Do you have a Plan B?

1 Jun

I imagine that a few of my regular readers are going to write back after reading and tell me what a Debbie Downer this post is and how they will never ever deal with anything that I am about to describe. To you I say goodie gumdrops and come back another day; as for me I have always been a realist and I firmly believe that shit happens. Shit not only happens it happens when you least expect it, so always have at least a Plan B and possibly a Plan C.

Ladies, we all like to believe that not only will we find Mr. or Mrs. Right; but that once we find our soul mate and partner that we will be happy until one of us checks out of Planet Earth. It’s a lovely thought but in America if you are a heterosexual married couple, the odds are you will probably divorce far sooner than one of you passes on.

I have written before about how in the past several years I have watched several good friends go through divorces and in all but one situation the women were on the losing end of the stick when it came to money. It’s no coincidence that the only one that didn’t get totally fucked was also the only one who had not been a SAHM (stay at home Mom), ladies I have to say it once and for all staying at home with the kids as a full time choice with no plan to ever work for cash is a bad idea.

Look, when you are in love and happy you are playing on the same team yet the moment you decide to end the relationship especially if you decide to end it…guess what? You are not friends, it’s a dog eat dog world. I have seen in most cases (there is a current exception) most of these loving Dad’s get real tight with the money and even those who willingly pay their child support its still a shock for Mom. Why? In many cases child support is not going to cover the entire cost of taking care of the child because the courts figure both parents will be providing and that includes providing money. Sure you can get a job but the reality is for most women, even highly intelligent and amazing women, if you haven’t worked in a number of years the odds that you will step back into the world of paying work and earn enough to support yourself and your share of financial support for the kids is really quite slim. It was already slim before the economic downturn and now it’s virtually impossible.

Many women and I have some in my life currently dealing with this instead end up jumping into new relationships also known as the rebound because well, having a man around can be useful from an economic point of view. I know…in perfect world no woman would ever get together with a new guy and think money train. Ideally not, but it happens. Or else I have seen some amazing women have to resort to public assistance which sadly does not offer enough to actually live off of; it’s a fucked up existence. I have a friend who gets less than $20 a month for food stamps for her and her kid because the powers to be consider her child support adequate. It’s a good thing this Mama lives in subsidized housing or else she and her child would be homeless. I have known her 3 years now and she has been looking for work about that long, its rough out there ladies.

Just today it was announced Al and Tipper Gore are splitting after 40 years of marriage. Think about that, 40 fucking years and they decide to part ways. So if you think it can’t happen to you think again. People change, shit happens and ladies a good Plan B is a great thing. Am I saying have a secret bank account? No, but it is nice to have something in your name and I don’t mean being an authorized user on an account. A dear friend of mine learned that after 14 years of marriage she had no credit, see her hubby had handled the cash and while she had a hand in paying bills it turned out everything was in his name. In the end when the divorce was finalized she actually ended up having to sell the car he bought her, this woman had been a loving and devoted wife and SAHM. Turns out had she had a card or two in her name and maybe a little cash of her own, her post married life would have been a lot easier. Thankfully she is establishing her own credit life but it took having her Mom co-sign at 35 to get her a car. This is a woman who I remember telling me her job was her kids and hubby, those kids are still her job but now she hustles nights working to keep bread on the table since Papa’s child support doesn’t even pay her rent.

Upon divorcing women are often thrust into poverty, this is a proven fact not the ranting of a woman with an axe to grind. I am also not saying you must abandon your kids to daycare 40+ hours a week in order to have a Plan B but the reality is as the kids get older it is possible to do something that allows you to earn cash, create your own business, etc. Just do something! The thing is especially for women of a certain age, it’s not always about your honey and you parting ways. People get sick and savings get depleted and your honey can die. This happened to my Grandmother, she was not a SAHM in fact she and my grandfather were solidly middle class, they did all they were supposed to, to prepare for retirement. Unfortunately my Gramps was diagnosed with brain cancer in his 50’s and despite what the insurance did cover there was a lot they did not cover. In the end he died and my Grandma had her life savings wiped out, all she had after his death was the house, thankfully she was able to hold onto that after losing him and all their savings. Thanks to the fact she had been working she was able to maintain her lifestyle granted it was far more scaled back but unlike some she was able to provide for herself until she retired. Also because she lived longer than my Grandpa and had worked she was able to draw her own Social Security benefits that paid more than my Grandfather’s benefits. (Note: if you don’t work you are not earning Social Security benefits, granted it probably won’t exist when we retire but still, the world of paid work allows you to theoretically earn something towards your retirement)

I have seen one too many older women lose a partner too early and be plunged into complete poverty after his death. I actually met a dear friend this way; she was renting out rooms in her apartment to survive. She had outlived her husband there was not adequate insurance to provide for her needs so she lived a good 20+ years after he passed away but she spent them in poverty.

Ladies, have a Plan B, if nothing else for your own piece of mind. Love is grand but shit also happens and I don’t know about you but I don’t want to be holding that bag.

11 Responses to “Do you have a Plan B?”

  1. Denisha June 1, 2010 at 7:13 pm #

    Valuable post! I am just now at 29 yrs old getting my finances and insurance together. Have not re-married (yet) but the stories of other moms struggling after a divorce keeps me determined to get things squared away and to stay on it even when I do find Mr. Right. Thankfully, there are ways to prevent most of the things SAHMs endure after a divorce but it’s not talked about. I had to read several personal finance books written by women to know about these options.

    Long-term care is one thing I worry about. No one knows what illness they may have but we know someone who had to deal with the huge health bills after their loved one passed away. Still researching my options as far as that is concerned. Ok, I’m leaving your blog 🙂 for now.

  2. Danielle June 2, 2010 at 7:43 am #

    I had a very loose plan B. Thank God I have a good family. I didn’t stay home but I took care of his things before I took care of mine. Stupid, stupid of me. I should have planned mt life out better before I blurted out I want a divorce. I didn’t make out too bad tho I just should have planned better. I know I won’t put myself in this kind of position ever again in life. And I will teach my kids especially my daughter to do the same. Take care of yourself first and the rest will follow suit. Not everyone has your best interest at heart. And when they are bitter not so much.

  3. TLS June 2, 2010 at 10:35 am #

    If anyone thinks you’re not spot on, I just want to add that SAHMs get screwed by the system even if their divorces are amiable. I remember realizing that all the work I’d done on the homefront wasn’t valued by our society at all. I had no credit and no recent “work” history as far as banks were concerned. I was also temporarily disabled.

    Luckily, my then-husband let me apply for credit cards using our joint incomes before our divorce was final. Luckily, my former employer let me work short shifts (all I was capable of) to bring in a trickle of money. But here’s the sad fact: if my father hadn’t died and left me his relatively new 4×4 truck, I wouldn’t have a house now–selling it provided the down payment for the run-down home I’ve improved over the years with sweat (lots of it!) equity. If I ever made it out of poverty on my own, it would have been years longer than it’s taken (I remarried after six years). It’s hard to make it out of poverty on one income in Maine. I’d had a plan to rent part of the house as an apartment once it was fixed up, but I didn’t see any big windfall in my future.

    So ditto to everything you said: both partners should have credit cards in each of their names, bills should be paid half in one name, half in the other. And here’s something I just learned recently (despite my earlier experience!): if you start a business with someone, make sure you’re BOTH drawing salaries. Only way you’ll both get Social Security credit for your work. (My current husband and I started our business in his name, with a salary draw in his name. Can’t believe I didn’t pick up on that one sooner!). It’s not about love and trust: it’s about being responsible.

  4. D. Franklin June 2, 2010 at 2:20 pm #

    I have to agree with you on your post there. We should all have a plan B when it comes to life and finances alike. My wife and I speak about stay at home moms all the time and how that can be a disservice to them later in life. In our situation my wife and I can live on just my salary alone, but we choose not to do that. So yes having another plan besides the main one can be helpful and you will appreciate yourself for it.

  5. Kit (Keep It Trill) June 2, 2010 at 6:03 pm #

    Yeah, I’ve known women hurt big time when this happened. One was a relative. Her husband helped her get a small townhouse, but that was it. She couldn’t even afford a car to get the kids around or grocery shop for a long time, and then that was a used one that had problems. Meanwhile the father rebuilt his life quickly and is living large.

    The thing is, he had begged her for years to finish her education and work, and he’d pay for it. But no, she was content to sit at home all day. Then when he got bored with her increasingly large azz and split, she couldn’t understand why. It was so clear to me then – he’d outgrown her, and it was her damn fault b/c she wouldn’t keep up with the world. Sad but true. Couples need more to talk about than the children.

  6. Chi-Chi June 2, 2010 at 7:57 pm #

    It’s very true that every woman needs a Plan B . . . even if marriage doesn’t end in divorce. Just for peace of mind. But I have to be honest: I find it appalling the situation most SAHMs face when they get divorced. It speaks to how undervalued the work of homemaking and raising kids is. It’s amazing that if a mother leaves her kids to work taking care of other kids, the work is valuable and deserves compensation. If she stays home taking care of her own kids then it’s not worth much. I don’t really get it. But that’s the way it works, it seems. Working out a Plan B can be a daunting task and all you can hope is that in the face of a divorce, the husband will give the wife a minute to get herself together. I know if I get a divorce now, master’s degree and all, I will need some time to get my certification in order and secure a job. I haven’t worked in some years and in my field, certification requirements seem to change every 15 minutes. And in this economy, who knows how long it will take to get it together? And realistically, there’s no way to keep it together while a full-time SAHM and very little opportunity to make part-time work all that profitable. So yeah, it definitely is a concern of mine but I’m grateful that I’ve found a way to keep my pinky toe in the water, have my own (little but not secret) account, and pay some things in my name. It feels good to have that little bit of security. I also take the opportunity to bring awareness to the fact that work that is traditionally female dominated (teaching, childcare) is still so incredibly undervalued in this society even though it is perhaps some of the *most* important work.

  7. kayem17 June 3, 2010 at 12:14 am #

    I am a SAHM and have been one off and on since my first child was born 9 years ago. I realize that probably places me in a vulnerable position professionally and financially, but that’s not my concern. My primary concern is what is best for my family.

    When I worked full time as a teacher with two small kids and a husband traveling regularly, their behavior was off the hook and both of us were too busy to deal with it. Although my kids had both parents living in the same household, they were at a great disadvantage because neither of us was truly available for them.

    As a former educator, I can tell you that many minority children find themselves in this position and they struggle as a result. When everyone is “busy,” it’s hard to make sure Jr. studied for the upcoming test or Sally turned in her permission slip for the field trip or the note in the planner about Sally’s talking in class got addressed. Meanwhile, the majority kids’ parents are at the school, involved in the PTO, making sure Buffy gets the “right” teacher and takes advantage of every opportunity the school thinks about offering.

    I want that for my kids. I want them to be able to compete with the Buffys of the world, so I sacrifice today.

    As a result, my family is my plan A, B, & C. Besides only God knows if I’ll need another plan, and I trust Him to have it prepared for me.

    “For I know the plans I have for you, declared the Lord, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope for your future.” Jeremiah 29:11

    • TLS June 3, 2010 at 12:47 pm #

      You and your family are better for your sacrifices. There’s no doubt kids need parents to be present and involved. What bothered me when I was the person doing the important work of family-building/child-rearing at home was that that work has no tangible value in our economy. You and your husband are working together to raise a family; keep the paycheck in his name, but put the bills and credit cards in yours. It won’t get you Social Security benefits in your old age, but it might help you buy a car if you ever need to.

      I know I’m going on too long and BGIM pretty much said it all, but I want to share one more thing. When I was going through my divorce, a Catholic friend of mine offered to do a Novena (daily prayer) for me that I would be all right financially. I’m not a very materialistic person and have always been willing to work hard to pay my bills, so I thanked her for the kind thought but not to worry: I’d get a job and everything would be fine. Then I was injured and basically couldn’t work. Eventually, it all worked out, but now I think that Novena was a pretty good idea!

  8. hiasakite June 11, 2010 at 11:26 pm #

    its economic warfare against women. Raising the next generation – which is required unless you want the human race to be wiped out – should have market value. So a SAHM or dad should get paid for the work of raising kids.

  9. Asada June 19, 2010 at 3:23 pm #

    I wish more women had ppl like you in thier lives.

    Just by looking at divorce rates and poverty, no woman should have more children than she knows she could provide for if she had NO HELP at all.

    Men die, or divorce, or cheat, or do something and just can’t help women with the kids.

    That means, most women would be better off with NO children or ONE child. If she chooses to have a MAX of two, she needs to have significant savings or space them VERY far apart.

    More women should look into pre-nups!!

  10. ali June 25, 2010 at 4:04 pm #

    Well said Asada. This right here,

    More women should look into pre-nups!!

    Exactly!

    This is an excellent post. Too many women “sacrifice” themselves for the sake of others (the martyr syndrome) and when the divorce comes around…they have no way to take care of the kids.

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