You didn’t think it would come to this. You married your one true sweetheart, and started to build a new life together. Maybe you invested one year, or five, or fifteen into your marriage. But now, after all of that, you’re single again.
Maybe it’s just a temporary separation. At least, you hope it’s temporary. Maybe it’s a full-blow divorce, with lawyers and everything. Maybe the shock of finding yourself in this place has begun to wear off, but the pain lingers, and even deepens.
No matter what brought you to this moment, however, or how emotional you may be, you can understand why now is not the time to let your feelings dominate whatever financial decisions you need to make. Maybe you have kids, or a house, or other considerations for which your faith in Christ doesn’t explicitly lay out a clear roadmap.
If this is your situation, people like Derrick Kinney have some advice you may want to consider. Kinney is a longtime financial advisor at Derrick Kinney & Associates in Arlington, Texas, who also hosts regular features on money matters for KCBI AM in Dallas, and is a frequent contributor for Neil Cavuto’s business program on the FOX network.
He may have never been in your shoes, but he works with clients who have, and he knows a lot about what you’re going through because he’s personally prayed with them and guided them through difficult decisions that you’re likely facing as well.
Financial planning for the suddenly single may seem too intimidating a process during such a stressful time, but it’s a prudent – and, depending on the situation, legally necessary – step to take. Kinney knows it’s hard, but he wants his clients to adopt a proactive perspective.
“It's very important to focus on the future and not dwell in the past,” Kinney explains. “What's happened has happened and you’ve got to choose to move forward. Clients I work with that emotionally move forward and process what has happened tend to rebound much better.”
A variety of new realities may be bombarding you all at once, and no matter how difficult it may be, Kinney encourages facing those realities sooner rather than later.
“One of the biggest pitfalls is thinking that things may go back to the way they were. Typically, that just doesn't happen. Realize that everything has now changed for you. Your budget, spending, how you think and what you do - is forever changed.”
It’s an unpleasant task regardless of your marital status, but revising your will and other critical documents is one of those “sooner rather than later” considerations.
“First cover the basics,” Kinney recommends. “Evaluate your health insurance, life insurance and disability insurance. If anything happens to you, you want to make sure that your family is taken care of.”
Next, look at your cash flow. Can you keep spending what you’re used to spending?
“Take the next 90 days and get a reality check,” he advises. “You want to know what you are actually spending and what your income is. The quicker you adjust your budget, the quicker you can take control of your new future.”
What about the house? Despite the emotional attachment people may have to their home, Kinney has a gentle reminder about being practical.
“Here's the reality: Houses can be a blessing or a curse. It depends what happened there. After a divorce, if a woman stays in the home, she may feel that she can't disconnect herself from the past since all the past occurred in her house. Sometimes choosing to sell the house and clean the slate emotionally can be the key decision that causes her to move forward.”
He recommends hiring a Realtor to help take some of the emotional pressure off of the transaction, and to get as much as you can for it.
But remember; don’t get ahead of yourself in this process. When you're ‘suddenly single,’ it's important to do things in stages so you don't feel overwhelmed. If you look too far out it can become overwhelming and can cause you to take no action at all, which can actually set you back. Starting off slowly, he believes, can help you build momentum.
Kinney has a three-stage timeframe in which the suddenly single can pace themselves.
His first stage encompasses the first thirty days, in which some basic re-organization of your new reality takes shape. This is when you address nuts-and-bolts issues like your will and insurance (which, remember, you can change later on as things evolve). If you have children, don’t hide from them the ramifications of your family’s new financial situation.
Stage two takes up the next 90 days, in which you track your income and your expenses to develop a new budget. Kinney does not generally encourage his clients to make any more major financial decisions during these first two stages.
“Be very careful from an emotional standpoint about making spontaneous decisions that can cost you down the road,” Kinney warns. “If this issue is still raw, and you are still processing your emotions, then we don’t want to even talk about money yet until we help you come to grips with what has happened and the reality around that. As I visit with clients, if I find they are not able to move forward, I may refer them to a counselor to help them process what they’re going through.”
Kinney’s third stage is a six-month span after your budget has taken shape, during which time, he’ll start ramping-up the more long-term aspects of your new financial life and future.
“The key is to identify where you are today and where do you want to get to,” Kinney summarizes. “From my standpoint, regardless of what has happened, you are now moving forward on your own and have to depend on yourself in terms of addressing your current financial situation and moving forward with your life.”
It’s all about looking forward, instead of backward. It may sound like too much to expect from you, right now, considering all you’ve just gone through, but Kinney is an eternal optimist! Being a believer in Christ gives him confidence in sharing with clients his views on the role of money in the Christian walk.
“A person's faith is the foundation for financial freedom,” he says. “When I meet with clients, we regularly discuss their faith and how important it is. Even though you may be suddenly single, remember that God is not suddenly surprised by what has happened.
From his smorgasboard of church experience, ranging from the Christian and Missionary Alliance to the Presbyterian Church in America, Tim Laitinen brings a range of observations to his perspective on how we Americans worship, fellowship, and minister among our communities of faith. As a one-time employee of a Bible church in suburban Fort Worth, Texas and a former volunteer director of the contemporary Christian music ministry at New York City's legendary Calvary Baptist, he's seen our church culture from the inside out. You can read about his unique viewpoints at o-l-i.blogspot.com.
Publication date: August 6, 2013