Week 36 May 28 2012. This week marked us agreeing to a property settlement – not signed, but at least agreed to.
I wrote earlier about the pain I had felt when I began to face the full fall-out of the financial insult that this break-up would bring upon me. Thinking over this predicament in the weeks since then had been a major factor in preventing me from moving forward in my life, of letting go of the life we had, of the future of us that will never be. Trying to accept the financial insult was a second wave of pain coming on top of the emotional pain.
Being together for 40 years and close to retirement years, the sums had been done many times. There was to be a pie with 40 pieces – one piece for each year together – that we had carefully put away. This pie of 40 pieces would have been adequate to provide us with a comfortable lifestyle income of about two pieces of pie per year. The initial shock on separation for me was that there would now only be 20 pieces of pie for me to live on, half of the original providing me with only one piece of pie a year to live on. This was a down-coming but not exactly horrific and being an optimistic person I came to accept this and tried to move on. However, slowly I came to realise that the Maths was all wrong. What struck me in April was the harsh reality of a much more severely depleted pie of only six pieces and only one fifth of our ‘couples’ pie.
Let me explain the Maths.
In the original pie of 40 pieces, 10 were tied up in the family home leaving 30 pieces for investment to provide the annual income of about two pieces of pie. In the post separation pie there is the reality of 8 pieces of pie being taken out for divorce proceedings, leaving 32 pieces to divide – 16 pieces each. From my half, once I take 10 pieces for the family home, I am left with only 6 pieces left to invest and live on – only one fifth of the original investment pie of 30 pieces! The equation is not a simple matter of dividing the total in two. Moreover the cost of living for a single person is more than half of that of a couple – with house and car costs incurred on one’s own. You actually require more than half to live on. Yet I would only be left with six pieces of pie to invest. How could I survive? As I sat working out the figures, turning them over, backwards and forward and upside down; there was also the horrible thought that the only way of getting more pieces of pie for myself was to become a combatant and fight against my husband through the courts, bringing up mud to fling, having to say vile and toxic things against the one person who up until 10 months before I had given my whole life and love to. I did not want to become that person necessary to get more pieces of the pie simply so that I could have a comfortable retirement. However, I was now on my own and I also did not want to have to fight for financial survival throughout my golden years. Financial survival versus soul survival. It seemed like a lose-lose situation. It was this knowledge hitting home to me that had sent me spiralling downwards early April.
Then I worked out a recipe for a bigger pie. There is another way and I created it. Rather than focussing on what we had had and lost, I focussed instead on the income I would require and created a pie that would provide me with enough investment pie to provide the income I would need. This is my recipe for a bigger and better divorce pie:
1. Your soul
2. Your choices
3. A clear head
5. Respect and
6. Your finances
1. Stay out of the courts. This gives you back 8 pieces of pie in the savings on litigation costs.
2. Compromise. Even though it seems unfair to give some bits away to the person whose choice it was for this financial mess, is it really worth fighting for two pieces of pie to lose four in the process?
3. Stay out of the courts.
4. Think of your soul. Do you really want to become a bitter toxic person by dragging down the person you gave 40 years to?
5. Think of your children. Save the children the pain of seeing their parents knocking each other over.
6. Stay out of the courts.
7. Compromise on the house – at least in your head. Accept that sometime in the future you will downsize from the family home to a smaller home and release another 4 pieces of pie.
8. Get a hold on your own personal budget, live more frugally, watch discretionary spending and make the pieces of remaining pie work for you.
9. Remember your own divorce code and stick to it.
10. Stay out of the courts.
Here is a comparison of the alternative pies:
Total pieces of pie 40
Less Litigation costs – 8
Half to me 16
Less cost of home -10
Pieces of pie to live on 6
Living costs per year 1.2
Years of income 5
Total pieces of pie 40
No Litigation – 0
Half to me 20
Less cost of home -6
Pieces of pie to live on 14
Living costs per year 0.7
Years of income 20
Voila! This recipe will provide me with four times the financial security of what may have been and has saved my soul and sanity. Moreover, if you look carefully at the figures, by careful budgeting and a revision of my lifestyle – from what had been ‘our’ lifestyle – it actually provides me with more financial security than before separation as there is now no-one I have to compromise with in my careful budgeting to make it all happen.
Full steam ahead now with – my choices – my lifestyle.