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Higher Education | Adler Law Firm PLLC

Higher Ed Law Firm Takes on Bankruptcy Trustees in Tuition Battles

The law firm that has bailed colleges and universities out of NCAA athletic-compliance trouble is getting dragged into the bankruptcy courtroom, where fights are increasingly breaking out over tuition payments.

The Bond, Schoeneck & King firm is representing several colleges that face demands to return tuition payments made by a student’s parents. That money, court-appointed bankruptcy officials argue, should have paid off the parents’ own bills.

The disputes have put repayment pressure on at least 49 colleges and universities, according to a Wall Street Journal tally. Skidmore College officials, for example, hired Bond lawyers to help them keep $87,807 that a Georgia mother paid for her daughter’s education at the private college in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Bond lawyers have worked for more than 100 colleges and universities that need help on matters such as complying with NCAA rulebooks, negotiating professor contracts and reading the fine print of grants. The firm is “stocked with former NCAA investigators,” according to a New York Times article published in 2007 that traced the niche to the academic fraud scandal at the University of Minnesota’s men’s basketball team.

“We do a tremendous amount of higher education work,” said lawyer Stephen Donato, who co-leads the firm’s bankruptcy practice.

But will the higher ed expertise help them in the tuition disputes?

The bankruptcy judge who is handling a lawsuit against Ithaca College, which was sued in January to return $95,727 for a Connecticut woman’s debts, made it clear that the work won’t be easy.

During a hearing last month, Ithaca College’s local lawyer had begun to raise the popular defense that society expects parents to pitch in for pricey schooling costs these days, but U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Ann Nevins cut them off.

“I’m not happy about these education cases, but there are plenty of folks who can’t afford to send their children to college, and there doesn’t seem to be a constitutional right to send your child to college, as much as some folks would like there to be,” she said during a hearing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Hartford, Conn.

In the courtroom, colleges face bankruptcy trustees who have the power to take back money that a bankrupt person spent several years before filing for protection if a trustee finds that the person didn’t get “reasonably equivalent value” for that expense. In the case of a child’s tuition payment, the filer didn’t get the value for the expenditure—the child did.

At least one other school called in a prominent law firm for help in this precinct. Johnson & Wales University hired the Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr law firm to defend the private, Rhode Island-based college in a lawsuit over $46,909 in tuition, which was paid by a Connecticut couple for their daughter’s education.

The hiring signals that colleges are ready for a fight—a shift from their usual strategy. Historically, colleges have opted to settle the disputes quietly using small law firms or their own in-house counsel.

But bankruptcy experts predict more of these lawsuits to come as college costs rise and more parents chip in to help their kids. Four judges who have written opinions on the issue were split, and several others have hinted that a fresh ruling is needed to clear up the rules.

Congress could beat the judges to it. Less than a week after The Wall Street Journal’s first report on the lawsuits, Rep. Chris Collins (R., N.Y.) introduced a bill that would block bankruptcy trustees from filing lawsuits against universities and college students to recover tuition money that had been paid years before.

Write to Katy Stech at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @KatyStech

Economy | Adler Law Firm PLLC

Democratic Presidential Candidates Plan to End Student Debt Crisis

It’s impossible not to notice that student loan debt has emerged as a big issue in the campaigns for the 2020 Democratic Party presidential nominations. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren brought it to the forefront in the spring of 2019 when she proposed a plan to forgive a large portion of the more than $1.5 trillion […]

The post Democratic Presidential Candidates Plan to End Student Debt Crisis appeared first on Debt.org.

Economy | Adler Law Firm PLLC

Consumer Debt Grows as U.S. Economy Expands

Americans are taking on ever larger debt loads as they struggle to maintain living standards. They are borrowing more on their credit cards, taking on a soaring levels of student debt and signing more and more personal loans, all making the next recession even riskier for those already struggling to make payments. Housing prices and […]

The post Consumer Debt Grows as U.S. Economy Expands appeared first on Debt.org.

savings | Adler Law Firm PLLC

How to Overcome a Spending Problem

How to overcome a spending problemDo you have a spending problem? I do. The thing is, it’s not always easy to recognize a spending problem. Some of us have one and don’t even realize it.

That’s because being human means that it’s hard for us to see our own issues — even if they’re things that might be obvious to an outsider.

So before we get into possible ways to overcome a spending problem, let’s talk about how to identify one.

Keep in mind that having a spending problem is not necessarily the same as having compulsive shopping disorder or a spending addiction.

It’s broader than that. The good news is, it doesn’t have to stop you from getting out of debt or reaching your financial goals.

Signs of a spending problem

So how do you know when you have a spending problem? The most obvious signs show up in your finances.

You probably have a spending problem if you should have more than enough money each month to pay all of your bills but:

  • You’re living paycheck to paycheck, spending all of your money before your next payday comes
  • You’re living beyond your means (meaning you’re using credit or loans to buy things because you don’t have the cash right now — even though you know how to budget)
  • You don’t know how much money you owe on your credit cards, and don’t remember what you bought with them
  • You’re only making minimum payments on your debts, even though in theory you should be able to send extra toward at least one of them
  • When you do add up how much you’ve spent, you’re surprised at the total
  • You’re not meeting your financial goals due to overspending
  • You have any of the signs of a compulsive shopper or a spending addiction

Did you recognize yourself anywhere on the list?

If so, that’s a step in the right direction. You can’t fix what you don’t know is broken, so recognizing that you have a spending problem is the very first step toward making a change.

While I’m no longer in debt, and I do have money in savings and am setting aside money for retirement each month, I am still regularly surprised at how much I’ve spent. And I don’t like how much I’ve spent.

So I’ve still got issues in that area — mainly due to impulsiveness & boredom. But, I’ve managed to overcome the worst of it, and it’s no longer causing problems with my money. Chances are you can do the same.

How to overcome a spending problem

Here are some ways to overcome a spending problem. (Of course, if you have an addiction or a compulsion, get help from a competent mental health professional.)

It starts with recognizing that you have a spending problem, and then takes a little digging. See if it manifests itself in impulsiveness, in particular areas, or if it’s more generalized.

That way you can decide what actions might help you most. Let’s start with impulse buys first, since many spending problems are related to those.

If your spending problem is related to impulse buys…

Impulse buys are huge causes of overspending. You see something cool that you just have to have (even though you didn’t want it at all 5 minutes ago).

Or you get bored and want to go do something. You know, something fun like going out to eat, to the movies, to the mall, on a trip, or whatever.

If you know that you’re like that (and I am) set up a system to protect you from yourself:

How to stop yourself from overspending on impulse buys

To get your spending problem in check in this case, try the following:

1. Create a checklist to use before spending money.

Keep the list with you, and get in the habit of referring to it before spending money. For example, your checklist could have items like this on it:

  • Is this a planned purchase?
  • Did I want this before I heard or saw an ad for it?
  • Do I have the money for it already?
  • If I buy this, will I still be able to buy or do the other things I need and want?
  • Do I have an item like this already or I have I done something similar recently?
  • How many times per month will I use this?
  • Could I borrow this from someone instead?
  • Can I wait to buy this next week?

Just answering those questions will slow you down and start the thought process. If you still want the item after that, commit to waiting at least 24 hours before you spend the money. (Even if you’re happy with all of your checklist answers.)

2. Enlist the help of a family member or friend.

Find someone who will hear you out and then tell you no and talk you down. This should be someone who can also remind you of your real goals (whatever those might be.) Then call that person whenever the unplanned urge to spend comes on. Make sure they know you asked them to remind you of what you said you’d rather be doing with your money.

3. Set up an automated savings plan.

If you’re just not saving enough because you spend first, set up an automated savings plan. You can do this a couple of ways. If your workplace offers direct deposit, have a set amount each paycheck sent to a (hard to access) savings account. Or you can set up an automatic transfer to savings that goes into effect ASAP each time your paycheck makes it into your checking account. Note: If you find yourself constantly transferring from savings to checking despite this plan, definitely work on your budget.

Of course, you can also work on whatever might be behind your problem with impulse spending. (For me having ADHD plays a big part.)

If your spending problem shows up only in specific areas

If you’re spending problem only shows up in specific areas, look to see what’s behind it. Then challenge yourself to fix the underlying issue.

There are three specific areas that I’ve noticed people often mention as problem areas, so I’ll cover those here next.

If you’re spending too much money eating out

You might find that you’re spending way too much money eating out. Think about why you’re doing that.

Do you hate to cook? Are you bored? Do you think that you have too much to do? Do you like to spend time with family & friends, and are meals out the way you normally do that?

Make your own list of why you eat out a lot, and then think of possible solutions.

Some ideas to change things might be taking up a new (less expensive!) hobby, get another family member to do the cooking, eliminate 20 minutes of TV or computer time per day to give yourself more time to cook, notice that it actually takes longer to drive somewhere and eat out vs cooking at home, set a specific amount to spend each month on meals out, eat less expensive places, get water instead of buying drinks, etc.

If you spend too much on the kids

Or maybe you’re spending too much money on child-related expenses such as clothes, toys, and activities. Again, step back and take a realistic look at what you’re doing, and why you might be doing it.

Do the kids or grandkids really need new clothes on a monthly basis? Are their rooms overflowing with things to do? Is their schedule packed? Are you trying to show your love because you want them to have whatever they desire?

Set limits for yourself ($40 on clothes per month, for example, or one activity per child) and then follow them. Also, know that while a child may say (and truly feel) that they want the latest must-have item, chances are they will not even remember those things when they grow up. Unless they never get any of them of course, which would not be the problem in this case.

What they WILL remember is the time you spent with them. Running errands with them, talking or texting with them online, even getting physical letters from you or spending time at your house. Think back to your own childhood. Is it THINGS that you remember, or people? Know that you can show your love AND still reach your financial goals. While being a good role model for money.

If you only spend too much when you do certain things…

This is related to impulse buys, which I talk about above, but it can be more specific too IF the only time you only spend more than you intend is when you do certain things.

For example, maybe you only overspend when you:

  • See an ad online
  • Get a catalog in the mail or a coupon in your email
  • Go to the hundred dollar store (aka Target)

In those cases, the solution is pretty simple. Install an ad blocker, cancel the catalogs you’re already getting and get on the do mail list, unsubscribe from the offer emails, and avoid the stores that trigger you.

You will save a WHOLE lot more by not buying than you ever would by spending on “deals”.

If your spending problem is more generalized

If you tend to overspend in many areas, strangely enough that may actually be easiest of all to resolve.

Chances are you need to start tracking your spending, for starters. (At least use something like Mint if the thought of doing it yourself with a piece of paper makes you shudder.)

Then LOOK at your spending regularly. Daily at first, in fact. NOT at the end of the month. The purpose of looking at your spending is not to beat yourself up or feel bad. It’s to decide whether or not you got enough value, or would have rather used the money for a bigger goal instead.

It sounds simple, but “just” paying attention can make a huge difference. You’ll have a whole lot more of those “wow I spent more than I meant to” moments. That will give you more opportunities to stop the spending on the things that don’t matter to you.

Ideally, you’ll also want to set up a spending plan. Knowing what you want to spend your money on will help you to say no to those spur-of-the-moment things that aren’t on your list. Budgeting really is your friend.

Success with overcoming your spending problem is possible

Once you begin to experience some success, you’ll start to see the benefits of getting your spending problem under control, and you’ll likely get better and better at it.

The important thing is to keep at it, and to get help if you need it or continue to struggle. You CAN overcome your problem with spending!

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The post How to Overcome a Spending Problem appeared first on JackieBeck.com.

halloween-illustration | Adler Law Firm PLLC

How to See Scary Savings on Halloween Costumes

Halloween Costumes

It’s that time of year again! Time for the kids to start begging for all of the newest and coolest bloody weapons of choice and princess costumes. Yep, it’s Halloween time again! I personally am not a huge fan of this holiday due to the fact that it can get ridiculously expensive.  All so that they can dress up for one night and get all the candy in the world to rot their teeth out and assist with the continuation of childhood obesity and diabetes. I know, that’s the frugal part of me as well as the holistic health advisor. So I have to rein that in and remember the amount of fun that I had as a child dressing up on Halloween to go Trick-or-Treating.

Once I have gotten into the proper state of mind, the begging to go to the Halloween Store and Target are easier to handle. So we took the plunge yesterday and took them all shopping to get some ideas.

Clearance

One of my favorite places to search for costumes first is the clearance section. Here is where you can find some of the more generic costumes or costumes that aren’t as popular this year. Finding something that the kids are interested in and that happens to be the right size is the challenge here. Although, I can tell you that 1 out of the 5 kids got a costume from that particular section yesterday and for under $10!

The older ones were not as easily persuaded on the costumes in this section though, and that could be where the battle comes in. Not all kids can be persuaded that they want to be the generic Ninjago or Medieval Princess.

Crafty

Something that we end up doing every year is heading over to one of the local craft stores to see what we can find to embellish or create a costume. Usually we are looking for things like fabric, glitter, glue, wings, face makeup, etc. More often than not, Michaels and Jo-Ann Stores have Halloween related items on sale and prominently located when you walk into the store. This is immensely helpful because it makes it easier to find what we need without scouring the store.

Not only are their Halloween themed items on sale, usually up to 50% off, but I have found that they usually also have coupons you can use also. Currently at Jo-Ann Stores  you can get a coupon on their website for 50% off one regular priced item or if you order online and have everything you need shipped you get 25% off every regular priced item on your order plus $2.99 shipping. That could end up being a pretty sweet deal depending on what you are looking for. Michaels has the same coupon for 50% off one regular priced item on their website too, so they are being equally competitive.

We had to go to Jo-Ann yesterday, after leaving the Halloween Store, to get the glue and glitter required by our own design for my daughter’s Fire Angel costume that she made up in her head. I do love this type of creativity! We bought a pair of white velvet wings that came with a white halo at the Halloween Store and then glittered them up to look like fire (spray adhesive is my new best friend when it comes to applications like this). She has a red dress that she is going to wear, so that didn’t cost any money. Between the wings, halo, glue and glitter the total cost for her costume was $19.36! I was happy that it ended up being under $20 and we still have a ton of glitter and glue left, so that is a big bonus.

Reuse

This is my favorite category to live in. I love to reuse and recycle anything and everything. This is where you have to put on your creativity hat sometimes. Take stock of what clothes and shoes you have in your closet, kids and parents alike. Is there anything that you can use for an entire costume, or even part of one, that may work for your needs without having to purchase anything new? If you can’t seem to find everything you need at your house then consider going to a local second hand store, like Goodwill, because there are a plethora of gems hiding in there and for so much cheaper than purchasing new. If you aren’t sure where to go near you, then definitely check out TheThriftShopper.com because they are the only national thrift store directory in the world.

We are using an existing dress for my daughter, so that is one done. One of the boys was a grim reaper last year and I kept the costume (of course!) so we are using that for one of the other boys this year. I only needed to purchase him a new scythe because the other one got inadvertently broken in half by horseplay. One of the other boys decided that he wanted to be wolverine, which was what one of the other kids had been in a past year also, so we are reusing the mask and weeding through clothes to come up with an outfit to match.

Overall, for our 5 kids, we have spent a total of $76.17. Now of course this is still more than I would like to spend because I am frugal. But we have 5 kids! That math equates to $15.23 per kid. I can’t really argue with spending less than $20 per kid on a Halloween costume. Next year maybe we can reuse even more of them!

What tricks or treats have you saved money on Halloween costumes for your children?

How to find Scary savings on Halloween costumes

The post How to See Scary Savings on Halloween Costumes appeared first on Debt RoundUp, the content owner.

Woman Divorced | Adler Law Firm PLLC

What You Need to Know About Divorce and Money as a Woman

Divorce and Money - What women need to knowNaturally, divorce is a topic most of us would prefer to avoid. But it’s wise to know how divorce could affect your money, even if you never think it’s a possibility.

So this article about divorce and money is for you, whether you’re engaged, married, considering divorce, or going through a divorce right now.

Who Wants to Think About Divorce and Money? Probably No One.

Ignorance starts out as bliss.

Many of us plan our weddings with the utmost care. We worry about details like the bridesmaid’s dresses, which flavor of cake to choose, or what flowers to order.

Hopefully, at a minimum we also discuss money and how we’ll handle it going forward. Will we combine finances completely? Have yours, mine, and ours accounts? Keep only separate accounts?

But if someone we know dares to bring up the idea of a prenup, we bristle or blow them off. (Unless we’re very, very wealthy and already used to the idea.)

We don’t believe in divorce. Our love is so strong, it can withstand anything. Sometimes there’s this fleeting, superstitious feeling that by mentioning the fact that divorce exists, we are inviting it to happen. So we quickly reassure ourselves and dive back into more pleasant stuff.

And I get all that. Really, I do. We’re nesters, and nesting is a huge part of creating a household. And who wants to think about divorce when we’re in love and/or not even married yet?

I sure didn’t.

But I got divorced from my first husband after we’d been married for more than 10 years.

And it absolutely had an impact on my money.

Ignoring Divorce and Money Doesn’t Make You Divorce-Proof

The fact is, ignoring the possibility of divorce — and what it can do to your financial future — does not make you divorce-proof.

If your marriage does end, it’s better to have done a few simple things ahead of time. You’ll be better off than you might otherwise have been.

And if it doesn’t end in divorce, you’ll still be better off.

Think of it like being on an airplane, learning what to do in the unlikely event of a water landing. Preparation doesn’t hurt, but it sure can help if you do need it!

Where Divorce and Money Can Hit You Hard: And How to Safeguard Those Areas

There are four major areas where divorce and money can hit you hard. This is especially true if you haven’t taken steps to protect yourself and your future.

The areas are:

  • The things you own (assets including retirement funds)
  • The things you owe money on (debts)
  • Your credit
  • Your standard of living

If you’ve never thought about how to set up your finances to make sure you are protected in the event of divorce, don’t worry — you can still do things that can help. Even if you’ve been married for ages.

Safeguarding the Things You Own (Including Retirement Funds)

Let’s take a look at the things you own first, because those will likely be the one of the earliest things you’ll deal with in the event of divorce.

Assets are everything you own that’s worth anything, no matter how little those things may be worth.

Know What Your Family’s Assets Are

If you are considering divorce or in the middle of one, don’t hide assets or remove marital property. Do keep track of what you own, and ask a lawyer for advice.

Even if you think there’s zero possibility of divorce, you need to know exactly what your family’s assets are. Make a list of them, together with your partner. After all, what if one of you dies? It’s important to know what you’ve got.

Include things like:

  • Bank accounts
  • Investment and retirement accounts
  • Cash
  • Any real estate
  • Vehicles
  • Personal property
  • Household items
  • Collectibles
  • Business assets
  • etc

Make sure both your names are on any joint property. (And by make sure, I mean physically look at the deeds yourself and verify that for a fact.) An estate planning attorney can advise you on the best way to hold property jointly for tax purposes.

And yes, of course you trust your spouse. But we’ve all thought that we did something, only to find out later that we forgot. Your spouse could have made a mistake, or the paperwork could have been filed improperly. Trust, but verify.

If you have any separate property (like gifts, an inheritance, or a business owned before marriage) make sure that is clearly indicated too. Get a prenup or a postnuptial agreement to spell things out.

You want your property to stay yours. And you want your spouse’s property to stay theirs. Mingle those funds and that probably won’t happen after divorce, unless you end up with a very nice ex who either doesn’t seek legal advice or ignores it.

If You Need to Divide Up Your Assets

Even if you rent and have no money at all set aside, you’ll still have to divide up all of the household goods so that they can be split fairly and/or equally. (Depending on the state laws where you live.)

At a certain point in the process, you might feel like just letting your ex have it all! (Either out of frustration, guilt, or just a desire to get the whole horribly emotional process over with.) But doing so can be costly.

Even if you’re only dividing up household items, remember you’ll have to pay to replace the things you need. That can get pricey. So sure, let go of the stupid things or the things that don’t mean anything to you. Just don’t take it too far. Protect yourself by making sure things come out reasonably fair.

Let’s talk about debt next.

It’s Important to Know What Happens to Debt When You Divorce

I’m a huge fan of getting out of debt, but I realize many people do use debt.

If you choose to borrow, think about how you would feel if you had to pay back those loans all by yourself. Would you be ok with it? Because that could happen even in a happy marriage. (For example, if your spouse loses their job and can’t find another, or becomes disabled.)

If you don’t feel good about that idea, don’t borrow, or make paying off debt a priority if you already owe more than you’re ok with.

But What If You Already Have Debt, and are Splitting Up?

Start by making a list of what you owe, whether or not it’s jointly held debt, and when you took it on. (Before or after marriage.)

When you took out the loan matters. Because for example if your spouse took out a student loan before you combined households, and you didn’t cosign for it, usually you’re not responsible for that student loan after you divorce.

Get a copy of your credit reports to make sure you don’t miss anything. You should do that at least once a year anyway, and you can get them free at AnnualCreditReport.com.

Usually the court will divide up debts too, so you’ll need that list. How they do it depends on where you live and your exact situation.

Many people wonder how credit card debt is split in divorce. Like other debt, it usually gets split up as part of the overall dividing of assets and debts.

If you have joint credit cards with no balance, you’ll almost certainly need to close those. If you have joint credit cards that DO have a balance, things can get a little trickier.

Depending on what your court order says, one or both of you may need to transfer some or all of the credit card debt to individual cards of your own. Then you’ll close the joint cards. There are other ways to handle it too, but usually the goal is to get those joint cards to a zero balance and then close them. My ex and I closed all of our credit cards as part of our divorce.

The same kind of thing can happen for jointly-owned cars and houses, but it’s a little more involved. Essentially, you refinance to get one name off the loan, and retitle the car or home.

So Who is Actually Responsible for Debt After Divorce?

Speak with your lawyer, but in my experience ultimately the short answer is: whoever agreed to be responsible for the debt when you got it. That could be you, your spouse, or both of you.

Let me explain.

The court may assign certain debts to one spouse or another, even if you both took on the debts jointly. So your divorce decree may say your ex must pay one debt, and you other must pay another. In that sense, the divorce decree says who is responsible. It’s a legal agreement that describes what’s required between you and your ex, approved by the court.

But your credit agreements are not with the court. They’re with the lenders. And make no mistake, a credit agreement is a contract. If you both signed it, you’re both liable.

Suppose your ex gets Debt A from the court and your name is on it too. If you don’t do the refinancing/transferring mentioned above, what happens if they doesn’t pay it on time or at all?

In that case, the late payments or non-payment goes on your credit report too. (Because it is a jointly held debt.) And the creditor will probably try to get the money from YOU if they aren’t getting it from your ex. They don’t care that you’re divorced. They care that their agreement with them is upheld.

What happens if you go ahead and pay it because you cosigned for the loan, even though your divorce agreement says your ex should pay it? Probably you’ll just be out the money. You may have to sue your ex if you want to try to get the money back. So if your ex is bad with money, broke, or spiteful, be aware of what could happen.

Watching Out for Your Credit Score When It Comes to Divorce and Money

Many people worry about their credit scores, because they want to be able to borrow. (Quick note: paying off debt can help your credit score.)

Depending on your financial situation right now, a divorce could harm or help your credit score, or in some cases have no impact.

Let’s talk about the less likely scenario first: divorce improving your credit. That situation can arise if your spouse is very irresponsible with money but you’re not.

In that case, if you get divorced — AND you take care of preexisting debts (like your mortgage, car payments, and credit card debt) correctly — your credit will probably gradually improve post-divorce.

That’s because your credit score is based on your history with money, which is recorded in your credit report. Recent history generally counts for more than things that happened in the distant past.

(Getting divorced may also make it easier for you to get out of debt, if you are committed to it but your ex wasn’t.)

And now for the other scenario: your credit score could sink like a rock if things go wrong. That’s because while your score and your ex’s score are not directly tied together, your joint loans impact both scores. That becomes an issue if either party does not pay as agreed on debts that you signed for.

Protecting Your Credit Score After Divorce

There are a few ways to try to protect your credit score. Number one is to refinance where needed to get joint debt into individual names instead.

If you and/or your spouse can’t refinance, you MAY want to protect yourself by taking on more debt in exchange for your ex taking fewer assets. That way you can control making the payments, and making sure they are on time.

But only do that if you can truly afford to do so with the additional expenses you will likely have. Protecting your credit isn’t the most important thing. Providing for yourself and your kids is.

If your name is on the mortgage and your ex will continue to live there afterward, they’ll need to refinance before the bank will remove your name from the mortgage. (And vice versa.) Do NOT sign a quit claim deed without having proof that your name has been removed from the mortgage.

A quit claim deed is a way of giving up all ownership in the property. But it doesn’t release you from any responsibility for the mortgage. So you could end up having to pay for something that you don’t own if you sign the quit claim deed before the loan is refinanced. If either of you do refinance to get the other’s name off the mortgage, you’ll probably have to meet at the mortgage company to have the quit claim deed signed.

But the things you own, the things you owe, and your credit aren’t the only thing to take care of. When it comes to the possibility of divorce and money, you also need to protect your standard of living.

Protecting Your Standard of Living

Divorce can have a huge impact on your standard of living, and not in a good way. There are several reasons for that.

According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, in 2018 women’s earnings were 81.6 percent of men’s. Basically, women in general typically make 18.4% less for the same work as men in general. If you’re Hispanic or black, you’re likely to make MUCH less in general. Get a divorce, and the problem with this pay gap becomes very obvious.

If you have kids and they live with you, this problem is even worse after divorce. You’re left with less money to support more people.

For example, maybe you had 2 incomes that brought in $68K a year to live on for a 4-person household. But after the divorce, you have $31K a year to live on for a 3-person household.

In other words, your income has to stretch further than it did before.

But What About Child Support?

In theory child support is supposed to fix this problem, but it often does not.

Yes, you may receive child support, but let’s face it, it’s rarely going to cover enough of the actual expenses you’ll have for your kids — and that’s IF your ex does pay it on time and in full.

Because you may not get it at all, and you probably won’t get all of it.

According to the Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support, less “than half (43.5 percent) of custodial parents who were supposed to receive child support received full child support payments.” Sadly, that makes things sound better than they are though, because only 50.2% of all custodial parents had any kind of child support agreement.

The bottom line? You have less money — which means your standard of living must drop if you don’t want to end up deeply in debt or bankrupt.

Get a divorce, and you may end up driving a beater and struggling to scrape by — while your ex drives a flashy new car.

So You Need to Protect Yourself Before Anything Happens

If you’re newly engaged or happily married, it may seem odd to think about doing things now to protect your standard of living in case of divorce. But several are things you should think about doing anyway, because they’ll help in a marriage too.

  1. If you have an employer, negotiate your salary and ask for raises regularly. Try to find out what men in similar roles are making, and push to make at least as much yourself. Making a good salary will give you a better base to start with if divorce happens. At a minimum it’ll give you and your family more money to work with. (Money you can use to crush debt and beef up retirement.)

  2. No matter what, make sure you can answer questions about your financial situation without having to refer to your spouse. (If you’d like to have all the info in one place, here’s my affiliate link to an ICE binder. It’s a great tool for gathering that information, along with everything you need to run your household.)

  3. Don’t leave handling the money all to your spouse. Of course, one person may be more comfortable handling the money, but both parties need to know what’s going on.

  4. Make sure you BOTH contribute to retirement accounts, especially if you’re in a community property state. If you contribute during the marriage but your spouse doesn’t, in community property states half usually belongs to your ex.

  5. Don’t acquire joint debt (or any debt!) willy nilly. Think carefully about whether you want to be responsible for owing all that money at all. (And especially in the event of a divorce.)

If You Do Get Divorced

If you do go through the divorce process, consult a lawyer of your own. A lawyer doesn’t have mean there’ll be a big court drama. Instead, it should mean access to information and guidance.

So get legal advice so that you know what you’re entitled to in your area and in your situation.

Ask about things like retirement funds and pensions — you may have the right to part of them. If so, you can get a Qualified Domestic Relations Order to enforce that. You may also be able to stay on your spouse’s health insurance plan for a certain length of time. Your children should be able to stay on the plan just as if you were still married.

Know that the best thing you can do to keep as much of your standard of living as possible is to make sure you get the assets you’re entitled to.

Of course, getting your fair share isn’t about being mean or a jerk. You shouldn’t do that either. It’s about protecting your future.

The Emotional Aspects of Divorce and Money

I will tell you that it may be hard to make yourself do that. I didn’t do a good job of it. If you’re like me, you may end up so emotionally spent by that point that you just want to get it over with. Whatever is easiest may end up being what happens, but that isn’t always best.

Or you may not want people to call you “the horrible ex wife” — but guess what: unless your divorce is very friendly, that can happen anyway. If it’s any consolation, you’ll know the truth.

If you have children and don’t feel comfortable getting what you should for yourself, at least do it for them. There’s a difference between being nice and being a doormat. Stand up for yourself.

You’ll notice that it’s rarely men who throw up their hands and say “Oh ok fine take it, I don’t care.” just to make the whole thing go faster. (And I’ll tell you a little secret: that doesn’t really work anyway.)

So make sure, that you don’t end up taking all of the bad stuff along the way. Decide what is and isn’t worth it to you, but with an eye toward the long term.

Remember

The most important things to remember about divorce are:

  1. stay on top of your finances
  2. and get legal advice to make sure you’re not hurting yourself during the process if you do get divorced

Getting legal advice doesn’t have to mean that things will turn into some kind of court room drama. It just means that you’ll know what your options are, and how best to protect yourself. And staying on top of your finances is just plain smart no matter what your situation.

An earlier version of this post appears on Women’s Money.

The post What You Need to Know About Divorce and Money as a Woman appeared first on JackieBeck.com.

Ohio University | Adler Law Firm PLLC

This is a story we’ve heard before…

In case you need to read yet another downer article about how college grads have racked up outrageous amounts of student loan debts, The New York Times delivers.  It’s timely because graduation has just passed or is coming up shortly for most colleges. But the article fails to present any truly new or helpful information.  The first paragraph says it all:

Kelsey Griffith graduates on Sunday from Ohio Northern University. To start paying off her $120,000 in student debt, she is already working two restaurant jobs and will soon give up her apartment here to live with her parents. Her mother, who co-signed on the loans, is taking out a life insurance policy on her daughter.

The article covers the growth in student loan debt, some personal profiles, and plenty of political drama.  It also takes six pages (online) to cover the same story and issues as The New York Times has covered before.  It presents no advice or help to students who already have loans.  At best it’s a cautionary tale or an alert. 

While it’s a great overview for someone who’s never read about the issue before and one long shout out to Ohio, for students or grads who already know the story and have debt their time would be better spent doing something other than reading this …. like getting a second or third job.

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