One thing I know for sure is my divorce took a toll on my finances!!!! This feels like an understatement as I look over the course of events from separation to divorce. I decided to move out of my marital property and I knew there was the risk of not reaching a mutual agreement to sell the property. In 2008, a year before I lost my job in addition to marital issues I could see the finances spiraling out of control. Shame on us for not having a financial cushion to cover any unexpected events. In 2009 while I was still living in my marital home I was laid off from my job. Although I qualified for unemployment I made the mistake of using my 401k to keep the household afloat. Wow if only I could kick myself for this act of foolishness!
After I moved out of my marital property the house slowly crept into default status. I remember at the closing of my 1st house someone saying YOU PAY, YOU STAY!!! Despite my efforts in putting the house on the market, it went to the LEFT! The options for the property were to sell, refinance the property or apply for assistance to save the property. I desperately wanted to make this a win-win situation, however, I believed selling the property and breaking even was the most logical. When the bank learned the house was no longer occupied they moved in to foreclose on the property. It took almost 3 years for the bank to foreclose which is a clear LESSON there were OPTIONS available. As the saying goes at this point, NO SENSE IN CRYING OVER SPILLED MILK!
What I learned from this lesson is real world decisions are extremely challenging when there is a constant tug of war! Logic and being rational go out the window!!!! Here I am with two kids moving into my mother’s home and still unemployed. I was unemployed for 2 years and 2 months before I secured a new position. Cartwheels in my head!!!and shouting from the rooftop!!!! I felt like a weight had been lifted. As you can imagine two years of no income, separated, marital property in default, bills piling up and I felt like there was no light at the end of the tunnel. The plus side – I did not have rent or a mortgage although I had my car payment. I used my new job’s 401k to build my nest egg back up. For anyone who has used an attorney for their divorce the legal fees(I will cover in another post) add up significantly.
My divorce became final 2 years and 7 months after I moved out of my marital property. This was yet another weight lifted as I had closed another chapter. Now it was time to deal with the financial aftermath!!! It felt overwhelming just to open my mail because of the letters and phone calls from creditors. I literally chose to ignore the creditors and focus on providing my children with what they needed specifically their education. After consulting with a financial advisor I contemplated filing for bankruptcy. Can I tell you how happy I am with not proceeding with this decision?
Now I fast forward two years and I am in a new job making more money and able to secure an apartment for us. Despite my credit issues, I was able to get approved for the apartment, this taught me that in a lot of cases people are really willing to help your drive and ambition. In some cases, landlords will take a higher down payment or allow a cosigner for the lease. Just remember do not lose hope if we do not ask you shall never receive. When I came to look at my apartment the property manager told me I will do whatever I can to make this work you. I had never met this gentleman(property manager) our only modes of communication were via email or by phone. This was clear sign that we have to believe in ourselves each and every day. We are capable and worthy of living a life that is fulfilling!
Two months ago my job was eliminated so back to the drawing board of finding full-time employment. My rent was paid in full for the month of June. In order to say ahead, I pulled money out of my 403K to pay the next two months of rent. I call this an interim break for me to get my FINANCIAL AND PERSONAL HOUSE in order. My financial house in terms of debt elimination, credit restoration, savings, and retirement. Once I secure a position I will be ready to funnel my money into the right channels. You have to be extremely PROACTIVE in getting your financial house in order. I started with sending my creditors certified letters to cease and desist any form of communication. Granted I know this does not relieve me of owing the debt but I feel it does eliminate the stress of my phone ringing with random numbers.
As a single mom, it is vital that we have a plan b, c, d, e and on and on. When one door is SLAMMED open the next door and see what lies ahead. There are a lot of factors associated with why we have to make certain decisions. For example, I moved into an apartment because I wanted to move to a better school district for my kids. Fortunately, for me, I was able to find a 3 bedroom apartment in a safe neighborhood and excellent school district. The apartment building only has one utility bill, water and heat are included. For this area, this was like hitting a jackpot of rental properties. While I understand that home ownership is the best investment. I know for me now is not the best time especially with a foreclosure on my credit report. I am not opposed to owning real estate at a later date because it is a great investment. Owning a home is hands down a great experience however it comes with a lot of financial responsibility and not just the mortgage payment. There are additional expenses associated such as homeowners insurance, real estate taxes, utilities, and maintenance/repairs. Also having job security or job stability is a necessity but not a guarantee. As a single mom, I will always be the primary breadwinner for me and my kids. I firmly believe that you must have a financial cushion before you even elect to purchase a home, especially as a single mom. My long-term plan is to establish other viable streams of income beyond my day job.
Another mistake I made was securing a company to help with improving my credit score. Initially, I thought this was a great way to help me but after losing my last job I canceled the membership. In 2011, I paid $99 per month to have the company “clean up my credit”. Well, it was not a great decision. Just imagine how many creditors I could have paid with $1,200. When I contacted the company to cancel my account, of course, I was sold on maintaining an account for half of the price. Duped again, I paid $49/month for 12 months. Let’s do the math that was another $600 to pay off some debt. The bottom line is these companies have verification of debt form letters they send out in postage paid envelopes to creditors. Guess what? You can do this for yourself-FREE!!! There is no way this company can assist in increasing without me paying down some of my debt. They were able to have two aged items. Guess what? You can do the same thing upon request and did I mention for FREE!!! The overall lesson is education yourself on your credit report by checking it periodically if you have concerns, know your rights, dispute any inaccuracies and update incorrect information.
My biggest challenge is using my salary to my advantage in terms of establishing a budget, saving at least 6-8 months of salary, and saving for retirement. One thing I have instituted with my kids is the want vs. need factor. If you need it then we purchase if not it stays in the store!!! It is difficult to say NO but my kids need a gauge. I have been a bit too liberal with my kids in the past year, unfortunately, the buck stops here. Our rent, food, utilities and necessities are PRIORITIES.
Here are some of the steps I’m taking to start the process of CLEANING MY FINANCIAL HOUSE:
- reviewing my credit report to determine accuracy via a free secured site (used ScoreSense.com). The site offers a 10-day free trial and then a monthly subscription for $39.95 per month. You are free to cancel. From the site’s dispute center I was able to include a consumer statement on each report to explain delinquency. I also uploaded the documents to update some inaccurate personal information.
- total the amount that is actually owed, the age of debt, determine what can be paid (some amounts on there are extremely small amounts) ~>$50,000 (which includes my last student loan). Also have to include my lawyer fees of $13,000
- to alleviate the stress of creditors communicating with me~ I sent cease and desist letters. NOTE this does not relieve the debt.
- Working with Kara at TheFrugalFeminista to assist with a plan for how to budget, debt elimination, and establishing additional revenue streams, savings, and retirement. Also, determine what happens with the foreclosure listed on credit report after 7 years. (my mortgage went into default status in 2010)
My teen will be in college in 4 years and my eight-year-old in 10 years. I am planning and praying for financial aid, scholarships and possibly student loans(worst case scenario) we can fund their educations. If I money is available after debt elimination opening up 529 accounts is another funding source.
I have learned first hand it is not logical to rely on one revenue stream. It is extremely critical to establish additional revenue streams to get closer to my financial goals.