By Judy M. McCutcheon MBA
Originally recorded in 1978 by Rose Royce, I am sure that this song was a “rent-a-tile” favourite. “Just emptiness and memories of what we had before – you abandon me, love don’t live here anymore.” This situation is the reality of many women in today’s environment, when we were growing up our parents and grandparents were married for more years than I care to count. I was chatting with a friend that I’d not spoken to in quite a while and just by happenstance we met on Facebook, and she was telling me about her divorce last year and that the husband went and took half of everything with him. And that’s the quandary of the woman on her own again. But ladies, it does not have to be a dilemma, we could totally rock this – the trick is to be prepared financially. And the idea is to start from where you are.
Any kind of separation is hard, but it is especially hard with a divorce. I remember spending a week in bed not bathing, not eating, not talking to anyone. I felt as if my entire world had collapsed and indeed it had. I felt that I had failed not only myself but my family, especially my mom (that was until she told me that she knew my marriage would not have lasted). But when you put things into perspective, you begin to realize that a divorce was the best thing to have happened to you, at the time it did. Just think about it for a moment – you have your entire life back, you get to rediscover who you are as a person, you can now pursue your dreams with vigour and vitality, you get to sleep on any side of the bed you want – talk about freedom. After a divorce, you could either commit to being happy or let yourself go down that slippery slope of being depressed – most clever women I know chose to be happy. You have to make that mental shift from victim and start putting long-term plans in place, including getting your finances in tip-top shape.
You now have to adjust to the economic realities of your new life, and that might mean that you have to scale back your lifestyle, but that’s okay because now you are going to build up for the long haul. Develop a financial plan for the long term, if you don’t know how – ask for help, read books, there are plenty resources out there to help you. Don’t sit back and cry over spilt milk, you are a smart woman take charge of your finances, it is extremely liberating and empowering. Now is the time to focus on you, focus on your growth, focus on your future, focus on developing a relationship with you. At this juncture, you need to think financial, not emotional. Let’s look at a few things to consider as you begin your journey:
Budgeting – Yes yes, this is a recurring decimal in all my articles, because it is so very important. You now have less money available to you, therefore you must do some scaling back. Carefully create a spending plan, you must now separate your wants from your needs. Your needs should take these four basic categories into consideration – Food, Clothing, Shelter and Transportation. It is important that your income, plus whatever you will receive from your divorce settlement be able to cover these four basic categories. Take a critical look at your needs and ensure that they are in fact needs.
Savings – Now is the time to double-down on your savings. After you have completed the budgeting process, you now need to take whatever extra you’ve managed to carve out of the spending pool and invest it in your savings. Ladies, on average we live longer than men, so even if you are not divorced, you should plan on living longer and have things in place to support you during those years. It becomes especially critical, now that you are single again and your retirement planning is up to you and you alone.
These first two steps are important starting points as you begin your life after divorce, but they are only the beginning, you will have lots of life-changing decisions to make, ensure you are ready for them all. Use your divorce as an opportunity for growth and development, fall in love with you all over again, this process takes time, lots of patience and commitment, in the end, you will be able to put your divorce behind you and move into a more self-assured, capable, empowered you.
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Judy McCutcheon is a partner in the firm Go Blue Inc, a Human Development Company.