You can lean on someone, but you have to be able to stand on your own two feet, at a moment’s notice.
Everything is peachy in a marriage, until it isn’t. Women, who earn less than men and especially those who don’t earn at all, are severely disadvantaged during a divorce. I am a divorce attorney so my advice is written from that vantage point but the message applies to all women regardless of the condition of your relationship – it applies to everyone who is not in control of their finances. Ask yourself – can you stand on your own two feet at a moment’s notice? Can you pay your basic expenses if your partner suddenly decides to cut you off? No one wants to think about this but everyone should.
You cannot live without money and you should not live without knowledge regarding it.
Money and knowledge together form a powerful vehicle without which your options are severely limited. I don’t want your options to be limited for lack of knowledge about your finances. When you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation you are considering extricating yourself from, I would like it if finances did not play a role in your decision-making. When you are faced with the incredibly difficult task of creating a chasm in the lives of your children, you should not also have to worry about how you are going to put food on the table or a roof over their head.
The solution is to trust, but verify the information you have regarding your finances and your livelihood.
It’s harder to be caught off guard if you always maintain your guard. I am not suggesting that you be paranoid. What I propose is that you keep yourself educated about the institutions where your money is being held, what type of assets you own, how much money you have in your bank accounts, what debts are tied to your name and when you’re asked to sign something – please, goodness’s sake, read it first.
Always have access to your own separate funds, create your personal emergency fund.
You should also be saving money in your own separate account that only you have access to so that you don’t find yourself completely broke after you are cut off from the credit cards and locked out of the only bank account you ever had access to – sadly, this is what happens more often than you would believe, even in long term marriages where on the outside it all looked so perfect. It shouldn’t have to be a secret either. If you are not the primary or joint account holder on an account, you can find yourself in dire straits. In any event, a joint account holder can wipe out the account without the knowledge or consent of the other. There is nothing devious about having your own nest egg.
Critical thinking is mandatory.
My goal is to provoke critical thinking in women, not arguments with your partner. It is very important to note that needing to “stand on your own two feet” does not have to be provoked by divorce. Death or disability are more common than you think and so you just have to know how to take care of yourself and your family. I know…adulting sucks, but here we are mothers, wives, children of aging parents, in short, adults who cannot abdicate our role in our family as productive participants just because someone has said “don’t worry, I got this for you.” Trust but verify.
Create a budget of your actual expenses and always know your sources of income – again, trust but verify.
Under any circumstance, it is imperative to know not only what it costs to run a household but how to access the funds you will need in the short term and then long term to not find yourself in a dire situation. Personal representatives may not always have your best interests in mind. They may be biased toward your partner’s family and then there is the unintentional errors that can costs you a fortune, if only you had been paying attention.
Do your research, be prepared.
Finally, you need money to hire a lawyer and no divorce or probate lawyer worth their salt is going to take your case without an upfront retainer paid in full before they start working on your case – even when we know that ultimately your partner will be responsible for a portion, if not all of your fees. Where will you get the money to start your proceedings or defend against them? I hope you don’t need to ever hire a divorce attorney, but it won’t hurt to be prepared to do so, in case you do.
For more information buy my book: Just in Case!! Lose Your Heart, Not Your Mind – a smart woman’s guide to marriage and self-sufficiency available on Amazon and Barnes & Nobles.