This post is in collaboration with TIAA to empower women experiencing divorce, encouraging them to take control of their financial future.
Every once in a while, I look back on my marriage and divorce process and I think to myself, “Dang, I got lucky.” You see, as awful as the end of my marriage was, I held my own and I walked away financially stable. That doesn’t happen for a lot of people; especially not for women (based on my personal conversations with my friends). When you take into account stay at home moms, homemakers, and the fact that women usually earn less than men in general – so many women are thrust into treacherous financial territory upon the dissolution of their marriage. That didn’t happen to me. Even so, there are many things that I look back on in hindsight and wish I’d done differently, which I know is true for many people! This second video in the series I am working on with TIAA is entitled What I Wish I Knew Before My Divorce, and I hope that it helps you folks empower yourselves, whether you’re happily married or not (and I sincerely hope that you are!). Take a look at my newest video and learn about how you can take control of your financial future!
What I Wish I Knew Before My Divorce
Every woman needs her own money.
I am a firm believer in joint bank accounts, joint assets, joint everything. I’m traditional that way…but I am also smart. My ex-husband used to love spending money…a constant rotation of new cars, new motorcycles, going out to lunch every day, an expensive hobby. I felt that there was never any savings in our bank accounts because as soon as payday hit, he wanted to spend his hard-earned money. That’s not an issue in general, but I believe in the idea of saving for a rainy day and I hate debt. When my divorce process began, I had quite a sum of money in my business account saved for tax purposes. I had a nest egg. Every woman needs to have something saved away that is HERS, whether her spouse knows about it or not. Just to be clear – I believe that both spouses should follow this advice, but I’ll be referring to women in this post because I am a woman, I have a woman’s experiences, and I am speaking to my fellow women.
Each spouse should have their own retirement plan.
Many of the divorces I’ve seen happen around me, including my own, involved a husband who had a 401(k) and a wife who did not. In my personal experience, I did have a 401(k) at one point, but I liquidated it to help finance the purchase of our home and pay for my ex-husband’s schooling. When we split up, I had no retirement plan and he had a SUBSTANTIAL amount saved in his. This happens all of the time! While I was self employed and didn’t have access to a 401(k), I should have at least had my own IRA, stocks, an annuity – something, anything. Now, I am not saying that you should go get a retirement plan in case your spouse leaves you! I am saying that everyone should have a retirement plan, period. Two incomes upon retirement are better than one!
Know who owns the assets in the family.
This is a big one, people. You need to know whose name the assets are under. So many people don’t realize that their name isn’t even on the deed to the house, the title to the car, etc. There is much more to your finances than a bank account and credit card. We owned property, both our house and a piece of land in North Carolina, and I made sure that when we made those purchases, both of our names were on the deeds. My car? It was in my name. His car? It was in his name. My business? In my name. Do not give up your right to something that is also yours. When I got divorced, I didn’t have to fight for ownership of those assets. It made our divorce agreement much simpler to negotiate.
Keep your debt to yourself and build your own credit.
My ex husband took responsibility for the majority of the debt in our divorce, as he was the bigger earner in our marriage, and we agreed that I may not be able to handle it without his income. I am extremely appreciative of this. All of our debt was in both of our names, and looking back, after hearing stories from friends, I realize that was a mistake. I believe that each spouse should have their own credit card. Sure, have a joint account for purchases for the family – but make sure that you are building your credit in your own name. You never know what will happen down the road, when you need to make big purchases or need a credit card for a surprise gift! When my ex husband and I split up, I had no credit cards in my own name, and my credit wasn’t very good (I believe it was rated “fair”) because I didn’t really use credit cards that often. Should I need to buy a new car, my interest rate will be through the roof! It is stipulated in my divorce agreement that I have to refinance the house into my own name within 5 years of my divorce, and I am currently working to rebuild my credit in order to do that.
Take care of your mental health.
Many of us know when our marriages are failing. We become unhappy, despondent; we may even give up and just wallow, waiting for it to happen. I was one of those people. We have intuition for a reason – we all need to listen to it. It should have come as no surprise when my ex-husband told me that he wanted a divorce, yet there I was, with him on a trip to Jamaica and I felt like the rug was yanked out from under me.
I could have handled a lot of things better, I could have prepared more, I could have taken better care of myself and my daughter. I have seen a very close friend go through a divorce and she was so hurt, angry and upset that she couldn’t even bring herself to go pick up her things from the family home once she moved out. My ex-husband, while he was the one who wanted the divorce, even he left things behind. So many people just don’t have their right minds about them while they are going through this process, and they regret decisions they made when they look back on them. I had one friend agree to things in her divorce agreement that she now doesn’t feel so great about – decisions she made out of guilt. We all need to learn to take better care of ourselves!