A man is not a financial plan.
I learned the truth of that maxim 25 years ago, when my (rather short-lived) marriage ended. It had lasted four years.
I felt like the black sheep of the family when it happened because, back in the early 1990s, it still wasn’t really ‘acceptable’ to get a divorce. Whereas now, some 50,000 marriages call it a day every year in Australia.
We were both ridiculously young – I was 22 when we married – and so not on the same page in so many ways.
I recognise I was insecure – emotionally and financially. Growing up, what we kids lacked in material ‘stuff’ was made up for in love and support. I’d learned to be very canny with money, but I didn’t want to live thriftily forever, worrying about the next bill.
I wanted to ‘get ahead’ and although I was working and intended to keep pursuing my career and bring in my own income, I had this deep-seated belief that a husband would help take care of me financially: that only together, we would get this great life with our own house.
I’ve come to believe women are hardwired for financial security. We thrive when we have clarity and a sense of control, and when we have that, certainty and confidence follow. It took some serious life lessons to gain that perspective and undoubtedly influenced my change in career, becoming a financial adviser a decade ago.
I didn’t believe in myself back then. I didn’t believe I could stand on my own two feet without a man, this man, by my side. When push came to shove, though, I could.
Four actions proved invaluable:
Build an ’emergency fund’.
The first was having an ‘emergency fund’.
Back then, I managed the money and could put a little away every week ‘just in case’ we had an unexpected big bill. It was a hangover from growing up in a household where money was always tight.
I had no idea that it would enable me to take the next step – to not put up with bad behaviour anymore and to have the cash to pay a bond and a couple of weeks’ rent.