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No word in the English language strikes more fear to a wannabe FIRE walker than this.
In an instant, your assets can be reduced by half (or more) creating a seemingly insurmountable obstacle to your path to financial independence.
When I first posted about my own awful experience regarding divorce, several things happened:
It was a cathartic experience:
There were many things only a few of my closest friends knew about my divorce, and an even smaller select group that was privy to the details of my civil lawsuit.
For the longest time I felt burdened by the feelings that I carried with me from this ordeal.
When I started contemplating dating (by the way, I did not go out on a date for 2 years after my divorce was finalized as I truly did not want to have anything to do with women for the longest time), a lot of that emotional baggage resurfaced.
Just a simple question of, “Do you have any kids?”created a flood of emotions in me as I knew this could only lead to the inevitable discussion of why my daughter was not with me.
I felt embarrassed to even mention to my date how my daughter was wrongfully taken from me during the process of the divorce.
I felt I would be unfairly judged by someone who was just starting to get to know me.
By sharing my story on this blog, I felt like I released those demons.
I am not going to lie, when I was actually writing the posts, I was forced to relive some moments that I had pushed deep into the darkest recesses of my mind.
Some of my previously suppressed anger started bubbling up as I again felt the injustice of it all.
But then after I hit publish, it slowly faded away and was replaced with feelings of accomplishment.
I had gone through the darkest chapter of my life and now was strong enough to tell that story to the world.
It also made me truly appreciate the accomplishments I have since achieved even more by reminding me again where I had been..
It gave me redemption/support from the unlikeliest sources:
As a reader of this blog, you may have no idea what kind of impact you have when you leave a comment, but it truly is amazing.
I was flooded with joy as I read all the positive supportive comments pouring in from both the divorce post and the civil lawsuit post.
Here were complete “strangers” from the internet (by the way I do not consider anyone of you strangers anymore) that had such a positive impact on my life.
I found that there are others like me that needed my support.
There were a few private messages I received from the Contact Me form that asked for advice on their current situations which I gladly gave.
Although I am not an expert in these matters, I felt that even the simple act of just commiserating together brought healing to a painful situation for all parties involved.
It then dawned on me.
Perhaps I can use this platform as a sounding board for people who have gone through one of the most emotionally and financially traumatic experiences possible.
For the people who have been through divorce, I hoped that, by sharing your experiences on this blog, you would gain similar benefits as I did.
For those whose marriage is failing or are currently going through a divorce, perhaps you can gain inspiration from these submissions and realize that there is indeed a light at the end of a seemingly endless dark tunnel.
I would therefore like to present the first submission that I received in my “Divorce and FIRE” series.
I first got in contact with this particular submitter who is in her 40’s through Reddit.
Prior to your divorce how was your financial outlook?
We were well on our way to FIRE when my daughter graduates high school in a few years
Our net worth had been growing by about $100k/year for a while.
How many years were you married?
Can you give some insight on to why your marriage started to go downhill?
During the marriage I handled all the finances (he came from a wasteful family with parents that died deep in debt).
During the marriage he argued so much about money!
He would mock me for planning [to minimize] expensive things like travel in the off season, waiting for things to go on sale, etc.
It definitely kept me from being able to save as much as I wanted to and was really stressful.
How long have you been divorced?
Do you have an estimate of how much money you spent in legal fees during the divorce?
How did the court divide the marital property?
When we divorced we split our net worth in half with me getting the house in Denver, him getting the house in Florida (that was supposed to be our retirement house).
My house had a lot more equity so he got a bigger chunk of 401K/IRA money.
What do you estimate as the value of the assets you lost?
What is your current state of recovery (or how long it took you to get back to pre-divorce levels)?
Back to the entire net worth we had?
That will take me a few years!
My net worth has continued to climb over $50k/year.
Do you have any any idea how your ex has coped financially since the divorce?
When we divorced he had no idea how to handle his money.
He is having money issues even though he makes more than me.
Would you consider getting married again and if so what would you do different and what protections would you need to have in place?
I don’t know.
I want my money to go to my kids when I die, and I assume a new spouse would want the same for their kids.
So a prenup or put my money into trusts beforehand?
I don’t know the legal way to do it because usually a spouse gets everything.
Any unexpected surprises during or after the divorce proceedings?
No. I got lucky.
Knowing what you know now, would you have rather worked more to save your marriage or was the divorce the best option?
I had already wasted years trying to nurse it along, knowing it was impossible to save.
Divorce was the only option.
What impact did the marriage/divorce have on your overall financial journey?
Not as much as I thought it would.
I recovered and I feel I’m better off now.
I especially like not being burdened by a spouse who constantly complained about my (lack of) spending.
Any pointers to readers to prevent a divorce from happening in the first place or any advice if someone is currently going through a divorce?
Don’t get married unless you have a very good understanding of what personality disorders look like. [I wish I had this advice prior to me jumping into my arranged marriage. It would have saved me years of heartache on top of financial pain]
Don’t think your spouse will change or grow up, they won’t.
During or before divorce, buy a mini-recorder and record all phone conversations if that’s legal where you live.
If you know it’s probably going to happen, make sure you pay off any car loans and have no debt when you divorce, if possible.
Anything else you would like to share? The stage is yours.
Now that he is out of the picture I should still FIRE when my daughter graduates high school, probably even sooner except I don’t want to get bored sitting around while she’s still in school.
Anyway I think it’s definitely cheaper to FIRE as a couple (on a per-person basis) but at least now I will know that the money is mine and can’t be divided in half again.
I will also probably be the only one to pay for my daughter’s college so I am also budgeting for that, enough for 4 years of state college and she can get scholarships if she wants more.
I would like to thank you (this particular submitter wishes to remain anonymous) for your open discussion about a tough period in your life.
I hope you find comfort knowing that your story likely helps a reader who may feel lost and in a similar position.
I wish you the best of luck and success and am thrilled that this incident was just a blip in your path to financial independence.
I hope you have found this divorce case study enlightening.
If you, or someone you know, would like to submit a Divorce and FIRE story, I would love to hear from you.
You can remain anonymous unless you specifically give permission to reveal your identity.
I have created an outline of some of the topics you might want to consider elaborating on in your submission.
NOTE: The website XRAYVSN contains affiliate links and thus receives compensation whenever a purchase through these links is made (at no further cost to you). As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Although these proceeds help keep this site going they do not have any bearing on the reviews of any products I endorse which are from my own honest experiences. Thank you- XRAYVSN
How wonderful that you are doing this! I think you are healing because there is a lot of positive energy coming your way from many of us. It might be woo woo but I think it works.
Your first submitter sounds like she is definitely better off without the drag of her ex husband. Relationships certainly can be complicated!!!
I definitely agree DMB. It really was something special when I read those comments when I posted my story. I hope this submitter will also get similar love. Hopefully others will share their story as well. I found not too many people talk about it even though it is one of the most devastating and unfortunately common deterrents to FIRE.
Wow! I can’t imagine what it must feel like to have to cut your net worth in half and give money to someone who you know did not necessarily contribute to those assets. Even if he does make more money, it’s obvious that you were able to accumulate your wealth by being money savvy and dealing with his constant berating. It is easy to remain bitter in situations like this, and I can relate on a personal level, but I’m so glad you were able to escape and start fresh on your pursuit of FIRE. Thank you for sharing your… Read more »
Thanks Liz for leaving a comment and stopping by. I felt the same way when I read her submission. I am happy that she was able to recover from this situation and still be on her way to FIRE.
Having observed first-hand the effect that divorce has on high-income families who are on a path to FIRE, but still years away, I think this will be a great series. Your divorcee has some good advice for what to consider before getting married. I would add one more tip: don’t focus only on whether you are physically compatible. Go through some kind of financial counseling or at least have some serious conversations with the goal of discovering if you are financially compatible, sharing the same goals and spending/saving habits.
Really enjoyed this post!
Thanks Johanna for the wonderful comment and tip. Very sage advice. Too often relationships are sealed based on physical connection only. This unfortunately is not enough to keep a marriage intact as looks fade and physical conditions change. The best way to be on the FIRE trajectory is to have someone on the same financial page as you said. You can’t have a saver and a spender be together and expect any financial progress (my favorite statement is a colander does not hold water no matter how much you fill it).
XRV, I think this is a terrific series. It combines two topics that people often are afraid to talk about: “money” and “divorce”. With your unique perspective, there is no doubt that you will help others who are in tough marital situations. I would also applaud your interviewing skills. Your ability ask open-ended and thoughtful questions is impressive. Well done!
I really appreciate that DMF. I hope it takes off but of course I am at the mercy of volunteers willing to share their story (anonymously or not). One of the hardest things in my blog was to see if I really wanted to open the door and expose myself to the world with my divorce story and lawsuit post. I totally understand if people want to never rehash that stuff again if they have survived one like I did (and it did bring some painful memories) but the support I received through comments from readers really made me glad… Read more »
Divorce is still very much kept in the dark, so thank you for shedding light on a topic that can be devastating at so many levels. Good to know that your guest is still on her path to FIRE despite this large setback. Sounds like it was truly the best decision, and she’s doing a great job in moving on and preparing financially for the future.
I appreciate the comment and support DVM. I agree despite being such an unfortunately common occurrence it really does not seem to have much press on our types of blogs. It’s understandable as many don’t want to relive that chapter of their life again. I found a huge positive sharing my story and hope every submitter has an equally positive experience. And just knowing that you are likely helping someone from your experience is also very rewarding.
I had someone the other day ask me, if they could give me the #1 secret to wealth, what would it be. I thought about it then went on to recommend to them, “Stay married.”
That really is the best advice possible. Having a stable partner on same financial page as you is your best chance of being well off financially and emotionally. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.
Wow this post cuts really deep and is a great idea. I’m glad someone in the FIRE community is actually using their platform to discuss this big issue. But not only that, allowing others to come on here and talk about their own journey.
Awesome ides Doc! I’m sure this series will help a lot of people. Cheers!
Appreciate the positive support and comment as always. Well keeping fingers crossed that people will submit their story. This submitter got in contact w me after the post and said she loved reading the comments
My brother went through a very ugly divorce. His wife was the ex from hell. It’s like a bottomless pit of never-ending lawyer fees.
I’m sorry your brother had to go through that. I spent over 300k for my divorce and 125k for the frivolous lawsuit my ex put me through. They saw MD and thought big pockets and she had a very unscrupulous lawyer
Very brave of you to write this all down. The post series about divorce and FIRE could definitely be a big help for a lot of people. I sincerely applaud your efforts!
Thank you so much for the positive feedback. This subject really has been barely touched upon even though it is a fairly common occurrence and has significant impact on path to FIRE. Thanks for stopping by
I read your post on divorce and teared up when came to the part about losing your daughter and had to stop for a few minutes.I am glad you have her back. I am a boogle head now and have made a lot of mistakes you have made and survived too. I am Indian and can see how the arranged marriage scenario works[or doesn’t work] I am a Family physician and see numerous scenarios of mental illness,lots of domestic violence.Lack of financial freedom,fear of losing kids keeps a lot of people in bad marriages .I am glad you got out… Read more »
Thank you for that very touching comment. Yeah for me an arranged marriage turned out to be a nightmare sentence. I am sure there are examples of it working but it is no longer a process I trust or prescribe to. I am glad you have survived your mistakes as well and being a boglehead is a great start. You are absolutely correct that what I lost has more than been made up for in my current happiness level, one that I would never have attained if I had stayed married. It is comments like these that keep me motivated… Read more »
[…] I know multiple people financially destroyed by this D. I suggest reading Xrayvsn’s post on this topic for the worst possible scenario. I am recently divorced but was unharmed […]
“Don’t think your spouse will change or grow up, they won’t.” A-M-E-N to that hard learned lesson of mine!!! It took me 10 years after getting divorced to realize and internalize that perfectly stated sentence. I look back on my younger self (married in 1993 after dating 6 weeks)… and wonder “what the heck was I thinking?!?! It’s long past, I have been really very happily remarried for 10 years now to my wife whom I consciously searched for her qualities, her warmth, her financial savvy/aptitude, and her dedication to the marriage and family… all things that my ex NEVER… Read more »
I am glad you found the right one on the 2nd go around. Gives hope to others that once you get burned by marriage does not mean you have to give up on the concept of marriage again.
I too have to maintain minimal contact with my ex because I have to monitor phone conversations she has with my daughter. Another 5 more years and then I can completely cut ties with her.