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February 26, 2021

How to Deal with a Financial Breakup

Our professional opinion? Breakups are the worst. It’s hard enough dealing with all the feelings, but when you add all the logistics and questions on top, it gets overwhelming fast. No matter why the breakup happened, one of the major areas of resentment and confusion is – you guessed it – money.

Money matters

Dating site EliteSingles did a survey, “Love and Money,” of 581 men and women in its membership pool and discovered that different spending habits can be a dealbreaker. They found that 79 percent of men and 70 percent of women think that a partner sensible with their finances is preferable to a lavish spender.

People are shaped by their experiences growing up, which is why two people in a relationship can have different points of view and attitudes toward money. How you deal with money in a relationship can also be shaped by your prior relationships – whether you split bills down the middle, take turns paying for date night, or have joint accounts. There’s no right or wrong answer, but it can complicate things a bit if the relationship ends. Here are some steps you can take if you’re getting out of a relationship to set yourself up financially:

First things first—change your passwords

If you and your ex shared bank account passwords (or for that matter any monetary account passwords like Venmo, PayPal, etc.), it is recommended that you change your passwords ASAP. While it’s easier to assume that they won’t have any interest in accessing your accounts again, you can’t be sure that the password wasn’t saved on a computer or smartphone. Additionally, if you shared a credit card, be sure to call the CC company and disable the card holder’s access on your credit card.

Tip: this goes for other passwords as well, especially social media, email, and services. Even if you’re feeling magnanimous, changing that Netflix password after a grace period might also be a good idea.

Talk about how to handle shared assets

If communication has been an issue in your relationship, it’s extremely important to address financial matters as soon as possible. If you share a bank account, make sure to immediately have a conversation about how you want to split the funds in it.

If you both contributed the same amount to the account, dividing the balance in half is the easiest way to go. If you contributed unequal amounts, your best option is to examine how much each of you put into the account and try to distribute what remains in the most equitable way possible. Bank statements often contain this information.

Finally, when you close the bank account, make sure you update your direct deposit information with your job and any automatic payment accounts. You don’t want to run the risk of hurting your credit because you end up missing a bill or two after you close the account.

Talk about how to handle any shared debt

No one likes debt, and talking about it can often be emotional and messy. If you signed for a credit card, car loan, and/or mortgage with your ex, it might be helpful to stick to facts or involve a third party in the discussion.

Regardless of how much each of you was contributing to repaying it — say, if your ex put more toward monthly payments than you did — you’re both liable if both your names are on the account. Try to “buy them out” if you have the cash flow to do so – the less you rely on your ex on an ongoing basis the better. Otherwise, if for example they end up keeping the car, maybe they can be the one responsible for the monthly car payments.

Be careful here – neglecting to bring up or discuss a shared debt can lead to problems later on. Missed payments will negatively impact your credit score and may prevent you from securing a car or an apartment down the line.

Reassess your expenses and create a new budget

Grab your choice of comfort food and settle in for a night of ruthlessly hacking and slashing your budget. If your ex was the one in charge of finances, take this time to analyze your statements for the past few months and review your income and expenses. Have a notebook on hand to write down money coming in and flowing out over the past month. How will this change now that you’re on your own? Maybe you can take out a few subscription services: you likely don’t need Apple Music and Spotify, orNetflix and HBO Max.

Even more importantly, focus on the expenses that will make the biggest difference to your bottom line. If you shared a car, maybe you’ll realize that in the post-Covid, work-from-home world, you can let go of the vehicle. Doing so will give you the most saving potential right from the start. If you realize that the shared apartment will cost you too much money, think about if you might want to bring in a roommate on a temporary basis or move out altogether.

Framing the big life decisions you might have to make now through the lens of doing the right thing financially is probably the best way to set your newly single self right from the beginning.

Take this opportunity to kickstart your own long-term financial goals

There’s something really rewarding about taking charge by opening a new bank account, signing a new lease, and creating your first solo budget. Doing so will help you start fresh, and give you the baseline financial knowledge you need to be successful.

Once you’ve opened your own brand-new account, make sure you update your employer so paychecks get deposited into the new account. Bonus points for also using this opportunity to open up a retirement account and directing some of your pay into it every pay period.

If you’re still feeling a bit overwhelmed, use apps such as Mint, Personal Capital, and YNAB to keep you on track (they’re more accurate and less judgy than your ex anyway, ahem). Use these tools to track savings against specific financial goals and measure your progress. The important thing is to focus on your ability to meet your future financial goals and stop ruminating on the past.

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