Category Archives: home economics

Disentangled after Divorce

entagledIt takes some effort to disentangle your finances from another person. If you’ve done this before, then you are probably nodding your head.

The process of delving into couple’s finances typically takes it’s course of time, depending on how your relationship develops. I tend to take the dive right in approach in love, though I suppose it actually took seven years of marriage to actually have a functioning joint household account (though we opened savings accounts for goals before we were ever married). It can take a much greater effort to disentangle your assets after a marriage has ended.

My divorce finalized in August, but that is really just the beginning of the disentanglement that comes after divorce. This is exacerbated if you shared businesses and the like with your ex.

The task is one of those that has loomed over me and felt like a weight this entire fall. Luckily when I finally set myself to it, it was less of an effort that I feared it might be. It was more of a mental block. I did have to change numerous automated transactions for various mortgages, condo fees, and utilities. Now I’m down to closing a final account to call it done.

My lesson here is that the barriers we face in finances are most often in our head and are not financial at all. We make things more difficult than they have to be.

What is on your list of financial tasks that you are making harder than they are?

Cheers,

Miel

Finding a New Tax Accountant

 

keep-calm-im-the-best-accountant-sustainable-family-financesI lost my tax accountant in our recent divorce. I’m taking it as a reminder of the value of starting fresh and getting my finances in order. Besides, there are some advantages to having a tax accountant more locally (ours was still out in DC). While I never actually met our accountant face to face, Nancy Tao with Tax Masters, was extremely good about scheduling at flexible times and giving us guidance around various tax situations. If you are looking for an accountant in the DC area, I would highly recommend her. Our lowest tax year was paying just under 5% in federal taxes (while both in grad school and having business income as writeoffs).

I’ve been working with a tax accountant for the last thirteen years and think that tax accountants are money well spent. In fact, my first time filing taxes as an 18-year-old resulted in getting an expected tax refund (that I hadn’t calculated properly), because I didn’t think that I could possibly get that much back (turns out that I was just working my arse off at Crater Lake Lodge for the summer between high school and college). I lived off that refund as I saved money for the next semester at Lewis & Clark College.

Now I am in search of a new tax accountant, for both my personal taxes and those of our Olivia Beach Camp Cabins.

If you are a regular reader of Sustainable Family Finances, you know that we are all about manifesting what we want in life. Here is what I’m looking for in an accountant. If you have anyone that you would recommend, please drop us a comment.

  1. Great to work with (after all, you are dealing with less than fun subjects)
  2. Savvy with tax benefits of small business ownership and juggling multiple LLCs
  3. Knowledgeable in real estate (i.e. 1031 exchanges, vacation and rental properties, etc.)
  4. Experience with blogging or online publishing
  5. Willing to give helpful advice throughout the year for planning taxes
  6. High level of integrity and attention to details
  7. Aggressive approach to writing off legitimate expenses
  8. Preferably located in Portland, Oregon

We’d love to hear if you have a tax accountant that you love, and what tips you’ve learned over the years.

Cheers,

Miel

 

 

Why does divorce cost so much? Because it is worth it. (It might be a sign when your well paid marriage counselor shares this with you…)

prenupIf you are part of the one third of Americans who have experienced divorce, then you clearly have your own war stories to share.

It’s going to happen [sometimes], so let this story of mine be advice that is kind of like an insurance policy. I hope you’ll never have to use it, but you’ll be glad you had it if you do.

Laws differ in every state, and are complicated by kids, real property, debts, and businesses. Mine involved all four. But an hour with an attorney was all the legal counsel I needed, while my ex chose to keep a lawyer on retainer.

It surprisingly took us about an hour to hash out the details of how we would divide our assets. Just like that, it was settled. It still took about 5 months to go through the motions and have a finalized divorce (feet dragging was at play). All the important details were sorted in what felt like record time.

It helped that we had a prenup. Though we didn’t actually divide things even close to what we had originally agreed upon, the general tenants were stood by. Rewind to a decade prior, and thankfully we had the foresight to realize that our financial lives might look very different. I read a short but helpful book on prenups, “What to do, before ‘I do'”, that was more helpful than the lawyer I paid.

The main aspects of our agreement were:

  1. Premarital assets would remain individual. (James had one rental property and I had no assets to speak of).
  2. Retirement funds would be kept as individual. (James had about $70k in retirement, but by the time we divorced, I would have triple of his retirement).
  3. Any inheritance would be kept separate. (I would have hoped not to receive any inheritance by now, but had heard a horror story of someone whose wife got the house that the husband had bought with the inheritance he had gotten when his mother died. This was just a year after her death and a few years into marriage.)
  4. No alimony. (James had seen his dad pay alimony and didn’t like the taste of it. Though in reality if we had divorced a couple of years ago, I might have been the one paying him.)
  5. Our primary residence would be split 70/30, in my favor. (This was due to expecting that I would pay for more of our household expenses as James was headed into a Ph.D. program just after we married. I would end up supporting the majority of our household expenses over a 5 year period).

When it came down to the dissolution of our marriage, our net worth would be more than a million dollars and include a variety of assets. It ended up working out that James would propose what he felt was fair, and I agreed with only a few tweaks. It looked like this:

James got our blogging business that spun off of the original DINKs Finance and $20k in cash that he would use to further build this business and build a revenue stream from.

In turn, I got all four properties (two rentals in DC, one beach cabin bought with inheritance money, and my sweet pad in NE Portland), plus all remaining joint funds that had come from the sale of our last place in DC.

We both got wanted we wanted, though in turn have the responsibility of managing complex asset portfolios. (Whoever thinks income generation is a passive sport has never had assets to manage). Despite the fact that managing them will be a source of some stress, I think I got the better deal. (As my college friend Eli put it, “In Monopoly, no one ever wins with the utilities.”)

Best advice about prenups: get one to protect yourself (even if you aren’t going to get a divorce and don’t have any assets). It may not feel romantic, but if you can’t talk frankly about finances, you probably aren’t ready for marriage. Here is my original post on prenups, at the time of writing one.

Best advice about divorce: Establish common ground and don’t sell yourself sort.

Best advice about lawyers: Use them sparingly. If we had both taken our lawyer’s advice, then things would have been much more complex, drawn out, and neither of us would have gotten what we wanted.

Best,

Miel

Game Changers

We have been a busy pair of twins lately, it seems we are competing for the most change in our lives. This summer Darcy unexpectedly moved her family out to Astoria, Oregon and I finalized my divorce after a 9 year marriage, and 23 year relationship. Big changes in our lives.

 

Moving and divorce both clearly have significant impacts on a family’s finances, so we will be sharing a series of post about the lessons we’ve learned along the way. First, a bit of the backstory.

Darcy will undoubtedly share in more detail about her move and new home, but I will start telling the story of how the Cronins made their way out to the land of the Goonies. Their family had already been planning and preparing to move within Portland, though they had initially been looking at the Irvington neighborhood in NE. In the incredibly hot Portland real estate market, this was a pretty big leap of faith. In crunching the numbers, it looked like there was about $100k gap from what they wanted, and what reality could afford. Nevertheless, they continued to plow ahead, with faith that they would land in their next dream home. Little did they know that it would be in Astoria, at a fraction of the price of what their new home would cost in Portland. All this happened in three months flat.

 
I took a similar leap of faith last year at this time, moving from Washington, DC to Oregon with a newborn and the possibility of a new dream job. I landed (what appeared to be) my dream job, and closed on my new home on the same day. Meanwhile, it was evident from before the move (but truthfully long before then), that my marriage to my high school sweetheart was on the rocks. Despite having a long history and several business partnerships, we had lived much of our relationship apart from each other and did not have the same dreams in life.
 
Luckily we were able to agree quickly on the terms of our divorce and the division of assets. Things have been amicable throughout, though divorce is never easy. Meanwhile, my thought-to-be dream job was causing more stress than my workaholic career in DC and abroad ever had. Suffice to say that being micromanaged at a small nonprofit, after having successfully managed millions of dollars and hundreds of staff in the most difficult places on earth, was not my cup of tea. On what would have been my 9th wedding anniversary, I opted to step down from my job and could not be happier than to have moved on from both. Since then, the whirlwind has continued, as I manifested my dream partner Adam and have been pursuing various entrepreneurial endeavors. I look forward to sharing more with readers along the journey.
 
Cheers,
 
Miel
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Berry Abundant – Edible Landscape Design

Abundant garden strawberries

As the 4th of July approaches, I’m always reminded to take stake of what matters.

To me, that means berries.

In July 2000, when Hubby and I first moved in together in a converted three-bay garage on Ladd’s Circle, our landlords happened to be going out of town for the holiday weekend. So, they offered us the chance to forage blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries from their amazing back yard. We had berries with breakfast each morning and berries with ice cream each evening. The brilliant mix of red, white, and blue felt as patriot as you could get. When I lived in Denmark, my host family would harvest a bowl of strawberries every day for weeks…to be served with cream and a dash of sugar. I’ve always aspired to these two berry-benchmarks.


So, when we hired Alissa and Dreya at Seed Garden Designs to create a landscape design for us, creating an abundant edible landscape was my top priority. Their plan indeed does include all our favorite berries, plus several columnar apple trees.

While we haven’t implemented the whole plan yet (we’re on a 3-5 schedule), we have already started to reap the benefits of the the plan. Over the spring, we used the Seed Garden Design plan to remove multiple small trees and shrubs. This included a Camellia shaded the raspberry row that was trying it’s best to grow the neighbors fence, and it dumped wilted flowers into the strawberry bench. As a result, neither our strawberry or raspberry harvest were much to speak of it. I’m happy to report that we’ve now been harvesting bowls and bowls of berries.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for our blueberry harvest. It’s still minimal at best, and we’re planning to try to revive the soil in the fall and/or replace them with new plants by next season. Life is too short for blueberry plants that don’t produce. In the mean time, we’re looking forward to a trip to our family friend’s organic blueberry farm on the McKenzie, Mohawk River Blueberries. They are plump and delicious, and will fill our freezer for the next year…yum!

On a side note, I was naturally intrigued by the recent Oregonian Home and Gardens article on the top eleven books on edible gardening.

Does your garden focus on edible berries?
 

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Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

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