Is there a silver lining to divorce? Maybe. According to a study from financial consulting firm Spectrem Group, 62% of high-income divorced women say they've financially benefited from the split - not from a large settlement (though I'm sure that's often the case) but because they've had to educate themselves about their finances, and take more control.
Unfortunately, that sort of education doesn't happen automatically - or overnight. Jenny says her divorce left her financially insecure because she had an expectation that she would be married forever - and that, during that time, her successful husband would take care of her financially. That didn't pan out, and she was left to rebuild. If you're in the same boat - or want to simply get a better grip on your finances so that you can participate more fully in your own financial life - what steps can you take?
- Start educating yourself. Do it slowly, if it scares you. Pick one thing to target each month: This month, you'll call your utility bills and ask them to cut you a better deal. Next, you'll go over your credit card statements. By the end of the year, you'll be reading up on your investments and rebalancing. Think that's not likely? Women are actually fantastic investors - (a study from Ledbury Research has shown) better than men - because our inclination to buy and hold means we don't lose as much to commissions and fees. Our tendency to research the heck out of anything we want to purchase also helps when it comes to stocks and mutual funds.
- Find someone to hold your hand. At least in the beginning, it pays to have an advisor. That could be a knowledgeable friend or family member, but even better, it can be a professional -- a financial advisor who can look over your situation and give you specific steps you need to take to get and stay on track. This support system will give you more confidence as you move forward, particularly as you go through the process of submerging yourself in your finances.
- Accept mistakes. You will make them and that is okay - this is a marathon, not a sprint. The ultimate goal is a comfortable retirement - and, sure, maybe a vacation here and there - and a long time horizon bakes in the ability to recover from missteps. So if you realize that you've been paying $50 too much for your cell phone bill, or you overdraw an account, pick yourself up and move on. But first, recognize it as a learning experience. You'll never forget to read your bills or check your account balance again.
- Look ahead. Everyone, not just women, should have some financial autonomy in his or her relationship. This is something that Jenny did right - she had her own, separate account, with money she was bringing in. Sure, it was just "play" money (her words) but she had access to money that was hers should she need it. And, as it turns out, she did.