“I survived a divorce and thrived financially”
Janet McCauley, 40 // Taber, Alta.
I still remember that day in 2006 when I walked out on my husband of 12 years. It feels like it was yesterday. We really had zero intention of divorcing but it all happened so fast. We had an enormous argument and I knew I had to get out of the relationship right away. That night, I left with $300 to my name and a duffel bag full of my clothes and never looked back.
At the time, I was on medical leave, receiving minimal employment insurance payments and was flat broke. We had been absolutely stupid with money throughout our whole relationship. So even though we had two good incomes and no kids, we were impulse shoppers, spending on clothes, electronics and eating out. We never bought our own home, always had consumer debt and never planned for the future. But this was grow-up time for me. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I was 33, my husband and I had done nothing with our lives and I had nothing to show for all my hard work—no investments, no house, no car.
The bad news was everything was in my name because my husband had terrible credit. The first thing I had to do was start paying off the $10,000 in consumer debt for which I was now responsible. The only job I could find was as a part-time bank teller but as my health improved I started working part time at Walmart. I got a nasty basement apartment for $420 a month and lived there for four years.
For the first two years I lived bare-bones and took no vacations, just the odd drive to the country with my sister. That meant no movies, no TV, no cable, and no eating out. I really wanted to be out of debt and eventually own my own home. After almost three years my debts were paid off and I started saving for a down payment.
If you have no debt, the whole world is open to you. It’s very motivating. Last year, after five years of paying down debt and saving, I bought a house with my sister for $151,000. We rolled up our sleeves and renovated the 100-year-old home. Today it’s worth close to $240,000.
The key to succeeding after a nasty divorce is to not be afraid to live small. It will allow you to get your financial house in order. If you have kids they can share a room—it won’t kill them. Keep an emergency fund, especially if like me, your income varies from month to month. And make sure you talk about finances with any potential mate. Having common financial goals and a plan on how you’ll get there is so important to success in a relationship. Otherwise, you’ll just be drifting in the wind and will regret your failure to plan as you get older.
More from the “Making it Happen” series: