My ex spouse always looked after the bills, taxes, and other household expenses. I'm feeling overwhelmed -- where do I start?
Take a deep breath and tell yourself that you can do this and you will be fine. Many people have had to face this situation. You are not the first person or the last person having to take control of an area of your life that was previously done by someone. Taking care of the finances of a household is just a job that someone needs to do -- and that someone is you.
Remember, when you break any large project or job down into its basic elements it is much easier to understand and manage. Let’s think about what the details of this "Job" are, and how we can get the job done. There are certain expenses that must be paid each month: mortgage, rent, car, utility, telephone, food, credit cards, and insurance, to name just a few. In order to determine what you need to pay each month, do you have the paid bills from previous months? Do you have a check register? Do you have cancelled checks which you could review? Sit down with a piece of paper and begin listing the items which you know have to be paid on a monthly basis and list the approximate amounts. You don’t have to figure everything out all at once. You will need time to calmly think about what bills you will need to pay. This is not a timed race that you need to rush to complete: just give it some thought and get the job done right.
Do you have a checking account, what bank is the account at, where is the check book?
Can you continue to use that account, or will you need to set up a new account? Do you have a savings account? What about investment accounts? What credit cards do you have? Once you have determined who needs to be paid, the mailing address account number, and approximate monthly amount, you must determine the total monthly expenses. The next question is where will the money come from to pay for those bills? Do you have a job or do you receive investment income and is your spouse paying you support? Don’t be afraid to ask for help from a trusted friend, relative, Certified Public Accountant (CPA), or a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA). The more information you know about your situation before seeking help, the better off you will be. Try to narrow down the areas of your concern where you could use the help of an expert to solve. Are you going to write your checks out by hand each month, or do you want to use a computer program like Quicken to pay your bills and do on line banking? Taking care of the household finances is a job that you can do and do well with your own forethought and the helpful guidance of an expert.
Roderick C. Moe is a CPA and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst™ (CDFA) with offices in Lake Worth who has more than 30 years' experience in tax and accounting for businesses and individuals. View his website and Divorce Magazine profile.