How is it possible? I’m a successful professional in my 49th year of life and I have a negative balance in my checking account and $14 in my retirement account? And even more amazing, how is it that I am not freaking out?
Since the full child support payments kicked in I have been scrambling not to bounce checks. I’m astounded by the amount of money I am now paying to my ex-y. I know it’s “for the kids” and all, but I am barely keeping gas in my car and food in my belly at this moment. Much less food in my kids bellies and the occasional splurge, eating out or going out to see a movie.
I am lucky, too, I have a high earning potential, and even in this dropped economy I’ve made a reasonable, though severely reduced, income. And my ex-y has remained fully employed since about three months before the divorce was final. (Go figure that?)
And, I’ve got some new clients and good financial forecasts for next month. But it always takes a while for new business to ramp up to full-hours. I’m close, and I have invoices out to be paid, but at the moment, I can’t buy a Starbucks. Oh, and I forgot to mention, my three credit cards, useless burdens at this point. Another source of frustration. But I’ll get to them as well.
Of course, “the kids” come first. Of course they do. And I will say it to myself again and again, “I want my kids to have a healthy life.” And I have to believe I will rise above the cash drain with a significant uptick in my income. That’s about all I have, the faith that I will dig out from under this.
Once I got over the shock of not being able to pay all of my bills I started researching strategies to survive. Here’s what I learned.
The bankruptcy/debt counselors really only have one solution: consolidate your debt and agree to a payment plan. Um, this does not work when your income is ZERO.
The counselor did say one very valuable thing. “At some point you will run out of things to sell off and you will have to make a decision about what bills to pay.”
My decisions revolved around a few things.
- I wanted to keep my house. (mortgage payments were critical path)
- I had to eat and drive to work. (groceries and gas were non-negotiables)
- I needed electricity, water, and high-speed internet access to do my work and live comfortably.
- I committed to the child support payments and I was going to pay them. (I did negotiate a deferral on also paying the kid’s health insurance until my work re-stabilized.)
Other than that, every other expense, bill, financial obligation, was on hold. Paused. Put in a file and forgotten about. I could not pay my credit cards for the first time in my life. Okay, I’m over it. Ignore the calls. I had to tell my ex-y that I could not pay the health care but that I would make good on the debt as soon as I had positive cash flow. I had to negotiate the timing on my payments to my ex-y so I could make two payments during the month.
And then I have continued to work like hell to get my work situation back to full-productivity. Yes the economy is hard. I’ve had a lot of interviews but no offers. And my consulting business has kept me alive for almost a year since my last FT job.
But the bottom line is, I’m surviving. I’ve cut back to the bare basics. And today I’ve still got nothing. I can’t take my kids to the movies tonight. And the groceries in the fridge are what we’ve got until they go back to their mom’s on Monday. And IT IS OKAY. It’s not fun, but it’s workable. The clients will pay, the credit cards will eventually get back on a payment plan, and the ex-y will get her full legally awarded child support.
In the meantime, my job is not to thrash, not to share the stress of this trying moment with my kids, and to carry on. It sucks sometimes. And I’m not 100% sure being the non-custodial parent was a good move for me financially. BUT, today it’s what I’ve got.
Hi Ho, Hi Ho!
The Off Parent
Update: A new reader tweeted at me today about this post. It made her hot under the collar. “Paying child support is not heroic.” She said. She missed the gist of this post. Yes we are both struggling with money issues. But I was at ZERO. Not by some bad behavior or fatal flaw. Not because I was not looking for work.
< back to The Hard Stuff
- Losing Everything In Divorce; Learning to Carry On
- On the Turning Away: Fighting with Your Ex About Money
- Tell Me Again, Why You Think This Is a Good Idea? (child support part 1)
- Can Things Get Worse? Yes, Easy! (child support part 2)
- A Fool and His Money Soon Go Separate Ways
- The Divorce Library (reading list)
- Songs of Divorce (free listening library – youtube sourced songs)
- Laugh It Off (building a resource library of funny videos and other diversions)
- Facebook (follow us on Facebook and keep up with all the conversations)
- The 5 Love Languages (a book on love styles by Gary Chapman)
Money played a much bigger role in my marriage than I’d like to admit. And now, divorced, the relationship between my ex-y and money is about the same. With one big difference. I can ignore my ex-y when she’s going on about money. We’ve got a contract now. And if it’s written, then I don’t need to keep negotiating when, how, if, and the ever-present, “It would be nice if…”
Nope, as easy as pushing mute on my phone when it’s ringing.
She’s really no easier now than she was. There’s still this urgent need to know exactly when and how much. As if a day or a hundred dollars is going to make a huge difference to anybody but her.
Yes, I’m a bit more laid back about money. And, confession, I’m slightly behind on the health care part of the payments. But things are just about to change. My consulting business just booked two new clients that are going to take me to about 120% of capacity.
The good news is, I can do the extra 20% now, because I don’t have my kids for most of the weekday nights. So, dear ex-y I’m going to catch up. I’ve told you I would as soon as I had a good book of business. And that’s true.
The part that’s fun about it… (Poignant, rather than fun.) The fun part is that money is about to get much easier for me. And that’s good, I’m middle-aged. And while I’ve just killed my entire retirement account, to keep up with the child support payments, I’m going to rebuild stronger and bigger than ever before. So I will wave at your working-your-ass-off self, the one who decided to split up the 11-year partnership we’d formed. And I have the awareness at this point that I was trying to grow a more sane business model for both of US. Now you are out of that equation. I hope you find what you are looking for.
I’m looking forward to being a solid provider again. And the ex-y will get what’s coming to her, to the letter of the law. But the partnership could’ve produced some great opportunities and cushion. Oh well. On to what’s next.
The Off Parent