While every divorce is unique, there are some characteristics that hold true for everyone. One of those is that there is always less money after divorce. I was talking to a financial planner recently and he said that most people can cut their discretionary spending by thirty percent. That’s not to say that it won’t be an adjustment but I’ve come to realize that much of that adjustment is emotional.
My current guest, Suzy was married for thirteen years. Her divorce meant a dramatic change in lifestyle. Even still, that came with rich rewards. Here’s Suzy:
I think we lose a lot. Women, we quit our careers. When I worked in D.C. as make-up artist, I made $75,000 – $100,000 a year, but I moved because of his job. I basically lost my livelihood, because I followed my spouse.
Then, here I am in Washington state, in a very small farming town where nobody’s going to hire make-up artists. How am I supposed to make a living? This is my career, basically. So, I went back to college, got a degree in English and then worked part-time at the same time. So it was very tough.
I went from a stay-at-home mom with money and a maid-a great lifestyle- to Washington State. I moved into this little two-bedroom, kind of a dumpy little place in town. We furnished it going to yard sales. I was way too overwhelmed to buy anything and so I asked my stepmom to do it. I had the money my ex had given me and she basically went around and went, “Okay, we’ll take that and we’ll take that.” She did the whole thing and she’s great at it—thank God—because it would’ve never been done if it had been up to me.
Everything in my house was yard sale. My ex got all of the stuff because they moved us and our house was filled with Chinese antiques. So, my house in D.C. is absolutely beautiful and I have lots of paintings from China and from different parts of Asia, because I love art and I have none of it.
With the divorce, I actually get the paintings. I just need to get them. I’m going to have rent a U-haul and do the whole thing. I haven’t yet. But I had to let go of all of that, so my world basically completely went down.
What’s great about that is that I let go of stuff, which is hugely powerful in your life, I think, from a spiritual perspective to just let go of stuff. So often we just hold onto stuff and our space in the world, because it looks good or feels good to a certain degree. But I let go of all of that and literally had one suitcase. That’s all I had.
I thought, “OK, my kickback for this is that I have my freedom, I’m being authentic, I’m not pretending anymore and I’m pursuing what I really want to pursue,” and I really wanted to finish my degree. I’ve always wanted to do that. I kept having dreams leaping off an edge or leaping into the ocean. It was like, “I’m really leaping, man.” But it was very exciting at the same time, because I think for the first time in my life I started to really live from my center as opposed to from my head.
Financially it was very tight, but it was OK. I realize that this is a great lesson for my children, which is that authenticity comes at a price sometimes and that price is all about the best choice. What’s more important? And what’s more important is authenticity and to put that value on living your best life, not having the best stuff. I love that lesson.
I would never want divorce for my children. I’m not saying I wanted that for them, but because of the scenario, hopefully this is what they’ve learnt. For me, that’s what I learnt.
I still live in a house full of secondhand furniture and I don’t give a flip. It’s so interesting that it has no importance in my life and what I’ve really gone after is writing. I do a lot of writing and I’m back doing make-up which I love and that’s totally my passion. Even financially now, everything I buy is consignment or used. It’s great for me and I love that and you never would have thought that of me five years ago. So, I think, “Wow, I’ve just completely shifted.”
I find stories like this very reassuring and helpful.
When I was weighing up my divorce decision my biggest fear was probably around money and the change of lifestyle. With hindsight that fear seems so irrational because like my financial planner friend said, I was easily able to reduce my discretionary spending. (Hint … I started by unsubscribing to all mail order catalogs.) And like Suzy, I’ve come to appreciate a life with less stuff. It doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time and there are still times when I do wish I had extra money to splurge on an impulse buy 🙂
For me, figuring out where the money was going, seeing what could be cut and setting a budget helped reduce my money anxieties.
How about you? What has helped you make the psychological adjustment? What makes the change in lifestyle hard?
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