Achieving Financial Independence
Dealing with Divorce and Widowhood as a Woman
Most brides enter their marriages assuming that their partnerships will last forever. Unfortunately, life does not always follow our best-laid plans; spouses can pass away unexpectedly, and unions can crumble. This leaves many women feeling alone and scared, treading unfamiliar waters – especially when it comes to their financial security.
Change is almost always difficult, but for the women who face widowhood or divorce, change can seem painful – and somewhat impossible.
Coming to Terms
Women face unique hurdles when they are forced to suddenly become financially independent. In some cases, understanding a new financial situation may mirror the grieving process itself. No matter how long you may have to prepare for the event, you may have to go through every stage of the process before you are ready to look forward.
Based on the Kübler-Ross model, grieving the loss of financial security may include each of the following five steps – or less – depending on your emotional state and situation:
- Denial – Many women may deny the fact that things will need to change – and this breeds bad decisions. It’s crucial to remember that death and divorce are both expensive and life-altering, no matter how “ready” you are.
- Anger – Perhaps you missed your prime earning years due to staying at home with children, or maybe your husband handled all the finances and kept you in the dark. Even today, many women find themselves financially insecure due to cultural or societal “norms” that permeate our culture.
- Bargaining – Whether you try to reverse divorce proceedings or bargain with a higher power, there are no special deals that can make this process any easier.
- Depression – It may be easy to believe that financial independence is unattainable. In this stage, you may feel hopeless and overwhelmed by your circumstances. Hope is just around the corner, though, so don’t give up!
- Acceptance – The truth is that you can do this. You are not alone in this battle, and you are not the first woman to deal with it. Financial independence is merely a new reality, and you can achieve it just like others have before you.
The Path to Financial Independence
Once you have grieved the loss of your financial security, you can begin to take steps to obtain your independence.
While your situation is unique, consider the following steps on your journey:
- Tell yourself that you can thrive. You don’t have to just survive; you can truly thrive on your own. It may take some sweat and tears, but you can do it.
- Seek expert advice sooner rather than later. With a subject-matter expert like a lawyer, financial advisor, or tax professional by your side, you can rationally evaluate your situation and make plans. This person can serve as your new partner in financial success, with your best interests at heart.
- Leave emotion at the door when making decisions. When you partner with experts early-on, they can help you make logical choices, such as how much spousal and child support to seek or whether or not you should keep your current home. These are big decisions that should be made based on facts, not feelings.
- Tackle the basics first. Review your insurance, credit, debts, and income. By analyzing the big picture, you can focus your attention on the areas that need it most, first.
- Seize the moment. Whether you plan to reenter the workforce or need to completely rethink your retirement plans, use this time to reassess your dreams and goals in life. You can pursue whatever course you choose; it’s all up to you.
It’s important to note that choosing a brand new lawyer, financial advisor, or tax professional may be beneficial to your journey. For example, many women are unhappy with their old financial advisors because they favored their spouses, refused to engage them, or failed to treat them with respect. If you feel that your expert advice is biased – or the advisor simply makes you uncomfortable – it may be best to start fresh with a new professional of your choosing.
You Can Do It
Losing a significant other is hard, but that doesn’t mean that you’re alone. There are people out there that understand what you are going through, and many of them are willing to help. Some of them have even made it their life’s work to support women in your situation.
It may also help to think of your financial journey as one of gaining equality, as well as independence. You have a chance to redefine the status quo for women – or at least yourself – at this moment. Go at your own pace, come to terms with your new reality, and then take that first step toward financial freedom.
It may be one you’ll never forget.
The opinions voiced in this material are for informational purposes only and are not intended to provide specific advice to any individual. Consult your legal, tax, and/or financial advisor to determine what is appropriate for your situation.