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

Tempted to Co-Sign a Student Loan? Offer these Options Instead

Keeping the money on the table--alternatives to co-signingI’m always unsure how to respond when my daughter calls or texts me. Sometimes she vents about her work, her boyfriend, or her daughter. Sometimes it’s about the unfairness of life. Often times, it’s about money—and if I can “lend” her a couple hundred. The most recent call was to ask if I would co-sign on a student loan.

Following my shocked silence, she continued to tug my heartstrings about her limited budget, costs of school supplies, clothing, and day care. For additional oomph she added, “and I’m not scheduled enough hours this week” into her plight. It’s no good to toss in my own anorexic budget because it falls on deaf ears. Besides, I want to help!

However, it just isn’t possible. According to a 2014 study by the United States Government Accountability Office, nearly 40% of federal student loan debt belongs to those over 65, whether their own debt or that of an adult child. Adding to the complications are our own struggles with eliminating debt, lowered income, caregiving costs, and perhaps that same adult child living at home.

So how can we avoid additional debt and/or risk while becoming the hero? Consider one or a combination of these ideas:

Co Sign Alternatives: Big Help. Low Risk.

Buy books: text books are a huge expense for college students.  Offer to cover these costs and take on the hassle of ordering, renting, shipping, and more. There are several text book rental sites available offering significant discounts.

Pay for a tutor: once your adult child has plunked down hundreds of dollars for a single course, it’s critical she passes! If your student starts to express concerns, suggest a tutor immediately and offer to pay. You don’t want your child to have to pay—or repeat—any class, especially with today’s tuition costs.

Offer to tutor: some coursework is basic (intro to math, English, science, history, etc,) so if your student needs help, offer to tutor. This can be done in person (if local to your child and her school), or virtually. Either option saves time, money, and highlights you as the lifesaver.

Become a student’s helper: offer to care for grandchildren in the evening, clean house, fix meals, handle sick children, walk the dog, and so forth. Offer the stressed student time off and gift your child with a gift certificate for a dinner and movie. Maybe offer a birthday gift certificate to a baseball game, a massage, or something special.

If you live out of town: many of the ideas and services above can be handled long-distance. If you are unable to help locally, search online for mother’s helpers, dog walkers, house keepers, and other needed tasks. These services are available at a reasonable fee and offer a win-win for you, your adult child, and the business owner.

An added bonus: with entrepreneurialism a hot activity for Boomers and GenXers, you can offer similar services to out of state students.

We love and want to help our children through their life journey, but co-signing loans adds an element of debt and risk few want to encounter. Implement these tips to help your adult child avoid deep debt with these ideas and be the lifesaver!

Kristen Edens
Making Midlife Better

What Will YOU Do When Business Disaster Strikes?

I must lose myself in action, lest I wither in despair. – Alfred Lord Tennyson

Entrepreneurs accept a few truths:

  • The potential for failure
  • A willingness to take chances and accept risks
  • Don’t quit easily—pivot, regroup, rebrand
  • Fail fast & learn from mistakes
  • Believe the risk is worth the reward
  • Will take more time than originally planned
  • Will take more money than originally planned

If we aren’t aware of these certainties as we enter an entrepreneurial pursuit, we soon experience and learn to accept them.

Try as we may to prepare for and avoid the risks and failures, they happen. It’s a part of the journey. Often, these failures present themselves as a financial threat. If you find yourself in that situation, here are some action tips to work you through the snag.

Review your business expenses

What areas can be shifted? Can you eliminate or reduce one service or combine to save money?

Are there overlapping services that can be clarified? If outsourcing business tasks, review with your service providers to ensure that they complement each other rather than compete.

If you attend networking or professional events, can you arrange ride share to save on gas and vehicle expenses? If you attend events that require an attendance fee, consider postponing these until the situation is resolved.

Hold a virtual coffee meeting. Hangouts, Messenger, and Skype make this possible and saves time, money, and traffic headaches for both parties.

Lifestyle review

Similar to the business review, what can be reduced or revised to cut costs to get you through the crisis? This doesn’t mean depriving yourself of necessities, but perhaps instead of going to the theater every weekend, you check out a movie from RedBox (if available), rent a movie from the library, or have an at-home movie night with friends.

What is the state of your emergency fund? If it has been accessed for an unexpected event, is there room for a little more? Can it (and you) spare 10% for the situation?

How soon can you replenish your emergency fund? Make it a habit to contribute regularly and as soon as possible once the crisis is over. Consider: how would you be impacted without the emergency fund?

Additional thoughts

  • Keep emergency fund active; maintain ½ balance
  • Maintain communication with support team & family—not everyone needs to know; just key players & investors
  • Review budget often (monthly is idea, quarterly at a minimum)
  • Have a backup plan: anticipate potential disasters and plan accordingly. Adjust as situations come and go, or if other ideas emerge
  • Fail fast
  • Recover faster
  • Recovery includes free-time to clear the brain which allows new ideas & possibilities in.

Entrepreneurs are a determined group of energized people who understand and accept the risks. If you encounter a crisis, the sooner you take action and implement a recovery plan, the sooner you will be charging forward again.

Got additional ideas to share? Let’s hear them in the comments below.

Kristen