“Take a good look at your present lifestyle. Admire it, praise it, give it the love, then kiss it goodbye.”
Those were the words of wisdom one of my colleagues at work gave to me. At the time, I laughed and thought it was funny. If you are one of the lucky ones and money is not an issue after divorce, count your blessings. The rest of us, more so for those women 50 years of age and over, have to come to the shocking reality that our lifestyle and money flow is on a downward spiral. For many of us, it is south of 50%.
In my case, I figured that I was doing pretty well. In my state, the assets are split 50/50. At the time, I thought my former spouse was generous by awarding the house to me in the divorce settlement. He gave the house to me but now the monthly mortgage payment was also my sole responsibility. For some crazy reason, I thought that I might be able to do all of this on my own if I was careful and budgeted my money like never before.
He had been in charge of our finances and I had no idea what it really cost for the upkeep and running of a house because he took care of everything. It was overwhelming.
I rationalized that my children deserved the be brought up in the house where they were born, and where most of their precious memories were made. It wasn’t their fault that they no longer had both parents together to raise them. My irrational mindset led me to stay in that house and support it for another 24 years.
How could I afford to keep that house on a teacher’s salary along with offering counseling services on the side? Every time the interest rates would drop, I would be the first one beating it to my friendly mortgage consultant’s door. I would remortgage my home, of course. It would lower the payment and tack on some years on the back end. I was lucky in one respect only, the house kept appreciating. My uneducated, ignorant thinking was that, at the present moment, I was dodging the downsize bullet. I could deal with it another time—welcome to fantasy land.
The point of this little story is that I was “stuck” in the rejection phase after divorce without even knowing it at the time. (Rejection phase is one of five on the Road Through Recovery after divorce.) It took me years to get in touch with reality. Here I was 24 years later and was still doing what I had always done. Yes, my children didn’t go without but it was a real hardship for me; and obviously, many other areas of my life underwent a downsize as a result.
Eventually, I sold the house and scaled down quite a bit. It was what I should have done all those years ago. The children would not have even thought about it because I would have still been able to provide them with a nice but smaller home. I could have made it so much easier on myself.
I share this story because if you are newly divorced, especially if you are older, the chances are your lifestyle is going to take a hit. Hopefully, you will be smart and explore your options and learn as much as you can about how to manage and take control of your financial life. I hope that you will protect yourself and put up the financial shield, let the downsize bullet hit, and create a new life that is rich in happiness and love and also one that you can afford.
If this story resonates with you or anyone you know who could use some support after divorce, send a private message or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.