Understanding the Impact of Spending Habits Before, During, and After Divorce

  • Spending habits can make an impact before, during, and after the divorce process.
  • Money illusion is a psychological matter debated among economists, which entails individuals having an illusory picture of their wealth and income based on nominal dollars, rather than actual terms that take into account the level of inflation in the economy.
  • Spending habits can cause strain on a marriage.

Despite the promise of a better future, divorce is not a cheap event. The financial losses that you can take during the experience often are paired with the scrutinization of your finances, as well as your spending habits.

Depending on your financial situations, the spending habits of a person going through a divorce are often kept under a microscope until the habit of paying child support and alimony are made as part of a routine. Even still, they can be double-checked frequently, to make sure that there is no irregular spending that was not accounted for in the financial assessment during the divorce process.

Much of it stems from ideas instilled during the marriage process.

Most people who have gotten married before have heard the old adage, “What’s mine is yours.” When you are preparing for a divorce, both spouses are looking at their assets and trying to figure out how to hold onto the parts of their married life that they enjoyed.

For some people, that is their spending habits.

Spending habits and money illusion

Spending habits are determined by the household income, and when you are married, there is the potential of two people earning income in the given household, creating extra spending money. That money fuels a lot of the perception associated with one’s lifestyle, because it creates the feeling of comfort, even if your bank statement does not reflect that.

This comes from the idea that having a job creates excess income and that any raise they receive means they have more excess. However, this is not taking into account the rate of inflation, creating a money illusion. According to Investopedia, money illusion is a psychological matter debated among economists, which entails individuals having an illusory picture of their wealth and income based on nominal dollars, rather than actual terms that take into account the level of inflation in the economy.

After a divorce

The illusion of wealth can create conflict after the divorce decree is settled. Through social media, many are able to show recent purchases, and if an ex-spouse and their attorney raise questions as to how these purchases occurred with their given income, the ex-spouse being question could be accused of hiding an asset.

Flaunting items that have been purchased after the divorce process open up you, as a divorced individual, to the possibility of alimony and/or child support being reassessed. All it would take is the opposing party’s attorney filing a motion to modify alimony and/or child support, citing a change in finances.

Even if you did not hide assets, nor became wealthier, the illusion of wealth can create that level of suspicion. All of the sudden, you are paying for additional legal fees and may potentially be facing the raise in how much you pay in alimony and/or child support, just because you wanted the Likes on Facebook or the Retweets on Twitter.

During a divorce

In cases where the divorce decree has not been finalized, the illusion of wealth can influence how the divorce decree is shaped. If you are in a new relationship before the divorce decree is finalized, the opposing party can argue that you are spending marital assets on a third party, in an effort to dissipate the marital assets being shared in the divorce.

This action can jeopardize the presumptive 50/50 division of marital assets, leaving you with very little in the settlement.

Even if you are not dating anyone, but you are spending excessively during the divorce process, you can be accused to marital waste, which also prevents the presumptive 50/50 division of marital assets.

Before a divorce

When there is no prenuptial agreement in place, dealing with the losses is part of the divorce process. Understanding the potential losses is something to factor into the decision to divorce in the first place. Many are only looking at the relationship and the emotional side of the situation without considering the financial implications of their actions before a divorce.

When it comes to marital conflict, one of the biggest causes is spending habits. A survey of approximately a thousand Americans found that one in 10 would describe their partner as a financial bully, whereas the flipside of the argument includes the partner in question is simply being financially responsible.

Those that are vigilant with their spending and the spending of their partner are the ones that sometimes face the pushback. Nobody necessarily wants their spending tracked, but realistically, no one is playing with an unlimited source of wealth and income, making budgeting a necessary aspect of life.

Budgeting can be difficult for couples that are not on the same page with it. An Ameriprise study on couples and money found that 31 percent of all couples, including happy ones, clashed over their finances at least once a month.

Of that 31 percent arguing about finances, 34 percent of them disagreed about major purchases, 24 percent of them disagreed about financial decisions that relate to their children, 23 percent of them disagreed about a partner’s spending habits, and 14 percent of them disagreed about important investment decisions.

The stress of finances creates tension within the relationship, and given that in a 2016 Pwc employee financial wellness survey, 41 percent of men and 49 percent of women said that financial matters cause them the most stress, the prospect of ending a marriage to someone who philosophically disagrees with one’s spending habits is understandable.

Moving forward

This is the reason why it is so important to thoroughly understand the person that you are making a commitment to. That being said, it is not always that easy.

We, as individuals, do not have the 20/20 hindsight to make decisions differently after they have already been made. Whether that is the way we purchase things or the commitments we make to others. What we can do is try to learn from our experiences and make better decisions moving forward.

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