There are all kinds of horror stories you’ll hear when you are contemplating or going through a divorce but the scariest ones for me were how I was going to be struggling to make ends meet, struggling to provide for my children, and struggling to hold my head above financial ruin. I am happy to say that those things that loomed ahead of me like dark storm clouds turned out to be more frightening to look at than to experience.
Finances will be tough, but you can overcome the issues and build financial stability in your life. For me, it was the first time I had experienced real financial stability since I was married. It wasn’t easy, it was nerve wracking at times, but it was do-able.
You can do it, too.
It’s Just You So Make Your Own Rules
I was good with money – I knew I was. One of the major issues with our finances had been that they ex wanted what he wanted when he wanted it. It was frustrating to me to find out he had spent tight funds on things like ice cream and snacks. I am a food writer, eating out at regular restaurants, choosing fast food, and things like that make me crazy. If it was up to me, eating out would happen once a month at a really nice place and the rest of the meals and snacks would be homemade.
Anyway, it wasn’t just that. There were numerous areas where our budget would bleed money because of his need to self-indulge regularly.
After he was out the money lasted longer. I was in control of what got spent and where. I created a budget, decided where I could cut back, and juggled things until all of the priority things were covered. Since I am self-employed I took on more clients and worked longer hours to make sure that our bills were taken care of and our needs were met. I knew not to expect child support – he had told me upfront he wasn’t paying me another dime and it takes a while for the state to garnish wages.
There were a couple of years I was working seven days a week, more than ten hours a day. It was hard and I resented the time that I felt he was stealing from me by not taking care of his part of the expenses, but I made it.
You can, too.
Separate the Credit
One of the first things I did was to close accounts that were in both our names. I wanted to make sure he couldn’t stick me with more debt than he already had. When we were divorced he bequeathed around $60,000.00 worth of debt on me. Not paying it would have meant losing my house, losing what credit I did have, and possibly declaring bankruptcy.
So, I called all of the credit cards, took my name off all of his cards, took his name off of all mine, and closed accounts. I was able to refinance my house, which was in my name only, and take the extra to buy a good car, handle some repairs, and do it for an affordable payment. I then worked on paying off cards.
I am happy to say that my credit rating is climbing at this point and at the five year mark my financial issues seem to be mostly behind me.
Make a plan and work for a secure future.
Saving for the Future
My dad had a saying. He was a financial genius and he told me that people will always live on the same percentage of their income. If they live on 120 percent when they are making $25,000.00 a year they’ll live on 120 percent when they are making $225,000.00 a year. In my experience this has been true. I try very hard to live within my means, which includes a savings account to handle emergencies. I would rather give up some things and have security than get what I want and have a lot of bills hanging over my head.
Now that I am remarried I can’t call the shots by myself. My husband, practically perfect though he is, has entirely different ideas than I do about how to handle money. Truth be told, he handles it better than I do most of the time – just don’t tell him I said that.
Try to find something you can give up to give yourself some wiggle room in your finances. Make your own coffee at home, make pizza night homemade pizza night, or maybe try to make a little extra with one of your hobbies. Make it a goal to get some money in savings every month and use credit less and less. You’ll be glad you did. You never know when a financial emergency will pop up.
Once in a while you just need to treat yourself to a massage, a manicure, or a new dress. There’s nothing wrong with that as long as you plan for it and budget it in.
I went for so many years without a haircut, without a manicure, and without treating myself well that I felt like a robot. In fact, I was on a chat board for a period of time and used Rosie the Robot as my avatar – and I felt like the Jetsons treated her with more respect that I got.
Now I try to keep things balanced. I will probably never be a person that indulges myself much but I am OK with buying a new dress or a pair of shoes because I like them, not because I need them. My husband is all for it, too.
If you don’t love you, who will?
Talk to a Financial Planner
This January I will be talking to a financial planner about investments and retirement planning. I am 54 and I have nothing set aside for my future. I love my kids but I don’t want them to feel that they have to take care of mom. It’s time to at least get something done.
Financial planners can be found at your bank and other places. You usually don’t have to pay to talk to them so it’s worthwhile to sit down and kind of get an idea of where you are going and what you need to do to get there.
Hold Your Head High
You can do this. It may be tough for a few months or even a few years but with determination and patience you can work your way out of your situation. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t. Don’t let anyone tell you that you won’t be able to do it.
You managed to survive all of those years with a narcissist. You’ve got this.
And, you don’t have to do it alone. Join First Wives World and get advice, affirmation, and encouragement from women who have been there.