Finding Your Way Financially Through Divorce

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

I grew up watching my mother on the news. She was a VP at the local hospital and would regularly be featured on the news talking about renovations or goings-on there. We were a two income family, but I was always impressed that my mom was “handlin’ her bidness” like a girlboss.

When I graduated college and went directly into magazine publishing in Manhattan in 2000, I guess I considered myself a second generation girlboss. I got married in 2004 and had kids in 2007 and 2010 and in the 10 years that I worked in publishing, I became the breadwinner in my own household. Living on Long Island, the 3 hour round trip daily commute took its toll and in 2010, I stopped working outside the home.

When I left my job to stay home with my kids, I was earning more than my husband would earn for years to come. A great deal of pride accompanied that income, not because of the number, but because I’d earned it. It was ours, but I’d earned it. I’d contributed to our family financially. When I stopped earning, I stopped being involved in our family finances at all. My husband had a stable, tenured teaching job in a great district. We never lived lavishly, but we didn’t need for anything. Everything on that end was under control and taken care of. By my husband. I had no interest in being involved because I didn’t think I’d ever need to be.

That is, until last October, when I was blindsided by my husband’s request for a divorce after 13 years of marriage. Having not worked outside the home for over 7 years, and having not contributed to any kind of retirement account for myself for that long, now I was faced with taking on a hefty monthly mortgage payment, the bills that accompanied that, and oh, the rest of my financial future. Alone.

The whirlwind of divorce is all-encompassing, especially when you’re a mother and you have kids to tap dance for. We spend all our time convincing them that “mommy’s fine,”, “everything’s fine” and “everything’s going to be OK,”, when we know most of that is largely untrue.

Then the process of emotional and mental healing begins. We put all our energy into getting on with our lives. For me, a writer, financial planning is the 400th thing on the list of 100 things I’m trying to avoid. And it stresses me out. A LOT.

If you find yourself in my situation, I urge you to take action sooner rather than later. TIAA offers excellent tools that will help you take control of your financial future whether it’s saving for college or managing your retirement plan. Without their help, I’d still be terrified of where I’ll be 20 years from now.

I am constantly kicking myself for not taking a more active role in my own financial future. Educating myself on simple things like managing budgets and putting away money, even in small amounts, that would add up to big time self-support if I ever needed it. I wish someone had sat me down as soon as I graduated college and told me to get a financial planner. Even if it was just to learn the basics. I’d have been so much better off last October.

The good news is that I’m a fast learner and the very good news is that there is help for women who find themselves in situations like mine. When TIAA contacted me to speak about my experience with the financial fallout of divorce, I learned that there are tools available out there to lift some of the burden of this tough time for me and my family.

Not only am I certain that I will be able to achieve financial independence by giving myself the knowledge and power to manage my money, I’m looking forward to it. And I’m looking forward to the confidence I’ll regain when I do.