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Divorce an Enabler for FIRE?
Old 07-17-2011, 08:04 AM   #1
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Divorce an Enabler for FIRE?

Hi

Some of you may have read my introductory post where I mentioned I am divorced.

Now that I am divorced, I am finding I am saving a lot more money. The ex couldnt cook so a significant amount of money went into takeway food. Also she loved to shop and also stayed at home (did not work) so all utility bills were large (heaters on all day. etc) As well as that, my career has improved (aka salary increased significantly since divorce) because I am now able to stay back later, travel at short notice, etc. without having to consult anyone.

I know that for some, divorce sets you back significantly from your goals of FIRE, particularly in long marriages. In my case, mine was neither short nor long, and I can now budget exactly how much I can save, achieve that every month, and I know in 10 or 15 or 20 years exactly how much I should have (thanks to the wonders of Excel), and if I choose to, could well become a multi millionaire if I want to work that long (I know many on this forum are that or will be idc)

So I guess the moral of the story is where you have 2 compatible people from a money perspective (ie both savers), then FIRE is a real possibility. I am not advocating divorce as a means to FIRE, but just wondering if there are any others out there who have had similar experiences (ie FIRE has become a distint possibility, or in fact actually realised, since divorce)

And please dont get me wrong, marriage can be very good where you have 2 like minded people with the same set of goals, etc - am not trying to suggest otherwise.
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Old 07-17-2011, 08:38 AM   #2
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My first wife was financially toxic. When we were married she couldn't stay on a budget and continually drove us deeper into debt. Left her at 42 for a women who is opposite her in all ways financial. Walked with the clothes on my back. She got everything except my earnings potential which turned out to be substantial. She spent the next 10 years of bitter litigation getting a good chunk of that. I am retired 5 years, married to a wonderful woman for 16 years, FI and very happy. The X is also FI(thanks to me) and never worked again.
Moral of my story: Sometimes a very expensive divorce can still be a great financial move if the X is a spender. On the other hand, at least for men, an expensive divorce can sometimes be very difficult to recover from financially. In most cases you don't really have a choice though. Staying with a bad marriage to a spender is usually the worst option available to you.
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Old 07-17-2011, 09:10 AM   #3
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My girlfriend recently bailed.

I can't say I don't miss her from time to time, but everthing is much simpler now.

My dreams to retire early and live frugally scared the heck out of her (she didn't work). She opposed moves that I wanted to make towards those goals.

The upside of being single again is that nobody is standing in the way of my dreams anymore. Theoretically I can now greatly reduce my spending by moving to a small and cheap place, getting rid of the car, no longer eating out, etc.

In practice things are more complicated: meals are now more expensive until I learn how to cook. Also, if I want female company from time to time I'd probably have it much easier if I drove a nice looking car. (I'm currently driving a beater and was planning to go car-less when it dies)
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Old 07-17-2011, 09:14 AM   #4
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If you had titled the thread "FIRE as an enabler for Divorce", I'd have an opinion...

My spouse was loose with money and I was not. We kept most our finances separate, per my request, foreseeing problems if we blended. Twelve years of marriage later, I FIRED on June 1 2010 after diligent budgeting and planning. His affair started 2 weeks later. Coincidence? Hmmm.

I spent the first 6 months trying to decipher why I was unhappy (not having been enlightened to the affair yet) . Spouse insisted I was paranoid, lost, depressed because I FIRE'd too early (are you EFFIN kidding me!), needed to let the adjustments "settle in". In hindsight, I see that none of my pain was FIRE-related, all affair-related.

Moral of this story - FIRE will not lead to divorce. Personalities lead to divorce. However, FIRE may help you find clarity around issues that already exist.
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Old 07-17-2011, 09:44 AM   #5
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Tigger; When I met my husband he was driving the most hideous beater imaginable. The car was in contrast to the rest of his lifestyle - though he wasn't a big spender (couldn't be - was paying large wads of child support), he had a nice home and his personal grooming was impeccable. And we were compatible in other ways, so...the nasty car wasn't an issue. It did run, after all. Most of the time, anyway Mr. Amethyst told me the car helped weed out the women who just wanted to be taken out on dates

Post-wedding day, we had the junk man haul it away and bought a new car

Amethyst

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Also, if I want female company from time to time I'd probably have it much easier if I drove a nice looking car. (I'm currently driving a beater and was planning to go car-less when it dies)
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Old 07-17-2011, 10:43 AM   #6
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My divorce changed my thinking about what is "right" concerning money and love in a relationship. When my current gf said she wanted to move in, ten years ago, I immediately stated what she would have to pay per month, and if she ever wanted to stop paying, I'd kick her out, love or no love. Amazingly, she has not missed a single monthly payment in all these years. Our relationship has had it's good and bad moments of course, but the fact that she pays her way makes me respect her more and I believe she respects me more, for making her pay. Just my humble opinion. My divorce has made more likely to reach FIRE, I think. I was in the traditional marriage in which the man works and the wife stays home, and spends it all, and more, and if you complain, then you don't love her, and you should earn more, etc, etc. Much happier in the "pay as you go" setup I have now. Able to save money now. And I should add that I know many traditional marriages work out just fine, and it's due to personalities, I think.
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Old 07-17-2011, 10:53 AM   #7
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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".
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Old 07-17-2011, 11:16 AM   #8
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In practice things are more complicated: meals are now more expensive until I learn how to cook. Also, if I want female company from time to time I'd probably have it much easier if I drove a nice looking car. (I'm currently driving a beater and was planning to go car-less when it dies)
When I met F. back in 2000 he had an ugly old car. Reliable and safe, but it badly needed a paint job and it was pretty old, so not much in the looks department. It was a huge relief to me when I saw his car, and a big "plus", because I was so embarrassed about MY car. I was driving an old K-car with big dents in the side.

So don't feel too bad about your car! She may feel the same way.
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Old 07-17-2011, 11:26 AM   #9
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After I left wife #1 we drove beaters for several years. When I finally qualfied for a company car I was over the moon. Got a 1995 Intepid. I don't think I have evr been as excited about a car.
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Old 07-17-2011, 12:50 PM   #10
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Tigger; When I met my husband he was driving the most hideous beater imaginable. The car was in contrast to the rest of his lifestyle - though he wasn't a big spender (couldn't be - was paying large wads of child support), he had a nice home and his personal grooming was impeccable. And we were compatible in other ways, so...the nasty car wasn't an issue.
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It was a huge relief to me when I saw his car, and a big "plus", because I was so embarrassed about MY car. I was driving an old K-car with big dents in the side. So don't feel too bad about your car! She may feel the same way.
Thank you Amethyst and W2R, that's reassuring.

Quote:
It did run, after all. Most of the time, anyway Mr. Amethyst told me the car helped weed out the women who just wanted to be taken out on dates
Well for the time being I'm just after some fun. Don't have the time to build a serious relationship. So still a bit unsure what to do. Maybe I'll first test if there are frugal girls out there who don't mind my car and don't require me to commit to a relationship. (a man can dream, can't he?)
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Old 07-17-2011, 01:03 PM   #11
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Hmm...let us know if you find that combo, but to me it sounds like Minimizing Cost, Maximizing Schedule and Performance in the same project, and we all know how that goes...

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Maybe I'll first test if there are frugal girls out there who don't mind my car and don't require me to commit to a relationship. (a man can dream, can't he?)
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Old 07-17-2011, 02:14 PM   #12
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Ditto pretty much to all the above.

I was married for 15 years in a old-fashioned "I work; she stays home and runs the household / raises the kids" type deal. Financially she mirrored her parents in that she always wanted to do things such that the bank account always hung around zero. Financially I mirrored my parents in that I always wanted to earn a lot and save a lot.

Fundamentally, we were doomed from the start. When you have someone who wants to save 40% and a person who wants to save 0%, even a "perfect compromise" of 20% means both are unhappy. We added a few other things to the mix which in retrospect just sealed our doom.

She left about five years ago and has met a great guy whom she'll be marrying sometime soon. I like him, wish them the best, and sincerely hope they are financially compatible.

Financially, she took slightly more (!) than 50% of the net worth plus child support for the next 14 years (down to 9 years now). I went through some rocky times but have been able to build things up to where I am comfortable now and will be FI in about 3 years, so even with the steep cost it has ultimately been a "FIRE accelerant" for me by quite a few years.

Romantically, I'm just not sure yet. I've worked through a few of my own issues (she was right about a lot of things :-P), and I'm far more sure of what I would want in a partner. However, at 42 with three kids and a "millionaire next door" lifestyle, there are very few women who even have the possibility of fitting the bill. And I'm too much of an introvert to go through the search process.

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Old 07-17-2011, 03:36 PM   #13
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All of my divorce experience has been of the vicarious sort through the Navy or among friends, so I can at least attempt to understand how divorce (and divorce lawyers) can rip a family apart.

Usually among military veterans you hear "I'd be retired by now, but I got divorced first." I usually interpreted that to mean child support (and giving up a portion of a military pension) ensured that retirement would only happen after an impossibly long period of financial recovery.

Now some of you are pointing out that divorce actually helped clarify your priorities and accelerate you down the FIRE road.

There's a whole motivational book chapter to be written on that subject...
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Old 07-17-2011, 05:21 PM   #14
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Now some of you are pointing out that divorce actually helped clarify your priorities and accelerate you down the FIRE road.

There's a whole motivational book chapter to be written on that subject...

Divorce and single parenthood certainly put my priorities in order and gave me the incentive to start saving aggressively .
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Old 07-17-2011, 05:36 PM   #15
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I thought we were ready to FIRE, but exDW didn't. Apparently she had info I did not and shortly after that we were divorced. It set me back at least 10 years between the cost of divorce and re-accumulating the assets exDW took with her.

On the other hand, being responsible for my own decision making has made it even more clear how highly I value my eventual ER, even if it is not as E as I once hoped.

Being single and frugal has been interesting while dating. If I add spendy interests to my dating profile, the number of positive responses goes up dramatically. If I sound more frugal, the number of responses gets very small. Since the potentially frugal partners are so rare, I'm using my frugal profile to screen out the golddiggers. Unfortunately it may be too successful as I am having trouble finding potential ER partners. I guess frugal single women are scarce where I live. Glad we have the board to find like minded conversations.
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Old 07-17-2011, 06:04 PM   #16
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In your profile, do you speak the simple truth: that you are living a lifestyle to enable you to ER, and are seeking a like-minded partner?

That way, you are calling to your own species, so to speak

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I

Being single and frugal has been interesting while dating. If I add spendy interests to my dating profile, the number of positive responses goes up dramatically. If I sound more frugal, the number of responses gets very small. Since the potentially frugal partners are so rare, I'm using my frugal profile to screen out the golddiggers. Unfortunately it may be too successful as I am having trouble finding potential ER partners. I guess frugal single women are scarce where I live. Glad we have the board to find like minded conversations.
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Old 07-17-2011, 06:09 PM   #17
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My first wife became a financial nightmare over the 16 years we were married. Too many credit cards (many I did not even know she had), too many bills and not enough income cover it all. She thought we were as well off as her parents so wanted to spend like they did. No amount of reason or fighting could change her mindset. Counseling for a year did not good...one has to want to change before they change...that along with some other issues with one of the kids resulted in a divorce with us splitting the kids. The judge gave me all the debt to pay off along with losing half my (very limited retirement account) and paying child support and alimony. It was very very tough going for a while trying to make a home of some sort for my oldest son who lived with me and also paying off her debts.

The good that came from all this was 1. getting out of a toxic environment, 2. getting all that debt paid off and off our my name, 3. getting my son out of her grip, and 4. being able to start saving money and start investing instead of worrying about have $200 in savings and virtually nothing in checking at the end of each month.

Longer term, I met a woman who shared many of my personal as well as financial traits and we were able to eventually save, invest and max out our retirement accounts. We both FIRED; she at 57 and me 5 years later at 54 10/12ths. She died shortly after she retired so did not get to enjoy more than 7 months of it.

The short story of is is yes, my divorce allowed me to ER.
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Old 07-17-2011, 06:12 PM   #18
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Things turned around for me financially after divorce. I was able to start saving, and then I took a job with stock options and it started piling up, and I'm not sure what would've happened with that money had I still been married. Amazingly, we never had an argument about money wrt child support.
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Old 07-17-2011, 07:31 PM   #19
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Hi everyone, thanks for your great replies. It is clear there are many with similar experiences to mine. For me, money was not the main reason for our separation and subsequent divorce (there were other issues such as overt inlaw control over our decision making process as well as infidelity on her part), but in the aftermath of divorce I have been able to take the time to think about what is important to me and what should be my main focuses now.

Tigger: I drive a nice car but it is one of the few luxuries I have given myself since the divorce - otherwise am very much now a LBYM person (I guess I always was a LBYM person but could never put that in practice with a LAYM wife). It does make the drive to work every morning that little bit more enjoyable and for me that provides an added motivation/incentive to get out of bed. However I do plan to keep it for a long time (>10 years) so dont feel that bad about it as a purchase. Certainly helps with dating, but then you can quickly weed out the gold diggers (easy to identify when they want you to pay for everything on dates, and all they seem to be interested in is how much you earn, how often and where you like to travel/shop, etc). Also hate to say this but if you are only after some fun for a period of time (rather than a long term partner), the nice car does enable this if you are willing to be the financier for that time - so this needs to be in your budget if it is important to you.

John Galt III: Yes, I used to get the "You dont earn enough" speech when I was married, which I used to find ironic at the time, given she didnt earn anything at all (stay at home mum). I also find it ironic now that I earn so much more after divorce, because I can focus on work (eg spend more time there as well as do some research at home) which in my case has really helped my career.

Danmar and W2R: Wow, your stories about leaving with effectively just your clothes on your backs left me speechless, but it does look like you have been able to turn that situation around, which provides some real encouragement for me. Although I left with seemingly more, much of it I aready had before I got married, so in essence my marraige was like my "FIRE car" had just sat idle for all that time during my marraige, but now is being propelled in "turbo" mode - a bit like 2Cor521's analogy of his divorce being a FIRE accelerant.

Steve R: Sorry to hear about the loss of your new partner, and that she was not able to enjoy her retirement for a long time.

Again, thanks for all your replies.
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Old 07-17-2011, 08:54 PM   #20
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Sorry to read this, Tigger. I also went through a breakup recently. Still very sore. Take care Tigger.
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My girlfriend recently bailed.
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