Is retirement possible, post-divorce?

Making the case for a new career

In my last article, I talked about how women facing divorce also must face the new reality of budgeting. It can be scary at first, but there’s a reassuring methodology to the process, and once you get good at it (trust me, you will), it’s empowering. It helps you take a nice, big step toward post-divorce happiness (trust me, it exists).

This article is a follow-on to that one. Because budgeting is all about planning how you’ll spend your money in the future.

But what if that money… starts to go away?


That’s one of the realities of divorce. Spousal maintenance, a.k.a. alimony, is not some nonstop fountain of wealth. Often, a divorce settlement is crafted so that the amount you receive is reduced, year after year. Until, eventually, it goes away entirely.

So what do you do?

The known unknowns

First things first. For the cases I handle, the woman is typically the “out-spouse.” That is, it was the husband who was the primary income-earner during the marriage. Which is why the prospect of divorce, from a strictly financial perspective, is so much scarier for women than for men.

If the husband has a good-paying job, he’ll still have it. If he loses it, he can get another.

But what about you? What if you’ve been, primarily, a stay-at-home mom? How can you make your income go up, when the spousal maintenance will likely go down?

(You can see why this was too big of a topic to address within the context of the previous “budgeting” article.)

Let’s start with your age. If you’re 60 when you’re facing divorce, you’re already close to retirement age. So the spousal maintenance may well tide you over until such time that you can begin tapping into the retirement funds that you have and/or begin receiving Social Security benefits.

But if you’re in your thirties, forties, or even your fifties, it’s a whole different ball game. And that’s what I’d like to discuss here.

Back to school

I know a woman (not a client of mine) who got three years’ worth of spousal maintenance, that dropped in value each year. She effectively sat on her hands while it dwindled, working a low-wage job that she ended up stuck in.

You don’t want to do that.

Wouldn’t it be better if you could increase your income? What if you could land a higher-paying job?

You can—if you have the proper education or training.

College, of course, costs money. As do, to a lesser extent, online training programs, training sites like LinkedIn Learning, Udemy, and so on. So if you’re going to get the most spousal maintenance in the first years post-divorce, use it wisely.

And here’s a silver lining: Judges like it when they see a woman who’s got a plan to get back on her feet and provide for herself. They’re far more likely to approve a spousal-maintenance plan that includes payment for education or job training.

And boy is this one area where your attorney and I march together in lockstep. I help them craft a plan that would defray the costs of education, and arm them with a compelling argument to present on your behalf. Everyone wins.

Think about that for a minute. Imagine you—Future You—who’s completely comfortable with budgeting. Who has, say, a new degree under her belt. Who’s earning good money, on her own, and is justifiably proud of it.

That’s a place you want to be.