Independence Day: Celebrate the freedom to craft your new life

Independence Day: Celebrate the freedom to craft your new life

Every July 4 brings big parties, skies filled with fireworks, crowds singing and Americans taking a moment to think about their freedom.

For those going through a divorce, or whose divorce is in the rearview mirror, it can be a time to take stock of your progress on the road to crafting a new life.

The country’s Founding Fathers fought for the right to self-govern, to create and enforce laws that fit their idea of fairness and justice and to bring to reality a country that they felt was better than the oppressive regime they left behind.

Were there elements of your marriage that left you feeling like one of the early colonists: always answering to someone who was absent or controlling? Did you need to justify your spending to someone else who controlled the budget? Were you, in any way, punished for wanting to exercise a little independence?

When going through a divorce, it can be difficult to re-learn how to think about yourself as an independent person instead of part of a couple.

Before your marriage, you were an individual person. You answered to yourself, made your own choices, took your own path. After marriage, even if there are children to consider and prioritize, you get to be that independent person again.

Take stock of your old interests and hobbies. Have any of them fallen by the wayside? Take today to embrace your freedom to pick them up again.

Go through old letters or messages from friends. You’re now free again to involve them to a greater extent in your life.

Were there places you wanted to visit, museums you wanted to see, or things your children wanted to do but trips were never taken because your former spouse didn’t want to go or refused to support? You’re now free to fulfill those wishes.

A simpler pleasure: Is there a favorite song that you’ve always loved but didn’t feel free to listen to on full blast, singing at the top of your lungs? Guess what – you’re now free to do just that. Why not have a little karaoke party with the kids?

If the ink is still fresh on your divorce papers, it’s okay to take a little time before declaring your new independence in the world.  But you might, in the future, want to consider the day your divorce was final as your own, special independence day. You might event want to celebrate it in some way, with a special meal or a little treat just for you. You deserve it.

And let’s be honest: ending a relationship can be scary. Standing on your own when you’ve been part of a pair, especially if the relationship lasted a few decades, is intimidating. It will likely feel as though the whole world has changed. In truth, it has – but so have you. You’ve grown as a person, as a parent, as a member of society. Your priorities have changed. Your values might be different. You might even register for a different political party now than you did when you were 20.

All of that is part of life. That’s all part of your story as a person. And it’s wonderful!

Take a moment to consider some of the language in the Declaration of Independence, that glorious document that shouted to the world that the United States was going to make it on its own: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Declare your freedom and independence from a marriage that didn’t work out. Reclaim your ability to self-govern. Stake your claim to a happier future, free from oppression and tyranny, from criticism and judgment. Revel in your independence as you set out to draft your own future, of yourself, by yourself and for yourself.

 

You don’t have to do this alone. Contact me for help in celebrating your Independence Day at adrienne@adriennegrace.com

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The Gift of Forgiveness

The Gift of Forgiveness

On your wedding day, you and your spouse promised to love and honor each other and the vows you made.

It didn’t work out. And that’s okay.

One of the hardest elements of ending your relationship is finding a way, and the strength, to forgive, not only your former spouse but yourself.  June includes National Forgiveness Day.  Would you like to participate?

Forgiveness is the act of taking the pain, disappointment and anger you feel, and releasing it from your heart and mind. It can help you gain some understanding and even empathy for the person who hurt you. You might even begin to understand that, while you may have let yourself down, you are not a failed person. And maybe the person who hurt you, may not be, either.  We are all imperfect.

Forgiveness is not excusing or forgetting the pain that was caused. It is leaving the hurt behind and moving on in your life with a renewed sense of purpose, of commitment to your happiness and the realization that, even when it hurts the most, life moves forward.

There are real, tangible benefits to forgiveness!

Learning to forgive can lead to:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • A stronger immune system
  • Fewer symptoms of depression
  • Less stress (and can’t we all use that?)
  • Improved mental health
  • Improved heart health
  • Improved self-esteem
  • Healthier relationships

Think about the worst moment in your relationship.  Think about how much energy was expended in that moment and the weight it carried. Think about how different you physically looked and felt in the immediate aftermath.

Now imagine that anger has subsided.  The weight is of resentment is lessened. The pain is abated. The stress is decreased.  Maybe not fully, but just a little. Close your eyes and imagine the anger and pain as a boulder on your back, and then you’ve thrown the boulder into the ocean. Imagine how much more deeply you’re able to breath and how moving now feels effortless.

That is the power of forgiveness.

Think of what forgiving your former spouse can mean for your children. It’s an outstanding example of showing them how mature adults act.  If you can forgive their other parent, then forgiveness can be there for your children, as well.  It can lead to stronger, healthier relationships with them, and between them and their other parent. If you’re no longer holding on to hurt or anger against your former spouse, they won’t feel the need to hide their happiness at having fun with their other parent.

So much in life is a matter of choice. You choose to get married, you choose to have children, to go to work, to take this vacation or that trip. Ultimately, it might not have been a solo decision, but the choice to divorce was also made.

It is also a choice to hold on to hurt feelings or let them go. You get to decide for yourself how long they will influence your actions. You can choose to hang on to anger for a month, instead of years. You can choose to nurse a broken heart for a lifetime, or you can allow the pain to linger for a few weeks and then slowly push forward, healing and seeing beauty in the world again.

There’s no right or wrong answer here, nor a right or wrong amount of time.

Not everything in life is under your specific control, but your response to adversity is. People generally try to make good decisions that will work out well in the end. They try their best. Sometimes, their (your) best just isn’t good enough. Hurt, resentment, anger, disillusionment, regret, fear-  and there’s always enough blame to go around in any failed relationship.

You only have this one life. Carrying a metaphorical bag of regret takes up a lot of time and room that could be used for much happier things. Forgive – your former spouse, yourself, anyone else who needs it and let it go.

Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.

Fairness is key on Father’s Day

Fairness is key on Father’s Day

It’s a day divorced or separated women might dread: Father’s Day. When you are still working through hurt feelings, a  broken heart and the long legal process of dividing your lives,  knowing your children are thinking of something special for their dad isn’t a happy thought.

But it’s an important task and one that to take seriously.

By making sure the children have prepared gifts or a special day, you’re reinforcing the importance their father has in their lives. You’re leading by example.  He is their father; he is worthy of their time, and love. He might not live with them every day, but he deserves to have Father’s Day celebrated by his children.  Remember: You had Mother’s Day in May. Father’s Day is about him.

A few tips to make the day go by smoothly for everyone – you included:

  1. If the children are with you on Father’s Day, be sure to set aside time for them to call their father. Even if it’s just a few moments, you’re showing the children, and him, that you’re a fair person. Speak positively about your former partner. Share stories about times when he did special things for the children or was there for them when it mattered. This is not a day for animosity or revenge.  That could apply for their paternal grandfather as well – your former husband’s father can still be an important role model for your children and a source of love and support for them, in addition to sharing family histories and stories.

 

  1. Let the children lead the way. If you’re going to help them with a gift for dad’s day, ask the children what they think he might like. If they want to take him to a sporting event, talk about the details. Has he coached their Little League team or thrown a football in the backyard? Has he gone running with your daughter or taken your son to soccer practice? Maybe they enjoy reading or listening to music together. Work with your children to determine the best way to give their father a present that will keep the bad feelings at bay and will help your children feel empowered in how they thank their father.

 

  1. If the children will be with your former spouse on Father’s Day, work out drop-off details in advance and, if applicable, offer to give him a little more time with the kids. Especially if you have primary custody, this is a gift for both him and the children. Time together is so precious and valuable, offering even an additional hour or two can be a gesture of grace and kindness. If that’s not possible, still make sure you’ve ironed out all the details in advance so that they get full use of their time with dad.

 

  1. Resist the urge to complain. This is doubly true when the divorce proceedings are complicated and emotions are high. Do not use the children as weapons or sounding boards to vent your frustration. Your children are the center of your world and your heart – ideally that is true of your former spouse as well. They do not deserve to be put into a position that you all may later regret. You worked together to make a home for these children. Things changed but your love for them did not and will not. Even if he’s making unfair demands for Father’s Day, your children are not the ones to hear you complain about it. If the children will be with him that day, make a date with a close friend to go out and discuss the problems over lunch. She might want to vent about her husband, or ex, as well.

 

If for some reason your former spouse is not interested in seeing his children on Father’s Day, or if your children cannot see him, share the love with another important man in their lives: a grandfather, uncle or older sibling. They need to know that you respect, admire and trust men and are grateful for those who take an interest in your children. Take careful steps now to show that fathers, or father figures, are important and worthy of celebration, especially on their special day. You — and they! —will be better for it.

Making the most of Mother’s Day

Making the most of Mother’s Day

The calendar says it’s time to celebrate mom and all the hard work she does, to treat her to something nice and to give her a special day.

For divorced women, the newly separated or those going through their first Mother’s Day without a spouse, it can be yet another challenge. How do you take care of yourself when you’re responsible for the kids on your own?

Take charge of the day, but be kind and compassionate with yourself, too.

A few tips to help give Mother’s Day a new meaning and realigned expectations in a post-marriage world:

  1. It’s ok if the kids aren’t with you.

If Mother’s Day happens to fall on a weekend where your children are supposed to be with your former spouse, don’t panic. It’s understandable and acceptable to be sad or frustrated, but take a deep breath and remember: It’s just a day. And it’s just one day. Pick another day with your children and decide that will be your very special Mother’s Day with them this year. As soon as you determine that your children will not be with you, start talking with them about what you’ll  do together: Shall we have a picnic in the park and play games? Shall we go shopping? Go to a movie? Or would you rather have a nice day at home, just hanging out? It’ll be your day, your way. A silver lining? If you have your eye on a particular restaurant, it might even be easier to get reservations by celebrating on another day.

If you are ok with the children being without you on this day, it’s more likely that they will be ok with it, too.

 

  1. Treat yourself!

Mother’s Day is all about you. You work so hard to help your children, make sure they’re doing well in school and that their home is filled with love and comfort. Now it’s time to take care of you. Book a spa day or massage. Get a manicure. Tell the kids earlier in the week that you’d like for them to cook for you, if they’re old enough. Buy some beautiful flowers for your table or a new addition for your garden. Whether big or small, find some way to do something nice, just for you, just for today.

 

  1. Take a time out.

This is especially important if you’re newly divorced or separated from your spouse. The first Mother’s Day as a single mother without an in-house co-parent can be emotionally charged. Find some time in the day to have a moment to yourself to reflect. Whether that’s going out for coffee and asking someone to sit with the kids, or leaving them with your oldest child while you go for a walk, find a way to get some air and clear your mind. Be kind to yourself and acknowledge your successes, your victories. Don’t dwell on the lack of a ring on your finger. Love art? Schedule time to go to the nearest gallery and walk around.  Love music? Find a concert.  If your kids enjoy these things, they can come with you and you can still get lost in your own thoughts as the music carries you away.

 

  1. Be clear about your expectations.

If you want breakfast in bed, buy the ingredients, leave the recipe out on the counter and tell your children, clearly that you expect and will appreciate them making a meal for you. If you want time alone, tell them you are not to be disturbed during a certain time unless there’s an emergency. If you want a hand-made card, set out the construction paper, glue, markers and stickers. Let them know that this is important to you and why: You work hard to make them happy and they can make you equally happy by providing this gift for you. It’s perfectly acceptable to ask for things. If you want a purchased gift, provide a list and a budget, then take the kids to the mall or boutique and let them do the selecting.

 

  1. Make it a group holiday.

If you know other divorced mothers in the same situation, why not bring everyone together for a special brunch? Each family can be responsible for a dish so the work is shared, or make reservations at a favorite place and spend the time telling stories. Make a point of telling the other mothers what you respect about them and what you enjoy about their children – that’s a gift any mother would love on any day, but especially on Mother’s Day.

 

 

Securities offered through Cadaret, Grant & Co., Member FINRA/SIPC. WNY Collaborative, Davis Financial and Cadaret, Grant are separate entities.

 

3 Things to consider before filing your Taxes

3 Things to consider before filing your Taxes

Tax stress for some starts January 1st and doesn’t end til the tax return is safely filed and paid (or refunded).  If this is your first year taking responsibility for the filing, it can be stressful, indeed.  Here are some tips to help you.  If you are not yet divorced, please take this as a reminder to include tax filing strategy in your settlement agreement.

A financial professional, such as a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA™) is an excellent resource as you get ready to file your taxes. As you connect with your professional, consider these three issues to discuss.

Your Filing Status

While you may finally be divorced today, your taxes could reflect otherwise. When were your divorce actually final? The last day of the tax year for which you are filing is the determining factor.  If you were legally married on the last day of the tax year for which you are filing, then you must file as such. If this is the case, you may file jointly with your former spouse or file “married filing separately”.   If you do file separately, you may lose the ability to file for certain deductions and credits such as the student loan interest deduction or the child and dependent care credit. Even so, if communication has become difficult or you suspect some tax irregularities, filing separately may be best.  Speak to your CDFA to better understand your options.

If you were divorced by the end of last year, you may be able to file Single or, with children, Head of Household.  Again, speak to your divorce financial advisor to better understand your options.  There are specific time frames and requirements to be able to file Head of Household that should be calculated.

Claiming the Kids

If you do plan to file separately as divorced individuals, you should have a plan for who claims a dependent exemption for the kids.  This may have been negotiated into your settlement. Usually, the parent who had custody over the most days during the year for which you are filing can claim the children. If your situation calls for the other parent to claim the children, or you each take one or more, then the custodial parent needs to complete IRS Form 8332 to release their claim to the exemption. Again, speak to your divorce financial professional to understand if you qualify for this exemption and how best to handle it in your situation.

Upcoming Changes to Deductions

The changes in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act which will end tax deductions for individuals making spousal support (alimony)payments and the accompanying need to declare such payments received as taxable income, will not go into effect until 2019.  If your divorce is settled by December 31, 2018, or before, this change may not impact your taxes.   If your divorce is final into 2019, it may change the tax situation going forward.

Child support, however, is and remains non-deductible. Discuss the timeline of your divorce with your financial professional so that you understand the impact that spousal support and child support payments could have on your financial picture.

Considering these issues as you get ready to file your taxes can help reduce your stress.  If you need a divorce financial professional to work with, please give me a call (716-817-6425) or email (adrienne@adriennegrace.com).  I’ll be happy to assist.

Help Your Clients Fund College with Less Debt

Helping your child focus on the goal of attending college, and what awaits him after graduation is the job of responsible parents, whether they are divorced or still married.

Perhaps some of your clients aren’t able to set aside money in 529 plans to fund their child’s education. In that case, they themselves or their children may have to take on debt to pay for college. The following tips can help clients in this situation take on a minimal amount of debt.

“It may not seem easy to graduate debt-free, but it can be done,” said Stuart Ritter, a financial planner and vice-president of Baltimore-based T. Rowe Price Investment Services in the Money magazine article, “4 Secrets to Graduating from College With No Debt.”

Have them explore if their kids can get a head start. Do your clients’ children have options to enroll in Advanced Placement courses or dual college and high school credit courses? Although college students are considered full-time students at 12 credits, there’s no way a person taking only 12 credits per semester can graduate in…

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Leveraging Divorce to Maximize College Financial Aid

With the high- and often unknown-cost of college for your children, be sure to plan as thoughtfully as possible

Divorce is rarely a positive thing. But when it comes to helping your clients maximize college financial aid for their children, it can be used to their advantage.

There are many complexities associated with clients sending their child off to college. Perhaps the biggest factor that keeps parents up at night is the cost of college. Unfortunately, at $25,000 per year for in-state public institutions to $50,000 a year at private institutions, a four-year education can approximate that of a small starter house. Multiply that by two or three kids, and the cost approximates that of a very nice house. Unfortunately, many students are taking on huge loans without regard to their post-graduate income, and parents are likewise assuming massive amount of PLUS loans and putting their retirement in jeopardy.

Complicating this process is the fact that the net cost students will pay varies significantly between schools. Just as very…

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