WHEN I CREATE MY monthly budget, I subtract expenses I deem to be “needs” from my take-home pay. What’s left is money I can spend on items I desire—my “wants.” For budgeting purposes, I divide my discretionary income into four equal amounts and budget that amount for each week of the month. Psychologically, I find it easier to keep my budget on track if I can see how much I spend on a weekly basis.
WHEN I DIVORCED a few years ago, I found myself needing a crash course in financial management. My first task: Understanding where my money went—and figuring out where I could cut back.
Today, I create a budget each month. I don’t use any type of program or app—I prefer paper and pen. At the top of a page, I write down my take-home pay. I use take-home pay, rather than my $5,500 monthly gross income,
THE FEDERAL TAX CODE now contains over 10 million words, so it’s no surprise that most Americans score an “F” when it comes to understanding taxes. A few years ago, I would also have flunked.
But following my divorce, I knew I needed to educate myself on financial topics. While I could tell you how much I took home each month, I didn’t have a clue how much I paid in taxes, much less what my marginal tax rate was.
FOUR YEARS AGO, at age 45, I got divorced. These days, divorces are equal-opportunity proceedings. Since our income streams had been roughly the same, and we didn’t have children, our assets were split 50-50. For me, that meant losing half my state pension. Along with that loss came the realization that my retirement dream was just that—a dream.
Following the divorce, my lifestyle underwent a huge upheaval. Living on my own for the first time in my adult life,