What I Wish I Knew During Divorce

This post is in collaboration with TIAA to empower women experiencing divorce, encouraging them to take control of their financial future.

I was an actual stay-at-home mom for 9 days. About 6 months prior to being laid off from my publishing job in Manhattan I’d begun customizing photo mats for picture frames as gifts for friends. Nine days after I was laid off, I opened an Etsy shop and sold mats and frames from my house for years.

My first year I netted over 20k. It was such a great set up. I was home with my son and able to get my 4 year old daughter on and off the bus for preschool each day. I was present in our home, I was supplementing my husband’s income and I felt like that was enough. I never thought that I would need to start putting away money, especially JUST for myself.

My husband and I didn’t share a checking account. I had my money from my Etsy shop, a credit card for groceries and gas, and he had access to everything else. I did not. It wasn’t a matter of him keeping me from anything. I never wanted for anything (except all the gorgeous things I used to splurge on at Anthropologie when I was making 6 figures before I decided to stay home). I didn’t see a need to have any other involvement with what money came in, what money came out or what money was saved. I left it all in his hands.

Looking back, I realize I avoided asking about and being involved in finances for two reasons. The first reason was fear of being told we didn’t have enough money. I never thought it was the case, but I think I was worried that I’d be told that we had to scale back even though. We never lived lavishly but BUDGET has always been kind of a dirty word to me. What do you mean that I can only spend a certain amount of money? The thought of being cut off from or even not being able to meet a monthly budget is scary. In my “past life” I should have been on a strict budget since we were really only a single income family.

The second reason was fear of being overwhelmed. Financial responsibility was, and still is, a curtain I don’t want to see behind.

What I found out soon after my husband left is that we weren’t as set up as I thought we were. We still owe a ton of money on a mortgaged out 3 bedroom cape on Long Island, which I’ll be taking over as part of my divorce. I have ZERO retirement of my own. Yes, I’ll be getting a portion of my husband’s pension but that will only go so far.

How could I be so blind to not have a better plan for myself? I should have been forcing myself to earn more during the time I was home. How will I be able to provide for my kids as a freelancer writer and part time daycare employee? Will I be able to pay the mortgage, the bills AND save for the future? These are questions I wouldn’t have been able to answer on my own, but now I have the answers.

The more you immerse yourself in situations and/or things that bring you anxiety, the less you become afraid and locking down a financial advisor and asking questions I never wanted to ask has been key. It IS overwhelming, but now I know that it isn’t impossible.

I’m excited to learn about ways that I can provide for myself and my kids, BY MYSELF. It’s another powerful arm propping me up in my new-found independence. And the more I learn now, the better it will be every day going forward. You can learn from my divorce experiences too on the latest from TIAA.

Oh and that dirty word I used to hate? Budget? From now on, budget is where I live. It’s a means of security and comfort for me. No longer and never again, a dirty word.

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