A Story About Paying Off Debt and the Obstacles Along the Way

Finances After 40 #1: Life Settles Down After Divorce (Abigail's Story)



Welcome to the Finances After 40 series! 


This is the first of what I hope will be many posts featuring the stories of women 40 years and older. The financial (and related) issues that women in this age bracket face are somewhat unique, but I think they often get overlooked. The goal of this series is to contribute to a conversation about finances after 40 - and based on the responses I received when I first mentioned this series on Twitter, it seems like other people want to have this conversation, too. 

The first Finances After 40 story comes from Abigail Perry, a 40-year-old author, trivia whiz, and veteran personal finance blogger who lives in the southwestern US. I was lucky to meet Abigail via the Twitter personal finance community. She's encouraged us throughout our debt journey and has reached out with comfort and support during difficult times. I'm thrilled that she's volunteered to share her experience and advice. 

Be sure to check out Abby's blog, I Pick Up Pennies. You can also find her on Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook. Furthermore, she's an author! You can pick up a copy of Frugality For Depressives here.

Take it away, Abigail!

I live in Phoenix with my cat, Josie, who still acts like an insane kitten. She keeps life interesting and loves to lie on me, particularly if I’m trying to type at the time. (She’s across my arms as I type this.) I have a trivia team (yes, I’m a nerd) that I go out with once a week, and we get together on the weekends about every other week. I’m newly divorced, so life is still settling down overall. 

Abigail's Current Financial Situation 


As a new divorcee, I’m still seeing how my financial situation shakes down. I already know that it’s significantly cheaper – my husband was a bit of a spender and had expensive chronic conditions – and easier to manage.

I make a fair amount of money for customer service, so I’m comfortable financially. But I’m getting a late start saving for retirement thanks to the fact that my now ex-husband was something of a spender. I’ve increased my retirement contributions, though they’re still not as high as I’d like, but there’s no getting back those years of compound interest. Sigh.

"I’m working on increasing my retirement contributions. I hope one day to max them out, but I’m not sure that’s feasible because I’m also trying to pay off my mortgage quickly."

I didn’t worry about retirement enough in my 30s. I knew I should make it a priority, but we had my husband’s bills to deal with (including $26,000 for dental implants) and big fixes to the house ($10,000 for new windows). So I let those take precedence, and it just didn’t feel like we had enough money to save. I’m kicking myself now. I’m working on increasing my retirement contributions. I hope one day to max them out, but I’m not sure that’s feasible because I’m also trying to pay off my mortgage quickly.

I have health issues that keep me from working a job outside the house, and competition in my company’s industry has really heated up over the past few years. It’s almost certain that my job is secure – even if things got pretty bad, I’d probably just have to take a pay cut – but anxiety is a thing. So I would like to have the place paid off as one financial worry in “What if?” scenarios.

Reflecting On Past Financial Decisions


Obviously, I should have been saving more for retirement in my 30s. (My 20s were spent unsuccessfully trying to work outside the house, then going on disability. So saving during that decade wasn’t an option.) Once our financial situation stabilized, I wish I’d have started making it a priority to max out the Roth and to finally open up a SEP-IRA through my S-corp.

To that end, we could have waited longer to get my husband’s dental implants if it meant saving more money toward retirement. Even once those and the windows were done, I didn’t max out my Roth IRA, which was just silly. I also made the mistake of being a little conservative in my portfolio. I was worried about losing what little money we were putting aside. As a result, my investments barely grew over what I was putting in. I’m being aggressive now, but again… That’s a lost decade.

But I’m glad I got my ex-husband’s teeth done even if we didn’t end up together forever. He wouldn’t have been able to afford the implants on his own, and they did need to get done or he’d have ended up with bone spurs (ick ick ick) and dentures that didn’t fit. So while I’d love to have that $26,000, it saves me a lot of guilt.

Financial Wins and Future Goals


I finally did start maxing out my Roth IRA and opened a SEP-IRA through my business. I can now make larger contributions to try to make up for some of the time I lost in my 30s. I’ve also started taking my guest house rent and putting that toward the mortgage, along with a couple hundred more each month. This means I should be able to pay off my house within the next 6 years (assuming my guest house stays rented).

I envision a paid-off house and retirement around 65 or 70. Pretty dull, but due to my slacking in my 30s, early retirement isn’t an option. And honestly, I don’t know what I’d do with myself in early retirement anyway. I’m easily bored and, thanks to my health issues, can’t go out and do a ton of activities. So having a day job, while less than fun at times, keeps the hours from dragging on quite so much.

"I think retirement becomes a bigger issue for a lot of women once they hit 40. I worry that we don’t take it as seriously in our 30s as our male counterparts."

Tackling Finances After 40: Abigail's Perspective


I think retirement becomes a bigger issue for a lot of women once they hit 40. I worry that we don’t take it as seriously in our 30s as our male counterparts. Also, once you hit 40, I think retirement age suddenly becomes a little more real/imminent than it did even at 39. So it sort of shakes things up. Unfortunately, by that point they’ve lost an important decade.

There’s also the fun balancing act of trying to save for retirement, build up savings and get serious about paying down the mortgage so that you don’t go into your golden years owing the bank. This is made all the more difficult as any kids start to creep toward college age and you have to consider how much you can/want to help them with costs.

"Make sure you’re getting a house for you, not just because you think it’s what you’re supposed to do."

Save for retirement and be aggressive in your portfolio. Do this in your 20s and 30s and you’ll be a lot less stressed in your 40s! I think [women] also need to really consider whether they want a house because they think that’s what they should do or if they really want to own. It’s a huge financial commitment, and paying down a mortgage can be a huge financial drain while you’re trying to also focus on retirement. So make sure you’re getting a house for you, not just because you think it’s what you’re supposed to do.

How To Reach Abigail

Her blog: I Pick Up Pennies
Twitter: @ipickuppennies
Pinterest: @ipickuppennies
Facebook: I Pick Up Pennies PF
Pick up her book here: Frugality For Depressives
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9 comments:

  1. Thanks for having me on the blog! I hope this perspective reaches some women still in their 20s and 30s and spurs them to action.

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    1. Abigail, thanks so much for kicking this off. <3 Thanks for your willingness to be so open.

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  2. Retirement has definitely become a major focus as of recently. I'm like, "yikes". The realization that I am closer rather than farther from retirement kind of lit a fire to get my sh*t together. Of course, there is also healthcare to worry about here. I have a bunch of anxiety over how a single illness here can wipe out a individual's savings in milliseconds.

    I like your guidance about buying a house for 'you' as opposed to a societal thing to do. While its a big financial responsibility, I would imagine it would be nice to have that home base solidified and knowing you can use it as part of your retirement portfolio (and a reverse mortgage if really needed). Being that I am in a rental, it's a little unsettling about crafting a solid living situation for retirement.

    Abigail, thank you for sharing your story and starting off 76Ks Finances After 40! Great to hear your guest house is generating income and your finances are doing well post divorce.

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  3. I just want to say that I love this series. I got divorced at 36, I'm now 41 and trying to figure out where I fall in the financial advice realm since there's really nothing geared towards me. Looking forward to the more of these stories!

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    1. YES! Awesome! That was precisely the goal. I agree - there's a lot of info geared towards people in their 20s and 30s - especially those interested in FIRE - but it's like the PF gurus don't know what to do with people age 40+. There are some amazing FA40 stories in the works, and I'm excited to host them.

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  5. Not 40 yet, but I am SO excited for this series! And love that Abigail is kicking it off ❤️

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  6. Love this. I'm 38 but all of the above resonates!

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  7. abigail is super cool. we got a late start too. i got divorced around age 33 but thankfully there was nothing to split except some todd rundgren cd's and the dog. she got the dog and i got the rundgren. sounds like you're making all the right moves now.

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