A client of mine going through a divorce came to me for financial coaching and we determined she would receive enough alimony and child support to last her between eight to twelve years depending on how much she would curtail her current lifestyle. Both of her parents are deceased, she received no inheritance, has no siblings, and she and her soon-to-be-ex have one 14-year-old son (which means my client will only receive child support for the next 4 years.)
We talked about her next chapter in life and what it would look like. I tried to encourage her to embrace the concept of new possibilities rather than remain stuck in the place of anger and fear. While we all know being a wife and mother is a full-time career, my client had not worked at a job outside of the house during her marriage so she had very little confidence in regards to getting hired anywhere.
When we spoke honestly about what options were available, I offered three choices:
- Get a job,
- Look for your next husband to support you
- Play the lottery.
While some may find this blunt and shocking, it was the truth and what she needed to hear. After all, there are no other options for her to support herself, and the only certainty she has is that her support will end one day.
I suggested she start exploring career paths and begin training in a field that would suit her personality and reinforce some work skills she may be unaware she possesses. There are many skills developed when raising children, running a household, and volunteering for a school, nonprofit, or community. I encouraged her to keep moving forward.
Her reply was simply “…I didn’t have to work during my marriage and so I don’t plan to work now, I would rather just get remarried.” With no judgement in my voice, because I really feel one person can’t judge someone else’s choices, I said “Well then, we know what your focus needs to be.” She decided to let someone else control her financial future.
Financial Challenges of Divorce
When I talk with clients thinking about divorce or clients who are already in the process of going through a divorce, I like to be very straightforward about the financial challenges they may encounter and the ways to manage their situation.
Of course, I am only talking about legal ways to achieve financial security, which typically include the following:
- Work to support yourself
- Manage your divorce settlement, (spousal and child support) to last your lifetime
- Start looking for your next spouse to support your lifestyle
- You are assured of an inheritance which will support you throughout your lifetime
- My favorite fantasy—you plan on winning the lottery!
Let’s explore the pros and cons of these options:
1. Support Yourself: This is always my go to, # 1 choice for men and women. It is the most stable choice, offers security, and you will be the one who controls your destiny. If you are a spouse who has not been in the workplace while married, take time to think about career options and start taking one step forward every day towards a career path that will make your feel competent, capable, and secure, in addition to enhancing your self-esteem, which divorce can often shatter.
2. Spousal & Child Support: Even if you have been married for at least ten years or more to someone with enough liquid assets to support two households, if you do not sign a prenuptial agreement, most often you will not end up with enough through alimony and/or child support to last you for the rest of your life. It may be enough for five, ten, even fifteen years but you want to start thinking of the next step if this is your situation. It is never fun to know your cash will run out by the time you are seventy.
3. Marry Again: If this is your plan, I will say it is a risky one, and one that may come with strings and sacrifices. Putting your financial future 100% in the control of someone else is risky, and may cause a person some insecurity and instability. Marrying a 2nd, 3rd, or 6th time is also sometimes easier said than done. None of us are getting any younger.
4. Inherit Money: If you come from an affluent family and are the beneficiary of an irrevocable trust, or if your family is willing to offer support, and the amount will be enough to sustain your financial needs for a lifetime, then you should consider yourself extremely lucky. You can have the luxury of not worrying about bill paying and you can focus on your own personal development.
5. Win The Lottery: This one is my favorite. I don’t know anyone who really would put this at the top of the list for their financial plan but when I was looking at all the “legal” ways to earn money, I simply had to include this last option.
Be Responsible for Your Own Future
The bottom line here is there is never a free ride in life when you are totally depending on someone else to support you. This requires some level of work dealing with another personality, compromising on things which are important to you, and trading your voice and power for their support.
However, if you face your reality realistically and create your own financial independence, the personal and financial rewards will be not only more beneficial, but you will be setting yourself up to feel empowered for your next phase in life.
Carrie Casden is a business manager and financial coach at Summit Financial Management in Beverly Hills. She coaches clients across the United States toward financial wellness and to make smart fiscal decisions. You can reach her at email@example.com