How to Rebuild Your Savings and Retirement After a Divorce

Divorce lawyers frequently broker deals like these. But the way they approach marital assets can be different from they way a financial planner would view things, said Kristina George, a wealth manager and partner at Northstar Financial Planning in Windham, N.H. Lawyers who don’t know the tax consequences of stock options or retaining a house, say, might “trade assets” in ways that are “not apples for apples,” Ms. George said.

Ms. George pointed out that one of the greatest upheavals from divorce is the way it changes how a person is taxed. Women filing as heads of households for the first time may get walloped, so it’s important to have a tax projection along with the divorce decree, Ms. George said.

Without expert guidance, either ex-spouse can land in financial hot water. Tales abound of people finding themselves priced out of gentrifying local housing markets after selling the family house, necessitating moves to other states to squeeze the most out of now-too-scant retirement savings.

After divorce, Ms. Stevenson shifted from part-time to full-time work; it’s a move that Karen D. Sparks, a certified divorce financial analyst in Santa Clara, Calif., said requires a career-training refresher for many older women, which she factors into post-divorce budgets. Eventually, though, Ms. Stevenson’s work hours were reduced and she is now in debt, on a constricted budget and unable to save.

Dawn Pick Benson, 50, is a copywriter and travel coach living in Grand Rapids, Mich. When she filed for divorce from her husband of 18 years in 2018, she had a lawyer ready to negotiate the division of a house, a sailboat, two cars, joint savings and checking accounts and individual savings and retirement accounts for each spouse — although Ms. Benson’s retirement fund was smaller. But she had no idea what division made long-term sense, or what kind of trouble she’d get into if her lawyer chose incorrectly. In a panic, she contacted Liza Caldwell, a co-founder of SAS for Women, an organization offering divorce coaching and other educational resources.

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