Money Monday: Suddenly single, suddenly saving

Sometimes the best laid financial and life plans don’t, well, go to plan.  I found myself nearly two years ago suddenly single raising two kids.  Nor am I alone.  I had a coffee/chai chat with one of my good friends who had just made it through her first year post separation to find out how it had changed her financial situation – and perspective.  What she had to say really resonated with me, so with her permission I am sharing.

Almond milk chai latte from the ANU Food Co-op Cafe
Almond milk chai latte from the ANU Food Co-op Cafe

Rachel is an intelligent, articulate career woman and academic.  In her relationship she was a joint income earner. “I probably earned a bit more,” she admitted.  She lived in a comfortable inner-Canberra suburb close to the university she taught at and near her boys’ school.  Then one day after Mother’s Day, she and her ex husband separated and her life suddenly changed.

I asked her how she felt about her finances and what some of the the key themes were for her as she rebuilds.  This is what she shared with me:

  1. Before separation I was not in charge of our finances.  Although both people were working, there was not a central plan.  I had a vague sense of perhaps we could do better, but I wasn’t really focused on finances.
  2. After separation, I am much more mindful with my money. I have learned how to do more with less.  Some bills have actually gone down: I now spend less on groceries, and strangely, I also spend less on utilities such as electricity and gas. I cycle nearly everywhere.
  3. There is a sense of insecurity, of ‘what if’.  Although I have a good job and salary, what if there are redundancies?  What if my job skills are no longer relevant?  What if I can no longer provide for my two children?  There is no longer a back-up: my children are reliant totally on me.  And that’s scary.
  4. My biggest worry now is how to buy a house.  We sold the home that we previously owned.  I have been renting, but I know that I need to move at some stage.  With house prices going up and up, I worry that I will not be able to afford to buy a house for my children.  I have begun looking, but I am scared.
  5. It is difficult to find time to plan for my future.  My life is busy, busy. I juggle full time work with looking after two children. I know I have to think about longer-term financial strategies, but it is difficult to find time for anything, let alone my longer term financial plan.  And it is scary.
  6. I would like to meet someone new, but am not sure if I am ready.  How did you meet Mr Red Sports Car?  My ex has moved on quickly, but I am not sure yet about what the next step would be. Or how financially it would all work out.

Have you been suddenly single?  How did you cope?  Did it change your patterns of spending and saving?  What advice would you give Rachel to help empower her to make the right financial decisions for her and her children?

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