What a newly divorced mom should do about her finances

Divorced Mom's Finances

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Currently, I am going through a divorce. I would like to address my question to other divorced women. How can a woman live a low-income life after divorce? I was a stay-at-home mom and typing is my only skill.

Transition to Divorced Finances

Going through a divorce is hard financially and emotionally. Something that helped me a lot was a community college program called New Directions. Most colleges call the program Transitions. The class was offered tuition free. I just needed to go in and talk to the advisor. The class helped me see the skills I have and I'm sure that you have more than typing skills. The program helped me match my skills and interests to possible careers. I had to research several careers and talk to people in these careers. I learned how to get my resume together and prepare for job interviews. There was a lot of self-discovery and esteem building, which is essential to the newly divorced woman. I highly recommend it. Also, if you decide to go back to school (as I did), the class teaches you how to get financial aid. Financial aid can help you pay for college and your rent. So look for a Transitions class in your area. You'll be amazed at the interests and skills that you forgot you had.
T. in Portland, Oregon

College for Divorced Mom

Consider looking into college as a Displaced Homemaker. There are many scholarships and grants available for women who have to now enter the workforce with few marketable skills. Check with your local college, community or 4-year, on what classes they offer online if you are in a rural area or childcare is an issue. Education is accessible, and with advice from the financial aid office, it can be affordable, also.

Search the Web for scholarships. Contrary to popular beliefs, many are available long after the typical spring graduation of High School seniors. I know because I graduated 20 years ago and I am going to start classes in the fall and I'm finding a bunch of scholarships online.

Divorced Mom Needs Financial Help

It isn't easy, but it can be done. I am proof of that. First, swallow your pride and ask for help and apply for all the assistance you can.

With my parent's help, I moved home again for a month and a half (with two kids). I then found a house to rent. I signed up and qualified for HUD housing assistance, food stamps and utility assistance. I also had the benefit of a very small military retirement check and child support. We managed just fine for several months until I finally found a job. We have a better life now than we had before, which I didn't think was possible. It can be done, but the path isn't easy. It does take time to start over.

Mom's Finances Starts With Income

I was also a divorced mom with minimal skills. I went to a temporary agency, took their tests, and signed up for their training programs (which are free). They teach you the skills you need to obtain better employment, while you are working for them. The variety of jobs you'll be assigned to will also help you to diversify your skill base. These temporary agencies offer benefits and some offer daily paychecks. Call around to the various temporary agencies in your area and see what each of them offers. The experience I gained at these agencies eventually allowed me to run my own company.

Ask for Financial Aid

If you have children living with you, the first thing you need to do is make application at your HUD office. They will help you pay a portion of your rent. Also apply at your local Office of Family Support for food stamps to help feed your household. Check with your Medicaid office to see if you are eligible for medical cards for your children. There is a Life Line credit with your phone company that gives a deduction each month on your bill. Call your local Community Action Agency and see if they have a LIHEAP program. This helps with utilities.

If you are not eligible for help from these programs, then look into some of your local social service programs. You can usually sign up for commodities at your local Community Action Agency. There's free and reduced lunches for eligible children at school, and during the summer, there are usually different schools in the area who offer free breakfast and lunch during the weekdays. If you are on regular medications that are not covered by any insurance plan, then you may be eligible to get your medications through the pharmaceutical companies with your doctor's help. Check in your area for low-income medical and dental clinics. Some have their own in-house pharmacy. There is a VisionUSA program that helps with eye exams for people who are employed with no insurance. By all means, don't hesitate to ask for help. You never know unless you ask!

Financial Book

First of all, I'll bet that typing is not your only skill. As a stay-at-home mother, you've no doubt developed many other skills, including cooking, cleaning, child-care, and driving. All of these are potential money-makers. Much more depends on your organizational and entrepreneurial skills. Can you develop a small business typing papers for students or small businesses? Can you offer childcare or other services? Can you work these services into a resume for a more conventional job? Read the job skill book What Color Is Your Parachute? for more ideas on how to sell yourself and the skills you've developed as a mother and wife. As a former job skills counselor and divorced single mother, I can assure you that how you see yourself and what you are willing to do to learn is as important as what skills you now possess.

Daycare for Divorced Mom

I was in your situation too. I did find a perfect job for me and the income isn't too terrible! I now run a daycare in my home. There is always a need, and it allows me to still be a stay-at-home mom. I can write off items when I do improvements to the home and I can even write off toys and games! I did this for a while in my apartment, so it can be done where ever you may live.

Forward Thinking Divorced Finances

Typing is not your only skill. You've managed a household. You can cook, clean, iron, etc. You have a skill level that can help you if your attitude is right. It's hard to remain a stay-at-home mom, but it can be done. If you have a computer, you can type medical transcripts, do medical billing, etc. at home. If you have a phone, you can become a travel agent and work at home. You can provide childcare for neighbors. You need to assess your potential, your true skill level, and move forward.

If your children are old enough for you to work outside the home, you can work as a secretary for a school district, a library aide, a kitchen worker, etc. Jobs through a school district are relatively easy to obtain and have flexible daytime hours and medical benefits with summers off. You may end up finding a new career.

Divorced Finances Require Adjustment

Here are my suggestions:

  1. Make sure "child support" is worded properly in the divorce decree. In my state, "support for the children" does not mean the same thing as "child support," and therefore, it was not enforceable. You get only one chance. You can't change a divorce decree once the judge signs it. Make sure you have a good divorce attorney, not just a good attorney.
  2. You state you were a stay-at-home mom and have typing skills. You might want to think about getting a job as a clerical worker at a state university or community college. The benefits are generally wonderful, even though the pay might not be the greatest. Additionally, there is usually reduced fee childcare and discounts on tuition. You might want to consider upgrading your job skills by taking classes part-time.
  3. If you are looking for a job, make sure you don't just look at the dollar per hour figure. Sometimes, it is better to take a lower-paying job that has good health, dental and other benefits than a higher paying job that does not offer those things.
  4. Think about what is really important. Of course, a person needs money to survive, but make sure you separate your "wants" from your "needs."
  5. You might have to re-think your thinking. Instead of paying someone to fix something around the house or on the car, you might have to do it yourself. There are wonderful resources online, at the library, and at the community college.
  6. I'd suggest not having bills on automatic debit so that you have more control. Many, if not most, custodial parents do not receive child support in full or on a timely basis and the enforcement agencies are backed up. While it's always good to timely pay bills, it's not good at all to have overdraft charges because the support check was five weeks late. It takes time to get things off automatic debit.
  7. Avoid pay day advance stores! While it might seem like a quick fix, in my experience, it is nothing but a sinking black hole to get out of. Avoid it at all costs!
  8. Re-think your cooking and eating habits. People survived the Depression. We can too. A bowl of potato soup is very hearty and usually the ingredients are on hand. Make your own bread.
  9. I worked 75-hour weeks to pay for the children's prescriptions for two years. While I could buy the prescriptions, there was a price to pay. Make sure you are working two jobs for the right reasons.

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Type a Divorced Solution

Although I am not a divorced woman, I do have a suggestion for you to put your typing skill to work. I have a Master's degree but have never learned how to "properly" type. I think this is common with my generation (I am 30). As a college bound high school student, I was encouraged to take extra science courses not typing. You would be surprised at how many students would be willing to pay someone to type and/or proofread their papers. If you don't already have a computer, I would suggest getting an inexpensive one.

Roommate Helps Finances

I have been separated for four years now. When my husband first left, I was working part time at a convenience store and in college part time. Also, we had five children at home. I didn't get any support from him for over two years, and even now it is sporadic. By the grace of God, I have been able to stay in our family home and make ends meet.

One of the first things I did was find a roommate with whom to share expenses. It was a plus that she was a single mom too and we could trade childcare.

I now have only two children at home and I homeschool. I find various ways to make ends meet and still be there for my kids. One way is I help the elderly or disabled stay in their homes by cleaning their houses, running errands, or making minor repairs.

There is an organization I have recently become aware of that helps link single moms with other single moms across the US. Their website is www.co-abode.com. I also have an online support group for single parents who homeschool, and you can find out more about it on our site angelfire.com/mo2/singlehomeschoolers.

Divorced Mom Success Story

I am a divorced mother of three. I've been divorced for eight years now. When I knew my marriage was over, I too was a stay-at-home mom. My only skill was typing as well. I took up housecleaning, which is very lucrative and flexible. I took a free computer course and got a job at a college, purchased a townhouse, and worked six days a week. I worked full time five days per week, and then on Saturdays, I'd clean one or two houses.

On payday, I had enough money to take my kids to McDonalds for dinner. We thought it was a real treat. On the weekend once a month, we'd go to the drive-in, which is much cheaper than the movies. We'd make microwave popcorn and buy candy at Walgreens. We have great memories!

My children are grown, and I'm on my fourth house. Just keep plugging along. You'll amaze yourself at what you can accomplish alone. In my case, I accomplished more goals and dreams as a single person than I ever thought possible. Women are amazing creatures. You can become another success story. Whatever you want in life, go get!
Susan in Phoenix

Attitude Important for Mom

As part of your settlement, can you negotiate some money for job training? Typing is a good start, but if you get training in computer skills, you will be much more marketable.

I was divorced twenty years ago. I had two small children and had just relocated to a new town. I had no job, having also been a stay-at-home mom. I had some tough years, but now I have a good job and own my own house. My sons (now grown) have both been college-educated. You can do it, too! Stay positive, and always be grateful for everything you have. Your attitude will make or break you.

Get The Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn and keep reading the The Dollar Stretcher. Make a commitment to cut expenses every way you can. Most people can live much more simply than they do, and the bonus is that it's often a happier lifestyle. Decide to enjoy your cost-cutting strategies and don't allow yourself to feel deprived. Your children will eventually pick up on your attitude. My ex-husband is rich, but guess who my kids admire?

Take the Next Step

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