I wrote an article earlier about being a single mom 20 years later and how one can survive, called “15 Insights from a Veteran Single Mom” that was posted on this site in January.
I wrote it because I wasn’t seeing that kind of perspective and wanted to share with others that are new to the journey, with a message that you can indeed survive.
You can even thrive as well.
But it may cost you as it has me.
My article was mostly from an emotional perspective. But what about the business of “your life” after divorce and the kids are grown? What does the other side look like from a financial perspective?
I have seen some good articles related to financial advice on “new single mothers”. But, I have yet to find anything that speaks to single mothers who have given it all to raising a family alone and who now find themselves in a very precarious position financially; 20 years down the road.
An article on guilt would have served me well in the early days and throughout my single motherhood.
I felt guilty for being the reason my husband left. Or so I thought I was anyway.
I felt that it was my job to make sure that my children never felt left out. Never went without and always felt like all the other kids in school whose parents were together.
I live in a community where there really are very few single parents. My kids pointed that out a lot to me.
My ex-husband gave me $328.00 per child each month. That was the court allotted amount. I had a 4-week-old infant when I started this journey, and I have to say that $328 didn’t go very far towards formula and diapers alone.
So, in order to keep up with “Mr.” and “Mrs.” Jones, I sacrificed a lot financially. I sacrificed as I tried to keep up with everyone and everything which living in Southern California expected of me.
I sacrificed myself, literally. I wouldn’t realize it until many years later.
There have been many times on this journey that I vowed to change my name back to my maiden name. I hated having the same last name as the woman my ex-husband cheated with and then married. I was not proud to have that name anyway.
But my kids were really against me doing it. They didn’t want to have a different last name than me. When the time came that they were old enough and no longer cared, I started to research the process.
I was required to show my decree of divorce. My brother who is a Superior Court Judge advised me as well. Because when the divorce became final, I was in the thick of raising an 18-month-old and a 6-year-old, I was kind of busy. I couldn’t find my documents anywhere.
My brother was able to help me. In the documents package that I received from him was an additional paper that stated that I had signed off on my ex-husband’s retirement.
I almost fainted dead away when I read it. I didn’t remember ever doing this. When we sold our home and we were in the final escrow, I received a call from the escrow officer. She said that my husband would not sign the escrow papers and ran out of the office.
Panic consumed me.
I was buying a house and selling a house and escrow was scheduled to close for both properties on the same day. This was going to cause a domino effect. I called him and he said he wanted the retirement accounts.
He would not sign the escrow documents unless I signed them over.
At the time, I thought he meant the IRA’s. I said, “If I agree to this will you get out of my life forever?” He said yes. My naivete would cost me more than I could ever have imagined now that I am 60 years old.
So here I am now. Twenty years later. In reading the articles on this site, I realized how much I would have loved to have known about DivorceMoms.com much sooner into my divorce.
So, here is what I have to say to you all as I literally sit here learning in real-time.
Retirement After Divorce: How To Get Ready
I hate them and you will too! Don’t use them unless it’s an emergency. Keep two and that’s it. They are your emergency fund and should only be used as such.
Your heartstrings will tug at you and your Catholic guilt will get the best of you, so leave them home when you are at Target with the kids!
You will be a hostage to yourself! All the toys and stuff you bought them will end up at Goodwill! I promise you!
Budget, Budget, Budget!
And stick to it! Again, I found that the guilt I had made me do stupid things and spend money foolishly on toys, dinners out, and things they and I didn’t need. All done in the name of guilt and keeping up with The Jones.
You want to feel normal. You want to feel like you are in the club of intact complete families. So, you push your budget to fit in.
I’m here to tell you that you will regret it if you don’t stay inside your own lines. Who cares what everyone else is doing? They really don’t. It’s all on you and your guilt issues! So, Stop!
Get Rid of the Cape!
Get rid of your Super Woman Cape altogether. It may fit you now, but it’s when you are 60, it’s too darn tight! So, chuck it now! You are a Super Woman on your own merit by the mere fact that you are raising a family solo.
You are your own Caped Crusader and you most definitely are your kids! They love you and need you and want you all without your trying to be everything to everyone.
Just be their everything! Give the cape to the Salvation Army and don’t look back!
If I was speaking to my younger, confused self I would tell that poor girl to calm down. I would assure her that she was good enough and didn’t have to spend money on stuff that will eventually end up on the curb for pick up.
I would tell her to stop all that. I would tell her that if people really loved her, they didn’t need her to “keep up” with them. And if they did expect that, they never really did care in the first place.
And lastly, I would tell her to love herself so much by saving money, any money and put it into her retirement and teach her children that the real value in life isn’t by having things. It is by loving each other. Period.
But as I speak to myself today, I just start each day as I step further into a time of traditional retirement age and say “Breath. Just Breath.”