You may have increased anxiety about dealing with your finances because your new “single” marital status makes it appear that you are facing this responsibility alone. However, this is patently untrue. A poignant acronym that I often share with my clients is: FEAR is just False Evidence Appearing Real.
Stuart Goldstein, CPA, of Samuel Goldstein & Co., P.C. explains that “a good team of professional advisors means that you are never alone with your balance sheet.” In this post, Stuart shares his top three tips for getting your financial house in order:
1. Start with a solid team. An accountant and a trust & estate attorney coupled with a suitable asset manager will provide you with a well-rounded group of advisors. Your accountant or attorney can act as the team leader to understand your goals and, together with the asset manager, act in your best interest to put your plan into action. Be certain that you can relate to your advisors and that you feel comfortable asking questions. Stuart notes that you need a CPA who will get to know you and not just put your numbers in boxes; he characterizes a competent CPA as a “tax preparer plus.”
2. Create strategic financial and legal plans. Work with your advisors to reach your goal of securing your needs. Core components may be increasing your savings, reducing your debt, improving your credit, managing your assets and implementing an estate plan.
- Your accountant can help you use your tax return as a foundation for creating your budget and set spending, savings and debt reduction levels. With your budget in hand, you can review your annual free credit reports from the three major credit reporting companies.
- Your attorney will advise you on estate planning so that you have the necessary legal documents in place in case of an emergency. These documents communicate your desires and appoint a person to act on your behalf. Consider creating or updating documents such as your will, standby guardian, power of attorney, health care proxy and living will. Post-split, it is critical to establish a new, trustworthy emergency point person.
- Your financial advisor will manage your investments according to your needs, risk tolerance, family structure and asset level and class. Work with your advisor to decide if you need insurance and help with investments.
3. Continuous monitoring and follow-up. Stuart advises that you regularly meet with your advisors to keep them up-to- date on your situation. This may be meeting with your accountant quarterly or scheduling twice-yearly checkups with your financial advisor. I always recommend that my clients review their estate plan at life changing events such as buying a house. At minimum, review your estate plan every five years, as you may be affected by changes in the law.
While planning for your new responsibilities, remember to stay motivated by also planning for something fun. Why not plan for a vacation, a new wardrobe or a long spa day?