How to prepare your money for a breakup

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Breaking up sucks, even if it’s necessary and you’re better off without them. Emotions become very important and life changes. Your to-do list is filled with loaded logistics, like figuring out who gets the cat or how the hell you’re going to afford to live alone.

We don’t know what to tell you about the cat, but we can talk to him financial aspect. After all, the split can become difficult if you and your partner share money in any way or are financially dependent on each other.

recognize emotions

Breakups are usually emotional. Those feelings can influence behaviors and decisions, says Alex Melkumian, a licensed marriage and family therapist and founder of the Center for Financial Psychology in Los Angeles.

For example, if you are furious with your partner, you can do whatever it takes to quickly get out of the relationship. That may mean giving up the cat and rent-controlled apartment. Or if you are worried about being financially insecure on his account, he may remain in an unhappy relationship.

A note on that kind of dynamic: When a partner uses money for power and control, they are entering financial abuse territory. Forms of financial abuse “include tactics to hide information, limit a victim’s access to assets, or reduce access to family finances,” according to the National Network to End Domestic Violence. Find out more on the NNEDV website.

manage those feelings

If you’re not experiencing financial abuse but feel like emotions are clouding your judgment, first acknowledge your inner critic. That voice “can be really discouraging, critical and embarrassing,” says Melkumian.

Maybe your inner critic chides you for choosing the wrong person or buying a car with them, for example.

His inner critic also “overstates the importance of every little decision,” he adds. The voice may insist that if you don’t do something right, your life will be ruined.

Melkumian has some of his clients voice these criticisms out loud. Give it a try and ideally you will hear how mean and unfair that voice is. Or he suggests asking, “Would you let someone else talk to you or a friend like that?”

Also, be careful about sacrificing too much on this breakup in an effort to “keep the peace,” says Kaylin Dillon, a Lawrence, Kansas-based certified financial planner focused on couples and families.

“Your future self is counting on you to think about your best interest,” she says.

Take inventory of your money

Getting organized can help you determine next steps, Dillon says. So log into your financial accounts and keep the following in mind:

  • Recurring expenses. Distinguish the ones you share and the ones you or your partner pay for alone, says Dillon.

  • Active. These are things you own that have monetary value, like a house, car, stocks, or bank accounts. Note that active are in your name, which are in your partner’s name, and which (if any) are shared, says Sally Boyle, a Hanover, New Hampshire-based CFP and certified divorce financial analyst.

  • Net worth. These are your assets minus liabilities, or money you owe, such as debts and loan balances. Record this number too, says Boyle.

If you and your partner feel like you can tackle this exercise together, do so. Schedule time for it, so you can feel mentally and emotionally prepared.

“Your first mediation is at the dining room table,” says Boyle, who is also the founder of The Better Half divorce planning service. If you’re willing to do so, address disparities in net worth, he says, and how to handle other sticky situations, like shared assets.

Consult professionals

Perhaps this discussion will help you determine the next steps. That probability depends on several factors, including how tangled your finances are and the circumstances of your breakup.

Shared subscriptions are easier to split than real estate subscriptions, for example. And it’s easier to collaborate with someone who calmly accepts the breakup, rather than someone who clings to the relationship, or who you can’t bear to look at.

Professionals can help straighten out finances and emotions. They can also fill in knowledge gaps, where one partner understands much more about money than the other. Dillon sees these gaps often and says that he who knows less is at a disadvantage.

So who can help? If the first step of assessing cash flow is overwhelming, Dillon says a financial planner or budget advisor can help you understand your money.

If emotions slow you down, Boyle suggests a financial therapist. Mediators also help facilitate conversations in a neutral way, Boyle says, adding that his divorced clients often try mediation.

An attorney can be helpful if you share important assets, like a house, says Dillon. It may also be worth contacting them if there is a significant disparity in their income and net worth, and if one partner is financially dependent on the other. (Boyle points out, however, that lawyers can be expensive.)

Whether you determine next steps with a professional or not, aim for optimism.

“It’s a tough pill to swallow to say ‘Okay, it didn’t work this time,’” says Melkumian. “But there will be another time.”

This article was written by NerdWallet and originally published by The Associated Press.

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