Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Reclaiming Life, Restarting Goals

Reclaiming Life, Restarting Goals is the title I chose for this post, one in a series of posts about coping with the aspects of divorce. Originally I wanted to write these posts because this is mostly a blog about my finances but I also realize that largely this is a blog about life.

Reclaiming Life is something that is hard to imagine, but it is an absolutely necessary step if your divorce was tragic and had a profound impact on you. I'd imagine that this is true for most people, but it is worth noting that I am speaking only from my personal experience.

Reclaiming is from the verb to reclaim:
verb: reclaim; 3rd person present: reclaims; past tense: reclaimed; past participle: reclaimed; gerund or present participle: reclaiming
  1. 1.
    retrieve or recover (something previously lost, given, or paid); obtain the return of.

    "he returned three years later to reclaim his title as director of advertising"

    synonyms:get back, recoup, claim back, recover, regain, retrieve

    "traveling expenses can be reclaimed"
    • redeem (someone) from a state of vice; reform.

      "societies for reclaiming beggars and prostitutes"

      synonyms:save, rescue, redeem;

      "Henrietta had reclaimed him from a life of despair"
    • archaic
      tame or civilize (an animal or person).
  2. 2.
    bring (waste land or land formerly under water) under cultivation.

    "little money is available to reclaim and cultivate the desert"

And so, it is not just the first definition, but also the second definition that makes sense here. Life truly has to be recovered after divorce. Indeed I'd argue that without this step, you cannot proceed in any effective way, emotionally, spiritually, financially or physically. It is essential.

Recovering in this sense to me simply means that you are back to living. Living involves making choices, taking risks, having a good time, and being present in the current experiences and emotions of your existence. In short, being active rather than passive. Recovery in this sense isn't easy and there are a number of things available to you.
1. Friends, Family, existing support systems can help you recover your life. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have those things however, so for them, I'd focus on other options below.
2. Church/Synagogue/Temple etc where you can meet with fellow believers of your faith and perhaps deepen your connection with a higher power. For me, Church was where I feel I recovered the most. It slowed me down. It got me thinking about others besides myself which helped me really notice where I was. And most of all it gave me some structure and ability to get comfortable with who I am again.
3. Therapist and/or Support groups. These like anything can be complex and expensive or simple and cheap. Don't short change yourself on professional help, but at the same time be smart about your choices.

After recovery, you can begin the second aspect which is to bring your life to cultivation which is what the idea of goals really means. What do you want to accomplish with your life. I find that these are difficult in a way that I wouldn't have expected. It can be so consuming and difficult to recover from a trauma, that you forget to make plans for the future.

My advice about this second aspect of cultivation of goals, restating goals is:
  1. Start with restating them and writing it down.
  2. Do not worry about when/how these will get met or if at all. Just practice writing and having goals.
  3. Don't wait too long to start.
  4. Once you are comfortable with the idea of having goals, get serious and pick one or two small goals to set and work toward. This is a great way to start this habit.
In the end, the best way to restart your life is to have something to live for and to live towards. If you can manage it, start small with your goals and then build them up until they are bigger and take time and real, concrete steps to complete. Accomplishing a mix of small and larger goals is a great way to feel good about yourself and get some distance from the pain of divorce.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Making the Decision and Having the talk

When it comes to making the decision to divorce, unless there is some overarching circumstance, I view it as a mistake to do it rashly. In order to make the decision, dealing with the feelings and emotions involved first made the most sense. Often when things get changed in our lives it is because we have become fed up with the current state in some way or shape. In this case, there is a feeling that the time for Divorce has come.

Deal with your Feelings and Emotions first, noticing that there may be some distinction here. For me my emotions are concrete: Happy, Sad, Complacent, and perhaps fearful. Feelings are a bit more nebulous. I might feel trapped. I might feel subservient. I might feel powerful. None of these are truly emotions, but they are intangible, and somewhat subjective. For me, once I felt unhappy in the situation, I tried on various occasions to deal with why I had these unhappy feelings.

The feelings, more than the emotions were the primary driver of the change. More than anything, you should try to be clear about the feelings you have that are a direct result of something being wrong in the marriage. Use your gut to help you figure out if those feelings are temporary or if they are lasting. Then write it down and wait for some period of time before acting further.

Once you have your feelings in place, you can try to understand what the cause is. Perhaps you feel less important because your spouse is spending more time/energy on something else. Perhaps you feel less loved because of how you are treated/talked to. Perhaps you feel less connected since you don't spend so much time together raising the kids. Whatever the feelings are, they have reasons. Figure them out and write them down. It is good for you to have it be concrete. This will aid you when you have the talk.

Writing down reasons you want to get divorced makes the process real. Don't leave that lying around, but make sure to carry it and review it. Perhaps a day, perhaps a week. Take some time and sit with the idea that you might not be with this person anymore. Do not act rashly, but then reach out to one or two trusted friends and discuss how you've felt over lunch or over coffee. Nothing heavy. You do not want to over burden your friends so they don't feel blindsided. Some friends will feel dual loyalty. You should consider that early on.

After discussing with your friends, discuss with your family. Undoubtedly, they will be impacted by the process and if you've gone far enough that you are still certain, it is time to get them in the loop. Some people would caution against this, but for me, I think it is essential. You will need these family members to help you when you are dealing with your emotions and pain.

Once all of this is done, you are ready to have the talk. If you expect it to be particularly emotional, I recommend engaging a spiritual mentor (a priest or a rabbi if you are religious or perhaps a social worker or therapist). If you feel confident you can proceed alone, consider aspects of your safety and then ensure you have an immediate exit plan should things get ugly. Write down all of the details of the conversation once it is complete as this may be important.

Finally, consider the tenor of the conversation so far in the marriage and consider whether you want to proceed with getting a lawyer or a mediator before the conversation. None of what I describe here is legal advice, but only advice I can give based on my own personal experience.

Evening out the inequalities, Separating the assets
Moving out One Year Later
Living Apart, Living Large
Reclaiming Life, Restarting Goals
Dating with Data, Digging for Gold
Comparative Compromise, Coping with Change

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Blogging Wealthtrack - BOTSFORD: RETIREMENT INCOME FOCUS September 25, 2015

Wealthtrack remains one of the most fascinating and enjoyable shows out there for financial topics. Consuelo Mack continues to host this show with a variety of guests ranging from the practical experts on retirement like Erin Botsford and Mary Beth Franklin to more bookish and technical guests like Donald Yacktman and Cliff Asness who have 'been there, done that' with respect to investing large sums of money for their clients.

This week was interesting because for one of the few times I've seen on the show Consuelo took a personal turn with her guest, Erin Botsford. She described a scenario when Erin was young where she was involved in an accident and was subsequently involved in a lawsuit as a result of a death in the accident. Being very young at the time, this sounded like a terribly challenging event for Erin (it was made clear that she was not at fault during the episode).

This tragic story turned to news you can use: get umbrella insurance for your house and your car(s). In the case of Erin, the insurance amount recommended is 2 million OVER your total net worth. What is interesting from my perspective is that Erin views this kind of insurance as your primary protection in the event of this horrible kind of tragedy so that if you are involved in this kind of an event, you don't lose all of your money.

The wrap up advice was equally interesting -- to focus on guaranteed income for your long term, known needs in retirement, things like good annuity products instead of volatile stock investments etc.

Both of these turned out to be interesting pieces of advice and I know I have some homework now to start investigating into Umbrella insurance and also for options that might work as a plan for a guaranteed retirement income.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Evening out the inequalities, Separating the assets

This is the third post in a series of posts about divorce, covering a variety of topics and including a series of advice which in hindsight seems obvious, but before going through the process, seems very essential.

In deciding what the best way to even the equalities out, I found that I needed to decide first where my feelings were about the other person. In my case, the soon-to-be ex still held a place in my heart, something which has undoubtedly diminished over time. But at the moment in time when the decisions of divorce are taking place it is impossible to know the future. So, I would strongly recommend that you consider your feelings toward this other person and other people affected.

Separately, you should examine any morals or principles that you have to honor when you are going through the process. For me, I shared everything, I literally wanted to give my whole life to someone else. And that was something that I cannot even begin to explain in words, so this moral idea seemed no big shock to me; because it was an additional layer of treating others the way I want to be treated. I always knew that I needed to treat others better than I was being treated; this was how I thought about the world.

Once you have a grasp of your morals, principles, and feelings, you can really begin to go through the process of evaluating assets. For me this was quite simple: all assets are either owned already OR are some future income stream (like income expected from working). In court, frequently people talk about spousal support/alimony/etc and I find that this is something that is painful and difficult. I didn't want to be involved in anything that left a tether between me and my ex. For you to move on emotionally, separation and space are important catalysts along with time for emotions and issues to be ironed out.

In my case, I divided the assets we had by value and understood what was the most valuable for each of us. Considering the likely lifestyle going forward, it became easy to manage the process around dividing the existing assets. Some people have large amounts of equity in real estate. These kinds of situations are very difficult because they often require the sale of the real estate to free up the capital. In my case I was able to offset retirement account balances against real estate to be able to proceed forward with minimal effort.

In terms of ongoing payments against future income, like Alimony or Spousal support, I would strongly recommend that the money be paid in full up front rather than over time. The biggest factor in this kind of decision is ability to pay, but in the case of up front payments, this avoids creating a debt into the future which is an additional burden to carry from the divorce which is unadvisable in my opinion.

The biggest aspect of the divorce from the legal standpoint is the division of property, but for survival, it can often be emotional health and well-being. To maintain emotional health, it is important to make the asset separtion efficient. Going back and reviewing this multiple times is not usually helpful; a simple spreadsheet will do. And avoiding ongoing payments of any kind is a good option in my experience.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Adjusting To Divorce - An Overview of Topics

This is the third article, but arguably should have been the first, in a series of articles I wrote last year with regard to my divorce. For me, this was an important part of the process to be able to consider the aspects of the topic in a detached, analytical way. 

It has been a very long time since I posted anything to this blog, and now with the new year, 2015 in full swing, I will provide some detail about what has been going on for me in my financial life. Finances when it comes to divorce are a difficult proposition to be sure.

In this series of articles, I will provide some clear details about what the steps are that I have taken to keep my financial house in order, the steps I've taken that have set me back, and also my ongoing struggles to make sense of all of the various decisions coming for me in the future. I welcome comments and ideas; I am not an expert on these financial topics by any means and I think that it makes a lot of sense to consider carefully what will work for you; your mileage may vary.

The topics that are relevant to divorce when it comes to finance are varied, but I think this is a good sample of my personal considerations around the topic. As I write and complete the various posts, I will update the links ago, but for now consider this list simply a preview of what is coming:

Separation Vs Divorce
Making the Decision and Having the talk
Evening out the inequalities, Separating the assets
Moving out One Year Later
Living Apart, Living Large
Reclaiming Life, Restarting Goals
Dating with Data, Digging for Gold
Comparative Compromise, Coping with Change

The above topics are completely subjective, but in a large way, they characterize the various aspects of my divorce that I would like to discover. I don't expect that things are very novel depending on what kind of separation/divorce you are dealing with...all of them have similar issues and you must work through them each carefully. My sincere hope is that by reading these articles, you'll learn more about yourself and that this will help others' and their relationships.