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6 topics to discuss with a financial adviser after a relationship breakdown

If you’re in a long-term relationship, chances are you’re probably not thinking about what happens when things go sour; but sadly, not all couples last forever. 

When a married or de facto couple separates, often the first thought is to seek legal advice – which is always important – but what about financial advice? 

There are often significant financial considerations both parties need to make, so seeking financial advice, including reviewing your financial position, revising your objectives and establishing a financial strategy are important for both your short and long-term future. 

This article provides financial information to consider during a separation, including; 

  • Independent financial advice 
  • Identifying key financial positions across assets and liabilities, income and expenses 
  • Superannuation 
  • Rebuilding financial freedom, check your financial savings 
  • Insurance and risk mitigation 
  • Estate planning 


1. Seek independent financial advice

It is unlikely to be appropriate for both parties to retain the same financial adviser.  

Having separate advisers is generally preferable to maintain privacy and minimise conflict.   

If both parties in the relationship have been using the same financial adviser historically, one member of the couple may need to seek an alternative financial adviser for their needs during the separation process. 

Upon appointing independent financial advisers, the advantage to both parties is it forces both to become involved in their financial health and understanding. 

Often in relationships, there is one member of the couple who has a greater understanding and interest in managing the finances. However, upon separation, both parties need to appreciate and understand their financial position and asset ownership structures.  


2. Review financial positions across Assets, Liabilities, Income & Expenses

What is mine is yours and what is yours is mine. This is generally the preferred position for all parties when relationships are operating effectively. 

However, in situations when a breakdown occurs how do we agree on what is mine and what is yours? 

To separate this out, we need to take stock of your financial position as a couple and put together a combined list of: 

  • Assets (Home, savings, investments, etc); 
  • Income (Salary, rent, dividends, etc); 
  • Expenses (Food and groceries, bills, education, internet, etc); and 
  • Liabilities (Home loan, credit card, personal loan, car loan, etc).  

 This information is important for the lawyers when finalising the property settlement. 

 A financial adviser can assist you with ensuring the valuations are correct and support in understanding which assets may be suitable to retain in meeting your revised financial and lifestyle objectives. 

Following the separation, it may be timely to conduct another review of your assets and underlying investment mix.  

Your appetite for risk and investment timeframe may have changed considering your post separation position and adjustments may be required. 

Professional advisers can guide, and support you in making informed decisions about your financial future. 


3. Consider your super

Generally, couples in a relationship breakdown can extract information about their superannuation using information from their super fund or obtaining support from their financial adviser. 

Extracting relevant content about your superannuation is important as it will be considered on how to separate assets, think in a situation where a prime bread winner in the family has been building up superannuation over many years whilst the other member of the family has been taking care of the household and care of young children and not working. 

The latter person here may be in a position where they have no superannuation savings at all. On this basis it is possible part of the separation of assets agreement will include splitting a super payment. 

Splitting super to a former spouse or partner does not mean it can be withdrawn and paid out as cash.  

The super remains subject to preservation laws and the benefits split to the former spouse or partner cannot be accessed until that individual meets a condition of release (for example, permanent retirement after reaching preservation age of 56 or turning age 65). 

Options for splitting super

A couple can make a superannuation agreement or obtain a court order to split a super payment or a super interest. 

The superannuation agreement or court order must outline how the super is to be split.  

Splitting a super payment to the former spouse or partner could be done by specifying a fixed dollar amount, a method for calculating an amount, or a percentage of a payment. 

This is also another reason why it is critical for members in a relationship breakdown to seek their own financial adviser. Having the same adviser will impose many conflicts of interest and will not benefit either individual party. 

A super split may be subject to tax implications as well as administrative fees for the transfer.  

Upon finding relevant agreements upon splitting super, how do you invest these proceeds? This is a crucial question to answer – receiving financial advice to determine preferred asset allocation, your risk appetite and future investment goals is critical. 

It is important that the client seek independent legal and financial advice before entering into any agreement to split super. 


4. Meeting future income needs

When it comes to considering your income and expenses, you may encounter several obstacles that you may need to overcome as a result of your separation. 

For example, if you and your former partner no longer live in the same household, it changes your expenditure patterns and obligations with the same level of resources which may now be constrained. 

The same income from before the separation or divorce is now paying for two households and two sets of bills and expenses.  

It is critical to know all your expenses and determine how these are going to be funded. 

Thus, lifestyle or spending adjustments may be necessary. 

There may be some tough decisions to make: 

  • If you have been a stay-at-home parent, you might have to re-enter the workforce; or 
  • One working part time may need to consider an increase in hours to provide additional cash-flow to meet future ongoing expenditure. 

A financial adviser may be able to help you find a strategy to ensure your income needs are met in your post settlement financial position. 

These may include: 

  • Budgeting and debt repayment strategies can be re-addressed, and priorities reassessed. 
  • A client over age 55 could consider commencing a Transition to Retirement (TTR) pension from their super if they need more income. 
  • Centrelink benefits can be explored. If there are dependent children involved, benefits such as Family Tax Benefits may be available. Older clients who are not working may consider eligibility for NewStart Allowance or Age Pension. 
  • When there are children involved, one member of a separated couple may need to pay the other Child Support. The level of child support depends on several factors, including the adjusted taxable income of each party, how much time the children spend with each parent, and the age and number of children. It can be dealt with in a BFA. 
  • Spousal maintenance may be payable and application for this can be made via the Family or Federal court. Under the Family Law Act 1975, a person has a responsibility to financially assist their former spouse or partner, if that person cannot meet their own reasonable expenses from their personal income or assets. This obligation can continue after separation and divorce and the level of support depends on what is agreed with the other party. 
Rebuilding and checking your financial savings

Separation can have significant implications on a client’s cash-flow and financial position.  

Initially, the client may need to defer their previous long-term savings objectives for more immediate short-term strategies which address their current situation. 

However, it is important to also review the client’s longer-term financial goals and retirement plan.  

Retirement timeframes, saving and super contribution strategies and retirement income objectives may need to be adjusted.  

Seeking support via a financial adviser can assist the client in establishing and working towards these new goals.


5. Insurance and Risk Mitigation

Following separation, insurance needs are likely to change.  

Your insurance needs analysis is likely to have changed due to the relationship breakdown, it is therefore critical to work with a financial adviser to determine what type of risk mitigation strategies are relevant going forward, these may include: 

  • Expunge current or future debt obligations; 
  • Ability to meet ongoing expenditure associated with school, education, rent, mortgage repayments; and 
  • The level of cover for insurance may need to be adjusted based on the revised assets, debts and incomes. 

These situations are particularly amplified in a previously dual income family. In the event of not being able to work due to illness or accident, you will no longer be able to rely on your spouse or partner’s income, making Income Protection a more critical cover. 


6. Review your estate plan

Separation alone will not cause a will to be invalid even if you have bequeathed all assets to your now former spouse or partner.  

The effect of divorce on a will varies depending on the state you live in. 

Therefore, separation should be a key trigger for you to review your estate plan to ensure that it continues to reflect your needs and intentions.  

A will and power of attorney both need to be addressed, as well as non-estate assets such as superannuation, a family trust and any joint assets.   

You may wish to update your affairs to remove their former spouse or partner as a life insurance and superannuation beneficiary, revoke any gifts to them in your will and appoint another person as attorney and/or executor of your estate. 

A financial adviser can work with you to update your estate plan in conjunction with a lawyer or estate planning specialist. 



Relationship breakdowns take a toll – both emotionally, but often mentally and financially. However, seeking appropriate advice can help you get back up on your feet. 

Every situation is different, so it’s important to make informed decisions based on your own set of circumstances.

Estate planning within your superannuation fund – its not as simple as it looks

A recent determination of superannuation death benefits is a perfect example of the need for appropriate planning in relation to how your superannuation death benefits will be dealt with after death.

In a high-profile case, Magistrate Rodney Higgins was successful in his pursuit of his late fiancée’s death benefits, despite the fact that Ms Petrie had nominated her mother as her desired beneficiary. Unfortunately, superannuation laws can be quite complex and Ms Petrie’s mother was not eligible to receive the payment under the legislation. Mr Higgins and Ms Petrie made headlines in 2019 when it was revealed that the magistrate was in a romantic relationship with the court clerk, 45 years his junior.

There are a number of lessons that can be learned from situations like this one to make sure your death benefits are dealt with exactly as you would wish.

Why couldn’t Ms Petrie’s mother inherit her daughter’s superannuation balance?

Nominating a beneficiary inside super isn’t as simple as just picking anyone you like. Superannuation law governs who is eligible to receive a death benefit payment from a superannuation fund.

The list includes:

  • A spouse or de facto
  • Children
  • Any person with whom the person has an interdependency relationship (live together, financial support, domestic support etc.)
  • Legal personal representative (Estate)

Applying these rules to the case of 23-year-old Ms Petrie, it appears that Ms Petrie must have reached a position in her life where she was not interdependent with her mother.

Could this situation have been avoided?

Absolutely. If Ms Petrie had directed the trustee to pay her superannuation benefits to her estate in a binding nomination, then Rest Super would have been bound to follow her direction.

In this instance, Ms Petrie could then have directed her wishes for her estate through her will. While this may not have prevented a legal dispute, Mr Higgins would be required to challenge Ms Petrie’s will to claim any of the funds.

What happens if my nomination is invalid?

If you have nominated someone who is not a superannuation dependant as your death beneficiary with your superfund, the trustee of the fund (the superfund) has to make a choice on their own about where your benefits should go.

In the case of Ms Petrie, Rest super elected to pay her death benefit to her partner, Mr Higgins. Ms Petrie’s mother has appealed the decision and the pair have been disputing the sum for 15 months.

How can I make sure this doesn’t happen to me?

The simple answer to this question is seek advice. Your financial adviser can help you determine the easiest and most secure way to make sure that your death benefits are distributed in the way that you want them to be.

The key method to achieve this within the superannuation environment is through binding and non-binding death benefit nominations.

  • Binding nomination: this nomination will bind the trustee to follow your wishes
  • Non-binding nomination: This is more like an indication of your wishes that the trustee will consider when making the payment.

Key takeaway points:

  • Even 23-year old’s need to take time to consider their estate planning.
  • In our experience young adults in a demographic where they don’t have their own dependants yet are particularly prone to nominating parents and siblings – which may not be successful.
  • Discussing your estate planning with a financial adviser can save your loved ones a lot of heartache.

12 things to consider before you retire

So, you’re thinking about retirement. Congratulations! Looking ahead to a time after work can be as exciting as it is daunting. How can you make sure that you’re able to enjoy the lifestyle you want in retirement? What are the financial milestones you need to have achieved before you can retire?

The closer you get to retirement the more important it is for you to review your finances.

Three key questions you should be asking yourself include:

  • How much I need to retire on? (Short answer – you normally want to have 70% of your current income)
  • What will be my retirement income?
  • What tax changes should I be aware of post retirement?

The answer to these questions can vary from person to person, so it’s usually a good idea to seek advice from a financial adviser who can review your situation and goals and put your retirement figures in focus. You can also use tools like retirement income calculators available online, however it’s worth noting that these often make generalised assumptions and may not provide the personalisation you need to make confident retirement decisions.

Beyond these three key questions, here are 12 other things worth keeping in mind when mapping out your retirement strategy.

Determine a retirement budget before you retire

Create a spreadsheet with all your expected retirement living costs including groceries and housing to healthcare and taxes. Working out all your fixed costs will help. It’s also worth including working out any travel plans you may want to do in the future, but also add a bit of a buffer for the rising cost of living (as a guide, CPI has traditionally grown at a rate of 1.4-2.8% each year in Victoria)

Determine your retirement withdrawal amount

When working how much you need to retire, you need to make sure you have enough to last the desired timeframe (i.e. the length of your planned retirement) and consider if there will be any tax implications if you plan to retire before you reach age 65.

According to The Association of Superannuation Funds (ASFA), it’s estimated those who want a comfortable retirement need $640,000 for a couple and $545,000 for a single person. This assumes receiving a partial age pension.

ASFA says for a modest lifestyle income of around $28,254 p.a. for a single and $40,829 p.a. for a couple.

Have an emergency fund

As an adviser, I usually suggest having 6 months’ worth of income tucked away as a rainy-day fund that can cover all costs in case of an emergency.

Keep contributing to super after retirement

Consider different types of contributions such as Salary Sacrifice, member contribution, spouse contribution, depending on your circumstances such as age, income tax level and cash reserves. Speaking to an adviser about the right strategy for you is a good call when making superannuation considerations.

Consider looking for part-time work

Retirement doesn’t necessarily have to mean you’ve given up work for good. It might be a time to consider focusing on your passions with a part time job that will top up your income and living expenses. It also gets you out of the house, keeps you busy and social.

Consider what you are going to do in retirement

Going from a full-time work routine to weekends without end can be a big adjustment for some. While you’re making your retirement plans, don’t forget to think beyond just the numbers and think about some the hobbies you might want to pick up and all the things you might not have had time to do before (within reason).

Staying active will help keep you healthy – both physically and mentally.

Personally, I will be joining social groups including travel clubs and cooking classes.

Talk to a financial adviser

An adviser can help select the right retirement account, advise on investments, help with your budget and help you understand how you are placed. They can also help guide discussions around tax effective strategies including things like salary sacrificing, and assets you might currently hold outside of super like direct shares and discuss whether turning them into superannuation assets via in-specie transfer pre or post retirement is a path you should consider.

Taking a holistic view of your situation is a great way to minimise your tax liability, especially if you have a significant build-up of unrealised gain within your existing assets. Speaking to an adviser is always a valuable exercise – The Hopkins Group has a team of financial advisers available to answer all your retirement planning questions.

Review your estate plan

Look over your estate plan, your assets and liabilities upon possible incapacitation or death.

A living will (advanced healthcare directive) detailing your preferences with medical and power of attorney is a good thing to have in place, as well as a will to detail your wishes on how you want to divide your assets when you’re gone.

Review personal insurance policies

Life insurance is a good way to cover expenses and debt after your death but in saying that ask yourself, do you still need this insurance?

Is this insurance still appropriate? And do you have beneficiaries nominated?

It’s a good idea to review your policies with your financial planner when discussing your retirement strategy to make sure they continue to be the best fit.

Consider your health before you retire

Is there an employee healthcare plan? Are you getting regular check-ups? Are you looking at your fitness and nutrition?

Review your health insurance provider to see it is still appropriate, including reviewing your level of cover.

Consider your housing needs

Will your home still be suitable as you get older and what do you need to consider if it isn’t? Do you have to move? Should you move closer to family? Will you still be able to move around in your golden years? Will your home loan be paid off?

Discuss with your partner your retirement plans

Consider any government assistance such as age pension that may not be eligible due to your partner working

What’s left?

These considerations only really scratch the surface of things you need to consider before you retire – but you don’t have to consider these things alone! Speaking to a qualified financial adviser from The Hopkins Group is a great way to break your considerations down into manageable actions, but also to uncover what your unique retirement strategy might look like.


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