“Money and Divorce: Yes, it is possible to create wealth after separation”
When I separated two and a half years ago it was a scary time. It was scary in part because it was an abusive marriage and I was worried for my personal safety (and for my kids) but it was also scary because of my financial situation.While I was blessed to have a good, stable public service job there were so many expenses. My ex and I were over committed with financial investments, both kids were in childcare (and Canberra, if you were wondering, has the highest childcare fees in Australia), and I still had to buy things like food. And then I had legal and court fees to pay as well. Because of my income I was ineligible for legal aid, and I didn’t have parents with deep pockets to bail me out.
But with the benefit of hindsight, I can see that this was just a minor blip in my financial life. Don’t get me wrong – it was difficult and frightening and I lost over $100,000 just in superannuation alone. But I am now in a very good financial situation, with my own apartment and a mortgage under $100,000. So I am writing this post to tell you that financial security after divorce is possible.
Here are some of my insights about things that kept me going.
You will attract abundance when you in a happy place
When I separated, I fretted that as a single mother I would be judged at work and that any chance of career success would go out the window. Actually the reverse has happened.
Now that I am no longer constrained by being in a negative relationship, I am happier and more positive at work – and that means I perform better. Outside of work, I am rediscovering my passion for writing and entrepreneurial ambition.
Of course not everyone gets divorced because their underlying relationship had been bad for some time like mine was, but if you have been in a negative place just think how much easier it will be to attract prosperity when you are in a happy place.
One day at a time, one thing at a time
It can be overwhelming to think about the challenges of separation and divorce.
- How much will it cost?
- Will you lose the house?
- How will you support yourself?
- What about the kids and their childcare or school costs?
- What if your ex won’t agree to property matters quickly or is less than honest?
My mantra, which I still use, is ‘one day at a time, one thing at a time’. I have always been a bit of a mindfulness advocate, but it really kicked in after separation. I try to just focus on the immediate thing at hand, and one day at a time, do what needs to be done. In the early days, so long as I was paying my bills and still feeding my kids, that was enough.
Know your worth
Although I was the main salary earning spouse, I struggled to truly feel that I deserved to spend money on me. I took the back seat on some major investment decisions. And for some reason, I still felt unworthy and it took a while for me, with legal help, to stand up for myself.
For example, my ex moved into the most expensive house in our investment portfolio, worth almost twice the house that I was living in. But for a while the mortgage was coming out of a joint account, which meant I was essentially paying for most of it.
It took a lot of guts at the time to stand up and say that I would stop paying for it, but I am so glad that I did. It was symbolic in demonstrating that I now respected myself and knew my worth.
Know when to let things go
This might sound contrary to the point above, but the issue is really one of pragmatism. The more you fight over small things, the more it is going to cost.
I like to pick my battles carefully; if I think it is something that I won’t win, or if the legal and emotional costs won’t warrant it, then I will calmly walk away. This is not for everything (i.e. my children are a different story) but it is an approach suited to relatively minor property matters.
There are many things that are not right or fair in life. People rarely apologise or admit they are wrong. But there is no point crying over spilt milk; what is done is done and if fighting isn’t going to work, best to relinquish and try to trade off for the things that matter.
I found that the sooner I could get myself back into a happy place, the sooner I could start making better decisions, be a better parent, and perform better at work.
Budgets don’t work but they are still important
Who has ever had a budget that they have stuck to religiously? I certainly haven’t. There are so many variables and unexpected things, and things that I want to buy or experience just because I want to. And budgets are frightening because, well, they are hard to put in place and also confronting because they force you to see the reality of your present situation.
But budgets are still important because they give you a yardstick about how you are tracking. Whenever you undergo a major life experience, such as separation, a budget will show you pretty quickly whether you will have enough money coming in to meet your lifestyle.
If there is a gap you really need to start thinking of what you can do structurally to make ends meet – downsize where you live, consider cheaper transport options, get another or a higher paying or second job, rent out a room in your house, or even become an Uber driver.
Every dollar counts
Over the long term, little things add up. It’s not just the big structural things like mortgage payments and car repayments, but the little things as well. I find that one of the most empowering things is the confidence of knowing that I can put cheap, quality meals on the table for my kids and I.
I feel that I can conquer anything, and take any financial risk, if I know that I can do this.
Thank you to Serina for this weeks guest blog post.
Serina Huang, aka Ms Frugal Ears , writes about saving money, frugal mindful living, personal finance and meals that cost under $5 to cook. She is currently eight months into a year long challenge of living on a grocery budget of $50. She is mother to two boys (4 and 7) who are addicted to Pokémon and Skylander.