To start you down the right path, here are a few good tips to get you going in the right direction:
1. Open Your Own Checking, Savings, and Credit Card Accounts
When you got married, you probably combined your banking and credit accounts with your husbands. This may have been convenient for you but now that you're splitting up, it can be to your disadvantage. More than likely, the bills and credit cards were in his name, which did great for building his credit but left you far behind. It's time to start building your own credit history and all the experrs say that new accounts are the way to go.
Even if you had your own credit cards in your name, you need to make sure that your ex is not on your accounts at all. If he was, call the credit card companies and have them take him off off. Also, if your ex is vindictive, you might consider asking for new cards to be issued to ensure that he can't hurt you financially.
2. Child Support
If you have children, it's important that you have the courts
provide you with a court order for not only custody but also child support. This ensures that you and your kids' personal and financial rights are protected.
These orders should include how much is due and by what dates (they'll usually split it up across the month to help the payer) and any legal punishments if it is late. Also, make sure that miscellaneous things like payments for school or school activities, daycare/after-school care, medical and dental insurance is covered in this order.
If you and your ex-spouse are on decent terms, you may be able to have a lawyer draw up an agreement and submit it to the court system as uncontested. If you are not, you will more than likely have to go in front of a judge and fight for the orders.
Even if you're scared of the courts or a judge, even if you think you don't need the money, do it anyway! This is your and your children's financial future that you're playing around with.
3. Make A Plan
Sit down with all of your financial papers (pay stubs, bills, insurance policies, etc.) and evaluate where you stand financially.
- What money is coming into your house right now? (pay, child support, etc)
- What money is going out? (bills, mortgage/rent, insurance, etc.)
- Where can you save money?
- How can you plan for your future?
This is when you make yourself a budget and stick with it! Any divorced woman will tell you that money will come in and out of your bank account so fast your head will spin. Unless you know what's going on at all times, it's easy to lose track of things. One bounced check or one over-the-limit credit card (and all of the related fees) can quickly send you spiraled down into financial chaos.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, it might be a good idea to seek outside help. There are many skilled financial advisors that can give you a hand in sorting out your financial house and start you down the right road to financial freedom. The easiest way to find a financial advisor is to ask your friends - someone must know a good one that could help you. If you're wary about the person, you can always use the search engine Google to see if they are on the up-and-up.
4. Evaluate Your Lifestyle
Now is also the time to evaluate the world around you and see if it fits into your budget. You may have to seriously scale back in her lifestyle to be able to keep to your more restrictive budget.
For example, I know you love your cool-looking BMW or that nice little SUV that you and your husband bought three years ago but stop and ask yourself this: can you afford the payments now?
The same goes for the house or apartment that you are currently living in. You may have been lucky enough to be able to stay in your martial house while he moved out but the question is can you really afford it? Would a smaller house or maybe an apartment fit better into your new budget?
You should also evaluate the little things too. Do you really need the premium cable subscription or would a lower plan (or maybe even no cable) work better for you?
This re-evaluation can save you thousands each year - thousands that could be going towards your savings or retirement. That brings us to our next tip...
5. Start Saving For Your Future
One you are on your feet financially, it's time to start looking towards the future. That means opening (and using) a savings account. Most banks have automatic savings plans – every month, they take a set amount of money out of your checking account and place it in your savings – super easy as long as you remember about the debit every month and don't overspend!
Also, you will want to consider your retirement. Look into your company's 401k plan – if it's good, start to contribute even if only a few dollars from each paycheck. As you add money and the investments begin to pay off, you'll be surprised at how quickly that little account multiplies.
If your company does not provide such services, speak to a financial advisor who specializes in retirement funds. They can help you determine what you can afford and what plans are best for you and your investment style.