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What I learned about divorce that women should know

Part 2 of our ‘What I Learned’ series – part of our Financially Fearless initiative for women. Here's what I learned about divorce that women should know.

Important notes

This article isn’t personal advice. If you’re not sure whether an investment is right for you please seek advice. If you choose to invest the value of your investment will rise and fall, so you could get back less than you put in.

Divorce can be both emotionally and financially draining. But with help from professionals, like lawyers, advisers and counsellors, and support from friends and family, it can help make things a lot easier.

And when the dust settles, you’ve likely learned some essential financial lessons that stand you in good stead for the rest of your life.

Here are three financial tips that splitting up taught me.

Although this article can give you helpful tips, it isn’t personal advice. If you’re not sure whether something is right for you, ask for financial advice. They can help you to better understand what is right for your personal circumstances.

1. Make sure you have an emergency cash buffer

When a household that has survived on two incomes suddenly has to manage on one, you might have to make some tough decisions about your budget.

It cuts through all the noise about what you once thought you couldn’t live without and reveals what really matters.

In my case, I realised I didn’t want to scrimp and save to stay in a home I couldn’t afford.

I wanted to move somewhere far cheaper and for my children and I to live without the constant pressure of money worries. We moved from Notting Hill in London to Somerset, and suddenly an impossible budget became manageable.

Not everyone needs to make a big move to become more financially secure. But the most important thing is to make sure you have a cash buffer. That way if you do need to uproot, you have some savings to cover your fixed expenses with.

Your cash buffer can also help to provide some shelter from knock-on effects of financial loss from paying legal fees, and help you to get back on your feet.

We usually suggest saving as much as you can afford into an easy-to-access cash account. But aiming for three to six months’ worth of essential expenses is a good place to start.

If you’re retired, you should think about holding more. We think it’s sensible to hold around one to three years’ worth if you’ve finished working.

2. You can’t afford to have financial blind-spots

While it’s a good idea to share the responsibilities, it’s important to not completely neglect the other side of things. It can be easy to fall into the pattern of one person dealing with all the finances.

When we split up, I realised I hadn’t made any sensible plans for the long term and had missed a big chunk of the time I should’ve been getting a head start. Since then, I’ve made a point of being across it all.

Having an oversight of everything, whether you’re in a stable and happy relationship, or you’re going through a separation is important.

Especially when those blind-spots are focussed on your long-term financial wellbeing – like your pension pot and your long-term investments. Unlike the security offered by cash, investments can fall as well as rise in value so it’s important to regularly review these as well.

Whether you’re single, co-habiting, married, separated, divorced, or just ‘figuring it out’, don’t ignore the importance of having oversight, understanding and control of things that could affect both your long-term and short-term financial plans.

3. Don’t forget to focus on your own financial future

Nobody ever enters into a relationship or a marriage thinking that it’s going to end. While we can hope that our relationships last forever, we can’t guarantee it.

The one relationship we can guarantee though, is the one we have with our money.

And the more independent we are financially, the lesser the risk of a relationship breakdown derailing the financial plans we have for ourselves.

It means I have in-depth retirement plans, a savings pot that could cover every conceivable crisis, and insurance coming out of my ears – all of which are entirely separate to my now husband’s.

By staying or putting yourself in control of your own finances, you’re not saying you can’t share with your partner and vice versa, or plan for your financial futures together. But you should always have a plan for how you can reach your own long-term financial goals.

If you need help with your plan, then it could be worth thinking about getting financial advice. A financial adviser can help you to put a plan in place. They’ll understand where you are now, where you want to be, and how to get there.

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Important notes

This article isn’t personal advice. If you’re not sure whether an investment is right for you please seek advice. If you choose to invest the value of your investment will rise and fall, so you could get back less than you put in.

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