Getting divorced can generate high levels of financial stress.
There aren’t many life events as impactful as getting divorced. It’s a big, tumultuous life-altering time, and it’s near impossible to plan for all the effects. There’s hardly an aspect of your life it doesn’t impact. Especially when you start thinking financially.
You’re worrying about lawyer fees, living arrangements and becoming independent in so many other ways. The uncertainty about the future, combined with complicated financial decisions, can be daunting and stressful, and even negatively impact other areas of your life.
If this sounds like you, you’re definitely not alone.
How Financial Stress Negatively Impacts Everyday Life
With divorce, it’s very normal to be overwhelmed — emotionally and financially. We talked to Katie, The Storyteller who recently went through a divorce, about the impacts of divorce and where she was then compared to where she is now.
“Getting divorced is extremely confusing because you’re in this mindset where it’s almost the only thing you can think about, but then you also have to remember to do the daily things like go to work, or buy groceries, or brush your teeth,” Katie says. “Honestly, for me, I ended up spending a lot of money I didn’t really have to make the other stress in my life easier to deal with. When your whole life is turned upside down you don’t really think about money. It’s more like, ‘I had a bed yesterday. Now I live in a new apartment and am sleeping on an air mattress. I’m going to buy a bed.’”
Honestly, for me, I ended up spending a lot of money I didn’t really have to make the other stress in my life easier to deal with.
“I was lucky in the sense that we decided not to try and split up our financial assets or pay any alimony afterward, but still having to cover the costs of a lawyer on top of moving is extreme. Most of the financial stress came later,” Katie continues.
When I got out of the eye of the storm, I was able to see more clearly how those purchases in the worst of it were adding up.
“I was separated from my husband in 2014, but got divorced almost a year later. Then it took me almost another year to finally finish paying off my legal fees. When I got out of the eye of the storm, I was able to see more clearly how those purchases in the worst of it were adding up. I moved almost three times, purchased most of my belongings back (new bed, kitchen utensils, etc.), registered a new car in my name, and then generally just bought things to make me happier (dinners, clothing, etc.). I had really created a hole with no real means to climb back out.”
Katie goes on to say, “We were very poor when we were married, and I was always very careful with money because of that. When we got divorced, I didn’t have any more means of income but just spent frivolously.
I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, I believe that, except for a unique few, my stress really remained within me. It wasn’t something I really spoke about …”
The Science of Why Divorce Causes So Much Stress
Changes in your goals, expectations and personal finances are difficult to manage no matter where you are in your life, but getting divorced can be especially affecting because of the unpredictability during this period of transition.
Payoff’s Chief Science Officer Dr. Galen Buckwalter explains why divorce is such a financial and emotionally stressful time for most of us.
“From a financial perspective, divorce is devastating because over half are caused by financial stress and the conflicts that result from it,” Dr. Buckwalter says.
A couple decides to move on but those financial issues don’t go away and follow them into their now separate lives.
“It starts with two people who can’t work out their finances together and that leads to irreconcilable emotional issues as a result of things said that can’t be bridged or forgotten, as the couple tried to resolve their issues. A couple decides to move on but those financial issues don’t go away and follow them into their now separate lives. In fact, in many instances, the very process of getting divorced is a huge cost, which only adds to the financial stress and problems.”
“Starting with a bad situation,” he continues, “compounded by the factor of the costs, and the whole process doesn’t teach anyone anything productive. There’s nothing in the process of getting divorced that will lead people to get control of their financial stress, and in fact, it usually only creates more.”
The devil that you know can be better than the one you don’t, which only adds to the stress and chaos.
“Divorce represents a loss of security and breaking a cohesive unit into pieces and regardless of whether it was functional or not, there may have been some predictability which is now gone. The devil that you know can be better than the one you don’t, which only adds to the stress and chaos,” Dr. Buckwalter elaborates. “When you separate, it’s like starting from square one. Most people, when coming out of this experience, have an expectation that they will maintain a similar lifestyle.”
Want to Reduce Your Financial Stress?
If this sounds familiar to you, then you know all about the mental and financial stress divorce can cause. Why sit back and let it overwhelm you? We want to help you manage and overcome that stress, so Dr. Buckwalter and his team helped develop Joy to measure financial stress and provide innovative, science-based ways to manage it.
Try it now. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll learn in just 5 minutes.