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9 Financial Moves to Make Before a Divorce

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

what happens to debt when you divorce
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When most people first decide they’d like to file for divorce, the minutiae of their finances might not be top of mind. The psychological burden of a marriage ending can be all-consuming, making it difficult to consider any practical matters.

Plus, the costs associated with divorce — things like lawyer fees and selling one’s home — can be so complicated and overwhelming that people put off thinking about them. But making certain financial decisions prior to filing for divorce can ensure you emerge from the tumultuous process with solid financial footing.

Before filing for divorce, consider making these financial moves.

1. Take inventory of your finances.

One of the most important things you can do if you’re considering divorce is taking a comprehensive look at your finances. This includes things like your salary, any loans you have in your name, the amount you have in your bank accounts, credit card balances, retirement accounts, insurance policies, etc.

Diane Pearson, a certified divorce financial analyst and wealth adviser at Legend Financial Advisors in Pittsburgh, said oftentimes, clients come to her firm before even telling their spouse they’re considering divorce.

“The first thing that I tell them is to account for all of their assets and all of their liabilities,” Pearson said. “Just knowing what you own and what you owe can be very, very valuable.”

Patrick Nelson, a divorce attorney at Casey Nelson, LLP in the Chicagoland area, said organization is crucial when preparing for divorce, in particular, because you will need to sign a financial disclosure statement.

“I would organize your documents,” Nelson said. “When you file for divorce, there is a requirement that both parties complete an exchange — what’s called a financial disclosure statement. It’s a comprehensive document that’s signed under oath. And every county requires this.”

Nelson said in addition to a complete disclosure of assets and income, clients have to provide supporting documents, which generally includes three years of tax returns.

“Just preparing these things and getting the documents together would be helpful,” Nelson said. “Because if I’m going to be asking for these, you’re just kind of wasting time, and it’s costing you more money if I’m constantly on you.”

2. Check your credit reports and credit score.

Pearson and Nelson both advise people who are considering filing for divorce to check their credit reports and credit score. Take a look at your credit history, and understand what your score means. This step is particularly crucial if you left most of the finances in your marriage to your spouse.

“Let’s say the husband has never taken out a loan to buy a car, or has never taken [out] a loan to buy a house,” Pearson said. “If you don’t have some history, your credit score might be low.” This means that if you try to purchase a house or a car post-divorce, for example, you might not get approved in a favorable manner, Pearson said, because you don’t have the credit history.

In addition, Pearson said going through divorce can affect your credit score. “There may be joint accounts that are going to be closed,” she said, which can negatively affect your score because you will lose the credit history. “When you remove the history of a mortgage, or the history of a car loan, or things that were in joint name, it actually can send the credit score downward, just because history is what helped build that credit score.”

Pearson adds that this step can be valuable because some spouses aren’t even aware that certain loans are in their name. “Some people might want to run a credit report and make sure there haven’t been credit cards or loans taken out in their name that they’re not aware of,” she said.

3. Figure out your spouse’s finances (if you don’t know them already).

Pearson said oftentimes, the people who meet with her are clueless about the finances in their marriage. “In most relationships, you usually have one spouse that handles the financial situation,” Pearson said. “Somewhere along the line, they’ve made the decision that, ‘OK, well you’re going to pay the bills, and you’re going to handle the investments.’”

Nelson said that in his opinion, one spouse not fully understanding the financial state of the marriage is actually quite common. “Sometimes, you have one spouse who is basically in control of all the finances,” Nelson said. “And the other spouse, they just have no clue.”

Some people might not even know their spouse’s salary or the amount of their monthly mortgage payment.

Leaving the finances to one spouse, however, can prove dangerous in divorce. “When this happens, the other spouse kind of loses touch with everything the other spouse is doing, so it’s very important to sit down and try to understand what the assets are,” Pearson said.

This is one of the first things she discusses with her clients who are considering divorce, because someone needs to fully understand what has value before deciding what to fight for. “If somebody doesn’t have any financial history or background, what we try to do is help them understand what those assets are because having a checking account is extremely different than having a retirement plan.”

Pearson also said it’s important to know where the cash flow is coming from in a marriage, which means understanding how much each spouse’s salary contributes to the overall household budget.

“If you’ve got a two-earner household, understand how much of the opposite spouse’s income is being used to run the household,” Pearson said. In addition, you should discern how you will be able to financially manage your own household post-divorce without your spouse’s income.

4. Decide what’s worth fighting for and be prepared for unexpected costs.

When considering what to fight for in a divorce, it’s important to think beyond just the face (or emotional) value of an asset. Consider the potential tax liabilities, too. For example, if one spouse keeps the house, that spouse will also have to keep the mortgage.

Another unexpected expense people don’t consider is the cost of refinancing the home in one spouse’s name. Pearson said clients are often surprised to discover that when one spouse keeps the house and the mortgage has to be refinanced in that spouse’s name, it can be very expensive. “A lot of people don’t realize that has to happen,” she said.

Perhaps another asset, like a car that is already paid off, would be more valuable to you. Instead of getting wrapped up in what you think you should fight for, consider what’s actually worth it to you and your financial future.

5. Consider hiring a real estate agent specializing in divorce if you’re selling your home.

Selling a home during a divorce can be a stressful experience for many reasons, including a quicker timeline and, if the couple has kids, the need to move children seamlessly. Pam Evans, an associate broker at Century 21 Results in the Atlanta metro area, often works with clients going through divorce. Working with a real estate agent who has worked with other clients going through divorce can offer a welcome perspective.

“Moving and selling a house is just a very stressful period, so then when you overlay divorce on top of that, it’s a very volatile situation,” Evans said. “It can just send people over the edge, so I get it. I get where people are because I’ve been through it myself.”

Evans said it’s important to do your due diligence when selecting an agent.

“Interview your real estate agent carefully,” she said. “You shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions. Make sure your Realtor is asking you questions about what you’re trying to accomplish. Ask them if they’ve helped other divorced people because it is a very emotional segment.”

Even though it can be tempting to work with a family member or friend who is a new and affordable agent, you should opt for experience over all else, as the home is one of the biggest assets in a divorce. “You definitely want to go with somebody who’s experienced and empathetic,” Evans said. “People have got to understand what you’re going through and how to make it better.”

6. Be ready to have difficult financial conversations with your spouse.

Nelson said communication is crucial during divorce proceedings. Many couples find it difficult to speak during this time, but doing so could save you both stress and money.

“Unfortunately, a lot of times people who are going through this situation, they’re not able to communicate, or they don’t talk,” Nelson said. “Well, then I have to reach out to the other attorney, and say, ‘Look, can you provide this or that?’ And every time I have to reach out to the other attorney, they’re both getting charged.”

Even though it might seem impossible in the moment, having difficult conversations will prove beneficial in the future. “If you’re just able to be cordial and communicate on a basic level, [it] would be helpful and minimize attorney’s fees,” Nelson said.

7. Meet with a financial adviser, if necessary.

As a financial analyst who specializes in helping people going through a divorce, Pearson said it can always be worthwhile to consult a financial adviser. A financial adviser or even a nonprofit credit counselor can help you get a complete financial picture, which includes your assets, liabilities, income and expenses.

“You don’t have to hire somebody to do that, but if you yourself can do it, those four areas need to be addressed before you even move forward,” Pearson said.

8. Think about where you might need to cut back financially following divorce.

Not only will the process of divorce be costly, but your finances will likely be drastically different.

“People fail to realize that after you’re divorced, essentially you’re dividing the income,” Nelson said. “And you have twice as many expenses because now you have two separate households.”

Prepare yourself by thinking about where you might be able to cut back following divorce. How can you begin saving now? What could you live without post-divorce?

9. Shop around for an attorney.

Nelson recommends doing your due diligence when searching for an attorney to represent you in a divorce. Nelson advises meeting with the attorney in person for a consultation and gauging how you feel. (Oftentimes, these consultations are free.)\

“Do you feel comfortable?” he said. “It has to be a good fit. It has to be a good fit for the attorney, and for the client.”

Nelson said you shouldn’t be afraid to interview the attorney and ask specific questions. “Do they have experience? Do they know what they’re doing?”

Divorce can be a difficult, emotional time fraught with obstacles and roadblocks. Getting your finances in order prior a divorce can be one way to make the process less stressful. And in an unpredictable time, having a clear understanding of your financial picture can help you feel empowered and in control.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Jamie Friedlander
Jamie Friedlander |

Jamie Friedlander is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Jamie here

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10 Great Free Checking Accounts

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

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The humble checking account may not offer rewards, cash back or many of the other perks offered by ritzy credit cards, but it remains the cornerstone of your financial life. Nobody likes paying monthly maintenance fees, so why not pick a free checking account that does away with them altogether?

Below, we’ve selected nine of the best free checking accounts by scouring our database for products meeting the following criteria:

  • No monthly maintenance fee
  • A low initial deposit amount (between $0-$50) needed to open the account
  • No minimum balance requirement
  • Minimal third-party ATM fees
  • Available nationwide

Account Name

Minimum needed to open

APY

Consumers Credit Union (IL) Free Rewards Checking$05.09% (applies to balances up to $10,000)
TAB Bank Free Kasasa Cash Checking$04.00% (applies to balances up to $50,000)
Orion FCU Premium Checking$25 deposit in Primary Share Account4.00% (applies to balances up to $30,000)
One American Bank Kasasa Cash Account$503.50%(applies to balances up to $10,000)
Evansville Teachers FCU Vertical Checking$30 ($25 if you're already a member of this credit union)3.00% (applies to balances up to $20,000)
Simple Account$02.02%
SoFi Money$01.80%
Empower Checking$01.65%
Discover Cashback Credit$0None, but customers receive 1% cash back each month on certain spending with a limit of $3,000
Ally Bank Interest Checking$00.60%

10 bests free checking accounts of October 2019

Consumers Credit Union (IL) Free Rewards Checking

The Consumers Credit Union provides an online-only Free Rewards Checking account to anyone in the nation who becomes a member. You can qualify for membership with a one-time $5 payment to Consumers Cooperative Association. Perks of the account, which charges no monthly maintenance fees and requires no minimum balance, include unlimited third-party ATM fee refunds.

However you do have to meet some requirements in order to get all of the benefits of the account (including the high APY). The APY for this account is divided into three tiers, with the lowest earning 3.09%, the middle 4.09% and the highest tier 5.09%. The requirements for each of these tiers are:

To earn 3.09%

  • Receive eStatements
  • Make at least 12 debit card purchases a month
  • Post direct deposits or ACH payments of at least $500 each month

To earn 4.09%

  • Meet all the requirements of the previous tier
  • Have a Consumers Credit Union Visa credit card and spend at least $500 a month on it

To earn 5.09%

  • Meet all the requirements of the previous tier
  • Spend at least $1,000 a month on your Consumers Credit Union Visa credit card

Keep in mind these high APYs only apply to balances up to $10,000. The portion of any balance between $10,000.01 and $25,000 earn 0.20% APY, and balances greater than $25,000 earn an APY of 0.10%.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Consumers Credit Union (IL)’s secure website

NCUA Insured

TAB Bank Free Kasasa Cash Checking

Headquartered in Ogden, Utah, TAB Bank offers a great rate on its Free Kasasa Cash Checking account. Developed by the Kasasa Corporation, a Texas-based financial services and marketing organization, Kasasa accounts help smaller banks compete against larger rivals by providing higher rates.

TAB’s account charges no fees for using third-party ATMs, and reimburses up to $15 in third-party ATM fees per month. There are no fees and no minimum balance requirement for this account, but to earn 4.00% APY reward rate, every month you must:

  • Deposit at least one ACH payment or direct deposit, or make one bill pay transaction
  • Make at least 15 signature-based debit card purchases

If you don’t qualify in any given month, your balance earns 0.05% APY, and third-party ATM fees are not refunded. You can earn the reward rate APY on balances up to $50,000, which is well above the other maximum balances on this roundup. Balances greater than $50,000 earn an APY of 0.25%.

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on TAB Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

Orion Federal Credit Union Premium Checking

Orion Federal Credit Union has served the community in Memphis, Tenn. since 1957 — and now it offers its outstanding Premium Checking product online to anyone who becomes a member. This involves opening a Primary Share Account savings account with a $25 deposit, and donating $10 to one of five local charities.

This account charges no fees for using third-party ATMs, and reimburses fees charged to you by owners of third-party ATMs, making it free to access your cash from anywhere. To earn the 4.00% APY interest rate, and also get ATM fee reimbursements and waive the $5 monthly fee for the account, you must:

  • Deposit at least $500 a month in the account, either by direct deposit or other mobile electronic deposit
  • Perform at least eight signature-based debit card transactions

Orion lets you earn their high APY on balances up to $30,000. Balances greater than $30,000 earn an APY of 0.05%.

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on Orion Federal Credit Union’s secure website

NCUA Insured

One American Bank Kasasa Cash Account

This small community bank, based in Sioux Falls, SD, offers a nationally available Kasasa Cash checking account that earns a decent 3.50% APY on balances up to $10,000. You need a minimum of $50 to open the account, but after that all you need to do to earn the very competitive APY of 3.50% is:

  • Make at least 12 debit card purchase transactions a month of at least $5.00 each
  • Receive electronic bank statements, account notices and disclosures
  • Log in to online banking at least one time a month

If you meet these qualifications, One American Bank also refunds up $25 in third-party ATM funds per month.

LEARN MORE Secured

on One American Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

Evansville Teachers Federal Credit Union Vertical Checking

Don’t let the name of this credit union fool you—anyone can become a member if they open a $5 savings account, which then allows you to open a Vertical Checking account with a minimum balance of $25.

This free checking account doesn’t charge a monthly service fee or require you to maintain a minimum balance, and in return gives you an APY of as high as 3.00% on balances up to $20,000, provided you fulfill the below requirements:

  • Make at least 15 debit purchases each month
  • Make at least one direct deposit into the account each month
  • Login to your mobile or online banking at least once each month
  • Opt in to receive eStatements
  • In addition to the high APY, meeting these requirements entitles you to $15 a month for reimbursing third-party ATM fees.

In addition to the high APY, meeting these requirements entitles you to $15 a month for reimbursing third-party ATM fees.

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on Evansville Teachers Federal Credit Union’s secure website

NCUA Insured

Simple Account

Another online-only account, Simple is owned and backed by regional bank BBVA Compass and offers customers a checking account that’s intertwined with the app’s Protected Goals savings account, and additional budgeting tools. Simple doesn’t charge any fees, meaning users enjoy:

  • No monthly maintenance fee
  • No minimum balance needed
  • No account closing fee
  • No stop payment fees
  • No debit card replacement fee
  • No ATM fee if using Simple’s network, but users can be charged a fee by other banks if using a non-network ATM

One fee you do have to pay is a foreign transaction fee when using your Simple card internationally, which can be up to 1% of the transaction.

As a cash management product, the Simple Account automatically comes with a savings account feature. While the checking balance in a Simple Account earns a token 0.01% APY, Simple’s Protected Goals savings balances earn an APY of 2.02%.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Simple’s secure website

SoFi Money

SoFi may be better known for its personal loan products, but its SoFi Money cash management account offers a great free checking experience. This account earns a decent 1.80% APY with fees and no minimum balance requirements. SoFi charges no ATM fees of its own, and it will reimburse you for any third-party ATM fees you are charged anywhere in the world. If you need physical checks, you can request them from SoFI.

SoFi partners with multiple banks to hold your money in FDIC-insured accounts. This means that SoFi Money accounts are FDIC insured on balances up to $1.5 million in total, well above the standard $250,000 FDIC insurance level available with conventional accounts.

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on SoFi’s secure website

Empower Checking Account

This online-only checking account is backed by Evolve Bank and Trust, an FDIC-protected bank that ensures the money you place in your Empower account stays safe. Empower requires no minimum deposit or balance, doesn’t charge a monthly maintenance fee, and each month will waive the third-party fees you incur from a single use of an out-of-network ATM.

In addition to the 1.65% APY, Empower gives you cashback rewards of 1% on up to $1,000 of debit purchases each month. However, this account can only be managed through its app so users will have to be comfortable with banking via mobile device.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Empower’s secure website

Member FDIC

Discover Cashback Debit

You might be more likely to think of credit cards when it comes to this brand, but Discover also functions as an FDIC-insured, online only bank that offers a suite of personal banking products including one of the best free checking accounts currently on the market. The Discover Cashback Debit account features a smorgasboard of perks and goodies for customers, including:

  • No monthly maintenance fees, minimum balance to open or minimum daily balance
  • A nationwide network of more than 60,000 ATMs customers can use fee-free
  • Free replacement debit cards
  • Free online bill pay

Living up to its name, the Cashback Debit account grants 1% cash back each month on qualifying spending up to $3,000. What kind of spending counts? Just about everything, with the exception of ATM transactions, the purchase of money orders, loan payments or account funding, and peer-to-peer transactions. In addition, some purchases made over a third-party app or service (such as Venmo) may not qualify.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Discover Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

Ally Bank Interest Checking Account

The Ally Bank Interest Checking Account may not offer a high APY (unless you can maintain at least a $15,000 balance), but the free online banking, bill pay, and checks — both standard and cashier — along with no monthly maintenance fee, required minimum balance or minimum deposit to open make it a great option for customers looking for a free checking account.

While no minimum balance is required to earn 0.10% APY, customers can earn 0.60% if they maintain a daily balance of at least $15,000. Customers can use any of the 55,000 ATMs in the Allpoint® network for free, and Ally will reimburse up to $10 of non-network ATM fees each billing cycle. Other fees to watch out for include:

  • $15 stop payment fee
  • $25 per-day maximum overdraft fee
  • $20 outgoing domestic wire fee

LEARN MORE Secured

on Ally Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

James Ellis
James Ellis |

James Ellis is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email James here

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Cheap Home Remedies That Can Help You Battle Flu Season

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

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Pumpkin spice lattes, cozy scarves and a long-awaited chance to dust off your favorite pair of boots. No doubt about it, there’s a whole lot to love about fall.

But it’s got its drawbacks, too. Specifically, fall heralds the start of flu season — a nebulous time of year which exact dates vary, but generally begins to pick up in October and its effects can last as late as May.

Although the word is still out on how bad this year’s bout of influenza will be, if recent history has anything to say, we could be in for it. The New York Times reported the 2017-2018 flu season was the worst in nearly a decade, killing almost 80,000 people and hospitalizing thousands more across all age groups.

Of course, even if the flu doesn’t kill you, it can definitely make you feel like crud — and even affect your earnings. You’ll likely miss at least a few days at work, and there’s no telling how your medical bills could pile up if you experience flu-related complications. Pneumonia, for example, cost patients over $400 on average for outpatient treatment per a 2018 study by BMC Health Services Research, and over $10,000 for those who required hospitalization.

When almost a third of American households have less than $1,000 in savings, those prices mean an avoidable illness could become a financial catastrophe.

Prevention, then, seems the best medicine. But how can you go about it as cheaply as possible?

Dirt-cheap ways to ward off illness

Unfortunately, once you have the flu, there’s not much you can do about it except wait. Although prescription antiviral drugs can help shorten your illness, they’re most helpful if you start taking them as soon as possible.

So instead, give yourself an ounce of prevention in the following affordable ways.

Get a flu shot.

It may seem like a pain to get a flu shot each and every year, but it’s one of the most effective ways to prevent illness, said Dr. Adrian Cotton, medical chief at Loma Linda University Health in California.

And even though the flu shot isn’t 100% effective, any efficacy is better than nothing.

“It’s worth doing,” Cotton said, especially since the risk factor is so close to zero.

And these days, the flu vaccine is pretty easy to access, so it’s hard to find an excuse. The vaccine is covered under most insurance plans, and many grocery stores and pharmacies offer them, sometimes even incentivizing the deal with in-store discounts.

Wash your hands — and everything else.

Flu is a communicable disease, which means it spreads from person to person. And while you sometimes can’t avoid exposure (if, for instance, your kids come home sick from school), you can go a long way toward limiting your chances by paying close attention to your hygiene.

Along with frequently washing your hands, be sure to avoid touching your face, Cotton advised, especially if you’ve interacted with sick individuals. And make it a point to clean frequently-touched surfaces in your household like doorknobs with a disinfectant solution, including bleach or peroxide.

Live a healthy lifestyle.

While there’s no particular combination of supplements that will make you invulnerable to the flu, maintaining general good health can go a long way in bulking up your immune system. Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is a good start, and superfoods don’t have to break the bank either.

How to ease symptoms if you’re already sick

Already sick? It’s tempting to run to the drug store and pick up every over-the-counter “cure” you can find.

But when it comes to easing your symptoms, it turns out the most affordable options are also the best ones.

Stay hydrated — and don’t worry, water’s fine.

Maintaining your fluid levels becomes critically important when you’re sick, and especially when you’re running a fever. But fortunately, you don’t need anything special to get the job done, Cotton said; water will keep you hydrated just fine.

The exception to the rule: if you’re feeling so unwell you don’t feel like eating or drinking, a product like Pedialyte or Gatorade could help you replace electrolytes. Otherwise, you’d be able to replenish them through your normal meals. (And hey, not all traditions are useless: classic chicken soup contains vitamin-packed veggies and protein, and that warm liquid will soothe a sore throat.)

Rest.

Lying in bed costs absolutely nothing, and it’s an imperative step toward helping your body fight off the flu. And while a pain reliever like ibuprofen can help take the edge off your symptoms, sleep can also do wonders to help you get better more quickly.

Ditch the miracle cures … unless they work for you.

“There’s never been any trials that show that any over-the-counter, herbal remedy actually works for influenza,” said Cotton, though you can certainly find anecdotal evidence to the contrary.

Thus, shelling out for fancy supplements is probably a waste of money, unless you’re convinced we’re totally wrong in this regard.

That’s because the placebo effect could make you feel better even if there’s no physical, causal effect between the “cure” and your abated symptoms.

So if you’re absolutely certain you feel better when you take echinacea or soak in Epsom salts, go ahead, as long as they’re not dangerous or prohibitively expensive.

The bottom line

At the end of the day, flu season is a bit of a crapshoot. You can take as many precautions as you want, but sometimes, you just get unlucky.

If that reality makes you curmudgeonly, that might actually be a mark in your favor — because aside from the steps listed above, one of the best things you can do to avoid exposure is to stay away from people.

Hey, it could be worse; at least sitting at home and binging your favorite fall TV shows is pretty darn close to free.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Jamie Cattanach
Jamie Cattanach |

Jamie Cattanach is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Jamie here