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Old 07-18-2011, 03:30 AM   #21
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I lost everything in my divorce after 23 years of marriage (didn't want to take it to court, but just wanted him GONE and the pain over, and that was the only way to accomplish that). So, I "started over" at age 50. Pretty scary. I wouldn't recommend that to anyone.

I was left with nothing but my books, my clothes, an unreliable old used K-car with intermittent problems, and a sofa. One fork, one plate, one coffee cup, and $1000 in the bank, period. He got the house and my rent was due. So, in that respect my divorce was a financial disaster. It took years to recover.

Still, as you point out, it is easier to live on a very tight budget as a single. No need to get the spouse on board with a savings plan. To me this is a minor silver lining to the huge black cloud of financial disaster that often results from a divorce, and I applaud you for being able to look at this as "the cup half full".
I got divorced 15 years ago and it has been good for me financially because I can easily control spending and my ex wife didn't want any of our retirement assets. We split everything else 50/50, but I kept the 401k. I spoke to her and her lawyer about it but she didn't want to know about it. I think she just didn't want the trouble of it and wanted a clean break and to get on with the rest of her life, money was never important to her. Anyway that 401k is now an IRA worth half a million, but I've kept her as my beneficiary as it really is half hers.
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Old 07-18-2011, 06:19 AM   #22
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Interesting discussion. Surprising that divorce can over time actually help your finances. The conventional wisdom, and this may actually be true for most, is that divorce is a financial nightmare (at least for men). The Canadian courts have been trying to "level the playing field" in the sense that men tend to earn more han women so divorced women are often granted a kind of interest in a man's future income. So in my case, while my income was modest when we separated, it grew substantially over the next 10 years. She kept taking me back to court to get higher alimony and child support. Separated in 1992 but we didn't agree on a final settlement until 2007 after I had ER'ed!! This was a frustrating period where everytime I got more money she forced financial disclosure which eventually lead to higher support. in fact this concept of " significant change of circumstance and a duty to inform" was a key legal issue that forced my case into the public sphere. I was very lucky that wife #2 stuck with me through all of this.
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Old 07-18-2011, 07:07 AM   #23
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Untangling finances in a divorce can be very difficult particularly if there is child support and alimony involved. I was lucky to have such a financially simple divorce. No alimony and no kids so we just divided the investments and proceeds from sale of the house. This gave us both $50k in our pockets to start out and no need for any further involvement. My ex explicitly gave up all claims to the retirement accounts which were then worth about $100k. I look back on things and now know I had the best divorce ever.
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Old 07-18-2011, 07:14 AM   #24
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Interesting discussion. Surprising that divorce can over time actually help your finances. The conventional wisdom, and this may actually be true for most, is that divorce is a financial nightmare (at least for men). The Canadian courts have been trying to "level the playing field" in the sense that men tend to earn more han women so divorced women are often granted a kind of interest in a man's future income. So in my case, while my income was modest when we separated, it grew substantially over the next 10 years. She kept taking me back to court to get higher alimony and child support. Separated in 1992 but we didn't agree on a final settlement until 2007 after I had ER'ed!! This was a frustrating period where everytime I got more money she forced financial disclosure which eventually lead to higher support. in fact this concept of " significant change of circumstance and a duty to inform" was a key legal issue that forced my case into the public sphere. I was very lucky that wife #2 stuck with me through all of this.


Danmar, I would tend to agree with you that for many, if not most, divorce can be a financial nightmare, particularly for men. I think that where divorce can be beneficial for FIRE is scenarios where some or all of the following is involved:
  • not a very long marriage and a marriage early in ones career (say up to ten years or at most 15 years max), allowing enough time to rebuild financially until retirement (and hopefully emotionally as well)
  • none or perhaps only one or two children, limiting child support
  • no alimony or spousal support (this is actually quite rare to be awarded in my country)
  • a marriage where spending was out of control and during which one spouse does not work. Once the marraige is over, the spouse that worked during the marraige now has much greater control and can limit spending (if necessary, quite severely, at least during the rebuild phase)
  • the working spouse during the marraige, then post divorce either remarries/repartners to someone that has a similar FIRE / LBYM mindset (and hopefully equal assets and income), or stays single
  • the working spouse focuses on their career, and income rises as a result, in some cases substantially
  • settlement very quickly - in my country financial settlement can be done straight after separation - do not even have to wait for divorce which normally takes 12 months of separation before you can apply for the divorce certificate
  • no ability to come back for more - again related to above (ie quick and iron clad legal settlement)
In my case, all of the above apply, so trying to make the best of the situation I guess.
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Old 07-18-2011, 08:05 AM   #25
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I was lucky in my divorce compared to many. The ex worked for federal govt. and her income, benefits, etc. and mine were nearly identical. No kids, so that wasn't an issue. She was just one of those people who can't stand to see a dollar in the bank, couldn't make up her mind what she wanted, and didn't have the discipline to save anything or plan ahead.

For example, she wanted to furniture shopping, and tells me in all earnestness that she wants a set of Pennsylvania House solid cherry Queen Anne style furniture, which at the time carried the (to me) astronomical price of about $6k. I'm thinking "Okay, that's pricey, but if that's what she wants we'll save up and get it." Three months later she wants to go on a trip somewhere, and says about the furniture "I don't want to live in a gilded prison". It was like being married to a teenager with the attention span of a puppy.

The marriage ended when I refused to take out a loan to go on a trip (where, I don't know - the discussion never got that far). In fairness to her the divorce was one of the more amicable that I've heard of. There was none of the "run up the credit cards and bail" kind of thing, or revenge-seeking behavior. We just pretty much split everything down the middle, sold the house and went on.

The financial behavior after the house sold is interesting though. She got that wad of cash and took a six-week trip to Europe. I put the money in the bank and saved for my own house, which I bought 18 months later.
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Old 07-18-2011, 08:07 AM   #26
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Good analysis Ozziedreamer. Canada would generally not be the place to be if you wanted to get a quick, fair, and final divorce. i was very lucky.
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Old 07-18-2011, 08:22 AM   #27
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As others here, my divorce over 20 years ago is why....I keep everything separate in my current 18 year marriage and have a post marital agreement. My husband says "he can't believe anyone ever took advantage or pulled one over on me". That's because my ex did, it was horrible and I learned from it. I was so naive. Let him take my paid off car to trade in on a new one. Didn't know he did not add my name to the title until the separation when....the bank came to take the car. He added my name to his credit cards....which took me months to clear up, proving I never signed for those cards and getting my credit cleared up, he stopped making house payments while living in the house which sent it into foreclosure (got out of that one too with a quit(?) claim deed- but it required me to hire a bankruptcy attorney to accomplish, had the IRS calling me trying to make me responsible for money he owed them before we were married - took an accountant to invoke the innocent spouse rule to clear up, had to go to Child Protective Services to start the clock ticking on child support payments as he wasn't paying, spent almost 3 years in J & D court over custody of our daughter....only to have him "give up his parental rights all of a sudden "..but not until $25,000 was racked up in legal fees (just my side), ...all the while he is living the high life dating various women, taking them on expensive vacations, buying one a $25K engagement ring, buying expensive cars (never did figure out how he was able to do that)......and ALL of which he bankrupted in his 2nd bankruptcy..including his legal fees. I went to the bankruptcy court to view his documents...which is how I know what he bankrupted.

So...I keep things separate now. We share the "common ground".

All of that said even now....my husband and I don't share the exact same financial philosophy. His is "you can't take it with you". Mine is "better prepare for the future even if you are not here". My philosophy started to rub off on him about 5 years ago when I told him he needed 1 to 2 million by retirement and showed him how and why.
In his case, with his own CPA practice....he figured he could work until he couldn't (yes he has disability insurance). But as I have pointed out to him, that is not the wisest approach.
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Old 07-18-2011, 08:23 AM   #28
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She was just one of those people who can't stand to see a dollar in the bank, couldn't make up her mind what she wanted, and didn't have the discipline to save anything or plan ahead.

It was like being married to a teenager with the attention span of a puppy.
Nice story Walt. Can relate to a lot of what you said. I called mine "the never ending list". Some of the things on the list included new car, new kitchen, new bathroom, home extension, holiday to US, holiday to Europe, $30k pearl necklace, etc, etc.

Just ran out of steam in the end - very demoralising to see a list with things continue to be added to it at a faster rate than what you could take off by buying.

Glad it worked out for you in the end.
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Old 07-18-2011, 10:11 AM   #29
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My ex explicitly gave up all claims to the retirement accounts which were then worth about $100k.
Help me understand this. Retirement accounts, such as IRA's, cannot be held in joint ownership. If your ex-DW had retiremenet accounts, they were in her name only. Are you saying your ex-DW somehow turned her IRA, 403b or 401k, etc., over to you? How is this possible?

Or are you just saying that all the retirement accounts were in your name and she did not demand that their value be included when dividing assets?
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Old 07-18-2011, 10:22 AM   #30
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...It was like being married to a teenager with the attention span of a puppy....
I love this, Walt--so funny but says a lot.
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Old 07-18-2011, 11:15 AM   #31
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This divorce thread is interesting, but also a little depressing. As someone young and married (almost 5 years now)... Is there anyone on here not divorced?

Though it seems like a common thread in these is a difference in financial thoughts and habits - the wife and I are very like-minded when it comes to frugality and FIRE.
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Old 07-18-2011, 12:00 PM   #32
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I lost everything in my divorce after 23 years of marriage (didn't want to take it to court, but just wanted him GONE and the pain over, and that was the only way to accomplish that). So, I "started over" at age 50. Pretty scary. I wouldn't recommend that to anyone.

I was left with nothing but my books, my clothes, an unreliable old used K-car with intermittent problems, and a sofa. One fork, one plate, one coffee cup, and $1000 in the bank, period. He got the house and my rent was due. So, in that respect my divorce was a financial disaster. It took years to recover.

Still, as you point out, it is easier to live on a very tight budget as a single. No need to get the spouse on board with a savings plan. To me this is a minor silver lining to the huge black cloud of financial disaster that often results from a divorce, and I applaud you for being able to look at this as "the cup half full".
I got divorced 15 years ago and it has been good for me financially because I can easily control spending and my ex wife didn't want any of our retirement assets. We split everything else 50/50, but I kept the 401k. I spoke to her and her lawyer about it but she didn't want to know about it. I think she just didn't want the trouble of it and wanted a clean break and to get on with the rest of her life, money was never important to her. Anyway that 401k is now an IRA worth half a million, but I've kept her as my beneficiary as it really is half hers.
Cool! Glad you are happy with your divorce settlement. Me, too. In my case, he wanted the entire large 401K too and wouldn't bend on that. It was in his name, since my jobs had not had 401K's or pensions until two years before our divorce. I gave it to him, though my lawyer wanted me to slug it out in court for that. Poor lawyer - - he only got a total of $250 from us for doing and filing the paperwork in this no contest divorce.

I really think that for some (not you or anyone here) it's a dominance game and the "stuff" really isn't as important to the individuals, as winning. But "stuff" can be replaced, whereas freedom (also including freedom from conflict and near endless continuation of the ugliness of divorce), is invaluable IMO.
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Old 07-18-2011, 12:12 PM   #33
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Help me understand this. Retirement accounts, such as IRA's, cannot be held in joint ownership. If your ex-DW had retiremenet accounts, they were in her name only. Are you saying your ex-DW somehow turned her IRA, 403b or 401k, etc., over to you? How is this possible?

Or are you just saying that all the retirement accounts were in your name and she did not demand that their value be included when dividing assets?
The retirement accounts were in my name; a 403b and a 401k. I'd had the 403b before getting married, but it didn't have much in it and the 401k was from a job I'd started after getting married and had $100k in it. My ex just didn't want any of the retirement accounts to be considered. We came up with the settlement agreement on our own and I tried to get her to include the retirement money, but she said she didn't want to deal with it. I did my own divorce paperwork and she employed a lawyer, but just to file the papers with the court.
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Old 07-18-2011, 12:14 PM   #34
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This divorce thread is interesting, but also a little depressing. As someone young and married (almost 5 years now)... Is there anyone on here not divorced?

Though it seems like a common thread in these is a difference in financial thoughts and habits - the wife and I are very like-minded when it comes to frugality and FIRE.
35 years on August 7th

DW is the main reason we were able to ER. She and I are totally compatible when it comes to finances.
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Old 07-18-2011, 12:26 PM   #35
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This divorce thread is interesting, but also a little depressing. As someone young and married (almost 5 years now)... Is there anyone on here not divorced?
Not divorced.
I was in a LTR for 4.5 years after I was widowed. I very carefully and consistently kept my finances separate except for a joint bill paying account for everyday living expenses. Any improvements to my home were paid 100% by me, on the sage advice of my trust attorney.

When we broke up over a year ago, he acted like we were legally married, claiming part vested interest in a few improvements to my home while he resided here.
My response?
We divvied up any consumer items we jointly paid for, fair and square. But it seemed he wanted more. Oh well.
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Old 07-18-2011, 12:27 PM   #36
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Cool! Glad you are happy with your divorce settlement. Me, too. In my case, he wanted the entire large 401K too and wouldn't bend on that. It was in his name, since my jobs had not had 401K's or pensions until two years before our divorce (so his was 20x as big as mine). I gave it to him, though my lawyer wanted me to slug it out in court for that. Poor lawyer - - he only got a total of $250 from us for this no contest divorce.

I really think that for some (not you or anyone here) it's a dominance game and the "stuff" really isn't as important to the individuals, as winning. But "stuff" can be replaced, whereas freedom (also including freedom from conflict and near endless continuation of the ugliness of divorce), is invaluable IMO.
The retirement money is often the largest asset a couple has and while it might be about control during the divorce it has significant financial consequences afterwards. I still feel that my ex should have had half the retirement accounts, but we'd have had to cash them in or one of us would have got a far smaller portion of the non-retirement assets to make up for keeping the 401k. So it worked out well for me, but I've kept her as beneficiary. Not sure what I'll do if I remarry....new DW would probably have a lot to say about that.
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Old 07-18-2011, 12:53 PM   #37
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This divorce thread is interesting, but also a little depressing. As someone young and married (almost 5 years now)... Is there anyone on here not divorced?
23 years and happily counting. We are financially compatible also.

When you consider that money is the #1 reason for divorce, it makes sense that most of these stories of divorce center on the finances. However, I still believe that it makes the most financial sense to have both spouses working in good jobs, no kids to fund through college, and the ability to save costs on housing, utilities, etc. as a couple. And then if both are decent savers, you should be in good shape financially at least.
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Old 07-18-2011, 01:00 PM   #38
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This divorce thread is interesting, but also a little depressing. As someone young and married (almost 5 years now)... Is there anyone on here not divorced?
ME!!
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Old 07-18-2011, 01:01 PM   #39
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Help me understand this. Retirement accounts, such as IRA's, cannot be held in joint ownership. If your ex-DW had retiremenet accounts, they were in her name only. Are you saying your ex-DW somehow turned her IRA, 403b or 401k, etc., over to you? How is this possible?
Maybe a QDRO?
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Old 07-18-2011, 01:06 PM   #40
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This divorce thread is interesting, but also a little depressing. As someone young and married (almost 5 years now)... Is there anyone on here not divorced?
I screwed around in high school but met spouse in college. We've known each other for nearly 32 years and we'll celebrate our 25th in a couple weeks.
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