by Dana George | Updated July 17, 2021 - First published on Nov. 27, 2019
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Here's how to deal with the three biggest financial challenges divorce brings for women.
Although the United States is tied with Gibraltar for the third-highest divorce rate in the world, there is nothing easy about the process. There's the emotional pain of giving up on the dream of a happy marriage, telling the kids, and worrying about judgment from friends and family. And for women, there are additional financial concerns to deal with.
That's not to say that men don't have to worry about money during divorce, but in a country where women's median income is 81% of men's, and where mothers are awarded custody of the children in nearly 90% of divorce cases, those concerns tend to be different.
According to a report by wealth management company Francis Financial, divorce is much more complicated for women than statistics may indicate.
Here are three of the greatest challenges women say they've faced during their divorces.
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Money issues ranked No. 1 in womens' top concerns, even topping worries about their children. There are a number of reasons for this. The post-divorce income decline for women is particularly brutal. Research from the London School of Economics found that women who worked prior to, during, and after their marriages experienced a 20% decline in income as their marriages ended. Men, on average, experienced an income rise of 30% or more post-divorce.
At the same time, the poverty rate for women who've left their marriages is 27% -- nearly triple the figure among men. Add in the fact that women have longer life expectancies, lower incomes, and fewer years in the workforce, and it's easy to understand why the former Mrs. has less in her savings account.
While you can't magic up more money, you can take control of your spending and try to adapt to your new situation. You can also take concrete steps to protect yourself (and your family) financially.
During and after the divorce:
Money issues are closely intertwined with worries about children. Almost 3 in 4 women were concerned about their children's welfare, with respondents wanting to be sure they would have enough money to care for them and anxious about how they would put them through school.
It may sound counterintuitive, but in order to look after your kids, you also need to look after yourself. If the weight of divorce is getting to you, speak with a therapist, minister, or volunteer at a local divorce support group. A financial planner can help you create a budget you can live with while planning for your future. And friends can make you feel like yourself again, so keep your social connections alive.
Your children's lives are also being turned upside-down, even if the divorce is the best thing for them in the long run. Let their teacher know what's going on, and arrange for them to speak with a therapist about what they're feeling. Finally, encourage them to be open with you, and work through their feelings in a healthy way.
The big-name divorces we hear about are dramatic enough to lull us into believing that the wife often walks away with a small fortune, including the family home. It is not reality. Millions of women find themselves suddenly tasked with finding a safe home following a divorce. To make the job just a little tougher, the home in question needs to be within their now-tighter budget.
If you are searching for a new home, remember to factor in any extras you will be expected to pay, including maintenance fees, homeowner association costs, and (potentially) higher utility bills.
Unless you know the area well, check how safe the neighborhood is. If you have children, learn more about the school system, and make sure they can see themselves living there.
The only thing worse than a broken heart is a broken heart coupled with financial problems that could have been avoided. Plan ahead, think it through, and protect your interests.
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