Everyone knows the great feeling of being right about a fact, an expectation or the best way to accomplish a task. We learn from our achievements happily. Learning from our mistakes can be just as valuable and therefore, joyful - on some level. I learned this in a fun way over the holidays. I gloomily predicted traffic and long delays on my family's Christmas road trip. When we hit almost none, I realized that I am rarely so happy to be so wrong.
Shift this idea to thinking about your divorce. If you are certain that every possible settlement leads to mutual financial ruin, wouldn't it be great to be wrong? If your answer is
a resounding "yes! I want to be wrong" then ask yourself these next questions:
1. Why is your money currently invested the way that it is?
2. On a monthly basis, what savings are you creating in retirement and non-retirement funds?
3. How much equity is held in your home?
4. What are you doing to preserve or improve the net value of your home?
5. How are you going to pay for your children's education and is your co-parent agreeing with you now about that?
6. Is your disability insurance benefit enough to cover your typical monthly expenses?
7. If you were to unexpectedly die, do you have enough life insurance to house, feed, educate and protect your children until adulthood?
8. Are you and your spouse maximizing your earning potential?
9. What tax advice have you gotten to help you understand your options for dividing assets, arranging alimony and child support?
10. Who is giving you advice about how to adapt your retirement plans based upon the upcoming change in your asset base and income available for savings?
Give yourself one point for each question that you can answer without saying "I have no idea."
Then grade yourself:
1-3 points: You can do better than this but you need the right team of advisors to help you raise your score.
4-7 points: Nice work so far. Be sure to keep asking these questions and updating your answers until you get the deal done. Consult with new advisors to up your score as soon as possible.
8-10 points: Your financial savvy will help you during the economic transition of a divorce. Now is a good time to follow up with your advisors and to update your personal financial knowledge.
Divorce creates new financial challenges. The right lawyer works with a team of financial advisors to prove to you that if you are only expecting the worst possible outcome, you might soon be – happily – completely wrong.