As a physiotherapy practice manager, Karen knows a thing or two about physical fitness. When it comes to financial fitness, however, she’s still only warming up. But her eye’s on the prize.
My relationship with money: "Frivolous"
"If I have a big bill to pay one month then I’m good at not spending, but generally I’m a spender. I’m a good saver too though. I love the thrill of saving money by switching policies and I do take risks with investments. If it's gone it’s gone so I just get on with it."
When I got divorced, I had to learn finance fast
"Aside from warring in court to get maintenance, the money side of divorce (https://www.boringmoney.co.uk/learn/learning-paths/distressed-divorced/) was a huge challenge. He was an accountant and he used to renew all the policies and insurances without even searching online for competitive rates. So when I first got divorced and was in charge of my finances, I changed my mortgage and that halved, changed my car insurance and that halved, and got a huge amount of satisfaction out of being in control of everything.
"I wasn’t financially savvy at all before. I just let him pay for everything. So I had to change and learn and took charge of trying to find the cheapest policies – that was my main goal. I used the comparison sites and read articles online. I’m still not very good at the ins and outs of finance though – pensions and things like that.
"I think women are more open to admitting that we’re ignorant about finances. When my friend got divorced and asked me for some tips she said the same: that her husband was quite ignorant about it all too. But he wouldn’t admit it or ask for help, that’s the difference."
Cut the jargon and give me a helpful nudge
"A lot of what the finance companies say goes in one ear and out the other. All the jargon. I just skip it, which I know isn’t the best way to be but I kind of feel that as long as I know the very basics I’ll be okay. Which does sometimes mean you miss the small print which can come back to haunt you when you go to make a claim, but so be it. If it’s full of jargon I don’t want to know.
"Take my pension. I have not a clue what my pension will look like when I retire. If they told me, “If you put in £100 a month or whatever then you get this at the end because some of it’s tax-free,” then I would. Absolutely. But at the minute they send me a stack of information that just goes straight in the bin because it’s so wordy and I just don’t want to read it.
"All they’d have to say is something really minimal. An email or a quick call. I want them to do it. I like being bullied into putting money away. But they don’t, so I don’t."
My investments are my safety net
"I see my stocks and shares ISA as a safety net. I feel very secure with it. When I took it out about 10 or 12 years ago I was asked if I want to help actually pick the stocks, and that was fun. But I don’t do much with it – just leave it there. Especially with Brexit and everything I don’t want to look at it and see what things are doing!
"I think more people should do it. I would say just set up a Direct Debit each month for an amount you wouldn’t miss from your income. Just do it and don’t think about it."
My biggest money question...
"When I got divorced I changed the mortgage, changed the car insurance – halved them both! Huge amount of satisfaction and learning, so what else should I look into?"
Answer by Mary Waring, Wealth for Women
Well done on reducing both your mortgage and car insurance. What a fantastic result.
You ask what else you should do. You don’t say whether the divorce and financial settlement are all finalised but I’m going to assume they are. So, a few other things I’d suggest:
Review all your utilities. It’s useful to do this every 12-18 months since costs are so frequently changing.
If you have any funds on deposit keep a record of when any introductory rate ends and then review at that stage. Banks will often offer attractive interest rates for say, the first 12 months, but you may then revert to a totally unattractive rate.
If you are the only adult in the property, you should be eligible for a 25% reduction in your council tax. More information can be found on the government's Council Tax Discount (https://www.gov.uk/apply-for-council-tax-discount) page.
Review your will. Divorce does not automatically revoke your will. Instead the will is read as though your former spouse died on the date of the decree absolute. Ensure your will now meets your current wishes.
Keep a detailed record of all your spending. Dependent on the family circumstances your money may be tighter now than it was when you were married, since two people living in two separate properties have two lots of utilities to cover. If the same income is being earned post divorce you may not be able to afford the same level of spending. Keep a detailed record of what you spend over a three month period and then review each category and ask, “How can I reduce this?”
If any assets and investments are being sold as part of the financial settlement, ensure you take advice regarding any taxation issues that may arise on sale. You need to ensure between the two of you, you maximise your post tax wealth.