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Get to know your money!

When I ask divorced women what they would say to their former married selves about their finances is “get to know your money”.  The most regrettable thing that most divorcing women tell me isn’t that they regret getting married, it’s that they never learned about their household finances.  They simply let their spouse take control and trusted all would be okay. The same holds true for many widows.  Learning about your finances should be a priority for everyone at every age or life stage.  Let’s get started!

Do budgets really matter?

No matter where you are in your life, whether you are going through a divorce or not, a budget matters.  Everything you do in finance, personal or business, comes down to a well planned budget.  The word “budget” is like the B-word no one wants to use but it’s an inevitable part of being a grown up.  It’s a word that evokes the feelings of despair, fear, stress, the thought of not getting out of bed…you get the idea.  I’m here to say the simple word is very simple in it’s task and it will replace those negative feelings with positive ones.  Think: control, empowerment, bliss, heel-clicking whoo hoo’s!  Yes, you can do it and I’m here to help you.

First, you will need to get your statements together (bank statements, credit card statements, lines of credit statements, etc.) that capture your monthly spending habits.   Then you will add up your expenditures from each statement for each category on my Budget Planner. When you add up all of your expenses, does it equal or exceed your income? If so, you need to whittle down your amounts in the variable expenses categories.  Don’t forget to include a savings category whether it’s for emergencies or saving for a special item (new tires, weekend getaway, spa treatment to de-stress post budget creation, etc.)  Now that you have your budget done, you can give yourself a pat on the back and click your heels.  See, you’ve had the power all along.

With your budget in hand, I suggest you revisit it monthly to make sure your spending is in check and tweak it if you forgot something.  It will take a few months of checking in with your budget for it to become a habit.  But staying on track is key to staying in control and not falling back into the negative thinking about the B-word.  If you’d like some help on this, I’m only an email away.

Cheers and great job!


Are spousal RRSPs still useful?

Spousal RRSPs have traditionally been used as an income-splitting strategy in retirement.  You can contribute to your spouse’s RRSP but claim the tax deduction yourself. Your total contributions (to your own and your spouse’s plans) are subject to your own RRSP contribution limits. In retirement, withdrawals are taxed in your spouse’s hands rather than yours, as long as the contribution has remained in the plan for at least three years. So you benefit from their lower tax rate in retirement, while reducing your own tax liability during your working years. But, in October 2007, the government introduced new pension splitting rules that allow Canadians to split pension income with their spouse. Here are situations where the spousal RRSP is still useful: • If you are planning to retire before age 65 and don’t have a registered pension plan; spousal RRSPs allow income-splitting before age 65 whereas pension income-splitting normally begins at age 65 • If you are saving for a home (each person can withdraw $25,000 under the Home Buyers’ Plan) • If you’re 71 or older and can no longer contribute to your own RRSP, you can still contribute to your spouse’s RRSP if you have earned income and your spouse is younger than 71 • If you and your spouse want to make the balance of assets in your household more equal.

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