This is one of those “I wish I knew about this ahead of time” blogs. The financial blows of a divorced dad become the financial woes of the stepmom. For a lot of women, finances aren’t initially a part of the landscape when dating a man with children- the thought may have never crossed her mind. As the relationship progresses, however the reality of child support payments and possible spousal support becomes a reality. Maybe even a scary reality. It may start with: how do you afford the wedding of your dreams with a second timer (or maybe third)? Then consider this: child support for several more years (possibly into the first few years of post secondary education), while paying a mortgage and paying the bills, added to buying diapers and supporting a wife while she collects EI on mat leave. How do you afford the extra curricular activities of your own children as they grow up and develop interests in art, music, ballet classes or hockey??
I often hear about the financial stressors of second time families. Stepmoms share stories about barely making ends meet but that stepkids get to go to an expensive hockey school during the summer because of the court order on splitting costs. Not to mention there may also be legal bills from the previous court proceedings and some fathers are still battling it out in the courts to fight for the custody of children or other issues.
In reality many divorced dads don’t have the finances to buy or keep their own home or save for retirement. They are starting from scratch. More often than not the matrimonial home ends up on the cutting block as part of the negotiations. Further down the road planning for retirement takes a turn down a different route. Because when retirement does happen most of that pension or the RRSPs and investments are split. Truth be told starting over again with marriage, new children and mortgage is tough. In my own situation, my husband was older than me and on the verge of retirement as we were planning our wedding. My husband’s friends and colleagues were finished paying their mortgages, travelling, buying toys and enjoying the free life of an empty nester. No kids no mortgage. They are planning grandchildren. I can’t help but wonder if he’s a bit jealous of them. I think I might be! All joking aside those are really serious issues. There are ex wives who rely heavily on those child support payments. And sometimes it may be their only source of income.
Financial planning is challenging at the best of times. Heck saving is challenging.
Statistics show that financial issues are at the root of reasons for getting a divorce. Most people are in over their heads even in first time families. I’m using the advice of Gail Vaz-Oxlade. In one of her posts on her Facebook page she said that “talking about money is harder than talking about sex, religion, politics and even death”. It is a taboo topic and usually kept secret. So discussions on spending habits with your intended often do not happen prior to the big day. Gail is a financial guru in Canada who has written plenty of books, articles and has two TV shows (’Til Debt Due Us Part and Princess). She is also a stepmom. She gets this. She suggests the best way to tackle the problem is to have an open dialogue of who owes what and to whom with interest rates, tracking spending (yes that trip to Starbucks counts as does that purchase of the “ Us” magazine) for a few days, and write out what you have to pay out each month (cell phones, internet, utilities, food, recreational activities, child support, spousal support, insurance, car maintenance etc) and come up with a plan of attack. Pay off the credit card with the highest interest rate first. Another approach may be to pay off the debt with the smallest balance first, and work your way up. Slay the smallest dragon first so to speak. And sometimes if you go to your financial institution they may help you find an account which has lower fees. You may also be able to negotiate a payment plan with some of your credit card and utility companies. If you need more help google your local resources for money mentorship type programs. Or check out Gail’s website or books. Best wishes for smooth sailing!