What’s a man to do?
Before I had gotten divorced I had bought your books and was near positioning myself and my then wife for a retirement like yours by the time I was 50… and then….. yes, drumroll…. my wife of 23 years and companion of 28 years filed for divorce. The first thing that came out of her mouth was, “I am getting our new house (the one we just built) and taking you for everything you’ve got.
WOW. What a blow. Now. You probably are thinking, “Ok, buddy what did you do that caused this wonderful stay-at-home mom of over 20 years to go such drastic measures.” My answer? NOTHING. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.
I was an honest, dependable, and faithful husband and a good father. I had always provided and gave everything to my wife and family. The only thing I could determine was that people DO change and the person you may have met 28 years ago, will NOT be the same person 28 years later be that good or bad. In my case, it was for the bad.
Divorce pounded retirement savings
So what happened? I think she saw dollar signs. She got greedy. She knew that as a stay-at-home mom with no more than a high school education she could take me to the bank. And take me to the bank she did.
Over the course of our 23 year marriage, we were never rich because we only had one income but through consistent saving and investing I had a net worth of around $500,000 dollars at 46. About $200,000 in home equity and $300,000 in savings and investments. I was debt free until we built our new house but I was on track to pay that off in 4 more years and by the time I was 50. By that time I estimated we would have more than $500,000 in savings and investments and probably more like $750,000.
Where I find myself now
What happened was this. She filed for divorce and it became final at the bottom of the stock and real estate markets. So there went half the net worth.
Of the remaining, to get out of alimony I had to increase the percentage that she walked away with from 50% to 80%. Two lawyers advised me to do that. So I ended up with 20% of the remaining half that was left. Then I was stuck with any debt that was remaining and since I hate debt I took my 20% and paid off that debt.
So… the end result? At 46 I had an accumulated net worth of a half a million dollars and at 47 I had a net worth of zero and was destined to pay child support for at least the next 4 years.
This situations shattered everything I had been working and planning for for 30 YEARS. THIRTY YEARS!
Now I am 50 and am coming to the end of the child support but, of course, my ex is fighting that by going to the department of child services to try to milk even more out of me. What does she have to complain about?
She took what she got out of our divorce and bought a 20 acre piece of property with 2 houses on it, one that she and her new husband rent out for extra income and one they live in and paid cash for it. Gee. I wonder where she got that from?
Where do I go from here?
Here’s my point. Or rather my question. I am 50. Just now starting to save for retirement AGAIN and am looking at a shaky social security in my future. Whereas in the past I was planning on NOT expecting social security and as you had mentioned for you that it would be gravy.
For me, now, it is not gravy. It will be my primary means of income. And retire early? Yeah right.
I can’t replace 30 years of work just like that.
But I have been trying to remain positive and hopeful. I have even been looking into things like trying to teach English as a second language in some of these countries so I can start living my life one way or the other…. even if I have to keep working in these countries. Do you know anything about these programs?
Beside this working idea, do you have any suggestions for me? What I can do so that I don’t have to wait till I’m half dead to retire? Like at 62 or 65, in which case I don’t know even know if social security will be there for me or not and if it is if they will cut it down so far that to live on it will put you WAY below the poverty line?
Any suggestions you have will be appreciated.
Billy and I are sorry for your loss and all the pain and shock that had to have put you through. There just aren’t enough words to say to you about this situation, but one thing is for certain: you are here now and want to move forward.
Thank you for taking the time to write to us and to share your circumstances.
We would like to congratulate you on your positive attitude – your self-reliance and your willingness to be flexible to create a future that is workable and rewarding for you.
How retirement appears
Sometimes retirement doesn’t come in a neat package – it can be thrust upon us in the disguise of uncomfortable circumstances. This is what has happened to you and we invite you to look at this as a great opportunity to reinvent yourself.
We have a friend who found himself in similar circumstances and a few short years later, he is the happiest he has ever been. It “seemed” that everything was taken away, but actually, he was given a ticket to his freedom.
You may be in a much better place in only a couple of years, too.
Let’s take a look at some of your questions and some of our suggestions on how to make the most of this state of affairs where you are.
You asked about teaching English as a second language.
My personal experience with this was completely volunteer. I taught children of various ages at their school, in my home and in a public restaurant.
However, opportunities to learn English are in high demand as oftentimes men and women in business suits approached me and ask me for lessons. And we hear from our Readers who themselves are teaching English in foreign countries that it is a solid opportunity.
While I have no personal experience in making money teaching English, my understanding is the best places to teach would be in Japan, Taiwan or Korea. Perhaps even China. We know several people who have done this and were able to save quite a bit of money to pay off debt or to put towards retirement. In these cases, they were given lodging and a salary. These days you can make over $100k tax free if you work overseas.
Also, you mentioned in another email that you are a computer programmer of sorts – you might consider teaching math – which is also in great demand. If you don’t want to move overseas, you can teach math online from anywhere by being a digital nomad.
Online tutoring or online jobs
On another track, you might consider online tutoring which would give you the opportunity to be “anywhere” and still keep a commitment to teaching or other sorts of income opportunities such as a variety of online jobs.
Take a look at our Retirement Jobs Page which offers many opportunities to be a consultant, to freelance, work abroad, get paid for volunteering or even offer you the ability to mix adventure and travel with receiving a paycheck. If you are looking to be a Digital Nomad, this could work for you.
Any of these ideas could be a jumping off place for you and once you begin to delve into it, doors will open. This would only the beginning.
As we demonstrate in our own lifestyle and share in our books what you pay for housing is one of the biggest capital outlays in any household. You mentioned that you have a 38 foot RV set up at your brother’s that will only cost you $100 a month, so you obviously “get” this part of the equation.
However, if you would like to undertake a journey and see other countries or other States within the U.S. and mix that with being an online employee/entrepreneur you might try house sitting. There are long-term house sits literally all over the world where your lodging would be practically free. Whether you would like to spend time in San Francisco, Tucson, in the wine country of Napa Valley, in a beach town in Costa Rica, in the mountains of Tuscany, Colonial cities in Mexico or Guatemala, in London, Spain or France, house sitting gives you that opportunity to get out of the rut of daily existence and add some spice to your life.
Meet the locals, walk to museums, buy your food at farmer’s markets and neighborhood bakeries – these experiences will open your mind and your life.
Depending on how much travel you want to do in your new life, costs for transportation might be something to consider. If you become car-free this would be just one more monthly expense you can free yourself from. Take a look at our Lifestyle Page and find links to car-fee cities and books on how to live well without owning a car. We have been Car-free since 2009 and don’t miss our vehicle in any way. The money you save on repairs, maintenance, fuel, parking, etc. can be used to hire a taxi or private driver (especially in foreign countries) or take the subway, ride a bike or even do RideShare, Uber, Lyft or rent a car whenever necessary.
Go paperless, get free
In preparation for any of these new changes of travel, adventure and self re-invention, get your communication and methods of paying bills digitalized. Go paperless as soon as possible. This will free you up immeasurably and in ways you might not have considered.
To be honest with you, this could be one of the most exciting times of your life. While the circumstances that brought you here were painful and confusing – perhaps even unjust – what you do with your life from here on end is up to you.
I hope you find these suggestions to be useful. Please feel free to write any time.
We wish you the best of luck.
Akaisha and Billy