Friday, March 10, 2017

Divorce and Finances - Read This Before You Toss Him To The Curb

5 Things Every Woman Needs to Know Before She "Throws the Bum Out"

Before sending him packing, make sure you know these five important things to insure your financial stability and independence. To begin, if you are ending your marriage due to physical abuse (actual or threatened), then go to a friend, go to your pastor / rabbi, go to a women's shelter or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) estimates that more than 10% of the US population experiences some form of domestic violence. This type of activity in a marriage should never be tolerated.

However, if you are thinking of ending your marriage for any other reason, no matter if this will be an amicable or not so nice separation, there are many things you must consider before taking action. Not the least of which is your financial situation.

Not to be sexist, but many marriage models still retain the traditional stereotypes when it comes to finances. The husband will usually handle paying the bills, doing the taxes and providing the health insurance. Even though in today's economic climate, it is more and more likely both partners work, it is typically the male who brings in more pay. Thus the onus of doing that "money" thing falls to him.

If you feel divorce is in your future, there are certain steps to take in order to protect yourself financially. Unless your ex-to-be is a sap and willing to fund you until you get on your feet, enough cannot be stressed on being financially independent BEFORE you "throw the bum out."

First, you should open a separate bank account in your name only. Then you need to insure you have at least three months in the bank, coming in (salary) or a combination of both that will cover all your needs (although it is preferable that you have the money already in the bank, this may not be possible, depending on your situation). This will allow you to have breathing space in case your former partner doesn't come up with the support / alimony money right away.

Then you need to have an idea of what you want as far as alimony, child support, division of property and other monetary assets (401k, vacation property, investments, etc), and write it all down. In order to get all the wording down, you might want to consult a lawyer or check your state's laws concerning divorce and divorce agreements. For instance, in some states, if you have been married for ten or more years, you are entitled to half of the 401k. But in order to access this money, a legal document known as a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QRDO, pronounced quadro) needs to be filed, which could tie up all the money for months.

Here are five financially related items you need to consider before changing the locks while your spouse is at work. You need to look at them as if you were the sole person responsible for making the payments. Do not include what you think you might get in support / alimony, because this could be argued and changed or not even materialize at all.

Rent / Mortgage

Figuring in what money you have saved up and what your salary is (if any), you should consider if you will be able to maintain your current residence. You may need to downsize, refinance or look for less costly accommodations. Or you may be fine where you are. If you own, you also need to look at the property taxes and any other incidental cost comes with home ownership. If renting, don't forget to have the lease changed into your name only.

Food and other Bills

Take a hard look at what you spend on things like cable, dining out, food shopping and other incidentals (like movies). You may need to cut out some of the more luxury type items for the foreseeable future.

Consider generics when shopping at the grocery store, or clip coupons from the Sunday papers. Get a recipe box and file the coupons by expiration date. Then make sure you take them with you when you go shopping.

Do you really need that high speed internet connection, or all those premium movies channels? How about that HD service you're paying for? (Especially if he ends up with the new HD television.)

Think about areas where you can cut expenses but also keep in mind not to pare it down to the bare bones. You still need to do things or have things around to help relieve stress (which there will be more of if your ex does not go quietly into that good night).

Car / Car Insurance

Whose car is it and who is paying the car insurance? Is it a steady reliable vehicle or is it a very expensive lease gas guzzler? You need to look at the car you are driving (or if he gets the car, find an inexpensive one for yourself) and the insurance you are paying.

If you have had the latter for several years and your spouse is on it, you need to do two things. First you need to get them off the insurance quickly (this will cut the charges right away). And second, you need to shop around to see if you're "paying to much for your car insurance" as the ad says. You can also check with your current insurer to see if they can cut your rate (as long as your accident record is pretty clear). But it is my experience that they usually won't, so shopping around is the best bet. It may turn out you have the best policy anyway, but better informed is, well, better.

If you own the car you have and the maintenance on it is fine, then you are set. But if you are leasing or making payments, you may need to do something to lower those payments. You can trade it in or refinance through a credit union (because the rates are usually better). If you don't get the car in the settlement, or if it is his car, you need to shop around for a good used car (or pre-owned as the spin now goes) with the lowest rate you can get. Don't let the sales people or the finance manager talk you into warranty contracts you don't need. Know before you go, is always a good motto when shopping for a car.

Health Insurance

Are you on his insurance plan or is he on yours? If the latter, you need to get him off as soon as possible. This will require him to sign a waiver. If this is during the year and not during open enrollment, don't worry. Divorce falls under the change of life clause in your policy. You should be able to make the change easily. It will help reduce you monthly expenses.

If, however, you are on his policy, you need to either sign up for insurance at your work or find insurance outside of work (which can be pretty expensive as there is no one to pay part of the costs). He will have to get you to sign a waiver before he can take you off of his policy, so you will be safe for a while. And it may sound opportunistic, but if he doesn't bring it up, you should stay mum. If the divorce is amicable, he may even keep you on his and you can give him money or reduce his alimony / support payment by that amount.

If there are children involved, do not let their insurance lapse. Make it part of the support agreement or suck it up and put them on yours. But they should never be placed in any kind of jeopardy from loss of health insurance.


Consult your tax preparer or the IRS website to determine if filing jointly the first year of your divorce is more advantageous than filing separately. But after that, you need to file separately. Don't let him talk you into continuing to file jointly for two reasons. First, an audit could come back to bite you in the behind if it is found you did so in violation of IRS tax laws. And second, but more importantly, you need to make a complete break in a divorce. To read up on all the concerns for taxes in the case of divorce, check out Publication 504 on the IRS website. It includes information on divorce, separation, alimony, child support and custodial parent information.

If your spouse handled all the taxes, it is a good idea to sit down with your tax preparer and go over how best to handle your taxes each year. This will include what you need to claim (alimony must be claimed on your annual taxes but child support is not), what deductions you can make (for charity, work expenses, etc) and anything else you need to know about filing each year.

I would recommend a certified tax preparer (such as a CPA) over a cookie cutter operation such as H & R Block. They cost about the same but the tax preparer will do a better job.

Divorce can be a very emotionally charged time. But in order to make sure you come out the other side on a fiscally secure footing, you need to think things through and leave emotion out of it. Throw the bum out if you must, if no other course of action can be reached (counseling or forgiveness, et al), but don't do it in the heat of the moment. Think things through and prepare yourself ahead of time. To some this may seem cold and calculated, but you have to think of your financial security, your financial independence.


Divorce Source

Domestic Violence - Wikipedia

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Gimme the Book - A Cautionary Tale

I wrote this little piece years ago. I found it and now I share it.

"Gimme the book, baby."

I didn't want to. Not now. Not now that I knew.

Looking down, I watched as my hands nervously gripped the old leather bound tome. It felt warm. Not surprising since I'd been holding onto it for some time. My eyes watched as my fingers, slim and aging, traced along the binding and over the gold edge leaves between the covers. I turned it over, still maintaining a solid grasp, and looked at the words etched and gilded on the front cover.

The simple words held more meaning than all the words ever written. They seemed to swim before me, twisting and turning with each pass of my eyes. I blinked suddenly as my vision swam and blurred.

"Stop it," I shouted. "You're doing this."

"Yeah, baby," he sneered. "And I can do much more. So hand it over." I glanced at him while he spoke. The sneer he effaced was sheer sinister; a glimpse into pure horror and evil.

"No." The word came out small and frightened. But it was as solid as the grip I held the book with.

Not just a book. THE book. MY book. And I wasn't about to let him take it. Not now. Not ever.

"That's not very realistic," he smarmed from his corner of the room. I shivered. He knew what I was thinking. I knew he would. But it frightened me nonetheless. "You'll have to release it sooner or later."

It was true. I knew I'd slip, my hands would fail, my fingers would lapse. But I couldn't do it voluntarily.

"Look, sweety," he smoothed, his voice the color of smoke and as slick as glass. "I got a deal for you."

I didn't want to hear the deal. But I had no choice. My tricked vision could discern no doors here to run through, no windows to jump from. There was only the room. And him.

"How about you let me just look at the last page? You can keep the book in your hands. Just give me a small gander at the final chapter. That's all I want."

Could it be that simple? Could he just want to look at it, not possess it?

No. Nothing from him was simple.

But I was so tired. And what could a glance hurt.

"Just a look," I whispered.

"Just a look," he answered slowly. His smile told me I would be damned. But I knew his word was as solid as his evil was damning.

"You won't try to take it?"

"I will not lay a hand on it if you don't want me to. Not a finger, not even a breathe will fall on its pages."

I was hesitant at first. But then began opening the book to the final written upon page. He eased over. He smiled largely. And then he spoke.

"Gail sighs."

I did. A shot of fear stabbed deep into my heart. I knew the awful truth. And I began to shut to book.

"Gail stops her movement. She opens the book fully and places it upon the floor, her exhaustion so very evident."

I did. I knew I should not. But as the words filled the page, as he spoke them for me to do, I knew I was lost.

And I gave into it. It was so easy.

Now the darkness surrounds me. I feel the pain of the others. I hear their torment.

And I hear the words he speaks to his next victim, the next contributor to his library of damned.

"Gimme the book, baby."

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

An Uncommon Woman - Memories

It has been far too long I have posted in this blog. Truth be told, my life has become more cluttered and I have not felt it appropriate to write about living a less cluttered one. I may need to redefine what that means.

But today, I felt it right to write about my mom. A woman who really had it all together, raised four kids. Held the same job for over 35 years - only taking a few months off each time she had one of us. Maintained a household. Kept my dad - pretty much - on the straight and narrow. And still had time to have coffee or tea in the morning, do her crosswords and read her books.

She always amazed me. Still does.

So today, January 24, she would have been 83 years old. She passed away in 2005.

Years ago I started writing a biography of her. Originally I thought about publishing it. I thought about expanding it to encompass my grandmother - her mother - and my oldest sister (who passed in 2011).

But I realized that it was just someplace for me to write about her. To keep her with me. To add to over the years whenever a memory or two came to mind.

So here, in honor of my mom, a truly uncommon woman, I post a small snippet of her biography.

Tales Of An Uncommon Woman

The Unauthorized and Completely Biased Biography of Sally (Sarah) Ann Reynolds (nee Gallagher)

Nineteen thirty four saw the first Masters tournament in Augusta, Georgia. One of the first public Laundromats opens in Texas. John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, “Baby Face” Nelson, and Bonnie and Clyde all died that year. The first nylons are manufactured, the first Donald Duck movie is released, Shirley Temple appears in her first movie and the first full body x-ray is performed.

In Philadelphia, Babe Didriksen pitched a scoreless inning for the Philadelphia Athletics in an exhibition game against the Brooklyn Dodgers.

And on the cold Tuesday morning of January twenty-fourth, Catherine and Charles Gallagher were busy themselves. Already with one mouth to feed, they had just had another delivered to them. But this new life was not a burden. They knew she was a gift from God, just as their first daughter had been.

And into this happy little home and family, Sally was born. She would be the second of three daughters the couple would eventually have.

As good Irish Catholics, Charles and Catherine raised all three of their daughters as the church said. Obey the commandments, go to church, give to the needy.

But her name is Sally,” Catherine replied, visibly upset.

The Reverend Charles Counary certainly sympathized with the young mother. But he was bound by the Holy See of Rome. Sally was not a true Christian name and therefore could not be used to baptize a child.

Now, Katie,” her husband Charles tried to settle his poor wife. “Lets hear out the good reverend.” He turned to their pastor. “What choice do we have, father? Tis her name, a goodly Irish name, that we have given her.”

Yes,” Reverend Counary said. “However, its not quite Biblical. But don’t fret. A goodly Irish name it may be, but its also a form of Sarah, is it not?”

Yes, I suppose,” Catherine replied uneasily. “But . . . “

And,” the reverend continued as she paused. “She can only be baptized in the church with a right Christian name.”

Catherine looked to her husband, who in turn had come to a decision.

Very well, father,” he said. “Sarah it is.”

And so, Sally became Sarah.

The former tale of the name change is a bit of dramatization, as the parties involved are not around to elaborate or verify. However, the truth is, mom’s birth certificate said Sally Gallagher. Yet her baptism on February 11th in 1934 at St. Francis Church, was for Sarah Gallagher. And at that time it was the tradition of the Roman Catholic Church not to baptize a child without a Biblical based name.

Later, she took the name of Ann as her confirmation name. Somewhere in the mix, mom thought her given name was Sarah Ann Gallagher and that with her confirmation name, it became Sarah Ann Ann Gallagher. Yet the fact remains, she was born Sally Gallagher. A goodly Irish name, indeed.

I relate the following tale since I heard it somewhere, though cannot confirm the source. And it was later disputed by my Aunt Han.

Catherine Patricia, Sarah Ann and Hannah Elizabeth rolled along the railroad tracks looking for the spare chunk of coal that had fallen off the passing trains. Some of their bounty their mom and dad would use in the house, the rest their dad would sell to buy food and other necessities.

The summer of nineteen forty one, the last summer of American innocence. Six young friends trekked through the neighborhood and into the park. They were searching for Gustine Lake, a local swimming pool, to have some fun.

Do you even know where we’re going,” Helen whined to her sister Ann.

Of course I do,” Ann replied. “I’m oldest.” At twelve, this was true. Her younger sisters Helen and Yuni, along with their brother Earl, had all gone on this adventure with Mary, Sally and her older sister Catherine, who was eleven and the next oldest.

Yea,” Catherine chimed in. “She’s oldest.”

Look,” Earl called out as he sped past the others. “There it is!”

Up ahead, through the trees, was the glint of water.

As the group of girls caught up with Earl, they found him not by the ‘lake’, but next to a little inlet. Part of the Schuylkill River.

This ain’t Gustine,” Helen whined again.

So,” Mary said cheerfully. “Its still water. We can still go for a swim.”

Before anyone else could agree or disagree, the young girl jumped into the river. Catherine noticed right away that there was something wrong. Mary was struggling to get back to the edge of the bank.

Help,” Mary said between gulps of air. “Can’t . . . make . . . it.”

Come on,” Catherine called out. She moved to the edge of the water and reached out her hand. “Help me!”

Earl, Sally and Ann all grabbed Catherine’s hand and made a chain so she could try to reach the friend. Catherine went into the water so she could get closer to Mary, who was not getting any closer to shore herself. And found that the water was deeper and faster than any of them had realized.

Catherine’s fingers touched Mary’s and the other girl kicked harder, though her strength was ebbing in the chill of the river. She caught hold.

The current pulled at her now that she had hold of Catherine’s hand. This in turn dragged on the human chain the young friends had formed. And they were all now being stretched to their own meager physical limits. Helen and Juni ran back for help.

Bob Sargood, one of many children my grandmother helped raise, told me that he and his friends, were all playing in the street when one of the mothers in the neighborhood stood on the corner screaming her daughter’s name. He knew the girls had snuck down to play at the lake and went to see what was going on. There were his “sisters”, Sally and Catherine (Cassie, as he calls her), crying and holding their arms. He later learned their friend, Mary, the daughter of the woman who’d been screaming, had drowned. Catherine and Sally, along with Earl and Ann, had tried, in vain, to rescue their friend and had severely strained all of their muscles.

I did not remember this story until Uncle Bob told it to me and my sisters filled in the blanks. But it helped explain in some further detail reactions by my mom growing up. I merely thought she was being overly cautious when she would yell while we were at the beach and she couldn’t see us. Or that she was just being a protective parent when we were horsing around in the lake or a pool. But it now amazes me that she reacted this way, due to her childhood experiences which left her afraid of the water, yet she still allowed us to go into the water ourselves. She didn’t let her fears hamper us, just made her more cautious. She taught us to respect the water, nature.

I myself grew up with a deep love of the water and the ocean. Which probably accounted in part for my decision to join the Navy.

* * * * * * *

I struggled to find the right excerpts. I tried the Forward, the Introduction and Preface. But they didn't seem right. So I just included some of the stories.

Thank you all for letting me take a few moments to remember my mo. And share a little bit more with the world. As I wrote in the Introduction but decided not to include the whole of it,

 "Sally Ann Reynolds, born January twenty-fourth in the year nineteen hundred and thirty four, passed from this earth on August twentieth in the year two thousand and five. She left behind a husband of fifty three years, three daughters, a son, two sisters, nine grandchildren, several dozen cousins, nieces, nephews and many, many friends.

But she didn’t leave empty handed. She took with her years of love, life, joys and happiness.

Nor were those she left behind empty handed either.

She left them with her love and strength, her wisdom and humor, her spirit and countenance. She touched so many lives, from Philadelphia to Massachusetts, from Florida to California; from the shores of the Atlantic and Pacific to the West Indies and Australia."

Until next time, may you find a few moments to relax and live a little less cluttered life.