Divorced but not broke(n)

I can’t hide it anymore, I’m coming clean.

I’m divorced.

Yep, the big D. I went through it, survived it, and continue to thrive.

There’s no getting around the ugly of divorce, and sadly money is a big part of that. If you spend any period of time in a marriage it takes time, energy and emotional work to untangle the finances at the end of the day.

When we split, I was on the other side of the world with no family in the country. I had just been made redundant from my job, our house was up for sale (it went for auction…on valentines day. yep, that happened) and I had a looming tax bill as a result of being a contractor.

I knew that I wasn’t going to stay in New Zealand, but I also knew I had to stay to tie things up in order to start all over again back  home.

It sucked, I didn’t want to be where I was, and there is only one person who could get me out of that situation.

During the following 6 months, I hustled hard. I picked up small contracts through contacts I made through my previous job, starting working at a local recruitment office on a temporary basis and even signed up for acting work through a local agency . Dig hard enough, you’ll find my photo on a now-ancient banking flyer. True story!

If there’s one thing I have taken pride over during my lifetime, it’s been my ability to stand on my own two feet regardless where I am in the world and where I am in my career. I’ve never been above taking an hourly call-centre job as a temporary worker in order to make ends meet, regardless of the fact that my previous role was as General Manager and my next role was Senior Consultant. Those are titles that came with salary that allowed me to do more, but the hourly jobs kept a roof over my head and food on my plate and as a result, I would argue, are more indicative of my character.

My retirement has always been a  focus of my personal plan, no matter which country I’ve been living in and who I’ve been living with. I’ve always made sure to keep putting something aside for my later days. Sometimes it’s a government pension, sometimes it’s been private, sometimes it’s both (finally, I’m there! Although, I’m only counting on my contribution. The government has  a dodgy history of money handling).

I recently watched someone turn to their EX partner for financial advice. As in, the person they had decided no longer to be with, did not want in their life, preferred to be single etc. etc. Why on earth would you do that?!

Struggling to understand your taxes? Find a local tax guy person! Google the answer! Ask a friend! Do NOT ask your ex!

Don’t know how to budget? Ask your mom how she did it! Get a book from the library! Ask a colleague! Do NOT ask your ex!

If you can’t stand on  your own two feet, solve your own problems, what kind of success are you feeling? What kind of picture are you painting for the next generation watching you?

I went through a summer a few years ago asking all of my girlfriends two questions:

  1. What are you doing to prepare  retirement?
  2. Are you saving for your kids college? If so, how?

What was alarming was the response to question one was so…so…unclear. Very few, if any, had any clear plan to their personal retirement. They could speak to what their husbands or partners were contributing to at work, or what they thought was being done, or identified that they should probably ask. But they didn’t KNOW.

Kids education? All over it! For the most part, they knew how much was in their plan already, how often they put money into the  plan, and how much would be available for their kids when (and a big IF in some cases) their kids were ready for school.

Ugh! Why do women do this?! If you don’t know how you’re going to retire, figure it out now! I don’t wish you ill, but if you end up on your own (hello! been there, done that!) you need you own plan. Can it be connected with your partners? Sure! But KNOW the DETAIL.

You can’t complain when either a) there’s not enough money in the pot to retire when you want to or b) there’s no money in YOUR pot if you end up alone.

My own strategy has 4 components, 2 of which are in action, 1 will be shortly, and the final still needs some research:

  1. Company Pension – the biggest part of the plan so far, if only because they match my 6% (of gross salary) contribution
  2. Rental Property Investment – I got a great buy 6 years ago, and with some sweat equity made some serious $ equity. Couple that with a positive cash flow (tiny, but growing), and this one feels good.
  3. TFSA (Tax Free Savings Account)- once the debt is paid off, I’ll max this to the $5500 limit annual
  4. RRSP (Registered Retirement Savings Plan)- maybe? I don’t know yet. Income from this is taxable when you get to that point, although you get a tax rebate during your working years and are paying in. If my retirement income is higher than my working income (hey, it could happen!), then I’ll get dinged at the high rate.

Take control, understand the plan (or make one!), and let compound interest carry you into a world where weekdays and weekends blend together (so say my parents).

What I’m saying here is that no matter where you start, you have to START to make anything happen. The only person who is in control of that is YOU, not your partner, not your employer, not the government.

My journey is far from over, but after 6 years I can say that I’m amazed and proud of how far I have come. I’ve asked and received help from family and friends who have poured their love and support my way. I didn’t get here on my own, but I am solely responsible for the path I’ve chosen.

 

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