreaming and vision boarding about what you want out of life now that your life has changed.

Consider journaling or meditating on questions like:

  • What am I most afraid of right now?
  • What am I looking forward to most right now?
  • Where do I want to live? Am I seeking a change?
  • Am I fulfilled by the work I’m doing now? Am I seeking a change?
  • What are my hopes for my future?

Final Thoughts

In times of transition, we often struggle with emotions, anxiety, communication, decision-making, and self-care. It makes sense to hire a financial professional with an additional set of tools and protocols for times like this. Transitions require empathy from your financial team to help you move through a very difficult human experience.

Right now, this may all feel like angst and chaos. You may feel frustrated and scared. But you can make it to the flip side and our team can help if you want a partner to empower you during this new chapter.

If you feel lost, please reach out.

© 2022 Moneta Group Investment Advisors, LLC. All rights reserved. These materials were prepared for informational purposes only based on materials deemed reliable, but the accuracy of which has not been verified. This is not an offer to sell or buy securities, nor does it represent any specific recommendation. Examples contained herein are for illustrative purposes only based on generic assumptions.  These materials do not take into consideration your personal circumstances, financial or otherwise. You should consult with an appropriately credentialed professional before making any financial, investment, tax or legal decision.


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