In Part 1 of this series, women shared stories from learning when to ask for more money to never assuming that someone else will take care of you financially. Here, a few women share more lessons learned. Hopefully these stories will help you plan your own finances, rather than realize your errors in hindsight.
Taking Time Out to Raise Children
For those planning on taking time away from the workforce to raise kids, Lori had this to say. “I was astounded how difficult it was to find work (that paid well and utilized my skills) after having been away just a few short years.” Her advice was to do something — anything — part-time rather than leave the workforce altogether. Keep up your contacts and your skills. “Getting back to where you were earnings-wise can be a real challenge.”
Being Emotionally Tied to a Home She Couldn’t Afford
Madeleine’s wake-up call came in 2008. Her husband told her that he had decided to move out and seek divorce. Even though half the household income just walked out the door, she continued to spend like she and her husband were still together. She couldn’t give up the house they’d lived in for the last five years; it was the longest she’d lived anywhere in her entire life. At age 50, she deeply desired the stable feeling of owning her home, so even though she couldn’t afford to stay, she did. And when the short sale finally came to pass, she found herself sobbing in a closet, carrying the unbearable weight of sadness over losing the house she treasured.
Madeleine has had so many insights since those dark days. She assumed that since she was part of a couple, everything was together: income, spending, saving, the future. She no longer thought of herself as an independent and separate entity. And, she felt that people mattered more than money. When that one special person left, everything changed.
Now she says, “Just because you are tied together in relationship doesn’t mean you’re taken care of.” Today, staying financially separate from her significant other is a top priority to her. Also, previously she never saw money as something to manage or as a tool to use to work toward goals. Now having goals is extremely important to her.
As to what she most wants her kids to learn from her experience, she tells them they have to learn to stand on their own two feet. It wasn’t until later in life that she learned this lesson and it is one she is making sure to deliver now.
When You’re in Business With Your Spouse
Terry told her story of running a small side business with her ex. He did all the bookkeeping as well as their tax returns, both business and personal. She was completely hands off as far as the financials of the business were concerned.
He had a drinking problem that became progressively worse. When she realized that their breakup was inevitable, she stepped up and began examining the numbers. It turned out he had been doing things that she feared might be illegal, mostly in accounting for inventory. Terry was so mad at herself for deferring to her ex-husband, especially considering that she had taken such pride in doing her own taxes when she was in her twenties. Now she says, “If you sign that tax return, you’re liable for any misdeeds or misinformation on it. Know what you are signing! He could be gone and you’ll end up paying for the mistake.”
Look at some of your own stories about money. What lessons would you like to give yourself credit for learning?
Remember that acknowledgement is very different from blame. See it as part of your growth and forgive yourself. Then, declare how you want to be responsible going forward. We don’t have to relive our financial mistakes. We can learn from them and make conscious choices to be masters of our money and our lives.