Suddenly there’s Half: Financial Recovery After Divorce

financial recovery after divorceIf you are over 50 and divorced, there’s a new term for us: Gray Divorce. Interestingly, the Pew Research Center identified in 2016, 15% of divorces occurred after age 50 compared to 11% of marriages that ended with the death of a spouse. That number is continuing to grow as Boomers and GenXers are living longer and letting go of what doesn’t work for them. What’s left are thousands of over 50 singles building a new life and entering financial recovery.

I divorced in 2009. While my divorce was finalized in 10 weeks, I experienced typical anxiety regarding attorney fees, splitting assets, and my financial future. As a result, I erroneously gave away more than I should have to spare additional heartache for my husband and my children. As with many gray divorces that occurred during the great recession, the damage expanded beyond the family unit and into our careers, making financial recovery challenging. Below are several steps to take to make your personal financial recovery easier.

The Starting Blocks for Financial Recovery

The reality with realty

Being that I no longer wanted to live where I was, I had a tough decision to make: where will I go?

  • Move back home (to Ohio) with mom and dad: Caregiving, cleaning, cooking, and errands was the monetary tradeoff.
  • Relocate to Massachusetts to live with a friend and her family: she wanted to introduce me to a recently widowed friend.
  • Move to Missouri to live with my cousin. Yard work, house care, and meal prep was the exchange for rent.

I chose Missouri for financial and logistical reasons: the price was right and the location made it easy to visit parents in the east and adult children in the west, thus minimizing future travel expenses.

Roommates

Regardless of ‘who gets the house’, you may need a roommate to share expenses. This may include adult children.

Marriage is different from having roommates. There was a transition phase necessary to adjust to my cousin, her way of life and how to live well together. It was difficult, but we eventually found a balance.

Tip: If you stay in your home, consider renting out rooms to defray monthly expenses. Do you live in a college town? Students are always looking for a home away from home without the astronomical costs of on-campus living.

Downsizing as a Bonus

When I moved across the country, I hauled 20 years of accumulated STUFF over 1300 miles. I realized that most of that stuff hadn’t been touched in most of those 20 years. This was an opportunity to thin out, give away or sell what wasn’t needed anymore. What didn’t sell made a small, but welcome, tax deduction. Tip: Do what you can to downsize before divorce. If you must move, it saves on moving expenses.

Renting is Easy

After years of a mortgage, especially if you paid it off, renting may put a bad taste in your mouth. However, with your new single status and the opportunity to rebuild your life, a new mortgage may become more of a burden as you rebuild. Tip: As you recover emotionally and financially, renting assists in smoother and less costly relocation.

Living with Less…for awhile

I wasn’t a farmer’s daughter but I was a rancher’s wife. While spending a lot of time on the family farm, I became familiar with the term winnowing (www.dictionary.com), verb:

  1. To free (grain) from the lighter particles of chaff, dirt, etc., especially by throwing it into the air and allowing the wind or a forced current of air to blow away impurities.
  2. To drive or blow (chaff, dirt, etc.) away by fanning.
  3. The process of separating or distinguishing; analyze critically; (valuables from worthless parts), sift.

The new lives we build following divorce is much like winnowing. We’re separating the valuable from the worthless. That includes winnowing our finances to reveal our best habits and eliminating the worst.

Lifestyle

I had always been a penny-pincher, but divorce forced me to reexamine my lifestyle. Following 2009, the digital world took off and banking was top in the game. I transitioned to debit cards, implemented a credit card, online payment systems, and stepped away from cash and checks. There had been no debt remaining by the time I divorced so, gratefully, I carried those positive habits into my new life.

Simplify

Divorce stirs up an overabundance of emotions and it’s easy to get carried away with replacing what we lost. Rather than making up for lost time, space, and STUFF, this is the ideal time to remove all that stresses us. This may include toxic friendships and a job or career that no longer satisfies us. Although money is a necessity, divorce after 50 helps us to realize we want MORE FROM LIFE! When I divorced, I quit my job, moved to another state, and abandoned my formal education to pursue what I wanted to do. I had no plan and the economy was in a severe recession. While my timing was poor, I was determined and ready to live the life I wanted.

Travel

After 50, we’re setting our sites on retirement and travel. Unfortunately, many gray divorcees find themselves postponing their retirement for an unforeseen amount of time. Rather than giving up entirely, adopt a part-time retirement program. Instead of exotic beaches and high-priced resorts, a revised travel vacation may involve visiting parents or grandchildren and including a local national park, museum, or local event.

Me Time

Too often, we give up ourselves for the benefit of others. Hard as it may be, now is the time to eliminate that habit. We can’t recover OR rebuild without taking time for ourselves. This is just as critical financially as it is emotionally. Every purchase from divorce forward, must be made for you.

Where are you in the process of financial recovery following divorce? Got questions? Contact me to schedule a call or email me at kris@kristhescribbler.com

Kristen Edens
Making Midlife Better

Life Lessons from a High School Reunion

high school reunion nametag: life lessonsDid you enjoy high school? Were you one of the Jocks or the Brains or the Hotsy-Totsies? Or were you one of the Nerds or the Hoods or the Bums? Perhaps you were like me and didn’t fall into either category.

High school was not fun for me—and I had the undesirable experience of attending 2 high schools. It was difficult to be my own person with everyone attempting to place a label on me. As a result, I had no interest in attending reunions.

Until recently. I attended as my partner’s guest to his 40th high school reunion. As we drove to the reunion, I asked him how many true friends he had. His reply: very few. I asked: how many have you kept in touch with over the years? His reply: even fewer.

Upon attending the reunion, the crowded room of 100+ from a class of 320 now wrinkled, gray-haired, and slightly overweight men and women struggled more to recognize classmates than remembering which clique everyone belonged to. Back in the day, fraternizing with the wrong clique meant doom. Now the goal was to flashback to a perceived easier time of life.

Reunion Results–life lessons emerge

  • Graduates barely recognized each other—by face or by name. They relied more on where they lived in town, what grade school they attended, and what classes they possibly shared.
  • There were the occasional, “Oh, I remember you!” followed by, “Let’s connect on Facebook.”
  • Some admitted to avoiding those they hated in high school, but couldn’t remember why.
  • Most found high school to be highly stressful.
  • Upon graduation, everyone went their own way toward living their vision of the American Dream.
  • Many were happy with life. Those I spoke with admitted to be comfortable with who they were, preferring their current life with gray hair, wrinkles, and arthritis to puberty, acne, and peer pressure.
  • Cliques no longer mattered. We were all in our 50s, hoping to have enough money for retirement. None I spoke with were living or planning to live the dreamy retirement vision we were raised to strive for. What mattered most was to stay close to their roots and to enjoy their family.

Retirement Revelations

There were 3 types of current retirees:

  • Retired due to health issues, or
  • Age discrimination, or
  • Career limitations.

Given the choice, these graduates would have kept working. Because of where they find themselves now, many are uncertain what’s next for them. They all feel they are too young to ‘kick the bucket’. One graduate ‘fills his time’ restoring motorcycles and cars. Another graduate volunteers until she can find a job—in anything, she admits. My partner, disabled since 2015, enjoys tutoring, helping others organize their lives, and conducting administrative tasks, but doubts this is a viable money-making option for him.

Those that are working toward retirement want to ensure their future is secure in the midst of all the unknowns. Everyone I spoke with feared how long their health will hold up.

Quite a difference from our high school years!

While this reunion is one of thousands that occur across the country, we all share the same hopes, dreams, and fears. The peer pressure and cliques from the past no longer matter. What matters is that we are happy as we continue to live and to share our life with those we love.

How will you grow and live?

Kristen Edens
Making Midlife Better