Many women will receive one lump sum payment in a divorce settlement. After selling the house and dividing the savings, this payment often totals at least $50,000 and can climb significantly higher.
But receiving a big chunk of cash at one time can result in a difficult — if not potentially devastating — financial situation, especially for women who have no experience with budgeting, investing, and spending.
Consider what happened recently to a friend, "Debbie," who received $2 million in her divorce settlement. The marriage (her first, his second) lasted for 10 years. When she divorced, she was 65, in great health, and excited about moving on. Her friends spoke in hushed tones when she left the room about all the money she had received. Many were downright envious.
Even though Debbie lived full-time in Los Angeles, she chose counselors in New York. She saw them only once or twice over the next several years, and they didn't give her any financial planning advice. Instead, they focused on the great returns they had been averaging and asked her to sign paperwork.
Debbie bought a condo, furnished it lavishly, enrolled in an expensive trade school, and rented office space for a new business in the most expensive area of Los Angeles before she even had clients. She also enjoyed dating several men and updated her wardrobe with only the best.
Then misfortune struck. Her investment managers in New York didn't get the returns they had anticipated, and in one year lost 15 percent of her capital. Debbie had to sell her condo to recoup the $200,000 down payment. Even so, she couldn't stop spending, and eventually lost that money too.
In all, it took her just 4 years to go through her entire $2 million. Several months ago, she called a friend to borrow money.
Here are 3 suggestions to keep something similar from happening to you:
1. Meet with three financial planning experts. If you're new to your area, you will need several presentations to understand the principles of prudent investing, budgeting, and spending.
2. Write your own personal budget, investment plan, and savings plan. Return to one of the financial experts and discuss this plan with him/her. Ask for the expert's input and find out how much the advisor would charge to help you implement the plan, monitor your investments, and meet with you quarterly. Choose someone who will take an active role in helping you stick to a budget and avoid the pitfall of spending down the corpus of your lump sum payment.
3. Get back to work immediately. Absolutely make the investment in education, licenses, and training, but be smart about it. Go back to work for a company that pays to train you. If you can generate cash flow, you can refrain from spending any of the lump sum payment for several years, by which time you should have a solid grip on the true cost of living.
10 Tips for Managing Your Settlement, by Kate Vunic
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