Tag: divorce

Money: Talk About It

You meet a boy.? Suddenly everything makes sense, and you understand why people would ever consider getting married.? You marry this boy.? Before and after the wedding, over nearly two decades of wedded bliss, you discuss with the boy the potential issues surrounding the fact that you are in academics and will never make anywhere near as much as he does.? Over and over you are assured that this is fine, that he is the primary breadwinner and that he wants you to pursue your dreams of teaching and writing.

Despite being not only in academics, but in the Humanities, for goodness sake, you are pragmatic and understand the importance of having savings, retirement, etc.? Unfortunately, he does not.? However, he has an incredible job with an even more amazing retirement plan, so you don?t bring it up.

I?m here to tell you to do something about it, and do something now.? Stay on top of the bills.? Keep track of spending.? Make a budget and stick to it.? Why?? Not because he is hiding things from you (I mean, he might be, it happened to a friend of mine, but that?s a different story). Do it because this is a marriage, it is a partnership, and you should both be involved in the finances, even if he is the primary breadwinner.? Yes, even if he is the primary breadwinner.? Now, I am not talking about situations where you both keep your finances separate and agree to each pay portions of the bills. Or where one is responsible for bills x, y, and z and the other is responsible for bills a, b, and c.? This is a perfectly fine setup for day-to-day and month-to-month. (Truth be told, however, you want to be on top of it even in this situation because being married means your credit could be impacted by your spouse’s actions).

Unfortunately, my soon-to-be-former spouse is a spendthrift.? He always has been.? No matter how much he or we made, what promotion he got, what wage increases he was given as he changed jobs, we would still often come up short at the end of the month. Every now and then my credit card would get declined at the grocery store.? I consider myself fairly frugal, and watch my spending, especially when I notice money is tight. I want to make sure there is something left at the end of the month.? Still, there almost never was.? When I would ask him how this happened, it was always a vague ?you know, bills and things?.

I never did stop to look through the accounts and see exactly where everything was going, telling myself that maybe I was just miscalculating and needed to be more careful.? I?m not saying he was gambling it all away or anything.? He just doesn?t think when he spends money.? So seriously, sit down and make a budget with your spouse.? Make sure you both stick to it.? If one or the other of you can?t, then enact some kind of allowance to help keep each other in check.? This sounds harsh, and like you?re treating them like a teenager, but realistically, this is going to hurt you both in the long run if you cannot keep your spending in check.

Also, seriously, keep track of your retirement options.? Start saving early.? Save as much as you can.? I know, this is exactly the boring crap your family and econ professor told you, but I mean it.? I am 40.? I have almost no savings and zero retirement.? That?s right.? ZERO.? Why?? Because my beloved/not beloved decided to clean out his 401k or whatever it?s called and put it into a more fluid account.? Initially I agreed to this because we had a few serious emergencies that required attention, but, again, we set no parameters regarding what would happen after those particular fires were put out.? So what happened?? He just kept spending it.? Sometimes on important things, sometimes not.? And I, stupidly, didn?t ask him and didn?t keep track.? So it went from a six-figure cushion to a few thousand dollars at last look. . . but that was several months ago, so who knows what it’s at now.

You?re probably reading this, thinking, ?Holy crap?? I thought this chick was smart or something!?? Frankly, at first I wasn?t overly worried, because he had a great retirement plan with his new job, and I knew he would build it back up quickly.? And yes, I feel stupid and a bit ashamed that I let this happen, but it did, and now I have to deal with it.

So, take a leaf from my book, and be involved in your finances, especially the savings.? It?s essential.? You never know what may happen.? Your spouse may die, he or she may get injured and no longer be able to work, the industry may crash and he or she could lose his or her job, or in my case, your spouse may decide he doesn?t love you anymore, on top of being a spendthrift and you could go from thinking you have a solid cushion to retire on, when in reality, all you have is half a ply of toilet paper.

Check out our articles on?saving for the future and building an emergency fund.


This article is part of a series that chronicles the real life journey of Lillian Epps, a woman navigating a recent divorce. The stories are real. The names have been changed.?Photo by?norwood.

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When Your Perfect Marriage Becomes A Shambles…

?…and your financial stability is built on a fault line.

Does anyone remember the earthquake that shook the East Coast from Georgia to Massachusetts in 2011?? The one where the epicenter was in Virginia?? Everyone was shocked, except those who knew that Virginia (and the East Coast in general) is on a major fault line.? Apparently, so was my marriage, and, incidentally, my finances.

You go from being happily married, thinking you are financially stable, planning on buying an amazing house with your husband, to living in your sister?s guest room, having fled your home and friends because your husband has fallen out of love with you.

On top of it all, the stress of trying to save a marriage that you didn?t know was already in ashes nearly killed you.

So now what?? You have to deal with the emotional trauma of what you thought was an amazing marriage falling apart. You have zero retirement options.? Why?? As someone in academics, you have never had a full-time job in your entire life.? And, you?re 40.

Facing the facts

When I arrived at my sister?s house, one of the first things we talked about (and everyone talked with me about), was money.? How am I going to feed, clothe, and shelter myself?? What am I going to do about retirement?? What am I going to do about health insurance?? This was incredibly stressful to me.

There were some days when I just couldn?t take it and would burst into tears (again). Otherwise, I would just say that I wasn’t able talk about this right now, and walk away.

Well, now I am several months away from the initial split. Finances are something that need to be discussed and figured out.? Yes, I will be getting ?maintenance?, which is the same as alimony. But that is only for a few years and I will be taxed on it. That means it’s not as much as it seems.

Then there is the issue of retirement.? I am entitled to half of our assets.? I was thinking, ok good, this will be helpful. He?s had a 401k for a while.? Guess again, honey.? At mediation I found out there was less than $10,000 left in that account.? $10,000.? That’s a good amount for a basic savings account, but that is NOTHING when it comes to being able to retire, like, ever.? How did this happen?? Well, that’s a story for another day.? The point is, I have ZERO retirement set up, because Social Security is also a joke.

Financial security?? What the hell is that?

Now I have to start getting my ducks in a row, not only because he never did, but because I no longer have that joint income.? I will admit that I am afraid and somewhat ashamed to go to a financial planner for help.? Why? The state of my finances is abysmal.

You know how people avoid the dentist because they don?t want the dentist to give them a hard time about not flossing?? This is how I feel about going to the financial planner.

I am going through the worst time in my life, and I really don?t want to hear about how I should have done a better job with money.

Will a decent person/financial planner (I?m hoping that?s not an oxymoron) shame me to my face?? I hope not.? Hopefully, at worst, she will roll her eyes internally, while smiling and comforting me, and telling me that it will be tough, but doable.

I am absolutely terrified that I will be told that I will never be able to retire unless I somehow get a serious job in the near future.? The other unappealing option being that if I do retire, ever, I will be on food stamps and supplementing my ?income? by teaching Tai Chi at the community center indefinitely.? Nothing wrong with teaching Tai Chi.? I do teach it already, but I don’t want to have to do it in order to be able to buy food.

Just like Gloria Gaynor: I will survive

But here?s the reality.? It is the same as the dentist.? The sooner you go, the sooner, yes, you may get bad news, but the sooner you can start planning.? True, it is possible you will have the financial equivalent of getting your gums scraped in that first visit.? However, the earlier you know where you stand, the faster you can start working toward some semblance of financial stability.

So suck it up, Buttercup.? My life blew apart this year, despite doing everything in my power to keep it together.? I may not have any control over the direction my marriage went, but at least I can gain control over my financial future.


This article is part of a series that chronicles the real life journey of Lillian Epps, a woman navigating a recent divorce. The stories are real. The names have been changed.?Photo by?Jonat?n Becerra

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