98680904Cash flow refers to how your money moves in your household, from the time it is received to when it is spent. When your cash flow is “positive,” it means you have more money coming in than going out; you are spending less than you take in each month. You want positive cash flow in order to pay for expenses and also save and invest money for goals. After a divorce, however, you may find your cash flow is tight or even negative. That is, you are spending your cash almost to zero each month or spending even more than you take into the household. To improve your cash flow, here are several steps to take: 1. List all your sources of income. Your income could include any of the following:
  • Spousal maintenance/alimony
  • Child support
  • Part-time and full-time wages, bonuses and commissions
  • Self-employed income
  • Rental income
  • Royalties
  • Investment income
  • Pensions or draws from retirement accounts
Different sources of income are taxed differently, so you need to know your true after-tax income. Consult a CPA or financial advisor to learn more about this. You’ll also need to know how often you receive each source of income and if it’s fixed/guaranteed (paychecks) or variable (self-employment income). 2. Determine your historical monthly spending. Look back 6-12 months to get an accurate picture of expenses. This could include everything from car or home maintenance to vacations, kids’ sports activities or insurance premiums. Look up spending summaries on your Quicken account or request statements from your bank or credit card companies. Don’t make yourself crazy trying to document every expense to the penny. Just come up with a monthly average per expenditure (e.g. $1,000 on holiday gifts averages out to about $83 a month). Reviewing your spending habits can be a valuable exercise. You’ll likely see areas where you could realistically cut spending in order to improve your cash flow. 3. Decide if positive cash flow requires more income or less spending – or both! There are only two ways to improve cash flow: increase your income or reduce spending. You can increase income by finding a job, increasing the hours you work or finding a different job with a better salary. You could also consider returning to school to train for a better-paying job. Temporary jobs, such as retail during the holiday season, can also provide a cash cushion to meet immediate or pressing needs. If you are already working as much as you can, then look for ways to cut spending. Divide your expenses into fixed expenses (like rent or mortgage), escrow expenses (such as insurance or taxes), and living expenses (groceries, haircuts, school expenses). It is often in the living expenses category that you can find areas to cut — at least short term — in order to create a more workable budget and money habits. Keep going back to this list and making cuts until your budget is less than your income. If you are in the habit of using credit cards as your cash overflow account and aren’t paying off the balance each month, this is another sign that you may not have positive cash flow. Stop using credit for any living expenses and give yourself a cash allowance instead. You will quickly assess needs and wants by looking at the remaining cash in your wallet as the weeks go by. Be gentle with yourself. A new cash flow system takes 30 to 90 days to start showing positive results. Staying in a budget takes practice, but can become fun as you have more money to save for vacation or that retirement dream.
A divorce can impact your ability to secure credit simply because you may no longer have the income you had when you were married. Here are five tips to maintain a good credit score and protect it for the future. 1. Know your credit score and what affects it. Your credit score report can be obtained for free (just one per year) through one of three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian or TransUnion. Your score is determined by your payment history, outstanding balances, history of using credit, the type of credit used and how many inquiries into your credit happen throughout the year. Keep in mind that it’s good to have a credit card or other credit and to use it occasionally to maintain your access to future credit when needed for a car loan or mortgage, for example. If you had joint credit accounts with your spouse, your credit score may or may not need a little boost after the divorce based on the factors mentioned above. #2 Eliminate obligations where possible. A credit card or statement with your name on it does not make you a joint owner of the account. Unless the account was originally opened with an application signed by you, you may only be an authorized signer and you can request to have your name removed from the account immediately. If your former spouse is named on the account as an authorized signer, have his/her name removed to avoid any future charges. #3 Close joint accounts or freeze future charges. If there is no balance on a joint account, call the creditor and close the account, noting that this may temporarily affect your credit score. If you are in the process of applying for a loan, however, ask your lender if you should close joint accounts at that time or wait until you have the loan in place to avoid jeopardizing the loan. If there is a balance that cannot be paid off right away on a joint account, call the creditor and request to freeze the account from any future charges. You can pay off the balance over time without incurring additional debt. #4 Transfer balances to the responsible party’s individual card. For debt that you are not responsible for, request that your former spouse transfer the remaining balance to another credit card in just his/her name.  If they are unable to pay their share of the debt, payments still need to be made so that the account doesn’t default and your credit score isn’t affected. Make sure that you are receiving copies of all statements by requesting duplicate copies. #5 Pay your bills on time, no matter what a judge says. Divorce decrees do not override account agreements with your creditors. Both spouses are liable and responsible for joint debt regardless of who the judge ordered to pay the bill. If accounts default, then both spouses can be sued or have their wages garnished. One 30-day late payment can drop your score 25-75 points and it takes months to get those points back. If you have trouble maintaining current accounts during or after your divorce, consider debt counseling to better manage your finances and preserve your credit score for the future.
During and after a divorce, tax matters take on new importance since your financial circumstances have probably changed, as has your filing status. If you were in charge of tax returns during your marriage — and especially if you were not — keep these tips in mind to support the best possible outcome when filing your annual returns. Some legal fees are deductible. While most court costs and legal fees for obtaining a divorce are not deductible, some are, including:
  • Fees paid for tax advice related to a divorce
  • Fees paid to determine or collect spousal maintenance
  • Fees paid to determine estate tax consequences of a property settlement
  • Fees paid to professionals if the services were completed to verify the accurate amount of tax or to assist in obtaining spousal maintenance (appraiser, actuary, etc.)
These deductible costs are usually claimed as a miscellaneous itemized deduction on Schedule A of your income tax forms, but are subject to the 2 percent of adjusted gross income floor.  Talk to your tax advisor to see if you qualify. You may be held liable for past unfiled joint tax returns or audited returns. Even if you were not involved in the preparation of your taxes during your marriage, you may still be held liable for unfiled returns or inaccurate returns. You can request copies of past federal and Minnesota state tax returns from your tax advisor or from the IRS and Minnesota Department of Revenue (Federal Form 4506-T and Minnesota Form M100). Plan ahead for filing of future tax returns. Your marital status on December 31 of a calendar year determines your filing status for that year. If you were married most of the year, but your divorce is finalized on December 31, you cannot file as married joint, but would instead file as either head of household or single. If you are in the process of getting divorced, consider working with your spouse, your attorney and a tax professional to determine which filing status would best suit your financial situation. Also, keep in mind during the divorce process that it helps to spell out the following in the divorce decree:
  • Who will itemize mortgage interest, real estate tax, charitable contributions and other itemized deductions?
  • Who will claim any dependent children’s exemption and tax credit?
  • Who will take any long-term capital loss carryover?
  • Who will claim any quarterly estimated tax payments made during the year?
  • Who will report investment income from joint accounts?
 If this is not clearly spelled out in your divorce decree, consult with your tax professional or attorney for guidance. Review your tax situation to determine withholding, estimated tax payments, cost basis of assets and taxable retirement benefit distributions. Your W-4 withholding may need adjustment after your divorce to ensure that enough tax is deducted from your wages — or less tax, depending on your situation. You should also determine if you need to make additional estimated quarterly tax payments to cover spousal maintenance or personal investment income (which does not have taxes withheld like wages). You’ll need to know the cost basis of your personal investments, real estate and any life insurance with a cash value. If you sell these assets in the future, the cost basis will determine if you have taxable income from the sale. Finally, if you take a distribution from a retirement account during the divorce process, you may have to pay taxes on that income. Plan ahead for your taxes during the divorce process and prior to filing that first post-divorce return. You’ll reduce the time, cost and potential frustration of this necessary part of your new life.