For many men and women, separation and divorce will require financial adjustments. You may need to return to work, reduce your spending or find a way to pay for children’s sporting activities and other after-school activities.

Squirrels and Swans are the terms I use to explain the two different approaches people have to making financial decisions. If you are a Squirrel, it means that you are focused on the future when it comes to finances. Squirrels like to save and build their net worth so that there’s always something saved for a rainy day. Swans, on the other hand, are comfortable managing their money on a day-to-day basis. If you are a Swan, you value money for what it can buy you, whether it’s a new pair of shoes or a being able to spoil your family or help out a loved one.

There’s a bit of Squirrel and Swan in all of us and the best financial strategies take into account your money personality. There is no one-size-fits-all financial strategy and a Swan’s best financial strategy looks very different from a Squirrel’s. During periods of high stress you are likely to revert to behaviours that are more comfortable to you. So, even though you might fall between a Squirrel and Swan most of the time, if you are a Squirrel at heart, then you will tend to exhibit more Squirrel-like behaviours’ when you are stressed or anxious, such as in the case of divorce.

Neither Squirrel nor Swan behaviours are good or bad. They are simply ways you relate to the world. No one type is better or worse as you get both Squirrels and Swans who manage their finances well and both Squirrels and Swans who manage them badly.

Major financial wins or losses are especially bad for marriages – think of how a married Squirrel and Swan would deal with winning the lottery? The Squirrel would want to save it all and the Swan would want to go on a world cruise! Similarly, during the Global Financial Crisis, the Squirrel might blame all their financial hardships on the Swan’s spending and the Swan would feel suffocated by the Squirrel’s money-saving ways.

When it comes to divorce there is likely to be some tension around support payments. The Squirrel is likely to see the Swan’s expenditure as frivolous and extravagant and the Swan is likely to see the Squirrel as tight-fisted. There may also be a problem if the Squirrel needs a large settlement to feel secure. Swans tend to be more optimistic and this can cause them to underestimate the likelihood of serious illnesses or other life events like divorce and their financial implications.

When it comes to divorce, if you understand the role money personality plays in attitudes and behaviours you are far more likely to understand where some of the conflict and misunderstandings might be coming from.


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