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Postnuptial Agreement

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5eaff3e8 8063 4395 adf6 1f67ad825f32 Postnuptial Agreement

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Getting Married is very exciting!   Spring is that time of year when brides are eagerly gearing up for their June weddings and all the glitz, glamour and drama a wedding brings.

But what about after the wedding day? Are you truly prepared for the marriage? Many couples find once married there are some important issues that weren’t discussed. However, it’s never too late. That’s why we have postnuptial agreements.

Postnuptial agreements came into acceptance in the U.S. in the later portion of the 20th century. It was in the 1970’s that postnuptial agreements were met with wide acceptance motivated by what many think was the increase in divorce in the 70’s.

A postnuptial agreement is a written contract executed after a couple gets married or have entered a civil union. The purpose of this contract is to address and settle a couple’s affairs in the event of a separation or divorce.

When crafting a postnuptial agreement, I suggest you consider the following:

  1. Assets, liabilities, income
  2. Expectations of gifts and inheritances.
  3. The status of gifts, inheritances, and trusts either spouse receives or benefits from, whether before or after marriage.
  4. How post-marital debts will be paid.
  5. Decide who, or if both of you, will own or occupy the marital residence and secondary homes in the event of death or divorce
  6. What happens to your marital property in the event of death or divorce.
  7. what happens to property-real estate, jewelry, artwork, antiques etc.
  8. Alimony, maintenance, spousal support, children
  9. Death benefits- what you will provide for in your will.

To learn more about postnuptial agreements call 212.734.1551

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Divorce and Childhood Obesity

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Childhood Obesity 300x181 Divorce and Childhood ObesityDIVORCE AND
CHILDHOOD OBESITY

The impact of divorce is truly a family affair. This is very evident in the expanding waist lines of children of divorce.

As a family law attorney and medical professional I hear the horror stories from clients all the time on how their divorce is impacting their children, not only psychologically, but physically.

In a recent San Franciso State University news release, lead researcher Jeff Cookston, chair of Psychology stated, “When families separate, one of the things that is most impacted for kids is their day-to-day routines. Separation and divorce can cause significant stress for children and sugary drinks are an easy and accessible “quick fix” for dealing with that stress.” This study was published online recently in the journal Childhood Obesity.

In my practice, during the divorce process, whether mediating or litigating, I stress to divorcing parents the importance of maintaining routines especially for their children. I have found even when parents are trying to shelter their child from what is going on, children feel scared, sometimes alone, and often turn to food and sometimes other devices for comfort. I suggest you speak with your child (depending on their age) and share with them not the gory details of
our divorce, but give them reassurance everything will be okay and that both mom and dad love them!

A client of mine was so concerned about her ten year old daughter’s weight gain during the family’s divorce that she shared her concerns with me. I suggested she not only get some therapy for her daughter, but also suggested they meet with a nutritionist who could help the family get back on a nutritious program.

My recommendation to parents is to maintain a family routine, no matter what is going on. This includes three balanced, scheduled meals, after-school activities, exercise, play dates and family activities.

Your child deserves only the very best while your family is going through divorce. It will also make you feel better if your child is happy, feeling well and thriving.

For more help with your divorce call me at 212-734-1551. I will be happy to guide you towards the divorce process that is right for you!

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Divorce and Taxes

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5aaf5d11 f075 4e54 a9d5 d5f931d7253d Divorce and TaxesDIVORCE AND TAXES

Here are Tax Tips to help you!

1) Alimony or Child Support Deductions:
If you are awarded alimony in a divorce it is stipulated in your separation agreement. If you are the party
paying alimony, you can usually deduct alimony on your tax return, unless you agree otherwise. If you are
receiving alimony, you have to report this as income on your tax return. Child support is different from
alimony. Child support is not deductible for the person who pays it and is not taxable to the recipient.

2) Dependency Exemption:
A child can only be claimed on a tax return by one parent. As part of the separation agreement it will be
determined who will claim the child as an exemption. It is often the party paying the larger amount of
child support.

3) Divorced Filing Status:
If you are not officially divorced before the end of the year, you can still file a joint tax return. Once
divorced you can no longer file a joint tax return.

4) Medical Bills and Expenses:
You can include your child’s medical bills on your tax return if you continue to pay them after your divorce.
These costs can be included in your medical expense deductions if your child meets the tests for
dependency. This applies whether you have custody or not.

5) Payments Made to Your Former Spouse:
Alimony payments to your spouse are a tax deduction and do not need to be itemized. As long as this
payment is truly alimony and in your stipulated agreement the IRS will recognize payment as a deduction.

6) Transfer of Assets :
Property is often transferred from one spouse to the other as equitable distribution in a divorce
settlement. If this occurs, the recipient does not pay tax at that time on the transfer. However, if you
receive property from your spouse in a divorce settlement and you sell it later, you will be responsible to
pay capital gains tax on the appreciation after the transfer from the initial acquisition.

7) Sale of Home:
If you and your spouse decide to sell your home when you get divorced, there could be capital gains tax.
You can avoid tax on the first $250,000 of gain on the sale of your primary home if you have owned and
lived in it for two out of the past five years of ownership. But if you sell after your divorce and the two
above provisions have been met, both you and our spouse can each exclude up to $250,000 of gain on
each of your returns. If you receive the house in your divorce settlement and sell it some years later, you
can exclude up to $250,000.

8) Transferring Retirement Assets:
When divorcing be careful how your retirement funds are transferred. If it is agreed that you will give your
401 (k) to your spouse in a divorce settlement the transfer can take place from either an IRA rollover or
QDRO. To avoid taxation a retirement transfer should be executed under a qualified domestic relations
order (QDRO) which allows for your spouse to access the funds without your having to pay taxes. During
a divorce, it is important to carefully handle your retirement savings.

For more help with your divorce call me at 212-734-1551. I will be happy to guide you towards the divorce process that is right for you!

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Divorce Proof Your Relationship

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43b7f7f8 78ec 460b babb c74a58135b1d Divorce Proof Your RelationshipDIVORCE PROOF YOUR RELATIONSHIP!

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. Traditionally couples in the millions get engaged on this day. Being in the field of family law as an attorney for more than thirty years, I expect that fifty percent of those Valentine’s Day engagements will end in divorce—which is sad and unfortunate. There has to be a better way to ensure that all of the love and affection showed on February 14, lasts a lifetime. In fact there are several issues I see as a common thread that lead to divorce. Here are four tips to help you divorce-proof your relationship from the very outset, so that the shine of that new engagement ring doesn’t blind you to some of the very basics of a long and successful marriage.

Discuss Finances:
Before marriage, couples discuss where they’re going to live,children, careers, and what side of the bed to sleep on… but never money. Some people have anxiety, guilt, and even shame about the way they handle money. Do you really want to tell a potential spouse you’re an overspender? Not exactly the topic of discussion you want to have before you are walking down the aisle.  Have an open and honest conversation with your future spouse about it and know your “marriage money style.”

Be Aware of Abusive Qualities:
You don’t have to be “hit” to be abused. Name calling, playing the blame game, emotional manipulation, and attacks on your character and abilities are all signs of emotional abuse. Of course, if your future spouse actually physically abuses you then that is an immediate sign that it’s time to call off the engagement. Violence never solves anything and you don’t deserve any kind of physical abuse doled out to you.

Get a Prenuptial Agreement:
Not just for the rich and famous, a prenup forces you to have in depth conversations about uncomfortable but important marital issues
with your future spouse. Money matters, what religion you plan to raise your children, family business ownership, and planning for inheritance are just several crucial topics that are brought to the forefront when discussing a prenuptial agreement. Speak now or forever hold your peace.

See a Therapist:
This person should be an objective, non-partisan third party concerned only for the emotional well-being of you and your future spouse.
A therapist is someone who will talk you and/or your soon-to-be spouse through the logistics of making decisions and compromises where there are no losers, and help you navigate the peaks and valleys of being in a healthy marriage.

Within the scope of a relationship, respectful communication is key—honesty with yourself and your future spouse. Communication helps ensure that you don’t marry the wrong person and that you stay married to the right person.

If you have any other questions about relationships, prenups, or therapist referrals; please feel free to call me at 212-734-1551.

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Divorce Without Lawyers

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DIVORCE WITHOUT LAWYERS

Mariah Carrey, Katey Perry, and  Robin Thick come to mind.  We’ve all heard the horror stories from friends, newspapers, blogs and tabloids.  The typical divorce can be a nightmare, and everybody loses.  Except, maybe, the divorce attorneys, who get paid for their time while divorcing couples fight over money, houses and children.

This is the way it’s been ever since the founding of our country, when we imported the British legal model for divorce – the adversarial system.  Now that one in every two marriages in this country ends in divorce, the devastation caused by the system has come under question.  Divorcing clients often ask me as a New York Divorce attorney,  “Is there a better way?”

My answer is, “ Yes.”   It’s called “Divorce Without Lawyers.”    New on the radar for the last few years, it is now becoming more widely known.  It was previously employed in labor negotiations, but its use has been expanding to include family law problems.

Here’s how Divorce Mediation works:  The divorcing couple hires one individual, instead of two opposing divorce lawyers, to help them resolve their differences.  The divorce mediator is an independent, unbiased individual, trained in mediation (usually a lawyer or a mental health professional), whose job is to facilitate an agreement on all issues between the husband and wife.  The results are astonishing, and are achieved often in hours and weeks, instead of months and years.

How does this happen?  The answer is in the process, and in the skills of the divorce mediator, which include a good knowledge of negotiating, creative problem-solving, and psychology.  What happens when divorcing couples  use the traditional adversarial system?  Each spouse hires a divorce lawyer, often paying from $5000 to $ 25,000 as an initial retainer for each gladiator.  This down payment will be used up at the rate of from $150 to over $700 per hour, for the lawyers’ time, depending on the location (state, city), and the expertise and reputation of the lawyer.

Since it is the divorce lawyer’s job to represent a client “zealously” within the bounds of the law, the divorce attorneys usually embark upon their mission enthusiastically, with the intent to “win” for their client, whatever the definition of “win” might be in the situation.  This creates instant conflict, even between couples who may have disagreements, but are not necessarily adversarial.  The nature of the legal system requires the participants to be adversaries.  The name of the game is to make things as difficult and uncomfortable as possible for the other “side.” (Even the nomenclature is adversarial).  This is done by such methods as refusing to pay family bills, like the mortgage and utilities, refusing to supply needed spending money to a dependent spouse, and/or refusing to allow the other parent to visit freely with the children.  This behavior does not always happen, of course, but it happens often enough, fueled by anger and hurt as to why the marriage is ending, that it has become infamous for the pain it inflicts.  The goal of sparring divorce lawyers and clients is to make someone so vulnerable that they will settle the entire matter on terms advantageous to the other side.

Not every divorcing couple starts out wanting to hurt each other by withholding money or children.  Ultimately, judges will make decisions about who gets what, but not until many months or even years go by, and thousands of dollars with delays, adjournments, the slowness of the beauracratic system, until justice delayed is justice denied, with enormous financial and emotional cost of the entire family, especially the children, who are sometimes used as pawns.  Control is no longer with the couple, but in the hands of a stranger-the judge and the divorce attorneys.

When couples see a divorce mediator, they have a strong tendency to talk about their grievances during the marriage – what happened in the past.  There is plenty of blame and name-calling to go around.  What divorce mediators know, and use in their work, is that talking about the past does not result in an agreement.  In fact, it often prevents agreement.  Part of the role of the divorce mediator is to direct the couple to talk about what they want for the future.  This feels sort of strange to the couple who is used to arguing about past behavior.  The divorce mediator will summarize, emphasizing useful information and ignoring irrelevant and emotional comments.  Another technique is “normalizing” by which the couple is reassured that their problems are not unique, and that other people have struggled with the same issues before and have successfully resolved them.

The divorcing couple  are advised that they may each consult a divorce lawyer at any time. This knowledge can be reassuring to a timid spouse who feels he or she will be bowled over by a demanding partner.

To learn more about Divorce Without Lawyers call for a complimentary phone consultation 212.734.155.

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Holiday Co-Parenting Tips!

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holiday tips Holiday Co Parenting Tips!
The greatest wish of many children of divorce during the holidays is that Mom and Dad will get back together. Even though the sad truth is that this is probably not going to happen, you as responsible parents can cooperate, and make the holidays as happy as possible for your child. Children tend to worry about the parent they won’t be with during the holidays. They often have conflicting feelings of sadness, anger and guilt. They are not sure how to act or who to please.

Here are five helpful co-parenting tips on how to help your child through the holidays:

TIP ONE:
Always Make Your Child a Priority!
No matter how old the child, consider their feelings and what they want as well as what is arranged. Let them feel as though they are part of this decision-making process. Keep your children out of parenting disputes!

TIP TWO:
Consider your Child’s Feelings!
Remember many children of divorced families will have conflicted feelings during the holidays.
Help them so they don’t default to feeling responsible for the divorce. Encourage them to have a good time with the other parent. Don’t bad talk the other parent. It is the worst thing you can do at any time in a divorce situation, but particularly so during the holidays. Help them get ready for their holiday visit with the other parent. When they come home, be interested in what they did and ask questions about the time spent with the other parent. This behavior will help your child feel less anxious and hopefully, happier.

TIP THREE:
Plan well in advance.
Discuss and share information with the other parent. Make plans with the other parent. Make some of those plans to all be together for part of the holiday season, if possible. Try to coordinate gifts with your ex so your child receives a normal amount of presents and no duplicates. Conveying a strong united front helps a child feel secure and more loved especially during the holidays. Remember, you divorced your spouse, not your child. A strong co-parenting relationship is the best gift you can give your child this holiday season!

TIP FOUR:
Be flexible.
Good co-parenting requires compromise to be successful. Sometimes planning holidays around visitation schedules can be chaotic. But if this is not possible, Compromise! Compromise! Compromise! You will be helping your child.

TIP FIVE:
Make the Most of It!
This means take the necessary steps to ensure your child has a wonderful holiday while keeping your sanity at the same time!

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Have You Got FINANCIAL “DIVORCE SMARTS”?

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FINANCIAL  “DIVORCE SMARTS”

Divorce lawyers stoke anger and fear in their clients, knowing that as long as the conflicts remain unresolved the revenue stream will keep flowing.’ – Craig Ferguson

Even if you are not quite ready to get divorced, or know someone who might be, you need to be informed and Financially Smart.

Deciding to Divorce is a complex process.   Deciding how easy or difficult the process will be depends on you and how your spouse responds.  How well or ill prepared you are emotionally and financially will dictate how smooth or turbulent the divorce obstacle course will be.

Depending on the make-up of your marriage, here are 10 legal, emotional and financial suggestions with which to equip yourself so that you have (or get) “Divorce Smarts”.

Consult with an attorney and a mediator, or an attorney who is also a mediator.

It’s a good idea, especially if you have children or assets. Choose the right person for you.  Someone who represents who you are and your divorce style.  If you don’t have easy access to the family funds, start putting some money aside so you can afford to pay an upfront retainer, which is often required.  It is best not to navigate a divorce on your own.  You wouldn’t perform your own open heart surgery.  Would you?  Ask lots of questions.  Choose the attorney or mediator who will listen and pay attention to your wants and needs.  See someone before you are ready to do anything so you don’t make some common mistakes.

Make Copies.  Make Copies.  Make Copies.

Photocopy every important, relevant financial document you can get your hands on.  I would say go back and make copies of  documents for the last three years of your marriage. This should include: tax returns, bank statements, pension, stock, portfolio statements, credit card statements and pay stubs to supply your lawyer or mediator.

Avoid Damaging Credit Problems.

If you are using a joint credit card, you are still responsible for any charges made by your spouse.  If charges are not paid, those charges can end up on your credit report. Establish credit cards and accounts in your own name to build and protect your credit.

Make Sure You Have Medical Coverage.

Medical insurance coverage usually ends at divorce. If you are on your husband’s insurance plan, you should be able to continue coverage for up to 36 months under COBRA.  Under this plan someone has to pay the premiums.  These premiums can be very expensive so you may want to consider shopping around for different coverage.  Today there are insurance carriers with lower premiums than offered by COBRA.

Take Home and Asset Inventory.

Know what you have!  Write down your assets, debts, and what is in your home.  It’s helpful to compile lists. The more information you have, the better.  Your attorney or Mediator will thank you.  You may want to consider taking photos or videos of your home contents.  This may help in the division of personal property.  You may want to make copies of family photos and CDs.  You would be surprised how the division of these items can sometimes cause arguments and stress.

Divorce Has Tax Consequences.

There are important tax ramifications with real estate, deferred compensation and other assets.

If a stock is valued at $3,000, it may only be worth $2,600 in cash after capital gains taxes are paid.

It would not be the same as receiving $3,000.00 in cash in a divorce settlement.  In fairly dividing the assets, you must consider the tax consequences before the division.  Consult with your accountant to discuss the tax ramifications of your possible asset allocation.

Fully Understand the Assets You Choose.

When you are choosing which assets you want, choose carefully.  If you want the house, educate yourself about the fair market value.  Keep in mind, you have to make mortgage payments, pay taxes, interest, insurance, utilities etc.  Will you be able to afford this once the divorce takes place?

Pensions are usually taxable when you take out the funds.  Choose wisely!

Stay in Your Home.

Unless you fear physical or emotional harm,  don’t move out of your home.  Talk to your lawyer or mediator before you make your move.  Leaving the marital residence can have major ramifications.

Consider Different Professionals to Help You.

In some cases you will need experts such as an accountant, appraiser, or therapist.  A good attorney and/or mediator will be able to recommend these types of professionals to help you. Divorce in more of an emotional issue than you may realize.

Choose your Friends Carefully.

When you have developed relationships as a couple, you never know who may end up on your spouse’s side and turning on you or even testifying against you later. Consult with a therapist who can keep you thinking clearly in order to focus on your divorce plan.  Confide in your therapist and let the friends that were part of your life before your marriage be part of your healing process, not necessarily part of the divorce process.

Divorce can take its toll on you emotionally, financially and legally.  Being prepared will give you the tools and the strength to make better decisions.  My advice?  Try to make your divorce as uncomplicated as possible!

 

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image of stop sign with abuse written on it

5 Red Flags That You’re in an Abusive Relationship—and It’s Time to Get Out

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Every woman who thinks she is the only victim of violence has to know that there are many more.
— Salma Hayek

It is often said, “the meek will inherit the earth,” but unfortunately sometimes the meek also inherit abusive relationships. In society we typically think of “meek” as being weak and subservient; but there are also those who have high-powered careers and look dapper in a suit who display characteristics of meekness in other aspects of their lives.

As a divorce attorney and mediator I hear, all too often, people saying about their soon-to-be ex-spouses that, at first, it was all flowers, hand-written cards, and boxes of candy. Yet soon after their wedding night their spouse’s abusive behavior began to surface and they, “never saw it coming.” But if one really takes the time to look and maybe even trust their intuition, there are some red flags—signs that tell you, you may be dealing with an abusive person and it’s probably a good idea not to have a third date or even agree to marry that person.

Here are those five red flags:

  • Name Calling: This is a nasty little psychological tactic of an abusive person to try to raise their status over the person they’re mistreating.
  • Playing the blame game: Someone who is not able to take responsibility for their actions or missteps is not an adequate partner, especially when they erroneously put the blame for their failure onto you. Failure is a wonderful tool to help us grow and learn from our mistakes, but someone who chooses not to see it that way isn’t growing as a person—and is more than likely growing apart from you.
  • Verbal arguments escalating to physical abuse: This one is more than a red flag, it’s a king-sized alarm clock giving you a wake up call that your partner is not the right one for you. If it happens once, it’s more than likely to happen again and it usually gets worse.
  • Manipulative: It seems pretty self explanatory, but a potential abuser will prey on your emotions and fears to get you to do their bidding. They might even go as far as forbidding you to see a specific friend or from going certain places. In some cases the abuser will do everything they can to get their future or current spouse to quit their job,—not because they care about their comfort but because they want the other person to rely solely on them so they can leverage that reliance to keep the other person in a weaker position. They subtly separate you from your sources of support – people and money.
  • Subtle attacks on your character and abilities: This one is a bit of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The abusive partner might smile and act very polite while telling you you’re no good at your chosen field, you’ll never achieve your goals and dreams, or you’re not handsome or pretty enough.

Sadly it can take weeks, months, and even years to muster the courage to leave that abusive relationship and dissolve a marriage that should never have happened in the first place. Knowing some signs you may be in a relationship with an abusive person is helpful for two reasons.

  1. If you haven’t married the abuser, you can get out now before it ever has the chance to end in a messy, expensive, and painful divorce.
  2. If you’re currently married to an abusive person, it’s never too late to get out. While the divorce process might be scary, pricey, or painful, staying can lead to the death of your spirit or much worse. And if you feel like you might be in a crisis situation, you can always call the Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233, or the Victim Center at 1-800-394-2255.

If you have any other questions about abusive relationships or need help in the choice you are thinking of making in leaving that relationship, please feel free to call me at 212-734-1551.

I will be happy to advise or help you fight or negotiate the outcome you are looking for.

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Know Your “Marriage Money Style”

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divorce money style Know Your “Marriage Money Style” “Divorce is expensive. I used to joke they were going to call it ‘all the money,’ but they changed it to ‘alimony.’ It’s ripping your heart out through your wallet.”
Robin Williams

Money is an emotionally charged topic. That’s why few of us and few couples like to talk about it. When couples come to see me and are considering a divorce, money can actually be, yes, even more than sex, what is driving the couple apart. Money can represent many things. Money is love, happiness, security, control, freedom and lots more. When couples fight over money usually deeper issues emerge. I find that these issues have long been neglected and money has become the vehicle for battle. For most of us, there’s just never enough money. We don’t realize when we enter into a romantic relationship, there often a third party. A silent partner. It’s money!

Before marriage couples discuss where they are going to live, children, careers, and what side of the bed to sleep on, but never money? Money is still a taboo topic. Some people have anxiety, guilt and even shame about the way they handle money. Do you really want to tell a potential spouse you’re an over spender? Not exactly the topic of discussion you want to have before you are walking down the aisle. Most people have complex relationships with their money. We usually learn about money from our families as we grow up and the lessons can be very different. When couples enter a marriage, and have different money styles, they can actually battle and suffer together for years. As the marriage erodes and things begin to explode, that’s when they come to see me. Usually by that time it is already too late. Divorce is on the horizon.

The United States is a nation of overspenders. We live in a market economy and we are led to believe that we are good citizens when we agree to go out and spend our money, lots of it. So much so that we as a country and as individuals are in massive debt. Because many of us feel alienated and disconnected in today’s society, even with social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, we tend to overspend to fill an emptiness within ourselves. If we are not overspending, than we are usually worrying about money or hoarding it. Money is a complex focal point in many of our thoughts.

Men and women also have different money styles. What sets women apart from men is the different situations women will find themselves in during their lifetime. Women live longer than men. They usually have been in and out of the work force. When women marry they often become part of a financial dependency that can work against them if they are not prepared. Women are primarily the ones who raise the children, and often become the single parent raising the children. Women usually care for aging family members. A woman’s healthy relationship with money is vital in handling all the responsibilities and difficulties she may face.

So what’s your money style? If you haven’t thought about it, maybe it’s time! Get in touch with your money style before you make important decisions in your life.

If I can help you and your spouse get in touch with how to manage money issues if you are facing a divorce, call me 212.734.1551. I will be happy to share amicable ideas on how to settle your money issues.

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Why Women’s Financial Needs are Different

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women finance 300x200 Why Womens Financial Needs are DifferentThere are over 10 million female-owned businesses in America.  These companies are generating more than $2.5 trillion dollars.  Now more than ever, women need to take control of their finances.

Women are more financially successful than ever before!

But even with all this success women are still leaving their financial futures in the hands of men or ignoring it altogether.  This needs to stop.  

Women’s financial needs are actually different from that of men.  Women face unique challenges that men don’t.  For example:

1.)      women live longer than men.  on average 7 years longer so they need 20% more retirement income; 

2.)     women earn about 25% less than men;

3.)    since women are still the primary caretakers for children, more women than men take time off to raise kids as well as care for aging parents, which results in lower total earnings, reduced Social Security benefits and less savings.

 4.)   because of motherhood, women save less money than men;

5.)    women are more conservative in their investments;

I tell my clients it’s never too late or too soon to start planning your financial future.  I often introduce them to a financial advisor to help them get started.

It is important to educate yourself.  Take stock of your household finances, your income, your investments and your debts.  Take a look at your social security benefits and what they will be when you retire.

You can use some of the retirement calculators on websites like MsMoney.com to calculate what you will need to retire.

Take the first step.  Start today!

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