When I was married, every March (note: that’s a little late to be asking) my husband would say to me: “Can you grab all the medical receipts and any donation receipts and add them up and put them in an envelope and give them to me?” That was it. He was in sales and we would almost always the first 10 years of our marriage, end up with some kind of refund. When the market changed in 2009, I still went through the same motions I had been going through since 1997 with the receipts, but my husband’s business became harder because of the market crash and I don’t think we ever got another refund. But most importantly, I had no idea what he did with those receipts or how the money from the return magically appeared.
If you’re still reading… don’t stop, because what I am going to say next is critical. YOU HAVE TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS TO YOUR MONEY AND HOW TO FILE YOUR TAXES. You just have to. I have so many friends that have just sailed through being married for a long time and do not know how to file their own tax returns. When I got divorced in 2015… I had to figure it out. And it was scary, I didn’t know how to do it, I had no systems in place and I also got stuck cleaning some things up because I didn’t ask questions of my husband while we were married thinking he was my husband so he he had it under control.
Ladies especially – do your own taxes (if you’re married, just ask questions and work together to file jointly – meaning both parties know about it all!) and manage your own money. Get an amazing and patient accountant that will help you understand what’s happening so that you can operate solo if necessary. I have more than 10 friends that have all divorced in the last 5 years and we have banded together to get things done! We have a constant text thread rolling about everything that we are learning about navigating as the Head of Household. It’s been super empowering to have total control of my life and it’s been an excellent lesson for my kids to see their mom at the helm of our family. I started my own business and that’s a another set of tax questions and answers. I found an amazing bookkeeper and CPA and she keeps me in line and lets me ask questions I sometimes don’t want to know the answers to.
“This is a question too difficult for a mathematician. It should be asked of a philosopher”(when asked about completing his income tax form)”Goodreads
― Albert Einstein
FEAR OF KNOWING THE TRUTH is what kept me in the dark for almost 20 years and I don’t recommend it. I admit to being so comfortable with my husband handling things (also known as having your head in the clouds), that there were times before 2010, I didn’t even check our bank account, trusting there would be money there! Today, I check my bank account in the morning and again at night every day. I know to the penny how much money I have and what’s coming up next.
RACHAEL’S MONEY RULES (to live by)
- Don’t stick your head in the sand if you don’t know all there is about your personal finances. Ask questions.
- Check your credit. Know your credit score (I never wanted to know) and make sure you don’t have anything that could impact your score negatively. When I got divorced I found some things I didn’t know about and it has taken me 3 years to dispute or clear them. Even if you’re married, check your personal credit!
- Open your own bank account if you’re married and only have a joint account. Even if it’s just play money, have your own identity for that day when life happens. I opened my first solo bank account in 2014 – after being married for 17 years. Yes, I had business accounts etc., but nothing with just my name on it.
- Check your will and make sure it’s updated including a DNR (do not resuscitate) or medical directive if you should have a medical emergency (a good estate planning attorney can help or you can find the forms you need online).
- Get a safe deposit box or find a safe place (not a shoe box under your bed) for all of your important documents. If you get a safe deposit box – give the key to your best friend in case of emergency and supply them with a note about how to get to your important documents (from computer or bank, etc.). Not everyone has an estate executor – make sure one of your girlfriends or a sibling knows how to start things off if you get sick or life happens.
- Take the time to get your financial life in order and know about it all – starting with your taxes. Getting a system in place daily (for every day of the year) can save you time. This is the first year that I am not scrambling in March and it is THE BEST feeling to know that I spent the last year with a system in place and that I have total control of everything in my personal life.
Have some other good tips? Please comment below so we can share with each other. Happy Thursday!