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.

Finding Your Way Financially Through Divorce


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.