A few months ago, I awoke to a call from someone preciously close and as I struggled to open my eyes her words took me by surprise, ‘ I want to get a divorce’.
After 12 years of what appeared to have been the perfect marriage, she wanted a divorce. I tried to reason with her, point out to her that this will have consequences on her young daughter. With fixed financial support and no emotional involvement, she felt alone in that relationship. As an employed woman, the financial element wasn’t of much concern to her, and didn’t feature in the discussions determining the terms of the separation. Eventually, it was decided that their house would be rented, and she would get a higher share of the cash inflow. The rest of the terms were just as gracious.
Unfortunately, not everyone gets such a good deal. Many women are stuck in marriages/relationships only because they’re not financially independent. As a professional finance manager, there have been several instances where I’ve had to figure out the amount that should be claimed as alimony. In my experience, very few women are in a position to get all or most of their terms.
People are getting used to a life of excess, especially women. In a conversation with yet another lady, I was startled to discover that she too was unhappy with her marriage. However, she was unwilling to do anything about it, because she had gotten used to her international holidays, the expensive purses and shoes, the upper class lifestyle. This woman is educated, and yet she has reduced herself to this state. Perhaps the situation is not as simple as it seems, but she doesn’t want to solve the problem. I cannot fully understand or help her at this stage, but one needn’t let it go so far.
One can never be fully prepared for this scenario. There are emotional, social and financial considerations in such a situation. However, there are some points that one can always keep in mind to better mitigate the damage:
1. Learn to live within your means – if you’re not earning, then question every expense as if you did work for it. Alimony may be flowing in, but the money has to be handled smartly. For the ones earning and being indulgent, be wiser.
2. Saving is crucial – no matter what your relationship status and career path is, you must save. As a thumb rule 3 months of your expenses should be put into a savings investment.
3. Get a health insurance policy – medical expenses are huge and it is important to safeguard yourself and your family in case of a contingency.
4. Gain clarity on joint expenses – keeping emotions aside, ensure the terms and reasons for being a second holder/ nominee/beneficiary are all clear with regard to investments and loans that will continue to be held jointly, if at all.
5. Budget for fixed expenses first – school fees, daily household expenses and car loan repayments will continue. Create a 3-6 months corpus to take care of these.
6. Prepare for an exciting future – you may want to indulge yourself every once in a while, take a break or go on a holiday. This will come at a cost. Make sure you plan for it.
7. Get a Financial Advisor – a financial advisor is just as important at this time as a lawyer or counselor. They will help figure out how the payments to the house should be made, whether the car loan should be continued, what should be done of your PF, and many other details that may not occur to you at the time.