Let me first start this post by saying I’m definitely not an expert in the area of being married or divorced considering I’ve done neither in my life. But I have talked to many women over the years who have been in different stages of their life and unfortunately, more times than I’d like to count, I’ve heard terrible stories of desperation and despair because something went wrong and women just simply didn’t plan.
I don’t think many people think when they get married they will end up getting divorced. There’s been an ad playing on the radio lately for a couples group counseling session regarding divorce and the guy jokingly says “I don’t think anyone gets married and thinks yes in 7 or 8 years I’m really going to hate that person!” I agree, but it does happen and it’s best if you can think ahead and be prepared financially.
Here are 9 Ways for Women to Protect Themselves Financially from The Unexpected
1. Keep accounts in your name only – I’m not saying you shouldn’t combine your money once you get married but one thing you want to MAKE SURE you do is have a checking, savings account and credit card in your name only that only you can access. That way if you need funds in a hurry, you aren’t relying on a joint account (that may be drained) before you have a chance to get to it. You may even want to put some retirement accounts in only your name. Explore your options and do what you are most comfortable with but make sure you understand the consequences. Todd Marler, a Missouri Divorce attorney offered a lawyers perspective on the subject:
As a Missouri divorce attorney, the first advice I give a perspective client is to take control of all joint liquid assets. This means the client should empty all joint bank accounts to keep their spouse from taking all of the money. This advice is nearly universal with divorce attorneys. Therefore, if your spouse contemplates divorce before you and sees an attorney, chances are you will be left with no financial resources for weeks or months while your attorney scrambles to get a court order to salvage whatever liquid assets remain. A woman (or man) that is prepared financially will save a lot of time, money and emotional distress.
2. Maintain your resume – If you end up not working after you get married (for whatever the reason is) having an up to date resume can be crucial if you need to get back on your feet again in a hurry. If you end up stressed about money and need a job immediately, the last thing you are going to want to do is put together a resume! Keep your resume up to date so it will only take a little editing to send on a moments notice.
3. Stay in touch with business contacts – Like keeping an up to date resume, staying in touch with business contacts that you have can make it easier on yourself down the road if you are searching for employment. Keep a list of your contacts and how you know them to quickly refer to if you need a reference or some one to ask in the event you need a job.
4. Work part time/volunteer in your field – This again applies to someone who is not working (for whatever reason) but working part time or volunteering can keep you up to date on the evolution of your field. Having up to date and relevant part time or volunteer work helps keeps you remain marketable which makes it easier to find a job.
It is no secret, historically men leave a marriage in much better shape financially than women. Traditionally women either stayed at home or remain under-employed during the marriage. If a marriage ends, or one’s husband dies, the stay at home woman is left with little if any valuable work experience and must then struggle to catch up or remain under-employed. Even women with college degrees often suffer financially in these situations. A decades old college degree, with little or no real life work experience does not really help one in the job market. Even part-time employment in an industry keeps your foot in that industry and makes it much easier to fully immerse yourself in the industry once you decide to return to work full-time. – Todd Marler, Missouri Divorce Attorney.
5. Be aware of household finances – While you may find your husband ends up paying the bills, it is important to be aware of what is going on with your household finances. You should know what assets you have (checking, savings, retirement accounts etc) as well as what your liabilities are (what and who you owe). You should also know the account information and log in information for each account. This would serve you will not only in a divorce situation but also in the event your husband was sick or injured or if something even worse such as death happened.
6. Don’t put everything in your name – While you do want some accounts in your name, you also don’t want to have all the big items like your mortgage, car loans or credit cards in your name only. In the event of a divorce, you could be the one who ends up getting stuck with repaying all the debt. While every case is unique, Marler offers the following advice:
If you go through a divorce, even an order from the court requiring your ex-spouse to pay debt that is solely in your name will not protect your credit. Your credit agreements are contracts between you and your creditor. If the bill is not paid, for whatever reason, it is going to harm your credit and the creditor is going to come after you alone for repayment. If all of the marital debt is in your name, chances are at least some of those debts will not be paid and your credit and finances will suffer.
7. Save for a rainy day – Just like when you were single you had to save for a rainy day, now that your married, it’s no different. And when I say save for a rainy day I mean save for YOURSELF for a rainy day. Go ahead and fund your checking and savings you have that are only in your name as well as your retirement account. It’s not enough to just have the accounts, you have to make sure there is money in them as well in case you need it. In the event of a divorce, you would need access to anywhere from $2,000-$,5000 for the retainer. And then what? How will you support yourself?
8. Know what’s a necessity & what you can live without – There’s no doubt it’s easier to live on two incomes rather than one. It is very easy to get comfortable with that lifestyle. If you find yourself on your own, you are likely going to have to cut back in some areas so it’s important to know what is a necessity (food, clothing, shelter) and what you can live with out (cable, manicures, shopping trips).
9. Know Your Insurance – Who owns your health insurance? Are you on your husband’s plan through work? In the event of a divorce, how would you remain insured? What about your home & auto insurance? It’s important to know how you are insured and who you are insured through in case of an unexpected divorce.
I know today’s topic is a bit somber and many of you reading this are probably thinking “this will never happen to me”. I truly hope it doesn’t happen to you! Even so, women get divorced every day. My hope is that women will pay attention and take the right steps to become prepared and protect themselves financially from the unexpected.
What tips to you have to protect yourself financially from the unexpected?