I can’t cite any statistics, but I can confidently say that based on my experience, very few people have ever prepared a budget or an expense statement. That means for most people, their income comes into their bank account and they pay their bills from their bank account, but they don’t really have a firm grasp on their monthly expenses and where their money is going.
Expense statements can be helpful in everyday life, to understand your cash flow and itemize your expenses and have a relatively accurate overall picture of your spending habits and your financial needs. Unless your monthly finances are unbelievably simple, I don’t know how you could have an accurate picture of your expenses without preparing an expense statement.
Expense statements can be essential in divorce situations. The two big financial decisions involved in divorce can be influenced greatly by your monthly expenses.
First, how will your assets and liabilities be divided? Without knowing what to expect for your income and expenses, you cannot make informed decisions about what assets would benefit you most. Is it better to keep assets that have no liabilities associated with them, or retirement assets that produce future income or assets that produce immediate income? What about liabilities? Can you afford to keep your house, considering the expected expenses and maintenance costs? If your liabilities are going to be divided, what can you afford to be responsible for? Do you have room in your monthly budget for loan or credit card payments?
Second, how will you meet your expected monthly expenses? Do you have adequate income? Do you need to find more income? How about cutting some expenses? Do you or your spouse need financial help from the other to meet monthly expenses? What better way for either of you to demonstrate to the other that you need financial help than by documenting your income and expenses?
Expense statements don’t need to be intimidating or complicated. You can probably find samples online for general use and if you’re familiar with Excel or other spreadsheet programs, they can be pretty simple to prepare. If you’re involved in a divorce situation, your attorney probably has paper forms or Excel spreadsheets with expenses listed, so you just need to fill in the numbers. In fifteen minutes you could probably sit down and list the majority of your monthly expenses to prepare a basic expense statement. However, with your attorney’s help and the use of forms, you can probably prepare a much more comprehensive expense statement in less than an hour. It’s worth the time and effort.
If you live or work in the central Pennsylvania area, including Carlisle, Harrisburg, Hershey and surrounding communities and would like to discuss budgets, expense statements or any other family law or estate planning or administration issue, please contact me.