Author Topic: Divorce & Mustacheyness  (Read 7002 times)

euellgibbons

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Divorce & Mustacheyness
« on: June 06, 2013, 08:25:53 PM »
Hello all, been reading for only a month but already have made some big changes due to the blog  - bike to work every day, cleaned up my diet and lost 10 lbs, increased my 401k contribution by 75% .  I have always been a biker, but good god, why haven't I been biking the 3 miles to work before now? (OMG - I am embarrassed to say that I moved 2 years ago from a house that was a 9 minute walk to work.!!) Unfortunately I am in a 7 year marriage where it will probably end sooner or later. I have made some incredibly stupid financial decisions these past years trying to please my wife &  making decisions without consciousness- bought a new car for my wife (1st new car ever... I drive a'98 toyota) , bought her  bigger house with a pool (arrrggghhh - ... i dont even swim).....but seeing how i adapt & even enjoy a simpler lifestyle, I see that  i probably would be fine in retirement even with giving half of pension & 401k & having to pay alimony. I am 56, and planning to retire in 6 years. Actually not in bad shape financially , no debt other than large mortgage at low interest & some equity & about 40k in 401k, and pension that would pay maybe 1700/month if i retire at 62. And.....with clearer vision now, I see I could save up quite a bit in 6 years.  Not to get into too much complainypants detail - I would just like to hear any experiences from others that really click with MMM's ideas, but arrived late like me, and/or might also be possibly facing the big D problem & trying to figure out the financial aspects.

totoro

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Re: Divorce & Mustacheyness
« Reply #1 on: June 06, 2013, 08:42:12 PM »
Try and work it out first if it is possible.  Counselling is way cheaper than divorce.  If you determine it will end in divorce, start working now to minimize the impact and see a lawyer about this.

euellgibbons

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Re: Divorce & Mustacheyness
« Reply #2 on: June 06, 2013, 09:21:35 PM »
thanks - yes I know & agree. After asking for years, she attended one counseling session, and wouldn't go back. Talked to one attorney 3 months ago & kinda got too depressed to proceed.

LowER

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Re: Divorce & Mustacheyness
« Reply #3 on: June 06, 2013, 09:37:14 PM »
Divorce is a horror show. Financially it's Freddie Krueger. Doing it at this point in your life is retirement roulette. Counseling is highly encouraged.. It's painful, though often extremely gratifying, even if you don't stay together.

I wish you all the best and I feel for you, from the bottom of my heart.....

rugorak

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Re: Divorce & Mustacheyness
« Reply #4 on: June 07, 2013, 08:53:12 AM »
I've been through a divorce but thankfully it was early (just barely over a year being married) so not much to worry about financially. I'll start of with the old joke, "Why is getting a divorce so expensive? Because it is worth it!" For many of us who have gotten divorced it is true. In my case there were almost no assets (2 cars with payments, no house, no kids). But it was still 2k just for the lawyer and court fees. But it was a bad marriage and I am 10x happier now, not to mention so much better off financially. I even ended up with a lot more of the debts than I really should have gotten. Yet I am now debt free now with a decent growing stash. And a much better life (more friends, do more, etc).

That being said divorce isn't always the right choice. Sometimes you really should just put the effort into it and make it work. But from your post it seems that she may not be willing to (and maybe that you don't really want to). Marriage requires work from both sides and anything less will bring problems if not all out failure. I have seen this with my father. His new wife (meaning not my mother) and him are not doing well. He tries and tries but she wants what she wants and doesn't seem to care about making it work. They went to a counselor and after 1 or 2 visits she refused to go back. But the emotional/financial situation has him stuck like a deer in headlights. He is miserable but afraid of the costs and an emotional wreck because he wants it to work. He keeps picking out the 1 good thing in a sea of bad. He sees money as the end all be all instead of a tool towards a better life.

I'd suggest the following:
1. Get some sort of counseling for yourself. This can be professional or just a good friend or family member who can be there for you yet offer objective advice. All of the above works as well.
2. Talk to a lawyer again if you are seriously considering divorce. Basically have them lay out the financial options. There are no guarantees until the paperwork is all signed off. You may be able to buy her out instead of alimony and/or your retirement for example.
3. Think long and hard about your happiness. It may be that divorce will not allow you to retire until 70. But you may be 10x happier. Or maybe not. It could be something else entirely is depressing you. No one but you can figure this out. One question that helped me was "How do you picture your life if you stay with your wife in 5 years time? 10 years?" It helped me see through not wanting to have my marriage fail to see that failing was better than being miserable.
4. At a certain point in time you need to make a decision on what sort of major change you want to make with your life and stick with it. I'm not sure what your relationship with your wife is like but maybe even talk it out with her. It could be divorce, it could be her becoming more stachian. It could be something else entirely. But make a decision and follow through. Based on your post you can't keep going the way you are. Something has to give. And you do not want it to be you (as in your health or mental well being).

I don't envy the road you have to travel (having traveled a similar one before). It will be gut wrenching. But with some hard work and a little luck hopefully you can get to a place where you are at least content with your life if not happy. Best of luck to you!

jjpennyless

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Re: Divorce & Mustacheyness
« Reply #5 on: June 07, 2013, 11:59:21 AM »
My kid's mom and I divorced 8 years ago, and contrary to popular belief, it doesn't have to be a bad experience.  In my experience, most people stay way too long after they know it isn't going to work.  I know we did.  It takes two people who are actually good for each other, not just two good people, to make a marriage worth fighting for.  If you know in your heart of hearts that you don't make each other better people, then it is the courageous (and loving) decision to get on with your separate lives.  In our case, after about 10 years of treading water, trying everything to make it work, 4 different counselors, etc, we separated.  All four of our lives began getting better, little by little, one day at a time, right from that very first day.  But enough about me, I only bring that up because I know you're hearing constant advice to "make it work" and you should know that isn't always the right answer.  A good divorce is incredibly better for all parties involved than a bad marriage. 

If you do end up going that route, there are definitely some best practices for putting yourself in the best financial situation going forward. 

The number one most important one is that no matter what happens, the two of you will be living on the resources that the two of you generate.  Before you get caught up in splitting the pie, you should both focus on making the pie as big as possible.  No matter how well or poorly you are getting along, that objective is easy to agree on as long as you take the time to agree on it.  There are many decisions you have to make about asset sales, taxes, alimony vs. property settlement, amount vs. duration, that affect the size of the combined stash and future stash that you are splitting. Maximize that first, then talk about how to equitably distribute it.  EVERYONE gets that backwards, and it is a huge mistake. 

Number two, which is actually an offshoot of number one, is that any money you give to lawyers is no longer going to either of you.  That means it is always better to sort out each issue yourself than to fight it out in court.  You'll find that even if you do try to fight it out in court, the court first makes you go back and try to sort it yourself, and then makes you mediate it, and then makes you arbitrate it, and after months and thousands, you find that you actually sorted it out yourself anyway.  If you've spent more than 30 minutes on this website, you already know more about how to act in your own financial best interest than anyone you are likely to encounter during this grueling process, and you care about it a whole lot more than they do. 

Number three - If there are issues that you just can't agree on, set them aside.  Don't let one thorny issue prevent you from sorting out the other stuff.  My kid's mom and I did not agree on what state to live in after our divorce.  Pretty big deal, since our choices were 800 miles apart.  Our approach was that we would have to continue to live where we were while we sorted that out anyway, so lets focus on custody, alimony, property settlement, etc, and save the hard one for last.  Small victories build goodwill and make the larger issues easier to get through.  We did spend spend too much time and money on that issue eventually (learning lesson two), but not nearly as much as we would have if we tried to tackle it first. 

Lesson four - this is the most important one for you as an individual in the process.  You situation in the future will be better than you probably estimate it today.  The unknown is scary for you and for her.  Armed with that knowledge, I recommend that you hold out for duration at the expense of volume, even when a present value calculation might lead in the opposite direction.    For instance, if you have the choice of paying alimony for 10 years at what seems to be a huge amount, or lifetime for what seems more manageable, go for the 10 years.  If you are receiving alimony, go for the lifetime.  The reason is that, regardless of state law differences, in practice it is always easier to secure a future increase in amount based on changed financial circumstances than it is to get the duration extended.  In most states, it's impossible to get the duration extended beyond the original agreement.  Plus, the duration can be shorted after the fact by death, cohabitation, or remarriage of the receiver.  So always go for getting it over with as fast as possible, even if that means being broke, or even going into debt for a short while.

Our family (and yes, we are still one family) is living proof that sometimes the two household, co-parenting solution is the dynamic that works best.  She's a great mom, I'm a great dad, we're both great people, but we learned shortly after we got married that we were not good for each other.  That made us unhappy, which compromised our ability to be good for anyone else, including our kids.  Now we're both better people, and everyone else in each of our lives benefits, including each other. 

No matter what you do, whether it is stay married and make it work, or get divorced and make that work, you should get on with it.  When you find yourself saying things like "my marriage will end in divorce sooner or later" you are not doing either one.

Good luck figuring your situation out, and let me know if I can help. 

KulshanGirl

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Re: Divorce & Mustacheyness
« Reply #6 on: June 07, 2013, 12:32:08 PM »
^ jjpennyless needs to send this to MMM as a guest post on the main page, in my opinion.  Having just gone through a split (although we weren't married we do have a child together), that is such important info and wonderful advice.  Thank you for taking the time to write all of that. 

Villanelle

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Re: Divorce & Mustacheyness
« Reply #7 on: June 07, 2013, 01:03:51 PM »
If the writing is on the wall, do it sooner rather than later.  The longer you are married, the higher the alimony will be and probably the larger percentage of your % you will forgo.

DoubleDown

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Re: Divorce & Mustacheyness
« Reply #8 on: June 07, 2013, 03:05:36 PM »
euell,

Congratulations on the positive changes you have already made, and sorry of course to hear about the difficulty with your marriage.

I am also divorced, with two young children, and it was a very difficult and expensive experience. I'll spare you the details unless you want more background, in which case I'll be happy to provide specifics. The long and short of it is it was immensely expensive for me (about $900k total), but I have since climbed back and am now FI (again), close to making the ER jump. So, it is definitely possible.

My suggestions, in addition the good advice already offered:

- Take care of yourself, do what's in your heart

- Arm yourself with knowledge on likely outcomes for where you live (i.e., custody decisions if that's applicable, how assets are divided, does "fault" matter, is alimony generally awarded and for how long, and so on). The more you can learn about divorce laws, customary practices, and case precedent where you live, the better decisions you will be able to make

- If you can make it work, great. But like someone above said, it takes two.

- If you can't make it work, then two basic options:

 1) Go ahead and make the split. If you go this route, keep it out of court and away from attorneys as much as possible. OR,

 2) Consider living parallel lives in the same household or perhaps separate households (in essence, you live your life, she lives hers, yet you remain legally married). This will preserve assets, avoid alimony and formally splitting your pension, etc. I don't know if this would be tolerable or desirable in your situation, but I think it's much more common than many people think**. It may be how you're living right now by "default", and you might be able to arrange your life in a way where you make the mental divorce from her without the legal and financial fallout.

Good luck, and keep us posted!

** I'm not talking about the situation we are all probably familiar with, where two people maintain a long, dead, and loveless marriage, pretty much out of fear of leaving or just plain old  inertia. I'm talking about making an explicit, mental jump (maybe even communicated and agreed openly with your wife???), where you carry on separately as you please, but not go through the formal divorce process in order to preserve your financial health.

euellgibbons

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Re: Divorce & Mustacheyness
« Reply #9 on: June 07, 2013, 03:26:18 PM »
Thanks all, especially Rugorak & JJPennyless for your extended responses.  I have tried to picture where this marriage would be 5 years from now, and I dont see it getting any better unless I just accept that she will just do whatever she wants, and we will never work as a team.  I think what is next for me is going to see a counselor again myself, and also going to consult a lawyer again.  I agree that the best idea is to work things out together, whether that is me dragging her to counseling, or just mediating ourselves. I already have a lasting disrespect for divorce lawyers, both from my previous divorce, and from recent experiences of 2 friends, and agree that ultimately, the judge will end up sending us back to try to agree anyway. I would really like to avoid involving the lawyers. Although I have been reading MMM & Jacob's blogs only recently, I have always kind of been this way anyway. My wife says I am ascetic (obviously not intending as a compliment).  I don't know if she would ever move in that direction, or even agree to make decisions together, although I guess anything is possible. The other thing is she is going to school to become a nurse, and would possibly start nursing school next year. I have no illusions that things would be different just because she would make more money in 2 or 3 years, although she claims that she would contribute financiallyat that time. But I had been thinking that at least she would be more independent then ( and I wouldn't feel as bad about giving up on the marriage).I had considered the financial aspect of this also, in that, although I lose 1/2 my pension & 401k, I possibly wouldn't have to pay alimony as she would be making more than me. But really, who knows if she would get through school, and if I wouldnt go crazy in the meantime. Also, from what I understand, our marriage would be considered a long term marriage at 10 years, which could mean lifetime alimony, as opposed to now, which according to the one lawyer I met with, would probably be for 1/2 the term of our marriage. I think I will give one last try at getting her to counseling, and in the meantime, get some more legal advice. By the way, I can also relate to that "deer in the headlights" feeling, but maybe now I better realize that I have been delaying to avoid pain, when in fact things are getting worse anyway. I appreciate everyone's responses.

euellgibbons

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Re: Divorce & Mustacheyness
« Reply #10 on: June 07, 2013, 03:47:41 PM »
Re: Doubledown's response

 Yes , by default, we have drifted into living separately within the same house.

I get your idea about doing it consciously kinda like Frida Kahlo & Diego Rivera. Before we bought our current house 1.5 years ago, I had actually talked to her buying 2 (small) separate houses. We never really followed up, and instead, ended up going and looking together for one house.

I have considered your idea of separate lives, but staying married. I know most people would probably not advise it. Maybe buying the separate houses ..... I did end up doing that foe 1st wife. She now owns her home with no mortgage.

 The other financial thing is  I do have title to our house separately in my name, with maybe 30k-50k equity, due to down payment being from inheritance. In California, this would stay mine, but maybe I would be better off to give her the house.  Anyway, I am open to it being part of any settlement, especially if we could avoid lawyers. Any thoughts on trading house andmaybe  1/2 401k for keepng my full pension?