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Jul 31, 2018
Visit us at for the #1 divorce resources in the USA and get personalized help. Learn about coaching services here.
Thank you for listening! Find a transcript of this episode below.
In this episode, we're trying to answer the question, what happens after you sign a divorce settlement, because the conception is that the divorce is over, but that's not true. There's still, unfortunately, a lot of work that needs to be done even after you have signed the divorce settlement. Because of that, I want to give you a sense of some of the things you need to be thinking about as soon as that settlement is signed because you can't just give up and call it a day. There's a lot that needs to happen after you sign the settlement and before and after the judge finally signs off on it. If you didn't listen to the previous episode, I strongly suggest you do.
                                  The two main tasks I group into these categories, the first being ensuring that you get, you receive, and also give up everything that you agree to. The second is that you need to update all of your accounts to make sure they reflect your new reality. Now, I'm going to get into what both of those things mean in depth in a moment. But the point is, is there's still a lot to do. I'm going to give you a process and a list of things to search for. For people who I go through in the coaching sessions, we oftentimes have a post divorce checklist and a post divorce summary of things you need to be thinking about the day your settlement is signed.
                                  First thing you do, step one, so you've signed the settlement, what do you do? You study it. What do I mean by study your settlement? Well, you need to gather a notepad, gather your calendar, and put yourself in a quiet room, get some highlighters, some different colored pens, however you take notes, and start making a list of everything that needs to happen as part of the divorce. You need to go, sentence by sentence, and make a note of everything you need to keep track of. If something is supposed to happen on a certain date, might be a house needs to be sold by June 30th, well you need to start putting on the calendar, "June 30th, house must be sold." Or if you get the kids' custody, if you alternate holidays every other year, well, you're going to need a multi-year calendar and start thinking about, "Oh yeah, here's the holidays every other year," and start planning those things out. Or if certain things have to happen on certain days of the week or certain times of the month, if you're expecting a payment or you have to make a payment every month on a certain day, you need to make those things and write those things down so they don't get lost. You need to start keeping track of them. These are going to be integral to your life, going forward, until they aren't.
                                  Another thing that you might need to think about as you go through your settlement, if you have to split retirement accounts, I have lots and lots of episodes in the archives about retirement accounts and QDROs and things like that. If you need to spend money or need to split the retirement accounts to get the money into the appropriate places, well, you might need a QDRO, a Q-D-R-O, QDRO. If you need one of those, those often take several months from the time that you get them to the time they're actually executed upon.
                                  Something else you need to think about. If you need to transfer money somewhere. All of these things, you're going to need to make a note of every little item that needs to happen as part of the divorce process to make sure that you're organized in there.
                                  The way that I like to do it is I actually ... It depends on your system, but oftentimes what I'll do with people is we'll go through your settlement, I'll read every line item, exactly how I described, and I'll put a little Word document together where we say, "Date, June 17th, 2018, this thing has to happen." Or "July 2019, this thing has to happen." We'll put it on one, or two, or three pages, however many pages it takes, and just list them out. Because I actually use a lot of my calendars just in a Word document format because it's easier for me to read than the normal calendar, but it's a great way to just keep everything organized. I can look and I say, "Hey, we're in the middle of August, and so, oh yeah, in two weeks, I have this thing that I need to do." If I don't and two weeks go by and that thing doesn't happen, maybe you were owed something, maybe something else, you need to make a note of that and figure out what to do. Anyways, I think you get that point.
                                  The first step was comb through your settlement and keep it all organized. The second step is to set up your new life. This is a step that a lot of people fail to handle properly in part because there's just a lot of moving parts to it and, quite frankly, some of the stuff involved in it is not the most fun thing in the world. That said, it is essential that you take care of these things. In fact, whenever I'm faced with a long, boring, and arduous process, now I don't always recommend this and you shouldn't do it too often, but I will treat myself to a nice bottle of wine or a nice, expensive drink. Now, I don't drink that much, but if I'm going to drink and I got to do some work, I'll get something expensive, treat myself, something pretty good, and I'll say, "All right, I'm going to get through this, but at least I'm going to have a couple of glasses of something nice as I go through these things that I don't necessarily want to do, but they are important.
                                  What's the first thing on that list of setting up your new life? Checking your credit report. Credit report is a very important thing to monitor. You need to make sure that everything on it makes sense. Whether you have $100 or $100 million, I strongly suggest you check your credit report. I've sat down with people of all income levels and many, many times you will find surprises on there or things you've forgotten about, and it's an essential thing that you should be doing.
                                  When you look at your credit report, of course with anything, you have to make sure that the information on there makes sense. But another thing that you should be thinking about is you should keep an eye out for every joint account. Any account that has your spouse's name on it with your name, you need to be closing. You cannot have joint accounts open. Well, you can have joint accounts open, but it's very dangerous to keep joint accounts open after you are divorced. Here's why.
                                  Believe it or not, I've seen examples like this happen. Let's say you have a house with a home equity line of credit and both of your names was on this home equity line of credit, but there was a zero balance, so you never used the home equity line of credit. You just had it, should you need it. Well, a couple of years goes by and, all of a sudden, you start getting collection notices in the mail. It turns out that you never took your name off that home equity line of credit. Your spouse, your ex-spouse for two years at this point has already ... or needed money for something, who knows what, and decided to draw down your home equity line of credit and took a bunch of money out. Guess what? They didn't pay it back, or didn't pay the interest, or didn't pay it as agreed. Who's on the hook for that? You are, even though you haven't used that account yourself, even though you've been divorced.
                                  Those little things happen all the time. If you have any joint credit cards, any joint loans, any mortgages, anything with your name on it and your ex-spouse's name on it, close it. Or at least have a very clear process for how you're going to close it to make sure that those accounts don't stay out hanging out outstanding.
                                  Now, in conjunction with closing some credit reports and credit accounts, you need to open new accounts. If you have a joint bank account, for instance, well, as soon as you can feasibly close that joint bank account, you should. But at the same time, you're going to need a place to put your money. You need to start opening accounts of your own. I speak with many of you, particularly the stay-at-home parents, but many of you who don't have accounts in your name, it's okay. Not a big deal. Now is the time to start doing that. There's no judgment. There's no problem. You just need to walk into your nearest bank. You don't have to have a relationship with them. You just have to have an ID, it has to be convenient for you, and start opening up your new accounts. Most banks are very accommodating. You just find a place that works for you.
                                  Same with credit cards and credit accounts. I've sat with many of you before and we walk you through the process of getting a credit card. Getting a credit card, there's a thousand different options. You have to complete what can feel like a daunting application process. But oftentimes, you just need to do it. I will walk through with you how to open a credit card account. Or you can do it yourself and just kind of do the research and figure out a credit card that is good for you.
                                  I know people whose families made millions of dollars a year and they got divorced, and one of the spouses never had a credit card before. We were just like, "Hey, let's sit and figure out how to apply for that so that you can have that at your disposal." I know people who don't make very much money and are super savvy in that regard and that isn't an issue for them. But wherever you are, make sure that you have some of the basic financial things taken care of.
                                  Now, shifting gears a little bit, you need to update your will and estate planning documents. As I said, you might need a glass of wine for some of these things. This is definitely one of those topics where a nice glass of wine makes it a little less painful to deal with. Will and estate planning documents. I've talked about this on the podcast before, but estate planning is basically just so everyone knows is estate planning is the process of planning for what happens if something happens to you, meaning if you die or if you're in capacitated. Unfortunately, it'll probably happen to us in one way or another at some point, and so the question is what do you want to happen with your stuff, who do you want making decisions, et cetera, et cetera. There are a lot of questions involved in that that are not necessarily the most fun to think about, but they are important.
                                  I want you to write down these four documents. You need a will, you need a health care proxy, you need a power of attorney, and potentially a trust. These four things can be very useful to you. If you want to find someone who can help you with this, you should look for an estate planner near you. I work with estate planners as well, but you should look for a local one. Many of them have fixed fee packages for the basics. It oftentimes costs a few thousand bucks, but it's essential. You need these four documents. You should certainly be asking about these four documents. I'm not going to get into all the intricacies. There's people who spend 70 years, 50, 60, 70 years of their career just doing these things, so I'm just going to tell you to look them up. The will, the power of attorney, health care proxy, and trust. They can be very helpful to you and they are essential for you after divorce.
                                  Now, if you already have these documents, you need to update these documents. Most of the time when you are married, these documents are written in the context of giving everything to your spouse to manage and to handle, which, while you're married, oftentimes makes the most sense. But now that you are divorced, these things will need to be updated and you need to go through them. Find a local estate planning attorney to help you. It doesn't have to be expensive, but everyone needs to get those basics done, and if you already have them done, to update them after the divorce process.
                                  Next thing you need to do is check the beneficiary on every account. What does that mean? Well, your bank account, your investment account, your retirement account, your pension plan, everything has a place it'll go when you die. You need to make sure that those things are still within your wishes. You might want to give everything to your kids.
                                  Oh, I should also mention something important. As I said about the will, the same applies to some of these financial accounts. Many of these financial accounts default to your spouse when you were married. If you don't update them and something were to happen to you, believe me, it happens every day, your ex-spouse will end up with a bunch of stuff that you had no intention for them having, and it could be many, many years or decades later. Just take care of this thing now. You got to look at every bank account, every investment account, every retirement account, and ask the institution that manages it for the beneficiary designation. That's what the term is called. Who is the beneficiary of this account if something were to happen to me? They will give you an answer. It's a very common question. You need to make sure it's within your wishes. You can make it your children. You can make it friends. You can make it a brother, a sister. You can make it anyone. But most of the time, you don't want to keep it as your spouse.
                                  Next thing on your list. If you haven't already, you should speak with a financial advisor. Now is a great time to get a financial plan together and one that may work well for you. What you do is you find a local financial planner. Now, I have in the archives I think a seven or eight part series only on the financial planner. If you get the quick start guide, which has all the podcast episodes in it, there is a huge multi-hour series on financial advisors because it's a very important topic. You should check that out. But also, you can ask your friends. I'm sure one of your friends has a financial advisor that they work with. They could be local, they could be online only. There's lots of great financial advisors out there that can help you, regardless of your situation. You should find one. Talk to them. Just because you talk with a financial advisor does not mean you have to hire that person, but it's worth having an initial consultation in that regard to see with one or two or three, to see if one of them may work with you.
                                  Finally, speak with an accountant. The year after you get divorced, a lot of things change. What do I mean by that? I mean your tax status changes, you might be moving houses, you might have other things that are changing in your life, and particularly even if you just do it for one year and one year only, this is one of those years where it makes a lot of sense to speak with an accountant in this area and just to explain what's going on, make sure there's no major tax things that you need to be aware of, make sure your life is set up properly. An accountant can really help with that and those things. I strongly encourage everyone, particularly the year after they get divorced, to add an accountant to their team and their list, just to make sure they're not running afoul of any rules and that they maximize their ... or I should say, minimize the amount that they pay in taxes in the following year.
                                  A lot of stuff in there in regards to what to do in between signing a settlement or right after you sign a settlement, but this is very important information. It's a lot of stuff to take care of and think about, but you can do it. It's just step by step. That's what I always say. Sometimes someone will say, "Well, what's the next step?" I'll give them the next step. Then they'll say, "Well, what's the step after that?" Most of the time, my response is going to be, "Don't worry about it. We'll get there when we get there. For now, we got to focus on one step at a time and you knock them out from there." It's not much more complicated than that, but you have to kind of do these things to make sure that you take care of the rest of your life from a financial perspective.
Jul 17, 2018
Visit us at for the #1 divorce resources in the USA and get personalized help. Learn about coaching services here.
Thank you for listening! Find a transcript of this episode below.

In this episode, I want to discuss what happens after you sign a divorce settlement. The past month has been one of the busiest I've had in a while and the end of the year is looking to continue down that path. You know, as I've mentioned on a previous episode, the tax laws regarding alimony in divorce change in six months, and so that's creating a lot of pressure for people to get their divorces wrapped up before the end of the year, because there's often tax benefits to both sides, for wrapping up this year instead of delaying a year when the law changes in a big way.

                                    If you don't know what I'm talking about, be sure to listen to episode 170 for some of the details and I'll be discussing it more in future episodes. But one of the things that's happened over the past month or so is that a lot of cases I've been working on are wrapping up, which is a bittersweet feeling for me.

                                    I'm of course always happy that people are finishing their divorce and they get to move on with their life. But also, I feel a little bit of sadness because I get to work closely, closely with you during the process, during a tough time and then, many cases, we part ways and we don't have to speak with each other any more, which is also fine, but I do very much enjoy working with you. It is the nature of what I do.

                                    And one of the things that a couple people have mentioned as their cases have wrapped up and they said, "Shawn, you don't really speak much about what to expect after the settlement's assigned. What should I be doing?" And I want to provide you some guidance to that effect. Now, of course, it varies for everyone, but I do want to outline some of the details of the divorce process once you have that settlement signed.

                                    Most of you are going to go through the process where you negotiate a settlement and you sign the settlement, versus where a judge makes the final decree in terms of who gets what. Now, some of you do have to go that way, particularly in the tough divorces, but I expect most of you will be negotiating and signing some form of settlement.

                                    And so what does that look like? And then what do you do afterwards? What kind of things should you be thinking about after divorce? One other thing I want to bring up is I have a, I think it's a seven or eight part series on choosing a financial advisor and financial topics you should know after divorce in the quick start guide. It's in the store. It's part of the full archive of the podcast. That might be something for you to check out because that is some critical information.

                                    I mean, it's hours of information just of like basic financial concepts, how you choose a financial advisor, how do you know what to look for, how do you make sure you make the right option? But anyways, one of the things I want to talk about is, so how does the settlement process wrap up and then what do you do afterwards?

                                    Now, for some of you, your settlement process actually might occur in two phases before you get to the settlement agreement. There's the part of the settlement that I might call the term sheet, which is ... in this part of the settlement, you outline basically everything that you want and your spouse wants on a sheet of paper or a few sheets of paper, without really legal terminology in there.

                                    The way to think about the term sheet in a way is like, if you ... and I've had some clients do this, if you and your spouse, were to negotiate by email and you say, "I want this house," or "I want the house, you can keep this car, I want this car, we're going to split custody in this way," but you just go back and forth by email.

                                    And then you say, alright, here's the final email with everything that we want. And you say, okay, good. That's the kind of the term sheet part of it. And what you do with that term sheet, I call it, because that's what you use, that's what you call it in the investing world. You say, all right, we have a term sheet, let's make it legal.

                                    And so the term sheet is here's all the details that we've agreed to, and then you take it to your attorney and say, "Can you please draw this up in the appropriate legal framework so the court can sign off on it?" And so, for some of you, that's the first phase. Now, not everyone goes through that step of negotiating a term sheet first. Some of you go straight to the actual legal settlement document.

                                    In which, you're going to get to this document in one way or the other, but sometimes it's just depending upon your process, you go through the term sheet phase first. But when you get to the legal documentation, this is when the attorney drafts up exactly what each of you is getting.

                                    And the legal documentation, you're going to really want to pour over every word, every phrase, every sentence in this document to make sure that it not only matches what you agreed to, but also is what you want. I've seen cases where people sign settlements and they don't read it closely and you go back a few months later and you look at it and you're like, "What did that paragraph mean?" Or, "That's not what I wanted it to say. I thought it was supposed to be this," and that can easily be avoided by studying your settlement in the first place.

                                    And let's just say you've gotten through those two phases. So you've got your term sheet, you've gotten a settlement and everything is wrapped up and you submit the paper to the court. That's an important step three, remember, just because you signed the settlement agreement ... This is an interesting topic that I actually will get into now; I didn't anticipate talking about it now.

                                    So depending upon what's going on, you can sign and agree to the settlement agreement and sign it, have everything done, but not submit it to the court. And if you don't submit it to the court, you will never be divorced. But there are reasons sometimes that you might not want to submit that settlement agreement to the court and you might want to delay. Now, there's many moving parts when it comes to delaying, particularly with the tax law changes and other things.

                                    But, if you wanted to delay, you can, and I'll give you reasons that people delay that come up pretty regularly. One is for tax purposes for filing jointly. So let's just say, you know, we're getting to the end of 2018 as I record this and, you know for tax purposes or you think for tax purposes, you want to file just one more time as a married couple because it makes sense for you. I know plenty of people who will negotiate their full settlement, sign the paperwork and not submit it to the court and just say, "Hey, we'll submit it to the court in 2019," the next year. Because for tax purposes, it'll save them many thousands or tens of thousands of dollars.

                                    I've had some lesser common reasons, so one of my favorite reasons, I had a client who I'll just say lives in a town with one golf course and in order to keep their membership active at the only golf course in town, they wanted to stay one more year on the married membership because as soon as they became a divorced couple, they would be doubling their membership dues.

                                    And if you know anything about golf courses, those dues can be in the tens of thousands of dollars. So to save one more year playing golf, they decided to save some expense. They decided to keep their membership, or themselves divorced, or excuse me, I should say, let me restart. They kept themselves married until they renewed their membership as a married couple for one more year, so they could save up the extra money for the golf course and the increased golf dues they were facing.

                                    There could be any number of reasons that you may want to delay your divorce. And so, some people may do that, but you also need to keep in mind that if you have not submitted the paperwork to the court, you cannot get divorced and you should not be making other major financial decisions until you know exactly what is planned. And I'll give you an example of why that's a big deal.

                                    I have a client who needs to ... I actually have several people in this category, who need to refinance their home. And as part of the refinancing process, the first thing the mortgage lender says is, "Hey, where's the paperwork that says you are divorced?" And so, they will ask for, that court signed, judge signed, county signed document that says I am officially divorced before they can make any major financial moves.

                                    But let's say you submit the paperwork and you have everything in the court and everything is good to go. What do you do? Well, you wait. Unfortunately, just because you've signed the paperwork, just because you submit the paperwork, still doesn't mean you're divorced. And depending upon where you live, it could still be many, many months before you are divorced in the eyes of the law. I'm going to give you an example.

                                    I spend a lot of time in New York, in New York City, and have several clients there. Some cases, this is crazy, even as I think about explaining it, you can file for divorce and submit the paperwork in August, so the eighth month of the year, and I'll tell you why this is relevant in just a second. We can file the paperwork then. You can get through the end of the year and not have official divorce paperwork.

                                    I've had cases where someone files paperwork and August and they don't get the divorce paperwork until February or March of the next year. And because the New York court is so backed up and there's so many cases and not enough judges and not enough resources, unfortunately, in many cases, that it takes the court six months or can take the court six months to officially recognize the divorce.

                                    Now, of course, they know that they'd be causing a lot of trouble for people if the divorce didn't go through until February. What happens is the New York court is so busy and they understand how much turmoil that could cause is they will backdate the divorce papers oftentimes. So if you file for divorce in August and they don't get to it until February, they'll say, "Hey, sorry, we just got to it. But because you filed it an August, we're going to consider you legally divorced as of December 31st of the previous year."

                                    But the point is to bring up is that just because you filed the paperwork still means you need to wait. And from a practical perspective, you've just gone through a very intense process. And even though it's not over yet, one of the first things I recommend you do is you wait.

                                    No need to rush into major decisions. Right after you file the divorce paperwork and you submit it to the court. First thing I say is breathe. Relax. Take a week or two. Focus on yourself, focus on your kids, your family, your work, whatever you've been neglecting during this process. Now that you've gotten this major step involved, take some time to get back to normal or to prepare for the future and don't make any major decisions unless you absolutely have to. If you take some time to breathe, you will get into a position where you can think clearly about the next steps of your life and the next phases of your life and get organized and prepare for the things that we need to do and that you will need to do as you go forward.

                                    Once you've taken some time to breathe, decompress, relax a little bit. I want to cover two main areas that you're going to need to focus on going forward. I'm going to cover these in the next episode. The first thing you're going to need to do is you're going to make sure that you get and give up everything that you agree agreed to as part of the divorce process. And the second thing you should do is update all of your accounts to make sure they reflect your new reality.

                                    Stay tuned for the next episode. I'm going to get into those very soon and get into some of the nitty gritty details of what those two things mean.


Jun 27, 2018

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Thank you for listening! Find a transcript of this episode below.


In the previous episode I gave you a high level overview of a balance sheet and if you haven't listened to that episode, be sure to go back and hear it because the balance sheet is one of the most important documents that exists in divorce, so I want to make sure that you get it and you understand the key details of the balance sheet. It's so important as I said in the previous episode that it's something that I update every month and have for many years and probably will continue to until, for the rest of my life. It's that important of a financial document to keep track of.


In this episode I want to discuss a little bit about specifically how you prepare a balance sheet and how you go about it. If you were going to prepare a balance sheet from scratch, how would you do that process? What do you need to know to prepare your balance sheet? Well, one thing I'll say is a balance sheet easier to produce when you ... it's easier to produce when you a computer specifically if you use Microsoft Excel. You don't need to be super fancy at Microsoft Excel, but if you know the basics of adding and summarizing columns, over the long term it's a much easier method to do. That said, you can do your balance sheet by hand on a couple of sheets of paper. If you have good handwriting and a calculator and you can keep things organized. That is a very legitimate method and people ... I'm a firm believer in doing things by hand.


I still have a lot of old schoolness in me, even though I run basically an online business, but some things like a balance sheet I still do by hand all the time. Particularly if I don't feel like updating every number, but just want to get a sensor if I'm in a meeting with a new person, I can just pull out a sheet of paper and say "Hey, let's just go through the balance sheet and we can put it together on a slider of paper just like that", but in even case you're going to want to have a calculator and what you should do if I were going to create a balance sheet from scratch is I would think about all of your most valuable things.


What are you most valuable things? Oh, I forgot to mention something important. One thing about a balance sheet is that a balance sheet is a snapshot in time, so the numbers on a balance sheet, you know I said I update it all the time, well whenever I update a balance sheet it's as of that particular day. In divorce situations usually you prepare your balance sheet as of the date of separation, but you can always update the time periods related to the balance sheet, so you have to pick a day. So that day might be June 1st. That day might by October 22nd of the previous year. That day might be today. Whatever day you pick is the day that you're going to value all of your accounts and all of your assets, that's what account balance you're going to use and when that's really important is if you have an investment account for example.


Let's just say you're listening to this towards the end of the year and let's just say at the beginning of the year the investment account had $100 in it, but later in the year that investment account made some money and now it's got $120 in it. Well if you got separated earlier in the year, you might have to use on the balance sheet the $100 number even though it's worth a $120. Depending upon your divorce situation, you have make the call as to whether you want to change that separation date. If that's even possible, like that's a big statement I just kind of slid in there, but you have to determine what day is most advantageous for you in terms of valuing assets like that, so you got to pick a day. For me I just pick you know whatever day of the month I decided to open and update my balance sheet, but something that you need to keep in mind.


Now when you're preparing a balance sheet, I was saying you need to think about all the stuff that you own. All of your assets, so if you own a house that's an easy one. Almost everyone has a bank account, so you put your bank accounts on there. If you have retirement accounts, you go through each one of your retirement accounts and list the total value of the retirement accounts and if you have a 41K, I usually write down on the line John Smith 41K, so I know what type of account it is and I'll say value, $237,556 and I will make a note as to what date I did it, so if it's June 1st, I'll just put the June 1st date on there and hopefully I said when you do it you keep every account on the same date, but you start with ... if I were to start with the assets.


Start with the house because everyone's going to have, most everyone's going to have a house. If you rent then you're not going to list it as an asset, but if you own a home of some kind, then you will put the home value and if you have a mortgage the home is a little bit tricky because you all have debt attached to it, but you have a mortgage also put the mortgage value on there and put if you have a second mortgage or something else, put that value on there as well and that way you can get a total home value minus mortgage and any other debt, so you can start there.


Then I say all right, well here's all my bank accounts, so I go through each one of my bank statements. I put in the amount of money that's in there, easy enough and I just list out each account, who's name is on it, so if you're doing it for you and your spouse, you should make a note as to who owns said account. So you do bank accounts. You do your house. You do any investment or retirement accounts, list every one of those.


Then you go to vehicles. You put all your vehicles. You can put ... oh other real estates, so I forgot, if you have a second home or you have a rental property or whatever else, don't forget to include that and then think about all of your other stuff. Could be furniture, collectibles, intellectual property, who knows what, but whatever that thing may be, you add it on and go from there and you add them all up. You put them nice and neat into a column. You group them by category and that way you know all of your assets. You take the sum total of all your assets. Maybe it's $100,000. Maybe it's $100 million, who knows. Likely somewhere in between there and you know the total value of your assets and who owns them.


Second thing you do is now you got to think about your debts. As I said some of you have debts. Some of you don't. It really just depends on your situation, but on the next side of the page, so if I split it down the middle. I have the left side with all my assets, the right side of the page with all my debts and so you list out every credit card you have or if you have a student loan, you list out a student loan. Or, if you have a personal loan that you have, you write that in there and you would go from that point and start working on your debts and you list them all out and you summarize your debts. I'm just going to use some basic examples.

Let's just say on the left side of the page, I like using $100 because everyone hopefully can follow $100 math. Let's say you have $100 of assets in between your houses and cars and retirement accounts and everything else. Let's say you have $20 of debt, what does that make your net worth on your balance sheet? Well your net worth on your balance sheet is $80. You're going to take all of your assets subtract out your debts and you're going to end up with a net worth of $80 and then you're going to have your balance sheet.


Now one of the things that's very important is making sure you attach the right value to the different assets and debts that you have. What do I mean? Well one thing I ask everyone. I will ask 100% of you when we prepare a balance sheet, how did you come with the value for your home? If you went to Zillow and said "Hey I typed in my address and Zillow said it was worth $357,000", I will say "Okay, thanks" and we may use that value for now, but I will say we need to get an appraisal to figure out how much this house is actually worth or I'll say you need to talk to a real estate agent to determine a much better value for this house because Zillow is not the most accurate place to go.


If you have a car and you have a 1997 Mercedes E300, I don't know if they may an E300 in 1997, but if you had bought that car in 1997 that would have been a $60,000 car. If you list that asset as $60,000 in 2018 when I'm recording this, I will say "Hey, you know that car was worth $60,000 something then. It may sadly only be worth $3,500 now", so we need to make an adjustment there and so you need to be cognizant of the actual values for certain accounts. Bank accounts are easy. You'll align again, you'll get the number on your bank account and you're good to go.


Same with investment accounts, but for any assets that don't have a clear value like homes and cars and jewelry, we will need specific appraisals for those types of assets, so just something to think about in that regard and then as I said, once you prepare your balance sheet what happens next?


Well you have to understand the information. Look at it. Make sure it all makes sense. Ensure that it meets your expectations or maybe there are some surprising things in there, which happen. The second thing is you have to really internalize your balance sheet, particularly when you're going through divorce and you have to think and what assets are most valuable for me to keep, or what do I want to keep? What assets do I not want to keep? What do I want to give away? How do we handle the debt situation?


So I've worked on many a client who had debt and we had to write in the divorce agreement we're going to sell you know if I were just going to toss out an example. Let's just say "Hey we're going to sell the house, the proceeds are going first to pay off the outstanding credit card debt" and then second whatever remains after we're going to split between us 50/50. That something that we start thinking about, but we got to start thinking about "Hey, what's the best settlement that we can get for you in that situation?" I'll give you a case that I've been working on lately where there were a lot of real estate properties, but in this situation the person who was determining their settlement wanted all the real estate, but they were going to be left with zero dollars in cash, which is not a good position to be in and I said "Hey, I understand that you're going to have all this real assets, it's great, but you're going to need to have some cash in a bank account" and so, while you might want to keep all these real estate assets, maybe left's find a way for you to get either from a retirement account or something else, some day to day funds that you have so that you can live your life normally and plan for some expenses that you're going to have after the divorce process is over.


You don't want to be real estate rich and cash poor. That's not always the best position to be in depending upon your life goals and what your immediate needs are and this person had some tuition payments coming up and so they were going to need the cash one way or the other. Trying live off the cash from the rental income plus save up enough for tuition, it just didn't make financial sense and so, that's one of the listings that we can look at. If you remember the previous episode I mention that we split up the assets and we said there's $100 in assets total and one spouse is getting $80 in assets, the other is getting $20 in assets. Well if you look at the balance sheet you can start to figure out, well maybe that actually makes sense given their situation or maybe that's a terrible deal and we need to make some adjustments, but when you prepare your balance sheet correctly you can quickly and easily identify all of the things that you need to know in a very usable format.


The balance sheet is meant to be a very simple asset and simple analysis I should say for you to review and have a clear picture of how your finances will look and so you use it all the time to understand hey, if this scenario happens and we adjust the balance sheet, does that leave me in a good position? That's a lot. The balance sheet I could talk about for a lot of time and the ins and the outs and it's actually one of those things that differs so much between each individual person. It's hard to sometimes cover all the different nuances of a balance sheet, but you know if you Google balance sheet you'll find some details on it yourself, but I want to give you just an overview of kind of what it is and how to start thinking about it and how you can prepare yourself on a sheet of paper and it's something that should be at the forefront of taking control of your life both during the divorce process and afterwards as you go through this time and as I said, it's something that we work with with 100% of the clients that I get to work with as we prepare that balance sheet so you always know where you will stand financially during and after the divorce process.

Jun 14, 2018

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Thank you for listening! Find a transcript of this episode below.

We're almost 200 episodes into the Divorce and Your Money show. There's a lot that I've covered, but there's still a handful of topics that I haven't gotten a lot of depth on. Sometimes you might notice that there's a little bit of a gap between recordings, and that's actually just simply because I'm working with you. So sometimes, particularly on busy weeks or sometimes busy months, I don't always get to record a ton of helpful episodes. But in this one, we're covering one of the most important topics that I can't believe I waited so long to cover.

This is something that ... This topic is something that we do with 100% of the clients that I work with on the ongoing coaching packages. Now, in a coaching call we can't do this topic, but anyone I work with longer term throughout their divorce process, we start by what we're going to cover in this episode. And, I realized I haven't really explained it in depth to you and why it is so important. Actually, what we're going to talk about is a financial document that is so important that I do it myself and check mine every month. For you, we'll do it every time something happen in the divorce process. For some of my clients who I work with after divorce is over, we do it for the foreseeable future every quarter or every half a year to make sure that everything is on track.

This is to me perhaps the most important financial document that exists, particularly when you're thinking about the divorce process or even the rest of your life. And what is that? It is a document that we call the balance sheet. A balance sheet, if you work in the corporate world, has to do with .... Every one of your companies, if you work for a company or if your spouse works for a company, prepares a balance sheet or at least they should be. Basically what's on that balance sheet is all of that company's assets and their debts at a certain period of time.

What we do is we take that same concept. So if a company owns a building, for example, an office building, well, that office building gets recorded as an asset on their balance sheet. Well, let's say that company has a loan from a bank. Well, that gets reported as a debt on that balance sheet. Basically, what a balance sheet does is it tracks the value of a business over time over specific periods.

Well, one of the things that we do in the divorce context is take the explanation or the utility of a balance sheet in the corporate world and apply that to your personal finances. So, we do a personal balance sheet. That personal balance sheet summarizes all of your, either individually or as a married couple, all of your assets and your debts and puts it into one handy page. Basically we take all of the stuff that you own, could be houses, could be cars, could be furniture, it could be jewelry, could be other valuables, and we put ... It could be retirement accounts. We put all of that on a page, and then we take a list of all the things that you owe. It could be a mortgage, could be credit card debt, could be a personal loan, could be a student loan, could be some other ... could be tax payments that you have that are outstanding. We put those on the other side of the page.

Basically, what we're trying to figure out is two things. One is what does your total financial picture look like? Just very simply is if we put everything on one page, what does it look like? Then, second is as we're going through the divorce process, how do we make that as people are negotiating different settlement options and different settlement proposals, well, how does that adjust your personal summary and does that leave you in a position in the future where your personal assets and debts are in a good spot? And I'm going to get into those questions a little bit more later, but I want to talk a little bit more broadly about the balance sheet.

As I said, basically it's just all the stuff that you own and all the stuff you owe. Some people I work with don't owe much. So actually, you might have nothing on your owe side of the balance sheet. But what you do know is if you have everything you own and you add it up and every ... minus, everything that you owe, you have your total net worth. It is basically like ... Now, be very ... I'm gonna have to clarify my language with my next sentence. A balance sheet is basically like your statement of net worth with a big but. The statement of net worth or the financial affidavit that you complete is usually directed in the form of a court document or a particular format that your attorney uses.

Unfortunately, while that document is useful to start gathering the information, if you ever look at a financial affidavit or statement of net worth, they're not very usable on an ongoing basis. They are a legal document. So what we do with a balance sheet, and why it takes a lot of time to custom create these for each one of you when we work together, is we take all of that information and put it onto one or two pages so that you can easily see a quick and clean snapshots of your assets and your debts on one page. That way we can see your net worth in an immediate snapshot.

That's very important because when you look at a ... I'm going to take the New York form because I have a lot of clients in New York and one of the ... If you ever look at the New York financial affidavit, the New York statement of net worth form ... I did a calculation one day. I went and added it up because I was curious myself. There's something like, if I remember the number correctly, somewhere around 170 different individual line items that you have to go through on your New York financial affidavit.

Well, most people, even those with a super complex financial lives do not have 170 different line items that they need to keep track of. Really, the most that most people have is about 20 to 30 things in terms of accounts, and assets, and debts that we need to keep track of. If I had to just guess on average, somewhere between 20 to 30 things. Some people have a few more, some people have a few less.

But what we do is we take the 20 to 30 most important things. Sometimes if they're smaller items on there, we just lumped them into another category. But we just take those key items, put them on one sheet of paper that's easy to read, group them by asset type. What do I mean? So if you have five bank accounts, we put them into the cash grouping. If you have three retirement accounts, we put them into the retirement account category. If you have a house we might put it on its own, particularly if you have a mortgage or two. We might put just a house or a real estate category.

Ultimately, you're going to have one sheet of printer paper that says here is all of your assets and your debts. It's very clean, very easy to understand. 100% of people find it useful. And as I said, it's something that is so important that I do my own balance sheet myself every month just to make sure that I am on track and to see how things are changing. And in the divorce process, it's exceptionally important because you get to see on one clear page where all of your assets and your debts are, how much they're worth.

And what ultimately happens is, as I was alluding to earlier, as you get to start to evaluate different settlement proposals, you get to see. So what we'll do is we'll do, you know, assuming you're a heterosexual couple, which is most people that listen to this, but not all, you will have a husband side and a wife side. On the husband side, there'll be a settlement proposal on the table. I don't know if you're the husband or the wife, depends on who's listening at the moment. But we'll put here's what's proposed for the husband on one side, here's what's proposed for the wife on the other side and we'll look.

I'm going to use some simple numbers for the sake of discussion of the balance sheet, but let's just say there's a total pot of $100 on assets. Well, if the husband is getting $80 in assets and the wife is getting $20 in assets, we might say, "That doesn't look so fair." But, actually, maybe it does. Because what if, you know, the ... But or maybe we'd say, "Actually, that is fair," and there could be a reason for that because the wife in this situation, even though she's getting $20 an asset, or an in assets, and the husband's getting 80, maybe the husband's unable to work and so he needs extra assets to live on, whereas the wife is going to have a bunch of income down the line. Or maybe this is the way that they structured a lump sum payment instead of paying ongoing support.

But, you can see that immediately when you have a balance sheet. It gives you an instant ability to understand, "All right. Here's my financial picture and here's what it's going to look like after the divorce, assuming we go through this proposal. Looking at this proposal, I think it's fair or I think it's not fair, and we need to make some adjustments or whatever." Then, after the divorce is over, you can keep updating your balance sheet every few months and you can say, "Hey, am I adding to my savings or subtracting from my savings? Are my investment accounts going up or are they going down? Is my house worth approximately what I thought it was?" You can keep refining these things to know how you're doing financially. That is the short, short introduction to the balance sheet.

So what I want to talk about in the next episode is some of the mechanics of the balance sheet, and really how do you make your own balance sheet. It's something that I do with all of you all of the time, but one of the questions is also always, you know, how do you do it yourself. I do have a handful of clients who've actually already prepared their balance sheet before I work with them, and I want to teach you the important stuff and the important elements of the balance sheet because it's going to be very useful for you going forward.

And you know, even if you don't do it yourself, you say, "Hey, Shawn. I want you to do my balance sheet," or, "Hey, other local certified divorce financial analyst. I want you to do my balance sheet," or if you find a financial advisor you like just in general that you want to work with after the divorce process over, say, "Hey, can you prepare a balance sheet for me?" even if you don't ultimately do it, you need to understand what's going on behind the scenes, or at least I would like you to understand what's going on behind the scenes so you understand why this is so important to me and why it's something that can be useful for you for literally the rest of your life. So, make sure you listen to the next episode coming out in a couple of weeks and stay tuned.

May 17, 2018
Visit us at for the #1 divorce resources in the United States and get personalized help. Learn about coaching services here.
Thank you for listening! Find a transcript of this episode below.
Depending upon your situation, you may be in a position where you don't have much credit. And what is credit? Credit is, at least in this country, it's a concept that ... it determines whether or not, or how trustworthy you are in terms of receiving a loan, and a loan could mean many things. A loan could be something like an actual credit card, a loan could be a mortgage, a loan could also be a promise saying that you're going to pay your rent. That's a form of a loan.
Credit in the United States is a very important concept, because it affects a lot of things in your day-to-day life, and oftentimes you may not realize it. Let's just start with a simple example of why credit's important. If you're trying to get a new home after divorce ... I know some people who are trying to get a new mortgage or are trying to rent a home after divorce ... well, one of the first things that anyone is going to do, unless you have all the cash upfront, and most people don't, one of the first things people are going to do is they're going to ask you for your credit score, and they're going to ask you how your credit profile looks, to see if they're willing to extend that mortgage to you or if they're willing to rent you that home or rent you that apartment. They're going to check your credit to do that.
Another situation is if you need a credit card. A credit card can be very useful. Even if you have the money to pay for things, a credit card can be helpful for your daily spending, and you pay it off each month. Or if you need to get a car loan. These are all things that depend upon your credit, and every person, if you have credit, is assigned a credit score, and they have a credit history that these different financial institutions or lenders will be looking at. But when it comes to the divorce situation, many of you might be in a position where you have very limited or no credit history, which creates a challenge.
The weirdest part about credit in this country is that it's a chicken and the egg problem, is that you need good credit to qualify for a lot of things like a home loan or qualify for a good credit card or qualify for rent, but to qualify for those things you have to build up your credit and your credit history and credit report. I know some of you, if you did everything in your spouse's name, might not have that detailed credit history, might not have had a credit card in your name, might not have had an auto loan, might not have had many of those things that, unfortunately, in this country are very important for your credit. And so when you're in the divorce situation, it is now your time to start setting up these important accounts, and that also even extends to setting up your own bank account. While it's not specifically a credit thing, it's just as essential and closely connected to these items.
And so in this episode I want to discuss a few ways that you can build your credit, and we're just going to start with some concrete action items. It takes time to build up your credit. I mean, it can take ... There are some steps you can be taking today regardless of where you are, but some of these items will take months and years to generate a satisfactory credit history. But when I think about all things in the long term, you're going to have to start doing it at some point, so why not start now?
One of the first things that you should do, outside of ... The first thing you should do clearly is to get your credit report. There are credit bureaus. You get a free credit report from them. It's becoming very common. Or you can go to websites like Credit Karma, but get your free credit report to see what accounts you may have, or if you have none, it'll tell you that as well. But that's a good starting point to figure out what your credit score is, what your financial picture looks like, at least from a credit perspective, and to start building your credit and improving your credit going forward.
One of the things that's kind of most frustrating about the credit system is that in order to have credit you have to take out loans. That's not the best thing in the world, but in order to build up your credit, that's basically what you need in some forms. Now, the debt can be short-term, might be just a month or so, and you might pay it off every month, but that's basically what's required for you to build your credit. So one of the first things, after you get your credit report ... I'm going to approach this from a perspective that you have no credit history at all, and I do have some clients that I work with on a regular basis that, even though they have assets and money, they don't necessarily have a detailed credit history.
And so we're going to pretend like you have none. If you already have a limited credit history or a great credit history, great. You can skip this episode or listen to some of the other specific things. But I'm going to assume you don't have anything for the purpose of this episode, and I'm going to try and help you get on your feet. And so one of the first things you can do to start building your credit, outside of getting your credit report, one thing you do is you get a secured credit card or a credit card at all. Now, most of the time, if you don't have a credit history, you're not going to be able to get the American Express Platinum Card or the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, which are some of the better credit cards on the market today, depending upon what your needs are.
You might not be able to get that immediately, but you can get something called a secured credit card. Basically, it means you give them some cash upfront, and they hold that cash onto you, and they give you a credit line equal to the amount of cash. So basically, if you were to give them $1,000, you pay them, basically, $1,000, and they say, "All right, well, here's your great credit card. You can spend up to $1,000." Now, you're supposed to pay it off with other funds, but you can spend $1,000, and if for whatever reason you don't pay it off, they're just going to take that $1,000 from you and go from there.
Now, the thing about a secured credit card is, it's a great starting point for building your credit. Now, it's not a traditional credit card. A traditional credit card, you don't pay upfront. You don't give them money upfront and then pay them back later, but a secured card is nice, because it reports that you have credit. It's a good way to say that, "Hey, yeah, I've been making payments. I have this credit line outstanding, and I'm starting to build trust." So if you've never had a credit card before, you can look for a secured credit card.
Another thing you can try is look for store credit cards. So if you like shopping at an Amazon or a J.C. Penney or a Walmart or whatever else, they all have their own versions of credit cards. You might want to check those places and apply in there. They oftentimes have less stringent credit requirements. And then also, you can do a Google search for credit cards for people with limited or no credit history, and I guarantee you some credit cards will pop up.
Now, the downside to these types of credit cards is that, although they build your credit, they tend to have very, very high interest rates, in excess of 20%, meaning if you were to spend, using my example before, $1,000 and not pay off your credit card at the end of the month, they are going to charge you over the span of a year, they could charge you $250 in interest. That's 25%. So you have to be very careful with these secured credit cards and some of these credit cards if you have limited credit history, because they can be very expensive if you do not manage them wisely.
The next thing you can do is you can think about becoming an authorized user on a credit card. So if you have someone who you trust, maybe a sibling, that would allow you to be an authorized user on a credit card or something like that, or a cosigner with you ... Authorized user and cosigner are two very different terms. Authorized user just means that you get to use someone else's credit for a credit card, but the person whose primary name is on the account is the person who is responsible for that card. A cosigner is a little bit different, in the sense that both people are equally liable for what happens on that card or on that loan. But in any case, you can try and become an authorized user on a card, or better yet, become a cosigner. Both require the person who is providing their name to really trust you, but it is a good way to start building your credit history, and you can get joint credit cards in those names to start building your credit.
Maybe you can try an auto loan. Another way to build credit is if you need a new car ... "new" doesn't mean necessarily the latest edition car, but if you need a different vehicle, you can try getting an auto loan. An auto loan, while it might not be the top tier auto loan, might be more expensive than traditional auto loans, if you're paying your auto loan on time ... Maybe you have to pay a bigger deposit upfront, which might happen, but they may allow you to get a loan, and as long as you keep paying that loan on time ... I forgot to mention this earlier, is what happens with all of these credit accounts, whether it's a credit card, a mortgage, an auto loan, all of these accounts get reported to the credit agencies. There's three big ones. If you just look up credit bureaus online, it's a subject for another time. I also have some other episodes in the archives about this subject.
But it gets reported and says, "Hey, John Doe or Jane Smith has this credit line," and each month they'll say, "Oh, he or she's been paying it on time," or "not been paying it on time. Here's their average balance, and here's the credit score we're going to calculate for them." An auto loan could be a way to start building your credit, and so long as you're paying the loan on time, then there are many car dealerships that are used to working with people with very limited or bad credit, and they can find creative ways to make sure that you get into a car. And so long as you keep making your payments, then you can start building your credit, and the more you build your credit, the more you will be eligible for other things down the line.
A cell phone plan. Getting a cell phone in your name is also a form of credit. Oftentimes, the cell phone companies will report your credit numbers, and that can be very valuable to you. You just make your cell phone payments each month, and they will report that information to the bureau. Here's an example of how credit is used all the time in the cell phone world, is most people don't actually go to the store and spend somewhere between 500 and $1,000 on that cell phone and then walk out of the store. Most of the time, people are spending ... they might have a plan where they pay $25 a month until that phone is paid off.
Well, that $25 a month is a form of credit, and that's how a lot of people can keep up with the latest generation phones, because they're not spending $1,000 in the store. They're spending the $25 a month for however many years until they've paid off that phone or until they trade it in for the next model. That's a form of credit.
Another thing you can check is look for a personal loan, get a small loan amount. There's lots of peer-to-peer or personal loans companies available for people to start building their credit. Now, the big downside to a personal loan is that oftentimes the interest rates can be super-high, particularly if you don't have credit, but it is a way to start that process.
Now, when you go through all these ways to build your credit, you gotta be careful. You don't want to have a bunch of debt outstanding, but you do need a little bit of credit to be able to get more credit and be able to live your life and function normally as you would often like to, or maybe as you were before, except now things are in your name. And so one of the things you gotta be really careful is make sure you don't borrow more than you can, and don't leave outstanding balances. So if you have a credit card that gives you $1,000 of spending, well, make sure that at the end of the month you actually pay that $1,000 back. Don't keep that $1,000 outstanding and start paying that really high interest rate I mentioned before.
Don't miss payments. You know, if you have a payment due on the 23rd of the month, make a calendar notification that it's due on the 23rd, or better yet, set up auto billing, so that automatically those payments get taken out. Even I had to set up auto billing, because I have different accounts and things like that, and then you'll go three days and start getting a bunch of phone calls, and you're like, "Why is Chase calling me?" It's like, "Oh, well I forgot to make my payment on time, just because I was busy, nothing else." And so I switched to auto payments, so automatically they just pay the balance each month, and I don't have to think about it.
And also, don't spend too much. You know, just because you have the credit doesn't mean that you have to use it. So if someone gives you a credit line for $1,000, you don't have to spend $1,000 each month. You might just spend $100 of that 1,000 on groceries, and then pay it off at the end of the month, and that is just as good for you as you build your credit.
These are some things for you to think about, particularly if you have limited credit in divorce, and you're trying to get back on your feet. The sooner you start these things, the better. You don't have to wait until after the divorce is over. You should start these things today, and start building your credit, building your profile, and start getting to a position where ... This is one of those things that's a long-term process. Your credit's going to be with you for the next decades, and so the sooner you start with this process, the better off you'll be, because it's a slow process.
And so even if you have a lot of other things that you're trying to figure out, spend some time. I have applied, I've helped people apply for credit cards, where we get on the phone together or we go on the computer together, and we teach you. We go through what you need to put in for the different line items so you get approved for a credit card, to make sure that you start getting your credit. Or we'll compare credit card offers together, so that you start making the right decisions and start getting yourself in good financial shape, both during the divorce process and as you go on with the rest of your life.
May 2, 2018
Visit us at for the #1 divorce resources in the USA and get personalized help. Learn about coaching services here.
Thank you for listening! Find a transcript of this episode below.
In this episode I'm going to discuss an important topic that I don't hear discussed very often. We're covering what jobs can you get when you have limited experience in the workforce. The reason I bring this topic up is because I have had a lot of discussion about this subject on coaching calls for the last few months and I think that it would be very helpful to talk about some of these things in the podcast.
This topic, excuse, me is much more important than many people think and for two particular reasons. Reason number one, if you are facing divorce and you might not have worked during the marriage, maybe you were taking care of the kids or doing other things, one of the big questions is what jobs can I find after divorce that might pay me a decent income so I can get on with my life. I want to give you some ideas in this episode of some jobs that actually pay pretty well. Now, you might not be making six figures on day one but you can make a decent salary.
Now, the other reason, reason number two that this is an important topic has to do with all of you on the other side of the equation, which is if you are going to be the person paying support particularly spousal support or alimony, one of the very important things you should be thinking about and trying to negotiate is what jobs your soon to be ex-spouse could obtain.
What's important about this because if your spouse, your spouse may not have worked during the duration of your marriage. Might be five years, might be 20 years or more or anywhere in between. If your spouse didn't work that's very understandable for a number of reasons. If your spouse has skills or has the capability of getting a job, even if that job only makes $20,000 or if it makes $50,000 or makes $100,000 or more. Well that money you can oftentimes subtract from the spousal support burden that you would have to be paying that spouse.
So, let me crystallize it for you very simply to make sure that that point is clear. Let's just say I'm going to keep the numbers very simple, but these might be higher for some people or lower depending upon who's listening. Let's say that you have to pay $50,000 a year in spousal support to your soon to be ex-spouse. Well, if you know that they can make $20,000 in income, be it as a teacher or an assistant or any number of jobs I'm going to talk about in a bit, well you can request and negotiate that instead of paying $50,000 a year in spousal support, you only pay $30,000 a year. That can be a substantial substantial savings to you.
I want to stay on this point for a bit before I get more into the jobs. Even though many people listening might not have an extensive work resume, if you are or if your spouse is of solid physical and mental functioning, there are a lot of job opportunities out there when you put your effort in. One of the frustrations that I hear from a lot of people is that they'll say or particularly people about to pay support is they'll say one of two things. Either they'll say that my spouse didn't work and so I have to pay them more. That's partially true. They'll also say my spouse doesn't want to work.
Well, if your spouse doesn't want to work and you're going to have to pay them support, you know, most people don't want to work. We would all like to have a permanent vacation or hang out with our friends or just raise our kids exclusively. Unfortunately in divorce situation you may have to or that person may have to realize that they now need to work.
One of the things is that there are often jobs available for them. Another thing to think about is that there are people called vocational experts and if you go to episode 164 of the Divorce in Your Money podcast I discuss that in depth as well and that can be a great source for you. If you're looking for a job you can go speak to a vocational expert but also if you have a spouse who's capable of working but maybe has some skills and could find a job, well, you can present to the court or to, as part of the negotiations, you can present how much income they could be making given their experiences. That could directly subtract from the support that you may be thinking about paying.
Now, I could talk about this topic for a long time and I am going to get into it quite a bit on this episode but I could stay on this point about vocational experts and jobs. It even surprises me the range of scenarios I see every day as I get to work with you in terms of who wants to find a job, who doesn't. I have some clients who have never worked before who are very ambitious about taking control of this process. I also have clients who were the earners and their spouses were trying to figure out well what kind of job could their spouse who might not have ever worked before, what kind of job could they get and how much could that be and does it make sense given their situation.
Anyways, what kind of jobs are we talking about? The point of this is to discuss jobs that don't require a lot of experience. I know that oftentimes one person may have just graduated high school and that was it. Then they raised the kids, took care of the family and that's the extent of their work experience is just a high school diploma. Others may have graduated college, maybe worked a couple years, anywhere in between, or were on the path with a successful career but chose to stay at home with the family. This applies believe it or not with both men and women.
I deal with a ton of women who were the earners in the family and the father stayed at home. They're the ones without the extensive job experience. So it applies to most families that I see and get to work with. I'll just say many families that I get to work with and people I get to work with during this process.
The question as I said what are the low paying, what are the limited experience jobs that pay a decent salary? I'm going to go through some job ideas and these jobs I know can pay you between 25 to 75 thousand dollars a year even if you don't have any experience. This means day one you're starting with a decent salary. There's plenty of articles online about some of these things as well. So you should look for high paying jobs or take some job quizzes if you don't know which one of these is going to fit for you. There's tons that I'm not even going to get into or get into with any depth that have a lot of opportunity within them.
So, let's jump in. I'm going to just jump into different ideas. I want to provide some ideas and some thoughts on different careers that you may need to think about or keep in the back your head because the job requirements are you show up and do the job, you don't have to have specialized degrees in many cases. The first category is assistant. Assistant, I'm going to break down to several subcategories because assistants can apply to a variety of fields. You can work as a public relations assistant. You can work as a legal assistant in a law firm. You can work as a medical assistant. You can work at any kind of administrative assistant if you have that type of skill sets.
Actually, when you think about an administrative assistant in the more general category of assistant, a lot of those jobs are work from home. A lot of those are part time and that's actually what I use. I have work from home and part time assistants and that works very, very well. They get to work flexible hours and I don't always have a full time staff person because I don't always need a full time staff person or at least in terms of the assistant categories. So it works for all of us very well. So, that's a great job to think about that almost anyone can do.
Real estate agent. Now real estate agent requires a license in every state but usually obtaining the license is not overly burdensome. There are depending upon where you live in the country, it can be in exceptional opportunity. One thing about real estate agents is if you have a good network, you can generate commissions on sales and that can provide a very substantial income boost for you.
Another area speaking of commissions and sales is salesperson. Now salesperson can apply to literally any industry that exists. Every business has sales. You can do it for any type of company. It can be a local business, it can be a national company, it can be anywhere. If you have the ability to sell a product from Tupperware to cyber security software to cars to houses to furniture to absolutely anything, you will have have the ability to have a sales job.
In fact, I am going to toss this out there for the listeners, if you are an excellent salesperson, I have a job for you. There is always opportunity in the sales world. Now, you have to be able to do it, it's not a free job offer but if you are good at sales I always, always and will for the rest of my life have a job opportunities for great sales people. So if you have that personality, that network, that hustle, that ability to generate a sale, there is always a place for you. Those careers can be very, very lucrative.
I have friends who sell everything from water bottles very well and make thousands, tens of thousands and some hundreds of thousand dollars on small products like that. I also have friends who sell multi-billion dollar contracts to governments for military equipment. At the end of the day, we're all just salespeople with different products. All right, I love sales so you can see I spent a lot of time on that one.
Project manager, very important role. It's sort of a step above if I would say administrative assistant so you might be able to command a higher salary. But also a great part time work at home job or a good in person job if you are someone who is organized and can stay on top of multiple projects. Particularly, if anyone is good at raising kids and if you have multiple kids, these days that is identical in many ways to the project manager role. So you might have that skill set and not even realize it already so that could be a great job for you.
Teacher. Teacher is a job that also oftentimes require some sort of certificate or training, but also like a real estate agent is not too burdensome. So teacher can be a great job. Now teaching doesn't pay super high most places on the pay scale. That said, it is a very good job that many people can consider pursuing if you like that. One thing I'm going to toss out, this is just neither here nor there at least in terms of the specific episode, but if you're thinking about the teaching route there is also lots of opportunities in the special needs world which is something that I like to think about a lot. It's not always the classroom, there's lots of great ways you can help in the teaching world if you do your research and figure out where there is a need because there's often a lot of students that are neglected out there that you could certainly make a big impact in someone's life.
The next category. City, state and government jobs. Now, this is a super, super, super, super broad category and it really depends upon where you live. There are tons of government opportunities. It could be in your local city government, it could be for a specific department like the water department or could be in the municipal building or could be at the library. Could be something like that. There could be state jobs that are available. Of course if you have a federal government branch for whatever department, I'm recording this near tax time, so for whatever reason the IRS is on the top of my head.
If you want to work at the IRS good on you but there are many different government jobs. The Federal Reserve Board is also just a few blocks away from me. That is just a government job, a very cool government job but a government job. And so if you have an inclination or if you're looking for a job those jobs are great, they have excellent hours and great benefits and could be a place for you to work.
Then there's always retail and restaurants so you can work at any of the retail stores. There's retail everywhere. I know it's a struggling industry at the moment but there are still jobs available and they will always need help with good people and restaurants as well. I think we all know restaurant jobs.
Then there is this special category that I leave for last that is also near and dear to my heart and that is online work. Now this is an emerging category. It's a very important one. If you have any sort of technical skills or an interest in technical skills, an interest in the internet and the online world, 100% of you are listening to me online in part because I love online and the internet world and I think it's very fascinating. If you have an interest in that world there are jobs for you. You can learn.
There are tons of these coding schools that exist many of which are very good and you can go to class for three months and the tuition is substantial but not overly burdensome. It's in a few thousand to maybe 10 thousand dollars or maybe 15 thousand dollars. But, over those three months, they teach you all you need to know about coding in a particular area and most of the schools have partnerships with employers and you can get jobs in the 60 or 70 or even higher range after just a few months and a few weeks of learning coding skills.
So if you have any inclination in that world and you like computers and I actually have, I know some of you from working with you, particularly those who live out in California certainly are inclined or are tangentially involved in the world but that is also a great opportunity. That's location independent. I get to work with you all across the United States because of the internet and technology and knowing some of the basics that are involved. It is also a great way even if you have no experience, if you're willing to learn and it's something that may interest you, it is an exceptional opportunity out there and there are some great ways to make that work.
These were all just ideas. I hope you find them thought provoking, fascinating. They don't require any experience. Basically, you can take someone off the street, anyone, even if they've never worked before and train people to do these jobs. Depending upon where you live in which job you pick and what the opportunity is, you have the ability to make a very decent income after divorce. Or if it is your spouse that you're thinking about, you should be pushing for a, if your spouse has the mental and physical capacity and they're not full time taking care of the kids, you should consider putting this as part of your settlement or discussing that point saying that within six months that spouse is expected to have found a job or however you want to structure it, that's something that we structure in many different ways.
Could be a year, six months. Could be immediately but they're expected to find a job and to work and that can substantially decrease your support burden for many, many years to come and save you thousands or tens of thousands or if not hundreds of thousand of dollars in support over a lifetime if you think about these jobs and figure out a way to include these as part of the settlement. Then just for the other side of things, it's a good way to be independent and not be dependent upon your spouse's support check coming every month. Because when it doesn't arrive one month that can be an incredibly nerve racking experience.
Apr 25, 2018
Visit us at for the #1 divorce resources in the United States and get personalized help. Learn about coaching services here.
Thank you for listening! Find a transcript of this episode below.
In this episode, I'd like to discuss mediation. It's something like 95% of divorces, roughly, depending upon the statistic that you read, are settled out of court. Mediation is one of several ways you can settle divorce out of court.
Now, you can do what's called a do-it-yourself divorce, which means you and your spouse just work everything out yourself, you prepare the papers, submit them to the court, and you get divorced. You could have collaborative divorce, which is an option for you as well, which is a specific divorce process. You can look it up. There's episodes on it in the archives of this show as well. You can do what's just called a negotiated settlement, which is also common, which is where you and likely your attorneys will go back and forth and figure out and reach an agreement. Hopefully a reasonable on, and hopefully in not too much time, and you talk through with your attorneys, and you settle things.
And then there's mediation, which could be a part of many of the other options I already mentioned, but it is its own process, and it can help you stay out of court. Actually, in some states, depending upon where you live, they actually have court mandated mediation, meaning before you go in front of a judge or have the opportunity to go in front of a judge, the court mandates you go to mediation in advance.
But in this episode in particular, I want to discuss some of the downsides of mediation because, on the surface it, can sound like a great thing to do. I am a big believer in mediation when it works for you, but there are some things you have to be aware of and there are upsides and downsides to every part of the process. Actually, one of the things that I do a lot of thinking about when I get to work with you is are you thinking about things from your spouse's perspective as well? Not because I'm going to be defending or working with your spouse, but if you look at things from his or her perspective, you might be able to come up with a much better settlement that's better for all parties involved than if you only are coming from your self interests and not thinking about what might work for them or what their attorney might say.
The reason I want to bring this up in the context of mediation is that on the surface it sounds great. You might have had a friend who went through mediation and it perfectly resolved their divorce, or you may have heard about it or your attorney may have recommended it, or whatever the case may be, but I want to talk about some of the downsides to mediation. But before I get into those downsides, let's talk about what mediation is.
I want everyone on the same page and in mediation, now, there are some variations, but the idea is basically you and your spouse and a neutral third-party work things out in your divorce, any sticking issues or maybe all of the issues, to hope to help you get to a resolution. Now, when you go to mediation, there's a neutral third-party, as I said before. It could be a retired judge. It could be a professional mediator. Actually, one of the attorneys I work closely with, he shares an office with a professional mediator, and they have a conference room, and you can see them hashing out days of mediation.
So usually who's there, it's going to be you, your spouse, a mediator, and then both of your attorneys, most of the time, and this where we're going to start getting to some of the downsides, but we'll get there in a minute. One of the things that's very important as well is when you go to mediation, or the objective, I should say, is to come up with a resolution to your divorce. Therefore, you should be cognizant and prepared for your mediation the same way that you would prepare for a trial. Now, mediation is far less intense, at least in terms of, I won't say it's less intense emotionally because mediation can be very draining, very high stakes, and there's a lot going on, but it's less intense in the sense that there's a nonbinding process, typically, with most mediations. If it's not working, then you don't have to come into an agreement.
Where there's enormous stress involved in the court processes, you have a random judge who cares very little about you in most cases. Nothing against the judges, but if you're sitting and you've been practicing law for decades and you hear every family law story and one attorney creates a crazy story for their client, and the other attorney creates a totally opposite story for the other client, it's hard to really come with an informed decision. You often also have very limited time in the court setting to work out whatever issues you want to think about. And so, when you go to court, the stakes are very high because those decisions are final. I guess you can appeal in some cases, but they come with a lot of pressure. Whereas mediation, you want to come as prepared as you might for a trial, but the pressure level is a little bit lower.
But anyways, I digress. I have a tendency to talk quite a bit. It is a podcast, I suppose. But I want to discuss the downsides of mediation. I want to discuss three things in particular that people don't always consider when it comes to mediation.
The first is that when one spouse is not participating in good faith. The second is that mediation can be very expensive, and the third is that, I already touched on this a little bit before, is that mediation doesn't replace a judge and mediation is nonbinding. So let's jump into each of those three points very quickly.
The first is that what happens if one spouse is not participating in good faith. This is actually one of my biggest frustrations with the divorce process. I think anyone who's dealing with it, the divorce process, a.k.a. everyone listening to this show, you know that a lot of things about it don't seem right. Most of you listening are just trying to get what's in your best interest and a fair settlement and move on, and make sure that you get enough to live a life, the best life you can after the process. But when you start going to mediation, oftentimes we're dealing with, I'll just call, an irrational spouse. The spouse that really is either distrustful of the mediation process or just has such unrealistic expectations that mediation is not going to be productive.
Unfortunately, I see it all the time. What happens is usually the person that I work with because I'd say almost everyone who books a coaching call with me understands what's going on. You might have substantial questions about particular issues, but you get the process. You're well-informed, and you get the general gist, but you have some questions or clarifications. You're facing a big decision and you want to know a second opinion or a third opinion, sometimes in my case, or just see if what's in your head or what you're hearing actually makes sense. Well, the challenge in mediation is when you go and you show up to mediation and you show up with your attorney, you're prepared, you know what you want, you're ready for the negotiation, but your spouse is so unrealistic and uncooperative or just doesn't get the whole process, you can end up in a position where, well, you don't get anywhere. Unfortunately, you end up in a spot where the day of mediation is completely wasted.
If you know that your spouse isn't going to work with you to try and resolve some of these issues, then you are not in a good spot. You need to really question is is it worth even showing up in the mediation or is it going to be a waste of everyone's time?           
Now, the second issue with mediation is that it is expensive. Mediation is not cheap at all. Here's why. When you go to mediation, you usually do it for a day or a half day of a session. Something like that. You book a mediator. So you're paying however much a mediator's hourly rates are. It could be a couple hundred dollars an hours. It could be several hundred dollars an hour for a mediator. And so, if you think about an 8-hour day, you could be spending a few thousands dollars on the mediator alone.             
Then you are bringing your attorney. You are now paying your attorney's hourly rates for a whole day. It's not like the 15-minute phone call. It's not like the couple hours to prepare a document. This could be a full day of your attorney's full rate in hourly fees. Not only your attorney, your spouse's attorney. And so, it's you, your spouse's attorney, your attorney, your spouse's attorney, so it's at least five people participating in the mediation process for a day.
Now, if mediation does not resolve itself in that day, and it often does not, you're going to be doing that times many days. I know people and many of you listening could end up spending at least three or five thousand dollars for a day of mediation, but could be many times that. If you have to have multiple mediation sessions, you can look at bills in the tens of thousands of dollars very quickly just from the mediation process. And now, what if you bring your accountant with you? Or what if you bring a business evaluation expert with you? What if you bring a vocational expert with you? What if you bring any number of potential experts with you during the process? Well, unfortunately, that only adds to the bill.
If you're not getting anywhere in the mediation process, and I see it happen, unfortunately, as I said, every day, where people go and they make no progress during mediation and end up spending thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars, in the process. Well, guess who wins? Not you, but your attorneys and that is the situation.
Mediation can be expensive, so you need to be aware of that going in and make sure that it really is going to be fruitful for you.
And then finally, the last thing I want to bring up is that mediation is non-binding. You're going to understand that all three of these points are closely connected because mediation doesn't lead to a final ruling. I tell people this all the time when you come for a coaching call. A lot of times, you come for a coaching call and either you're a few weeks out from mediation or it's about to happen tomorrow, whatever the case is, but I'll say like, "Look. You gotta understand that if you're in the mediation room and things are not going your way and you're going towards the approach of a wholly unacceptable settlement, mediation is, generally speaking, non-binding. So if it doesn't look like things are going to go your way, or at least in a reasonable direction that you can live with, you don't have to be forced to sign that agreement in the moment with all the emotions flowing and the adrenaline and everything else going on.”
When it comes to the mediation being non-binding, that has the potential opposite effect as well for your spouse, which means that if you're coming to an agreement or you think you're going in a good direction, and all of a sudden, your spouse just says, "Screw it. I'm not that interested in this deal. I don't like it." Well, guess what? You don't come to a deal and that time has been, I don't want to say wasted because it's not always wasted, but kind of. You're not getting that money back.
That's a part of the process that you really have to understand. It's different. There is something called binding arbitration, which is used oftentimes in commercial disputes, commercial cases, but a little less common in family law. I don't see it too often. That and those cases, whatever the mediator, or in this case they call it the arbitrator decides, is final, but in a divorce situation, that's not the case. You should just be informed. That's the goal of this podcast always is to make sure that you understand all sides of the issues so that you can make the best decision for you.
The three downsides to mediation, again, I'm just going to sum them up real fast before departing. The first is that one spouse may not be participating in good faith. Second is that it can be expensive and third is that mediation is non-binding and it's not like going in front of a judge where a judge's ruling is final. It is a non-binding process and that comes with its own set of downsides.
Apr 18, 2018
Visit us at for the #1 divorce resources in the USA and get personalized help. Learn about coaching services here.
Thank you for listening! Find a transcript of this episode below.
I'm going to start off this episode with quote from Yogi Berra, or at least it's attributed to Yogi Berra, and he said, "You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there." The reason I read that quote is because one of the first questions as soon as a divorce process either hits you in some cases, or if you're planning for it, or maybe if you're in the midst of it already, one of the first questions or one of the main questions you should always keep in mind is, what do you want? What do you really want during the divorce process and after it's over?
If we have a coaching call together, it's actually one of the questions I usually ask people on calls, and it's really just to try and figure out, well, do you know what you want out of life? The divorce process is going to be over. So are you making decisions during the divorce process that will help you for the rest of your life? Also, what do you want out of the divorce process itself? So one of the things you should be doing, regardless of if you're about to sign the settlement papers or you haven't filed for divorce yet but you know it's coming, or you're in the middle of divorce, doesn't matter, one of the most important things that you can do as part of this process is really set your goals. When I say set goals, I want to put them into two contexts.
Goal number one, or set of goals number one, and I like to make goals pretty simple, so I usually just do three things, I do these myself, I'm not going through divorce, but I do them for other things, like as I think about what I want for the podcast, for instance, I have goals for the Divorce and Your Money Show and how many people I can help. But you set three goals. You put your top three priorities or goals on a sheet of paper and you say, "Hey, priority number one ..." And these are my goals, or your goals in this case, for life. So as you think about, "Well, what do I want in life?”
If you are going through the divorce process, most of the people I talk to, let's just say you're 60 years old for sake of discussion, and in good health, statistically you've got another 20 to 30 years of life ahead of you, maybe longer. So you have a whole ton of life to think about. What do you want out of those 20 to 30 years? Or if you are one of my younger clients and you're 30 years old, well, you might have 50 to 60 years. The divorce process is only going to last hopefully a few months or maybe a year or two, but then you're going to have decades of life to think about.
As you sit down right now, what are the three things that really matter most to you? Could be something having to do with a fulfilling job or financial security, or something for your kids, or being able to travel, or whatever your life goals are, write those three things down and figure out what kind of future you really want. This is independent of the divorce. You assume the divorce is over and you're just living your life. What does that look like to you? I put those on a piece of paper and I review ... You should be reviewing those goals at least, I think, every day, and I'm going to tell you why in just a bit.
The second thing, the second set of goals that you should be putting down is, what are the goals for your divorce? Now, I get to speak with you every day on a coaching call, and I hear a range of thoughts about the divorce process and what you want out of it. Sometimes people will call and they'll say, "I want every asset ever and that's what we're going to do." Other times people say, "Well, I just want this to be over. He or she, my spouse can have everything. I just want this to be over with." Then there's everything in between, where some people say, "Well, I understand, even though of course I want everything, I understand how this process is going to go and I want something that's a fair and reasonable settlement, all things considered.”
Well, whatever your situation is, you need to sit down and think, "Well, here are my three divorce goals." Some of the divorce goals might be involving custody arrangements or support arrangements, or debt, or what kind of assets you have afterwards and after the process is over. One of the things is, is you want to write these down. I say top three because three is easy to do. You do your top three goals from your divorce. You can do 10 if you want. But I like top three because it really forces you to select your priorities.
 So here's what happens after you have those three goals. So you're going to have two sets of goals, one set of life goals and one set of divorce goals. What you should be thinking about during the divorce process is, how do I make decisions today that get me closer to those goals? Now, everyone that you work with as part of the divorce process should have a good sense of your goals, because if your attorney knows what your life goals are and what your divorce goals are, he or she can structure a divorce settlement that helps you get closer to those goals. If you tell me your goals, and you don't have to tell me, most of the time I'll ask you, particularly if we're working on a more in-depth case or situation. Sometimes people call with a very specific question and we go through the specific question. But if we work on a longer term basis, I'll ask, "What do you really want? And how do we get you closer to those things? And how do we come up with a strategy and daily steps to move you closer to those goals?”
So one of the things that you need to be doing is sharing those goals with everyone that you're working with. And another thing that's important about your life goals and your divorce goals, particularly the divorce goals when it comes to sharing them, is, sometimes we'll say, "That's not realistic." Either realistic or not realistic, or a bad idea. So sometimes someone will come and they'll say, "I want every asset. I don't want my spouse to have anything after the divorce." I'll say, "You know, I understand that's a goal of yours, but that's not realistic, because if your spouse has a semi-competent attorney or if you go in front of a judge, no one's going to let that happen except in the most extreme of scenarios. So you need to adjust your goals.”
Conversely, sometimes someone will say, "You know what, just give my spouse everything, I'm just going to start fresh, and I just want this over next month and we're going to move on." I'll say, "Hey, you could do that if you want, but that's not a good idea, and here's why." Ultimately the goals are up to you, and you might want to adjust your goals a little bit. So the point is, is one of the reasons you write these down, you share these goals, is so that everyone's on the same page working for you.
Now you have your two sets of goals, and you start figuring out what you really want. What happens is, if people know what you want, people like me or like your attorney, or just you yourself having clarity as to what you want out of the divorce process, you can start taking actions and creating step by step actions to achieve those wishes, those wants, those goals, that direction that you want. So whenever an issue comes up, particularly as part of the divorce process, you're going to faced with some major issues about assets, about kids, about life, and these are substantial questions. Well, when you have your goals, when you know what you want, you will have a north star to help guide you. Basically, when you're facing a particular issue as part of the divorce process, you can say, "Well, does this fit into my life goals? Does this fit into my divorce goals?" If it doesn't, then you need to make ad adjustment or take a different action. Or if it does fit in the goal, you can say, "Yeah, you know what, this is what I was aiming for.”
But if you don't have your goals and you don't keep those high level things in mind, you could end up running down a path that you never intended to take. Or, as I started with the Yogi Berra quote, "You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you are going, because you might not get there.”
The other thing I want to leave you with as you think about setting goals and deciding what you really want out of both life and out of the divorce process, you need to have some flexibility. So one of the most important things and one of the most fun parts of my job, and yes, I do have a lot of fun, I get to help people with very hard questions, I know that you're in a difficult situation, but everyone I work with is a good person who finds himself in a tough spot, so one of the questions or one of the things you have to keep in mind is, there isn't a fixed path to your goals and sometimes you need to have, or all the time you might need to have some flexibility regarding them.
So I'll give you a very concrete example. I'm going to keep it generic but concrete. Let's just say you want to have enough support, enough spouse's support to live comfortably for the next 12 months while you get yourself on your feet and find a job. Just using that as an example. Well, you might be thinking in your head, "Well, I need $3000 a month in support to achieve that goal." Well, that may be true, that might be one way to achieve your goal. But what if there is another way? What if that other way was, you got a lump sum payment for $34000, which is a little bit less than the monthly amount, but you have it all upfront, and you have the money to live on and you've achieved the same goal of that financial security for a year, but it came in a different form?
Or what if you ended up with a house that's fully paid for or close to it and therefore your living expenses are lower than you anticipated because you don't have to go find a new place, and instead of $3000 a month you only need $1500 a month? It's about flexibility. In all three examples you've gotten to your goal of being able to live comfortably for the next year, but there were different paths to get there.
So when you think about your goals, and as I said, that's a very micro example, but for any goal, whatever it may be, you have to realize that there are different ways to achieve what you were looking to achieve. So having flexibility is very important when you think about your goals, because they don't always happen the way that you originally had in mind. But just because they didn't happen exactly the way that you thought they were going to happen, doesn't mean they're not going to happen. It just means that you need to be open to alternative solutions and alternative ways to getting what you want to get to and have out of life and out of your divorce.
So as you think about the divorce process, really sit and start by asking yourself, wherever you are, what do you want? Are the decisions you're making right now setting you up to get to that point that you want later down the line? If you keep that question in mind, and I actually, believe it or not, I have a daily email that comes to me every morning, it comes at like 3:00 AM, so by the time I get to my desk, whatever time I get to my desk, I usually get up pretty early, but I have a daily email that says, "Here are my goals." And I get to look at those every morning and then I look at my schedule and what I plan on doing today, and I say, "Hey, does this take me one step closer to my goals?" If it does, then great. If it doesn't, then I'm working on the wrong thing. So I keep those in mind for myself.
It is something that you should be doing as well, to make sure you stay on the right path and make sure that you are getting what you want out of this process.
Mar 27, 2018
Visit us at for the #1 divorce resources in the USA and get personalized help. Learn about coaching services here.
Thank you for listening! Find a transcript of this episode below.
In the previous episode, we were setting a stage for understanding your fixed monthly expenses. If you didn't hear the previous episode, go back and listen to that one first before you continue on with this one. What we were discussing is you need to know your fixed monthly expenses as accurately as you can in order to really plan for not only to negotiate a settlement that's truly workable for you, but also so that you understand what your post-divorce life will look like from a financial perspective. Because, you're going to have to know what that is, and you don't want to be surprised by the results.
Really. One of the things you should be thinking about is if the result that you see today, given your current life style, doesn't look like it's going to be feasible going forward. You can start planning those things, and the changes you're going to need to be making now, and start thinking about what kind of changes you need to make today so that when your divorce is over, you can live on what's a realistic and feasible budget going forward.
Now, one of the things to think about is some of these things do require planning. If you're thinking about selling the house, that could take you six or eight months, or longer, depending upon where you are from the time you decide you want to sell it to it actually being closed upon, and you having funds from the house, and if that's going to help you reduce your monthly expenses, and that's something that's feasible given your situation. You need to start thinking about those today rather than waiting until six or eight months from now and try and rush and scramble.
 What I wanted to do in this episode, though, was really discuss an example of how your, a few examples of how understanding your monthly expenses can be useful to you.
Let's say you do a calculation. I'm going to try and use simple math, because I know it's really hard when you're on the treadmill, driving in the car, or doing walking around, which is where I listen to podcasts all the time, or cooking, or doing any number of things at the moment to keep up with math, in particular. But, it's very important to illustrate some points, and for better or for worse, if you are getting divorced, then maybe you haven't been involved in the finances. You're going to have to know these numbers going forward, because you can't, like the old ostrich, you can't just stick your head in the sand and pretend like the lions are going to go away.
These numbers, although they're not lions, they are expenses, they're here, and you need to know what they are, and you just need to be prepared for them.
Here is what's important. Let's just say, for instance, that you have $10,000 a month in expenses, which is $120,000 a year. Easy numbers to work with, $10,000 a month times 12 months is $100,000. Let's say you're going to be the person receiving spousal support.
I'm going to say, in this case, you were a stay at home parent, and the laws in your state, and what you're negotiating, or whatever else, you can expect $6,000 a month in support, or $72,000 a year.
Remember, you have $10,000 a month in expenses, and you're going to receive $6,000 a month in support. What does that mean? It means that you have to make up $4,000 in income to keep the bills from racking up, and racking up debt.
What does that mean? It means that you need a job that pays you at least $4,000 a month in this scenario. Or, to put it a different way, is at least $48,000 a year in income from your job in order to stay current, in order to cover your monthly [inaudible 00:04:40], your monthly expenses. You're getting $6,000 in support, you have $10,000 of expenses, you need $4,000 a month in a job.
Of course, I'm oversimplifying things like taxes, and variable expenses, but that's the point, is, you're going to need to know that you're going to have to either go back to school, or hopefully you maybe already have a skill, or whatever else, but in order for you to keep from living off of your savings, or to keep from racking up debt, you need to know today that in this example, you're going to have to make $48,000 a year in your own income after this divorce process is over, so you need to get to it.
Now, let's play with this simple calculation again when it comes to expenses. Now, let's say you know that right now you have $10,000 of expenses, $10,000 a month in fixed expenses. What if you look down and you went through the worksheets, and you made a list of all your expenses, and gathered up your numbers and you know that it's $10,000 in expenses now, but you look at some of the things, you look at a few of the items, and you say "I think I can cut some of these expenses. Some of the small ones I can cut out, some of the bigger ones I can cut out."
Maybe, because this is the most common, what I'm going to use as an example, but you're thinking to yourself "You know what? I think we can cut this house expense, we don't need this big house anymore, because it's just going to be me, or me and one of the kids, or the kids have grown." Whatever else, it doesn't matter.
You know, you're thinking that "I don't need this big house anymore, and I can downside, and move to a smaller place, and save some money." After you look at your budget, and you look at your expenses, instead of $10,000 a month, you're now at $7,000 a month, or at least you think you can go to $7,000 a month in expenses.
Now, $7,000 a month, remember the first exam- ... we're starting at $10,000, but you say "You know, I can make some life style changes, leave those broad, and then get down to $7,000 a month." $7,000 a month is $84,000 per year in fixed expenses.
Now, $84,000 a year in fixed expenses, all right, still heavy, but a lot better than $120,000 a year in the previous example. You have $7,000 a month in expenses, instead of $10,000 a month. We said, in the previous example, you were getting $6,000 a month in support.
Guess what? Since you've reduced your expenses, all you need to make now is an extra $1,000 a month in income to cover your expenses. Instead of needing a job that pays $48,000 a year, which is probably a full-time job. You only need to make $12,000 a year in order to keep from living off of your savings, or rack up any debt.
$12,000 a year is not a very high burden for most people. You can probably find a job, part-time, or even some of the stay-at-home jobs that will easily pay you that extra $1,000 a month. You could even drive for Uber these days and make $1,000 a month extra.
The point is this, is simply by reducing those monthly expenses, those fixed monthly expenses, you went from needing to make $48,000 a year, to $12,000 a year just on that $3,000 a month difference. That's a huge thing to think about.
Now, your numbers are going to vary, this was an oversimplified example. But, the point is the same, is that if you can cut your monthly expenses, particularly after divorce, whatever your situation is, you can put yourself financially in a much better place, and have a lot more breathing room than you would have otherwise.
 If you ever wanted the complaints, I get complaints about attorneys sometimes, because they don't always have the best bedside manner. But, sometimes, attorneys will say to you, as the client, they'll say "Yeah, yeah, you just got to sell your house, and move on." They might say it like that, but they're really just doing the same calculation we just did.
They could've said it better to you, because you have so many things going on, but really, they're saying "Look, if you can cut your expenses down quite a bit, I know the support laws in the state" or "I know what your income is, and what you're likely going to have after this divorce process is over, if you cut and sell the house, you might be able to make some substantial life style, I wouldn't say life style improvements, but you will not be in a position where you're always trying to catch up each month, and just treading water for the future."
Now, the other thing I wanted to mention related to this is, when you think about your monthly expenses, I know we talked about big monthly expenses, but we can also consider some smaller monthly expenses.
One thing that people think about, and often forget, is that there is no monthly expense that's too small to reduce. What do I mean by that? I mean, you need to think about, of course, the big expenses, but also, even the tiny ones. Let's just say, because I may have been watching Netflix earlier, let's just say you have a $10-a-month Netflix subscription.
Most people don't really notice the $10 a month, it's such a small amount for most people, and just occurs once a month, and you kind of say "Hey, I don't really need that," I mean, you don't really ever cancel Netflix, not a lot of people cancel, because it's such a small amount in a given month.
But, something to think about that most people, and this is how I think about monthly expenses, $10 a month, times 12 months, is $120 a year. $120 a year times five years is $600 over five years. The question you have to ask yourself is is Netflix worth $600 to you? Or would you rather use that $600 for other things? That's just from a $10 a month subscription.
What if it's something bigger than that? The point is that monthly expenses, no matter how small, they really add up, because they occur every month until they disappear.
A simple one, also applies for my life today, is I am, if you were to see me in person, I like to go to the gym, and I eat a lot of food. I also live about 40 feet from am Original House of Pancakes. One of my favorite meals is four eggs, six pieces of bacon, some toast, some jam, some butter, some coffee, and I eat that meal multiple times a week.
But, I made a change in my life, because I was like "Look, I got adjust my monthly expenses." I'm always trying to think about ways to make my life more efficient as well. I said "You know what, instead of going over to The Original House of Pancakes, sitting down, spending $12 on my favorite meal, what if I spent 10 minutes, and it literally only takes 10 minutes, to make that same meal myself?" I get eggs, and scramble them, and put toast in the oven, and everything else. Then, in 10 minutes times several times a week, I spend $4 on ingredients, $4, instead of the $12+ I was paying several times a week at The Original Pancake House, and I like my cooking even better than theirs.
Just that little change, saving $8 three times a week, we're going to call that $24, that adds up to quite a bit. All for less than 10 minutes of my time to put together, times years, that's a lot of money.
Another example of cooking at home, just in terms of expenses and things to think about is salads. I like to eat lots of salads. I was paying $11 at the salad place near me, I went to the grocery store, I bought a big container of salad greens, and some fruit, and some olive oil, and vinegar, and a couple other toppings. Now, in the span of about 70 seconds, and instead of $11, for $2 of ingredients I can create a healthy fresh salad that was just as good as the $11 I was paying before.
You multiply that, let's just say I save $5 a day on average on food, that's $35 a week, that's $140 a month, which is $1600 a year just on a $5 a day food change that I made in my life, which is also helping me be healthier, and other things.
But, I, like you, want you to be very cognizant of all of your monthly expenses, big and small. Because, when you're in divorce situation, you're really going to need to understand your finances, and understand where the money goes. Are you spending efficiently? You're going to probably have to make some adjustments, and now is a good time to really dig down, and see what's essential to your life, and what you don't need anymore.
I know people who've gotten rid of babysitters, or things like that, that weren't huge burdens, but they ended up just being happier doing things themselves, or not having someone in their life. All of this, this time of your life is an opportunity to not only understand your finances a lot better than before, but there's no better excuse than "I'm getting divorce" to make a change in your life.
You don't have to make every change at once, but you should be thinking about ideas, and what the major changes are in your expenses that you can make today, because it'll make your future life much easier, much less of a burden when you're worrying about keeping up with next month's bills, or your bank account is low on money, or you're just withdrawing from your savings, and it's like you're continually losing money each month.
If you can cut those expenses down, that'll put you in a much, much better place than you would've been before. You will be on a much more solid financial footing for the future.
Mar 20, 2018
Visit us at for the #1 divorce resources in the USA and get personalized help. Learn about coaching services here.
Thank you for listening! Find a transcript of this episode below.
I was meeting with a client in person recently and we had a long discussion about whether or not they should keep the house or sell it as part of the divorce process. One of the things that, although in theory they could afford the house and keep it for a few years as the kids grow up and they want to keep some kind of consistency, that might not have been the right line of thinking for this person and ultimately the more we talked about it, the more we discussed how the house could become a burden. It's something that could actually cause, keeping the house, could cause more harm than good. But we're not going to talk about the house specifically today, that'll come up a lot in this episode. I want to speak more broadly about how you should you think about your expenses, and your post-divorce expenses, and understanding your post-divorce picture, even before you start the divorce process or if you're in the middle and going through it.
One of the things to keep in mind is that once you get divorced, actually, almost all financial advice, you can read every book in your local library, every book on Amazon, every book in Barnes & Noble, which is one of the few book stores that still has physical shops, and if you read every personal finance book all the advice boils down to this: make more money than you spend. Very simply, your income needs to be higher than your expenses. If your expenses are higher than your income, that's bad, but if you are saving money every day, week, month, year, in the long run you'll never run out of money. If you are net spending money, you will increase in debt. It doesn't really matter what your total income is. If you make $50,000 a year, so long as you're only spending $49,000 a year or less, you'll be in pretty good shape for the rest of your life, I mean, your whole life, so long as that's your picture. If you make 50 million a year, yeah, 50 million dollars, if you spend 49 million dollars a year, you're good.
But guess what? I know people who, not a ton of people like this, but I do know people who make 50 million dollars a year, and they spend 55 million dollars a year. Guess what? They have tons of debt, and they can end up going bankrupt. I've seen it before. Conversely, if you make $75,000 a year, but you're spending $82,000 a year, that is not a good situation to be in. It doesn't really matter what those final dollar numbers and dollar amounts are, you have to be savvy and you need to spend less than you earn. That's the context for this.
 Why do I bring this up? Well, one of the most important things you need to understand when it comes to your post-divorce life ... Look, everyone listening to this podcast will no longer have to listen to me at some point, which is a great thing to think about. I'm always happy when I lose a listener, funnily enough, because your case is over, and you get to move on with the rest of your life. But as you're thinking about your settlement, or the divorce process, one of the things you need to do, and manage most efficiently, is cutting out and thinking about and understanding the fixed expenses. Wherever you can reduce them, you should reduce those fixed expenses.
One of the things that, or the way that people describe fixed expenses is oftentimes called your monthly nut. I don't know why it's called that, but that's what people call it. Basically, I won't say people call it, but I know a lot of people who call it your monthly nut. I think it's kind of a crude term, but basically just your fixed expenses, and what you need to make every month so that you're not losing money, or not spending from savings, or not racking up debt in one form or another. This is the amount of money you need to make to keep constant, to break even in a given month, where your income and your expenses are at least even.
When we talk about monthly nut, we're basically just talking about the expense side of the equation, because that's the important thing. The lower your monthly nut, the lower your monthly expenses, the more wiggle room you will have after divorce. More importantly, what that means is that it'll be easier to rebuild yourself financially after the divorce process is over. Almost no one ends up in a better financial position after divorce than they did before divorce. One of the ways to mitigate the impact of divorce, or to rebuild your life more quickly, is to have a low fixed monthly expense base.
The main question, of course, is what is a part of your fixed monthly expenses? Let's dig into a few items that we're talking about. If you haven't gotten it already, get my courses, go to, or you just go to, and I have some great courses in there. In the courses, there are some awesome checklists to help you stay organized. If you buy the courses too, I have some Excel templates I'd be happy to share with you as well, or some worksheets that I'd also be happy to share, that provide some of this information. If you go through the courses, you can follow along in depth, so you can work through your situation specifically.
Let's just take an example of your monthly nut. We started by discussing the house. Now, the house is going to come back in this part of the discussion, because it's one of the biggest variables in your monthly expenses. If you can reduce your monthly expenses in any capacity, then that's great. Specifically, when it comes to the house, the house is one of those expenses that, depending upon where you live, and of course that's a big variation depending upon what part of the country you live in, and actually even what neighborhoods matter in your city that you want to or need to be in, but some people I know can reduce their monthly housing expenses for 20 or 30 or 40 or even 50% a month in terms of what they're paying for the house. When you're dealing with a divorce situation, where you're going to be on your own and single finances in a bit, that's something that you can think about.
The reason that house expenses can add up is you have not only just the house itself, but you have things like a mortgage amount, electricity, property taxes, utilities, lawn care, and everything else that goes into maintaining a house. What you need to do is sit and write down all of those costs that you pay every month, every year, and even some of the ones that occur every several years, like a new boiler, repainting the house, and really figure out what are those on a monthly and an annual basis, because they add up. The real question you're going to need to be asking yourself is, will I be able to afford this when the divorce process is over?
Now, the house is just one of many monthly expenses. For all of you listening who are going to be paying spousal or child support, support payments are a fixed monthly expense. Now, you need to know what range of a fixed monthly expense can work in your situation. There's other fixed expenses, from what kind of car you drive, to what types of insurance you have and how big the coverage limits are, to utilities, to internet access, to things like that. These are all fixed expenses, to some sort of basic level of food that you need each month.
Now, there's also an opposite, which is called the variable expenses. These are the expenses that are ... They use a term discretionary, is one way that they describe it, but basically these are the expenses that you like, but you can live without. What goes into a variable expense? Well, something like entertainment, and eating out. I know some people who spend, particularly some of my New York friends, who spend many thousands a month on eating out. Now, it's part of being in New York City that people can spend thousands of dollars a month on eating out and that not being a weird thing, but it's something to think about, because when you don't really have a kitchen. But if you live in the middle of the country, or in a suburb, maybe you just go out once a week, but if you're going out four times a week for dinner, you might need to think about how you can cut that back a little bit.
The point is, though, is you need to, if you're listening to this, you need to really understand, just conceptually, what are your monthly expenses? Are your monthly expenses, are they ... You should figure out as accurately as you can. For some of you, your monthly expenses might come out to $3,250 per month. Actually, I know what my monthly expenses are, at least on a personal level, and also for the business I have to know exactly what those monthly expenses are, especially when you have payroll and office rent and everything else. So, I have a very clear understanding of my monthly both personal and monthly business expenses, and I look every month, because it gets deducted straight from my back account, I look, and say, "Hey, do I need to keep that expense?"
Now, if your number is $3,250 a month, you need to write down $3,250 a month. If your number is $17,800, then you need to write $17,800 a month as your monthly expenses. I know plenty of you listening who are in both ranges, everywhere in between. I know some people I work with who are lower than that, and some people I work with who are much higher than $17,000 a month in monthly expenses. But it doesn't really matter exactly what that number is, because everyone's life is different. You have different lifestyles and lives. What the important part is, is regardless of who you are, how much money you have or don't think you have, it's you need to know what that monthly expense number is. Here's why it's important, is if you know what your monthly expenses are, you will have a very clear sense of exactly what you need in order to make it through the divorce process, and how to negotiate a settlement that is workable for you.
Now, the next thing I want to discuss, and I'm going to discuss this in the next episode, but I really want to dig into, dig deeply into understanding the examples of how your fixed expenses can have a big impact on your settlement, and what that means in terms of what your job looks like going forward, if you need to get a job, or if you're paying support, how that looks for you, and I want to go through some examples in the next episode of ways that you can start reducing your monthly expenses.
Feb 20, 2018
This episode contains some lessons that many people learn as they go through a divorce. Here are four things to avoid as you go through the divorce process:
  1. Don’t do anything shady.
  2. Don’t believe your ex-spouse about what is going on in your divorce.
  3. Don’t be oblivious about what is going on in your marriage and family.
  4. Consult an attorney for either your whole case or on a limited basis.
Some people try to get away with suspicious activity when going through a divorce. One of the most common examples is moving sums of money around or trying to hide assets. They may try to adjust their income in an effort to pay less support later. Avoid doing these things. It will probably come back to haunt you.
If you have not been in the loop with regards to the marital finances, you may still have a sense that there is something odd going on with your spouse. If you were the primary earner in the marriage, you may think you are being clever by hiding money, but your spouse is probably not oblivious to what you are doing. When you have been married to someone for a long time, they will probably know if something is out of the ordinary. Suspicious actions can come back to hurt you later. Don’t do anything out of the ordinary, because it can hurt you later.
Some people are coming from a relationship where there was an imbalance of power. Maybe your spouse was in charge of more things in the household and was more dominant in the relationship. They may be making threats about custody or keeping assets from you. Any time you hear threats from your soon-to-be-ex-spouse, you should ignore them, aside from communicating them to your attorney. Spouses can say a lot of things to try to scare you. Just understand that there are laws to ensure a decent outcome for both parties. Your spouse’s threats are likely to be empty.
 As soon as you know that divorce may be in the near future, you need to take control of your life. Get your credit report. Make sure you know about all of your credit cards, retirement accounts, and any other debts or assets. Gather up important documents like your estate plan and your will. Be aware of your expenses and what it costs to maintain your lifestyle. You need to take control of every area of your life. Your attorney will not figure everything out for you. You cannot ignore this and hope it will go away.
Some people try to pursue a divorce themselves, without an attorney. This usually happens when the divorce is mostly amicable and they can reach an agreement on most of the issues in the divorce. However, it is important to ensure that whatever settlement you reach will make sense for the both of you. If you end up doing something that’s far outside the bounds of the law for your state, you may not be making the best deal. You also could be missing a large element of your divorce. There are regulations for some aspects of divorce, like custody agreements, that you need to be familiar with. It’s a good idea to consult an attorney to make sure your settlement is within bounds. Even if you are an attorney in another area of the law, you are probably not equipped to handle family law.
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Thank you for listening!
Feb 15, 2018
Today we bring back guest Matt Sweetwood, to announce the release of his new book:
Leader of the Pack: How a single dad of five led his kids, his business and himself from disaster to success.
"I was unprepared, overwhelmed, broke, and often depressed and I was sure I would not live through the experience. 
With five kids under eight years old to care for, a large business to run, a court system bent on bankrupting me, all I saw was a 20-year jail term ahead of me, ending with me old, broke, and broken…Finally, though, one day, it was over…
Get it on Amazon now!
Available for Download: Feb 15, 2018
Soft Cover Available: Mar 8, 2018
Before you go, visit
1) Sign up for the email list to get exclusive tips you won’t find anywhere else.
2) To get access to the best divorce resources in the United States, check out the store here.
3) Get personalized help. Learn about coaching services here.
Thank you for listening!
Feb 6, 2018
What happens if you are going through a divorce and have digital assets? Digital assets can come in many forms. Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies are popular topics in the news lately, but there are other forms of digital assets like your music library, ebooks, rewards points, or even a website you own. When it comes to digital assets, state laws have not yet caught up. Many of these assets are relatively new, and the laws cannot always address all the complexities of splitting them. In addition, there are often unique elements about digital assets that make it difficult to know their value and how to split them.
This episode will give you some steps to take if you have any kind of digital assets.
  1. Figure out if you have any digital assets.
  2. Determine what is marital versus separate property.
  3. Figure out what you can realistically do with those digital assets.
Digital assets can be hard to find. In some cases, it may even be hard to realize that you have them. Some of you may have an online business, like this podcast. 
You may have a blog, an ebook, or Bitcoin. Digital assets are just data. Since they are intangible, it can be challenging to identify them. Think about what assets you may have. Most of you probably have some kind of rewards points, such as a hotel brand or airline rewards. These can often be translated to a dollar value.
Most of you have been married for a length of time, from several years to decades. In that case, the digital assets you have are likely marital property, especially if the assets are so new that your marriage predates them.
The nature of the digital asset and its value will be relevant. For example, you can determine a dollar value for your airline miles. The other spouse may end up getting a credit for those miles in the divorce negotiations. You may also opt to transfer the miles.
Some digital assets can be split relatively easily, such as Bitcoin, but you and your spouse could decide that one of you will keep the asset while the other receives the cash value of their portion.
Digital assets can be easy to hide, because they are intangible and there is often an element of anonymity. It is important to be aware of what digital assets you and your spouse have and address them in your divorce negotiations.
Before you go, visit
1) Sign up for the email list to get exclusive tips you won’t find anywhere else.
2) To get access to the best divorce resources in the United States, check out the store here.
3) Get personalized help. Learn about coaching services here.
Thank you for listening!
Jan 17, 2018

This episode will explain why most of you will want to finalize your divorce in 2018, if possible. After 2018, divorce will be even more complicated than it already is. You probably already want an efficient divorce process, but the recent changes to tax law will provide some additional incentive to move things along.

The change in tax law primarily concerns spousal support. Taxes are not a fun topic, but they are critically important to understand so you can make the best decisions for your situation. How you structure your divorce settlement can ultimately get you 20% to 50% more money and assets. For more about taxes and divorce, visit our archive.

To understand what is changing this year, we first need to understand how spousal support has worked for the past 75 years. Currently, if you receive alimony, you claim it as income and pay taxes on it. The person who pays alimony receives a tax deduction for the amount of the alimony.

For divorces that are finalized after December 31, 2018, the person who receives alimony will not count it as income. The person who pays the alimony will not receive a tax deduction. Why is this such a big deal? If you are the person paying spousal support, you get no tax benefit for paying the support, so you have an incentive to pay less. People who will receive support will probably be getting less.

These changes came from the tax bill that was passed at the end of 2017. If you can wrap up your divorce in 2018, you will not have to worry about it. However, if your divorce is not finalized until 2019, you will be affected by this change. If you are paying support, finalizing in 2018 will give you tax benefits. If you are receiving spousal support, you are highly likely to get more support if you finalize this year.

Who receives spousal support today? In a recent census, it was found that about 97% of people receiving spousal support are women. Most of them were stay-at-home parents during the marriage, or they worked fewer hours than their husbands. Although there are many female breadwinners, women are going to be affected greatly by this law.

What are your options if you find yourself in this situation? You can often come up with clever, creative solutions that will work for everyone. Here is a simple example. If you know that you will probably receive less spousal support for the foreseeable future, you can structure your settlement so that you get more money up front as a lump sum. This can help make up for the tax benefits that you will not be receiving. Look for ways to structure your settlement that will benefit you in the long term.

Many people wonder why this law is changing. There is a good reason for it. In 2017, about 350,000 people claimed they were paying spousal support, and received a tax break. However, only about 180,000 people said they were receiving spousal support (and paid taxes on that spousal support). This means there are 170,000 people who received spousal support who did not report it to the IRS. That adds up to billions of dollars of lost tax revenue.

In future episodes, we will discuss more details about taxes and how to structure your settlement. There is no need to panic, but it’s important to understand how this change will affect you in the broader context of your divorce negotiations. If you understand that you will be losing money because of the change in tax law, you can look for ways to make up for it.

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Jan 3, 2018
With the start of 2018, there is a lot you should be doing to prepare for divorce. This is a great introductory episode for you to listen to! 
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Dec 21, 2017
In the previous episode, we discussed the initial things you should do when you get your divorce settlement. You will need to study your settlement in-depth and create a calendar of all the dates and deadlines that will be coming. It will be important to stay on top of everything, even as your divorce is wrapping up, because there are a lot of small things to handle. It’s not quite time to rest yet. Listen to the previous episode for more details.
This episode will be about setting up your new life. You may not realize all of the things that you will need to take care of. Many of these things are tedious and boring. However, they’re very important.
  1. Check your credit report.
  2. Set up new financial accounts.
  3. Update your will and estate planning documents.
  4. Check your beneficiary on all your accounts.
  5. Speak to a financial advisor.
  6. Speak to an accountant.
When you have finally gotten divorced, you will need to make changes to a lot of financial accounts. Regardless of your level of income, you should check your credit report. Look for any joint account that is still active, and close it or freeze it. Usually to close an account, you must have a zero balance. If you do not have a zero balance, you can freeze it to ensure there’s no additional spending on that card. You will still be liable for any account that is left open that has your name on it. You could face a difficult situation down the road if you don’t handle it now.
Change all of your accounts so that your spouse will not have any information about your account, such as the account number. If you have any joint bank accounts that are still open, split them up and close them. Don’t make it possible for your ex-spouse to take more than their fair share, even if you doubt that they would do such a thing. Also, change all of your passwords and security questions. It’s best to protect yourself.
Estate planning documents will outline what will happen to you when you pass away or are incapacitated. If you already have these documents, it is likely that your ex-spouse is listed on them. Update your will and other documents with an estate planning attorney. You will have to think about who will take care of your children, how your assets will be divided, and what will happen to you if you are incapacitated.
Your bank account, investment accounts, pension plans and insurance policies all have a beneficiary who will receive the funds if something happens to you. When you are married, your spouse is often the beneficiary by default. Update these appropriately.
It can be difficult to make a budget after a divorce that takes your goals into account. You will likely need to plan for your next house, your next car, or your retirement. If you don’t have a good financial plan, it is time to build one. Find a financial planner. Many will help you for free. We’ve talked about post-divorce financial planning in a prior series of episodes. A financial planner will help you achieve your goals.
Many of you are financially savvy. Even so, it’s advisable to consult an accountant the year after you get divorced. They will help you get all the right deductions and minimize your year-end tax bill.
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Dec 13, 2017
Right now, a lot of divorce cases are rushing to a close. Most people want to finalize their divorce before December 31. The year that you are officially divorced is the first year you file taxes on your own. However, just because your divorce is wrapping up, it does not mean that the process is over.
In this episode and the next, we will cover what to do after your divorce is over. Your post-divorce tasks fall into two categories. You need to ensure you receive everything you agreed to (and that you give up everything that you agreed to). You also need to update all of the documents in your life to reflect your new situation. This episode will be about the first category.
Once you have the settlement in hand, you need to sit and study it, line-by-line. You want to find time when you will not have distractions. Take notes as well. Set up your notes with a column for what you need to do, what your spouse needs to do, and optionally, anything that your attorneys need to handle. As you go through the settlement, make notes of whatever you need to do. Do you need to transfer money from your bank account, or make sure that your spouse does? Do you need to set up a parenting schedule? Go through each line to make a list of everything that you need to do. There will be a lot of little things that need to happen.
Once you are very familiar with your settlement, and you have that list, you will need to create a calendar. This is a complicated step. Your calendar will have a lot of different dates on it. In some cases, you may have to start the process far ahead of the deadline. For example, if you are transferring a 401k, that process can take a few months.
Other dates will be routine and repeating. If you have a custody schedule, you will have to map out every date that the kids are supposed to be in one place or another, for years. Your life will revolve around those dates, so they are important to have in your calendar, even if the dates are far in the future.
Some asset transfers are slow, especially with large, illiquid assets. The most common one is a house. It will take time to sell a house, often 6 months to a year, before you will see the proceeds. In some situations, you may be transferring ownership of the house, but this can present complications. There was one case where a condo was being transferred. It took 8 months and nearly $500,000 in legal fees because of the complexity of the transfer. It was important to keep the deadline in mind, even though there was a complicated process going on.
Likewise, if you are selling a house, you will need to start preparing the house for sale early, so that you have ample time to sell the house and receive the highest price possible. Otherwise you may be forced to do something that is financially unwise.
For the calendar dates that will take time, you can create milestones for each issue. For example, if you are splitting up a 401k, you will need a QDRO – which can take months to obtain. The first milestone would likely be finding a QDRO attorney. Your second milestone could be to submit documentation to that attorney. The third would be obtaining pre-approval, and so on. Creating milestones for large tasks will help you stay on track to meet your deadlines. Many of the tasks on your list will need to be broken down into milestones, so your calendar will be complex.
If you aren’t a very organized person, you may want help breaking your task list into manageable parts. Ask a friend or hire a personal assistant to help you set up your system. If you choose to hire a professional organizer, you may work with them for a few days in the beginning, and then just once per month to keep you on track.
In the next episode, we will discuss what you need to do to set up your new life – setting up financial accounts, checking your credit report, and updating important documents.
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Dec 6, 2017
In this episode, we’ll discuss different types of divorce attorneys. Divorce financial analysts often work with a wide range of attorneys. They all have different styles. Many attorneys are excellent. In some cases, you may encounter an attorney that is not so good.
The goal of the divorce attorney or family law attorney is to have the best possible outcome in your divorce. What that outcome looks like will depend on your situation, but you want an attorney who will put you in the best position possible, whether it’s in terms of assets, support or child custody.
A bad attorney will hurt your chances of getting anywhere near what you deserve.
The attorney will be the most important person on your divorce team, other than you. They have the biggest effect on how smoothly your divorce goes. There are no hard-and-fast rules, but here are five types of attorneys you may want to avoid.
  1. The most expensive attorney.
  2. The “therapist” attorney (also known as the “best friend” attorney).
  3. The pit bull attorney.
  4. The too-cool-for-you attorney.
  5. The inexperienced attorney.
This is the attorney that likes to have a lot of billable hours, which can add up over time. These attorneys have the nicest offices, cars and clothes. Their staff is often picture-perfect, and they have an air of exclusivity. These attorneys aren’t bad attorneys. They are just expensive.
This attorney spends a lot of time discussing how you feel, and not enough time working on your case. An actual therapist is a great person to discuss your feelings with, but your attorney should be there to guide you through the legal process of your divorce. You could be paying $400 an hour or more for your attorney’s time, rather than a therapist for $120 an hour (with better results).
This attorney is extremely aggressive. They want you to fight on ever issue in the divorce, under the cover of being “tough.” That approach can be counter-productive. In episode 152, we discussed why you don’t want the most aggressive divorce attorney. In short, the aggressive attorney ultimately causes more harm than good. Aggressive does not equal effective. 
This attorney probably seems like a good choice on the initial meeting. Then, after you pay your retainer, they disappear. They don’t return your emails or phone calls. It seems like your case is just not that important to them. This is surprisingly common, and it can be very frustrating.
Your attorney should have experience practicing family law. If an attorney has experience in another area, that does not mean their skills will translate well. Family law has its own set of rules, regulations and guidelines. You should ask how much of their practice is dedicated to family law, how long they have been practicing family law, and how many cases they deal with per year. You should ask similar questions if you interview a divorce financial analyst.
If you find that you have a sub-optimal attorney, it does not necessarily mean it will be the end of the world. You can still get a good resolution to your case. Just be aware that if you have a bad relationship with your attorney now, the relationship will probably not magically get better. You will find yourself complaining about these same things months (or even years) down the line.
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Nov 8, 2017
When you go to court, you may be going for a hearing or for a trial, and there are differences between the two. This episode will explain what happens in each situation.
Going to court is almost never like what you see on television. In particular, the process of going to court is not as glamorous as it seems on television.
When you go to court for a hearing, a judge will look at evidence and make a decision about a specific issue in the divorce. That evidence could be written documents, records, testimony, financial affidavits, and so on. The judge will make a decision on the issue in question after hearing the evidence. A hearing usually occurs while a case is still going on. It is not intended to resolve every issue in a case. A hearing can be for temporary issues, like temporary custody or spousal support. They may be used for a specific issue in discovery.
What happens at a hearing? You go to a court and go before a judge. Judges can vary greatly in age, race and background. Sometimes they are multidisciplinary, so they may hear other types of cases like criminal cases or business disputes. When you get to the court, you will wait outside the courtroom until you are called. Often, your attorneys will do the talking, although you may be asked questions or called to testify.
Trials are very different. Trials are more involved, and therefore, much more expensive. In a trial, a judge will make the final decision on many issues in the divorce, so the stakes are high. Not all trials are complicated, but many are. In some cases, people spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on their trial even if they don’t really have that much money to spend.
In a trial, you will present your evidence. The trial may last a day or a week, depending on your circumstances and local court rules. The court looks at the various issues in the divorce and resolves them. You may even have a trial with a jury, depending on your state, although it’s rare.
When you go to court, whether it be for a hearing or a trial, be aware that it will be expensive. The more work you can do up front, the better off you will be. If you are going to court, be prepared and understand what is at stake. Make sure to leave a good impression and put yourself in the best position possible.
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Nov 1, 2017
This episode is about vocational experts in divorce cases. Vocational experts are only used occasionally, but they should probably be used more often.
What is a vocational expert? Often during a marriage, one spouse was not employed. They may have lost their job or they may have decided to be a stay-at-home spouse. It does not necessarily mean that they were unable to work, however. A vocational expert will help answer the question, “How do you know how much income a spouse can earn if they have not been working?”
As an example, a female client has a husband who holds a PhD and was in the military, but who chooses not to work. The client herself is a doctor. The husband is trying to get spousal support so that he can continue to be unemployed and be supported by his ex-wife. However, this gentleman could easily get a job because he is highly qualified.
In another case, the wife worked for a while early in the marriage, making $75,000 a year. However, when the couple had children, she stopped working so that she could dedicate the next twenty years of her life to being a stay-at-home mother. In this scenario, the wife is still capable of working, but has been out of the work force for such a long time that it will be difficult to immediately find a position like the one that she left when she had children. However, she does have some skills and a college degree.
In this scenario, the husband should consider getting a vocational expert to help determine how much income the wife might be capable of earning.
It’s important to factor in a spouse’s earning potential into things like spousal support and division of assets. Just because a spouse has not been working does not mean they cannot. If a person getting divorced is 50 years old, they could still feasibly have 15-17 years of working life ahead of them. They may need to start at a lower income level and work their way up, but whatever income they are earning should decrease the spousal support they receive.
This is why a spouse’s earning potential is a controversial issue. A vocational expert can evaluate a person’s abilities, education, and experience to determine their potential for employment. They will determine whether that person can find a job, and how much it might pay. If the person has not worked in a long time, they may start at an entry-level position. However, it can also be the case that the spouse is capable of earning a good salary, as in the example with the husband who holds a PhD.
You can present the vocational expert’s findings as evidence in court, whichever side of this debate you are on. If you are the spouse who has been working, a vocational expert can help you make the case that your spouse is capable of earning money, which can reduce your spousal support and/or child support. Conversely, if you are the spouse who has not been working, a vocational expert can help you establish that your career prospects are slim and that you need the spousal support. You can also use a vocational expert, outside of the context of the divorce, to help you assess your career options and make a plan for yourself.
Vocational experts are very persuasive in court because they are independent. Their goal is to present the facts of the person’s experience, education and skills and assess what kind of jobs and salaries they may be able to get. They are an important resource to consider for your divorce.
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Oct 25, 2017
Electronic evidence may come into play in your divorce case. Electronic evidence can be from your computer, phone, text messages, apps, cameras, bank accounts, and so on. Everything you do these days has a record. You may need to look for evidence of your spouse doing something they shouldn’t, like getting a hotel room. It’s increasingly common for people to leave an electronic trail that can come back to hurt them later. Most people forget that everything they do is tracked, one way or another. 
As you go through the divorce process, keep these tips in mind.
1) Be aware that everything you do is recorded or could be recorded.
2) Do not try to hide assets.
3) Be aware that what you say or do can be taken out of context.
For example, if you make a threat during an argument or send a nasty text message, it can come back to haunt you. If you are about to say or do something that you might regret, take a step back and calm yourself down. All of your conversations on social media have a record of them, so they can be subpoenaed. Likewise, monetary transactions through your bank or credit cards will be traceable. Be aware if there’s something your spouse may have done, you may be able to access those records.
There are records of all assets, so it’s a bad idea to try to hide money. If someone really wants to track down money that went missing, they could. It can come back to hurt you during the divorce process, or even several years later.
As an example, let’s say that you are playing with your kids, and you playfully say, “I’m going to beat you up!” Your spouse might write that down and later tell a judge, “On Tuesday, June 2, he threatened the kids and said he was going to beat them up.” On paper, that transcript looks terrible for you. Quotes can be taken out of context in divorce to be used against you.
Technology is evolving so quickly that people often don’t comprehend all the repercussions it can have. Technology that is convenient on a day-to-day basis can ultimately hurt you during the divorce process. Minimize your interactions with your spouse. Be careful with what you say (verbally and electronically) as you are going through a divorce. Remember that what you say and do can end up hurting you later.
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Oct 18, 2017
In this episode, we’ll discuss tips for when you’re going to court for divorce, whether it’s for a hearing or for a trial. If you will be going in front of a judge for your divorce, you should be prepared. Try to avoid making some of the most common mistakes with these tips:
1) Real court is not like television.
2) Dress appropriately
3) Show up early, but expect to wait.
4) There are time limits.
5) Not everything you may want to cover is legally relevant.
6) Answer questions truthfully.
7) Don’t do something dumb in the heat of the moment.
Court is not glamorous or exciting. Don’t expect it to be like television shows.
It is important to dress appropriately so that you make a good impression. Dress business professional, like you would for a job interview at a large corporation.
It can take time to find parking and get through security, so allow ample time. Arrive at least half an hour in advance. Even if you are on time, you may have to wait to be seen.
Every court has rules as to how it proceeds. For example, in Dallas, one court gives each side twenty or thirty minutes to present their case, and that’s all. You should ask your attorney or the courthouse in advance how long you will actually have. You need to be efficient.
You need to know what is important when it comes to your case. Details of what happened during your marriage will not necessarily be relevant. For example, in some cases, infidelity will have no impact on spousal support, so there is no reason to discuss infidelity while you are discussing spousal support.
If you are asked a question by anyone in the courtroom, answer truthfully. Don’t lie, because often whatever you say will be part of a permanent record, so it can cause problems for you later.
When you are in court, there are a lot of emotions tied in. You may have adrenaline going, or get set off by something your ex says. You may find yourself flustered or have an urge to do something that will ultimately be unhelpful to you. Don’t say or do anything you might regret.
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Oct 11, 2017
In this episode, we’ll cover five things your attorney must be doing for you. If they are not doing these things, your case may be in trouble. We offer a course on managing your relationship with your attorney, because it is one of the most important aspects in your divorce. You should be concerned if your attorney is not doing any of these things:
  1. Your attorney does not return your phone calls, emails or messages quickly.
  2. Your attorney does not keep you informed on your case.
  3. Your attorney misses deadlines or waits until the last minute to file reports.
  4. Your attorney does not bill you regularly.
  5. Your attorney does not close the case when the divorce is over.
This is inexcusable. If you contact your divorce attorney and they do not reply within a day or two, it is a bad sign. You should be able to expect them to at least reply quickly that they have received your message, even if they are having a busy day in court or are on vacation. They may not be able to give you a detailed response immediately if it is something that they need to look into, but they should communicate that with you. If they do not, you may need to make a change.
This is closely connected to the point above. Your attorney should check in with you to let you know what has been going on with your case. There may be times when nothing is happening with your case, such as when you are waiting on a court date for a minor issue. However, if there are things going on, your attorney should keep you apprised of what is happening. Keep in mind that you also need to be proactive. Check in with your attorney to see if anything has happened lately.
This problem does not come up often, but when it does, it is a major issue. It can be hard to tell if this happens because the attorney is just bad with deadlines or if your case simply isn’t a priority for them. In a recent case we dealt with, the attorney repeatedly waited until 24 hours before a major deadline to submit key information to their client. The client then had to scramble to complete their part in time. It can put you in a bad position where you may have to miss deadlines to ensure you submit accurate information. 
You should be getting a bill every month, rather than a large bill after several months. This will let you know how much of your retainer has been spent, how much time has been spent on your case, and what progress has been made. The bills should be clear about what was done and how much time was spent doing each task.
It is very tempting to put the case aside when it has been settled. However, there are still several steps to complete the divorce: taking names off accounts, transferring assets, signing documents, and so on. You want the end of the divorce to go as smoothly as possible, and to be sure that all the small details are wrapped up. If your attorney forgets to tie up all of the loose ends, it can cause problems for you down the line.
If you find yourself in one of these situations, what do you do? First, make sure that you are staying on top of things yourself as much as possible. For example, check in with your attorney to see what has been going on with your case. However, if there are serious issues that keep coming up, it may be a sign that you need to look for a new attorney. These issues will probably not get better over time, and if the problems are severe, it can impact the rest of your life.
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Oct 4, 2017
In this episode, we will discuss your involvement in the divorce process. You can have any number of experts helping you – lawyers, accountants, certified divorce financial analysts, valuation experts, social security experts, and so on. However, at the end of the day, it is your life and your divorce, so it’s up to you to stay on top of this process. Here are some of the major areas for you to be working on:
  1. Complete your statement of net worth or financial affidavit.
  2. Make a budget.
  3. Document everything.
  4. Complete your interrogatories and depositions quickly and truthfully.
  5. If you are using experts, help provide context.
  6. Participate in your settlement negotiation.
This is one of the first steps you will need to take in your divorce process. You will need to get your financial information together for your attorney and other experts. If you make a mistake on your financial affidavit, it’s your fault. Get help with this if you need it, because the court will use your financial affidavit to determine things like spousal support, child support, and the division of assets. You can find more resources for your financial affidavit in our store.
Make sure you put together a post-divorce budget. How much will you have to spend on housing when your divorce is over? What will your living expenses be? What will your car payment be? How much do you normally spend on groceries and eating out? What expenses do your kids have? Your life is going to change as a result of the divorce. You will probably have less income but more expenses after a divorce, so you need to plan for these things now. It will help you keep these things in mind during your settlement so you can negotiate for what you need.
In divorce, there will often be he-said-she-said disputes, but if you have documentation of what happened, you can submit that information to the court so there will be no question. The method of documentation will vary depending on what it is. For transactions, your bank record or credit card statement is good documentation. For property, you may want to take a picture. Document communication that you have with your spouse, especially if there’s anything negative, like a threatening text. Documentation will allow you to present your case in a much more compelling manner.
Often, you will have to complete interrogatories or give depositions during the divorce process. Just make sure you do so in a timely fashion. Even if your spouse is withholding information or lying, it doesn’t mean you should. Take the high ground and provide truthful, complete information. You don’t want it to look like you’re hiding things or being intentionally misleading.
Experts will need context to be able to help you. For example, if you go to a forensic accountant and ask them to search for assets, that isn’t very helpful. If you can provide more context, like a business that you own that had some suspicious transactions, tell them. Give them information to work with so they are better able to help you.
Clarify your priorities with your attorney. Make sure you are fighting for what you want, and that you aren’t losing out on the things you need. Clarifying your priorities will also help you avoid spending a lot of money on legal fees on things that aren’t important. It’s up to you to make your wishes known and be involved in all parts of the divorce process.
The more involved you are in the divorce process, the better. It will help reduce your legal fees and expert fees if you invest your own time. Eventually the divorce process will end, so you want to set yourself up to be in the best position possible.
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Sep 27, 2017
“How much is my divorce going to cost?” 
This is one of the biggest questions people wonder about when going through a divorce. In this episode, we’ll talk about four factors that will affect the cost, some of which are out of your control.
  1. What you do during the process
  2. What your ex-spouse does during the process
  3. What your ex-spouse’s attorney does
  4. What the court does
You have control over your responses and decisions in the divorce process. If you are asked to complete a financial affidavit or if you are questioned in an interrogatory, you are responsible for answering truthfully. If you’re thinking about a settlement, you have to decide what issues are worth fighting for and what issues are worth letting go. This will have a significant impact on the cost of your divorce. Sometimes the smaller issues are worth letting go when you consider the big picture.
This is something that you cannot control, but it will certainly affect the cost of your divorce. You may find that your ex-spouse is not truthful or forthcoming during the divorce process. They may omit certain facts, or they may outright lie about what happened in the marriage or their finances. You will have to follow up on those issues, and may even need to hire additional experts like forensic accountants or private investigators. If this is the case, your divorce process will be longer and more expensive.
Earlier episodes of the podcast have discussed choosing an attorney, and why you should avoid an aggressive attorney. However, what if your spouse chooses to go that route? Aggressive attorneys lead to more unnecessary conflict, which adds to the expense of the divorce. If both your spouse and their attorney are disagreeable, you will have to spend time and money to deal with the additional conflict they create, even if you are ultimately in the right.
Courts are tricky. Every court has different rules and procedures. For example, in Dallas, there are three counties within twenty miles. Each county’s courts have different procedures. If the court needs a status update on your case, one county might just ask for an email, while another requires your attorney to come to the court in person to provide a written and verbal update. Your attorney still has to draft the letter, but now they also need to take the time to go to the court and speak with the judge. This will impact your legal fees as you are paying for your attorney’s time.
You will only have control over yourself. Unfortunately, you don’t have control over your ex-spouse, their attorney or the courts. However, you can make the best decisions possible for you given the circumstances. Focus on yourself, and making the best decisions possible with the information you have.
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