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

Divorce: The Wake Up Call to Your Inner Self

Divorce is not the end; it is a beginning. freedigitalphotos.net S. MilesI divorced in 2009, after 19 years of marriage. I’m not going to rant about ‘lost years’, point fingers, or blame. Instead, I’m sharing the magnificent, much needed self-discovery that emerged from the emotional turbulence of divorce. Even though I emerged with a new view on life, money, relationships, and growing older, it wasn’t easy and it wasn’t speedy.

The post-divorce process began with a deep self-examination of who I thought I was. Up until 2009, I spent most of my life being the obedient daughter, example-setting older sister, honor roll student, wife, mother, community member, and dedicated employee. With all those ideal citizen duties, there was little time to develop the real me. In the midst of developing those traits, the real Kristen was only known as an introverted writer who loves nature and exercise. By the time I divorced, I was out of touch with who I was. All I knew were labels plus a few more:

Divorced
Displaced
Unemployed

Divorce = Discovery

Although society can be harsh, I was my own worst enemy. During those first 18 months of introspection, I saw myself as a failure. When I realized I was wasting my future, I switched my view forward rather than backward. What I found was a side of me that was bursting with ideas and enthusiasm. All I needed was a kick in the pants to put me in action. The events following 2009 (job loss, caregiving, entrepreneurship, multigenerational household, finances) gave me the nudge I was looking for: these events contributed to the wonderful, mysterious entrepreneurial journey I am now living. In other words, my first 5 decades, INCLUDING DIVORCE, became a contributing factor of who I’m meant to be.

Lessons Learned

Reign in emotions. You WILL encounter a wide range of emotions from divorce, but the faster you can release them, the faster you can return to living. And smiling. There is more power in rebuilding and repurposing your life rather than blame and accusations. It took me four years to release the internal Hell I created for myself, mostly because I grieved the loss of something I couldn’t control.

Divorce isn’t the end of who YOU are. It is only the end of a legally committed relationship. It does not influence who you are as a parent, a citizen, a human being, an entrepreneur or any other descriptor.

Divorce is not a mark of shame. Divorce was once viewed as taboo and failure. To pursue what needed to be done despite societal pressure demonstrates your awareness for you and those around you. It isn’t selfish. It is strength!

Celebrate your strength. Divorce is extremely emotional. Even though we’re raised to commit to our marriage ‘until death do us part’, we must congratulate ourselves for doing our best. To identify, admit, and take action to move beyond something that no longer serves you requires fortitude. It was tough, but you did it.

Your life events build who you are. Just as I learned that everything has led me to where I am, you will find that everything you have experienced has made you who you are today. Instead of wishing you could go back and change things, abandon what is and build up from where you are RIGHT NOW!

Embrace your flaws. Your flaws are unique to you. They contribute to your story. There are hundreds, thousands, maybe more who seek comfort and wisdom from someone like you. You are the one who could make a difference and your flaws are what people will flock to. Everyone needs reminders they are not alone.

Opportunity emerges from the ashes. Divorce. Job loss. Health. It all puts us in a funk, but what we learn and how we build from itA steady yet determined climb upward--from divorce, displacement, disruption leads to unexpected opportunity.

Points to Remember

If you are currently involved in a divorce or still recovering from divorce, take these thoughts with you:

  • Grieve, but not too long.
  • Take time off, but not too long.
  • Get reacquainted with yourself.
  • Abandon the labels, expectations, or limitations.
  • Stride forward with the new you.

How will you rise?

Need help making your climb? I’m here to help!

Kristen Edens
Making Midlife Better