How to get back on your feet after a breakup

Written and accurate as at: 14 May 2023

The break up of a long term relationship can be a devastating time. And whatever the circumstances, parting ways with someone you have loved can wreak havoc on every aspect of your life.

But what happens once the dust has settled and you’re ready to focus on your future finances? We’ve got some tips to help you get back on your feet.

Part ways on joint commitments

While sorting through your joint financial commitments might not have been a top priority during the break up, it can be wise to start separating any financial ties as soon as possible.

If you have joint bank accounts, savings or household bills together, you’ll need to go through each of these and make sure any remaining joint assets and liabilities are severed. 

If you own a property or other significant assets together, seeking legal advice may be a good idea. Or you might consider family mediation services or a Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) service to help you amicably agree on who gets what.

Understand your new ‘normal’

What does life look like for you now? Are you paying rent or a mortgage? Have you taken on any new financial commitments since the break up? Will you be caring for and / or supporting children with child maintenance as a solo parent? Getting clear on what your new normal is, and how that might impact your future finances, is an important step before you move on to resetting your plan.

Reset your plan

Whether you have a formal financial plan, or a partially formed idea of your short and longer financial goals, now might be the time to rethink what those are. Your new life may take you in a different direction. Or perhaps your priorities have changed now that you don’t have a partner to consider. Spend some time reflecting on the future chapters of your life, and what you might need to do — financially and otherwise — so you can get on track to bring these to fruition.

Review your insurance policies

If you have insurance policies that are based on you being in a relationship, now is the time to review them. Starting with any personal insurance you have (such as life, Total and Permanent Disability insurance, income protection or trauma cover), review the types and levels of cover and also the beneficiaries of each policy. It might be the case, for example, that you need less cover now that your circumstances have changed and you no longer need to support a partner should anything happen to you. Or it might be that you wish for the benefit to be received by someone else now.

Then, turn your attention to any other insurance you have. For example, if you have private health insurance cover on a couples or family plan, you may be able to save on premiums by switching this down to cover just yourself, and any kids if you need to.

Put your cash flow under the lens

A new set of circumstances can bring about big changes to your monthly outgoings. Aside from large expenses such as mortgage or rent, you may find that even smaller expenses have changed. For example, you may be spending less on groceries, but you may be spending more on travel if you used to share a car with your partner and now need your own vehicle. Or you may be consuming less power, but your bills may be higher because you are not splitting the cost two ways.

Tracking your bank account activity across a full month can give you a good grasp of your current outgoings and help make sure you don’t miss anything, such as direct debits that you may not have even noticed. 

Assess your savings capacity

Now you’ve scrutinised your cash flow, you’re in a better position to look at how much you can realistically save each month. Setting savings goals can help to keep you focused and there are some science-backed strategies that can help keep you on track.

It’s useful to think of these goals as short, medium and long-term. For example, it might be that you have a short-term goal of saving up an emergency buffer, a medium-term goal of buying a property, and a longer-term goal of boosting your super. These goals are unique to you and the plan you have for your future. Once you’re clear on your goals, you can start to implement a plan to achieve them. Even small steps towards a bigger goal can make a big difference.

Review your estate planning arrangements 

A change in relationship circumstances can be one of the biggest reasons to update your Will, review your super death benefit nomination, appointed powers of attorney and any other legal documents you have.

While the breakup of a de facto or registered relationship has no effect on your Will or any other legal documents in every state except Queensland, a divorce will automatically revoke your Will. To what extent depends on the state in which you live so it’s important to check. Keep in mind that a separation will not affect your Will until the marriage has been formally dissolved.

Going through a breakup is a big deal, emotionally and financially. Remember to be kind to yourself and allow yourself the time to work through this major life change.