Security questions are a big deal in later life divorce, especially for women. Women who divorce after 50 are especially vulnerable to financial difficulty. According to a study by Susan Brown, a Bowling Green State University sociology professor and co-director of the National Center for Family & Marriage Research, 27% of “grey divorce” women end up in poverty. Of course, that means that 73% don’t, but still! We cannot let this be our fate.
When Barbara Huson, author of Prince Charming Isn’t Coming, asked me what security means to me, I thought it a worthwhile question, not only for me but for all of us. Her question was prompted by my confession that when I considered having NO credit card debt, it gave rise to a great deal of discomfort in my body. I felt a similar sensation when I contemplated the actual divorce from my husband. I thought that rather significant. What was the commonality?
This is a very personal, somewhat difficult money story I share. But doing this helped me finally SEE my money biography, which means I can do something about it. We can’t address what we can’t confront. As you read my story, I encourage you to think of your own.
- What does security mean to you?
- What created your money story?
- How did your marriage – and divorce – impact your sense of security, one way or the other?
Taking a Look Back
I found myself thinking about my childhood. My parents had plenty of money for the things I needed. When it came to having things I wanted it got a little trickier. Not always, but often enough to have registered in my girl heart, my wants were deemed unimportant, frivolous.
Of course, parents do make these kinds of decisions on behalf of their children, deciding what is necessary, or not, according to their values. Mine were also highly judgmental about other people’s money, or at least my mother was. People who put things on lay away (a common form of credit in the 1960’s) were deemed losers. People who “showed” their money were no better in her eyes. They were looked down upon, too. Talk about damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Then I looked at my young adult life. I got my first credit card upon graduating from college. As a young woman, I generally had enough income for my needs, but not always for what I wanted. Hm, interesting!
In my earlier marriages (there were 2, both short in duration) at some point I ended up being the steady and reliable one when it came to income. These kinds of things do happen; it’s a normal part of the marriage dance. I just didn’t make a whole lot extra, certainly not enough to support 2 adults and my son for any length of time.
After we separated and later divorced, my son’s father frequently failed to pay child support. The first couple of years were especially difficult. My wages were garnished 3-4 times when he failed to pay federal and state taxes due to under withholding. Although legally separated, we were still married that first year, so I was held equally responsible. I ended up paying off his State debt.
There it is; credit cards filled in the gaps when I couldn’t. They were my security when life “failed” me. I don’t usually think about all that happened in those earlier years. I’m “over it” as they say. But now I wonder, how much did that instability erode my financial confidence? Perhaps more than I realized.
Now onto the question at hand.
What does security mean to me?
* Being comfortable in my home, a home where the temperature is just right (warm but not hot) and there is no noise disturbance from within or outside the house. I’m in control of my environment.
* It means being able to move about as I wish. I can be inside when I feel like being inside. I can be outside when I want to be outside. And if I want to connect with friends – or go to a cafe to work – I can. In other words, freedom of movement.
* Friendship and connection have given me a sense of security, the feeling that I’m not alone.
* Doing work that enlivens me, where my skills and talents are being well used feels really good. Being useful, needed.
* I can depend on myself for my needs. Hm, just noticed it again. I can depend on myself for my needs, but not my wants, and beyond.
Betrayal – The other side of the equation
After I looked at what security means to me, the idea of betrayal arose. Where was I betrayed and where did I betray myself?
Of course, what happened with my son’s father is one example. This is the first thing I thought of though: When I was 36 years old I got hit with Crohn’s Disease. I was no longer secure in a body that had always been healthy. This condition impacted my employment and my ability to be reliable, for myself and others.
At the time I was very happily employed and experiencing a great deal of success. I rose through the ranks to become a training manager (training new store managers) for Brentano’s books, a high-end division of Waldenbooks. Within 7 months of becoming ill I was released from my training position. Unfortunately, as much as I tried, I couldn’t keep up with my responsibilities as a store manager and training manager – and acting district manager, which promotion I received while in the hospital when first diagnosed! I was crushed.
It took me a few years and a few jobs – and a few rounds of short-term disability leave – to recover. That’s when I started my coaching business. In late 2000 I released myself from the 9-5 world. I was able to set my own hours, take care of my health, and make a pretty good living.
Credit cards had been my “safety net”
And so is my current almost ex-husband. He has been the steady one. He took care of me when I was ill, and has provided financial security when I have faltered.
I think it fair to say that this survival “strategy” became hard wired in my being.
I notice, now, that the discomfort I felt thinking about carrying zero credit card debt has gone away. Fear and hopelessness has been replaced with determination. I’m ready to tell a new story.
~~~ What about You? ~~~
Can you define what security means to you? Is there such a thing?
Have you experienced anything like what I’ve shared here?
Would you be open to chatting about it? Contact me and let’s talk. Let’s find out what this is so you can shift out of dependence to fully capable.