In our last issue, we discussed whether you should blend your finances when you get into a relationship. Money will be your biggest source of friction, and having boundaries doesn’t hurt. I listed some of the different financial relationships couples choose. There are different options besides “What’s mine is mine and never ‘ours’ or “It’s all or nothing or I’m out of here.”
Sometimes your best efforts to create a life together fail, and the relationship ends. Today, we’ll discuss how to unblend your finances. Whether you decided to share all of your accounts, or only share expenses, you should separate your finances as soon as possible, because you can be sure that someone’s name is on the wrong paperwork.
Take a look at your…
- Rent or Mortgage: Who is on the lease agreement or mortgage? It should be the one who actually lives there. Ignore that piece of wisdom and risk having your home sold out from under you. Your name shouldn’t be on there if you don’t live there.
- Utilities, cable, and cell phone: Whose name is on the accounts? They should be in the name of the person using them. If you don’t transfer ownership, you could have your utilities cut off without notice or worse yet – have collection accounts on your credit that you didn’t even know about.
- Insurance: This includes car, apartment, home, life, and medical. You don’t want to be without insurance, and you don’t want your money going to the wrong person if you don’t update your beneficiaries.
- Credit cards and loans: Do you want to have your credit affected by charges that aren’t yours, or be forced to make payments on a car you don’t use?
“But Jill,” you say, “these all sound like things that happen in a hostile breakup. We’re not like that.” Even if your breakup is friendly, and your ex is as trustworthy and competent as a super hero’s alter ego, you still need to separate your accounts to protect yourself in case something happens to one of you. If one of you dies, remarries, or is mentally incapacitated, the law won’t recognize verbal agreements or promises. They only see whose name is on a piece of paper.
Let’s talk about verbal agreements. Let’s say the house and car loan are in your name, but you want to be nice. You don’t need them, and your ex does. Your ex has agreed to make payments, so it’s no big deal, right?
Wrong. Your credit will take a hit with the first missed, or late, payment. And, you may not be able to get a new car or house for yourself because your debt to income ratio is too high. The bank won’t take verbal agreements or divorce decrees with your ex into consideration when you apply for your loan.
Here’s something else to think about: Can you maintain your current lifestyle if you live separately?
If you end up with the house or the car, can you afford the payments? Can you pay for the utilities, the maintenance and the insurance? You may have to make tough decisions, because you could be without the things you need to live if you don’t plan ahead.
Too many people have found themselves temporarily homeless, or had their credit ruined, or worse bankruptcy after a breakup. Don’t let this happen to you.
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