Recovering from a major breakup takes time and work. Besides the emotional recovery involved, there’s also something to be said for the toll a breakup can have on your finances. Maybe you and your former partner shared a mortgage on your house or even a few insurance policies. You may have shared a joint checking or savings account as well.
Whatever the situation, there’s a lot to think about financially when going through a big breakup, especially during these uncertain economic times. So whether you’re recently divorced or in the midst of splitting up with a long-term partner, we’ve created this checklist to help. Here are 15 ideas to help you get back on your feet and thrive in an uncertain economy — and ultimately, make your strongest financial comeback ever.
15 ways to recover financially from a breakup
Audit your finances
One of the first steps in getting back on your feet financially after a major breakup is to audit your finances. Start by looking at what bank accounts you share and dividing them up.
Then, start looking at your shared expenses. This might include things like utility bills, car payments, and even mortgage payments. Make a list of all of these monthly expenses, and divide them in a way that makes the most sense. Keep in mind that for some of these expenses (like phone bills and health insurance), it might just be easier to get on separate plans rather than continue to share the expense of joint plans.
Figure out how to divide your assets
Next, you’ll want to start figuring out how to divide your assets. If you co-own any property, cars, or other major assets, you’ll need to decide who will keep each one. One way to do this is by determining who paid the most for each, or who needs something for practical reasons. If you plan on moving to an urban area and won’t require a car, maybe your ex keeps the shared vehicle.
Although it's easy to let dividing up assets become a point of contention in the breakup, keep in mind that maintaining these things costs money. Unless you’re prepared to assume the financial responsibility of a house or car by yourself, letting some of these things go will ultimately buy you more financial freedom, not less.
Decide who’s responsible for debts
One of the less glamorous sides to dividing things up is deciding who will assume responsibility for each of your shared debts. This may include things like mortgage and car payments, as well as any shared credit cards. Keep in mind that from a legal standpoint, whoever owns the account is responsible for making payments. If that’s both of you, then you’ll want to figure out how to best proceed.
If some of those accounts end up getting closed, this might be made easier. For example, if you sell your house, shared mortgage payments will go away. Similarly, if one person decides to keep the car, then they’ll be responsible for making payments. Start by having a conversation about your assets, then go from there to determine who should take on the various debts.
Sometimes, two incomes are better than one. If you find yourself in a situation with less buying power now that you’re single, it’s not a bad idea to consider downsizing. This might mean settling into a smaller apartment or home, or letting your ex keep the car. It might also mean adjusting your lifestyle to fit your new income threshold.
Whatever your next move, remember that downsizing isn’t necessarily a bad thing. By keeping your expenses to a minimum, you’ll open yourself up to newer, better financial opportunities. You may also have decreased stress when it comes time to pay your bills.
Change your address for bills and accounts
It might sound like an obvious technicality, but a surprising number of people actually forget to change their address when they move. Not only does this mean you’ll miss out on all of your favorite magazine subscriptions, but it will also make it harder for your bills to find you — which can result in late payment fees and all sorts of headaches. Rather than go through that, be sure to update your address with all of your major accounts, including your bank, credit cards, and even your student loans. Then head on over to the USPS website to officially change your address and set up a forwarding service, which will forward all your mail to your new address (for just $1.05) for up to a year.
Update your beneficiaries
You’ll also want to take care of updating your beneficiaries. Assuming your ex was previously listed as one, you’ll likely want to get that changed. This isn’t just important for your life insurance policy, but also for your will. Keep in mind that beneficiaries tend to inherit all of your assets (and debts) once you’re gone, so it’s good to list someone who’s prepared to assume those responsibilities. Get in touch with the lawyers or companies servicing your life insurance and estate plan to get that information updated.
Open new accounts
Assuming you shared at least one account (whether it be investing, banking, or otherwise) with your ex, now’s a good time to find a new one. Open personal savings and checking accounts so you have places to put your money once the separation is finalized. Having financial autonomy is important, and never more so than during a separation.
Close shared accounts
On the flip side, you’ll want to close your shared accounts as well. If one person plans on still using a shared account, then just be sure to remove the name of the other. From a legal standpoint, you’ll both be responsible for any account activity if your name is on it — in other words, any overdraft fees or other bad planning will impact both of you. Avoid that mess by getting your name off any shared accounts and separating all your finances as soon as possible.
Put your money in the right place
Making the best financial decisions isn’t always as straightforward as it should be — especially if your ex was the one managing the accounts. Now’s the time to make sure you’re setting yourself up for the best financial future and you’re informed on how to manage money. This includes things like making sure you’re saving for retirement and building an emergency fund. Getting back on your feet financially means more than just being able to pay the bills; it also means having a long-term plan and knowing you’ll be able to live comfortably, even in the distant future.
Reduce your bills
Speaking of bills, now is a great time to trim them. As we said before, limiting your expenses and finding easy ways to lower your bills can only be a good thing right now. Moving is expensive and almost always involves a variety of unexpected bills, such as security deposits, new utility bills, and even just paying the movers.
Rather than racking your brain for every last bill you owe all by yourself, get someone who can help. Companies like Truebill will help you identify any superfluous expenses coming out of your accounts, and can even call up companies to negotiate or cancel these expenses on your behalf. With all the moving pieces on your plate, getting a little help might not be a bad thing.
Rework your old budget
In addition to lowering your bills, it’s also a good idea to start reworking your budget. You may find that certain expenses are a lot less manageable with just one income. Spend some time deciding what things truly matter to you and make an ordered list — in other words, start budgeting.
Be sure to include all the basics like food, rent, and utilities, and then see what’s left. This might mean having less expendable income for a few months while you get back on your feet, but again, cutting back early is always better than feeling stressed later.
Sell your old stuff
Along with your old home and car, you might find that some of your stuff no longer fits in with your new life. Now’s a great time to purge and make extra money selling the things you no longer need. Furniture, clothes, and even all those little odds and ends can all be sold online for some extra income. Gather up all the stuff you plan on keeping, then make a plan for selling or donating the rest.
Pick up a side hustle
If you find yourself needing more than just a little extra pocket change, it might be a great time to pick up a side hustle. Not only will this help cover your moving expenses, but it will also keep you busy and keep your mind off the breakup. Maybe this means picking up a few shifts with your local food delivery service or even honing in your creative skills to find new work. Whatever you settle on, you’re sure to feel that sense of accomplishment in starting something new that uniquely serves you and your financial future.
Set new financial goals
Major changes are always a great time to set new goals. Whether you’re back to renting and hope to be a homeowner again one day, or you’re just looking to save money, take some time to set new financial goals for yourself. Having goals isn’t just some fluffy thing influencers talk about; it helps to have something to focus on, especially when you’re going through difficult changes.
Come up with a plan
Last but not least, come up with a plan to meet those goals. Goals mean nothing unless you have a plan in place to achieve them. Maybe that means increasing your monthly savings or working to pay down your debts faster. It might also mean living more frugally and dedicating more of your income to savings. Whatever it is, set aside smaller milestones in your long-term goals to help you measure your success. This will help you feel like you’re getting closer to meeting your goal, and will also help you stay focused on the big picture — even if life throws you another curveball.
The bottom line
Whether you’re going through a divorce or splitting with a long-term partner, a breakup can be a difficult financial obstacle — however, it’s not an insurmountable one. Creating a plan and making smart money moves will help you bounce back financially and get back on your feet quickly.