The midlife financial crisis: Women forced to rebuild, from absolutely nothing | Women's Agenda

The midlife financial crisis: Women forced to rebuild, from absolutely nothing

This story first appeared August 16 2012.

“Can I suggest a topic to write about?” she said, over lunch. “Women rebuilding their financial security from nothing, in midlife?”

Sheesh, that’s a tough one my friend. It’s tough to write about and a whole lot tougher to do when you’re faced with that reality. But it really matters so I’m going to tackle this one my way in the hope that wisdom can be gained.

Starting again, presumes that you’ve already ‘started’ once and stopped.

Starting again might follow the traditional continuum which is; find the love of your life, marry, buy house, have children, start-stop-start work? Starting again is the period where it all falls down around your ears when the marriage breaks down and you have to return to work after a long hiatus, manage the kids on a shoestring keep wondering exactly where that freight train came from.

Starting again is a further extension of the continuum, where you were earning a substantial corporate wage and lost it all through backing your husband or child’s bad business idea whilst blinded by love? Worst still, is it hocking your future retirement fund to back a ‘must win’ investment and finding yourself left holding the liability and none of the assets and the ATO pacing your doorstep? It happens.

Try this; is it marrying the rich and famous love of your life, having the choice to leave work, stay at work, raise kids, farm out the kids, play tennis or run a charity, the world’s your oyster? There’s $10 million on the balance sheet, then one day there isn’t, because he’s ransacked the account and racked off with the intern, leaving you with $150 in the current account and three hungry teenagers.

“Sure,” you’re thinking, “whatever, that happens to everyone. Not.”

Trust me, it doesn’t happen to everyone, since most of us are unlikely to see a domestic balance sheet of $10 million, but in this case, it did happen. I was right there during the phone call to the BFF when the crap hit the fan. It was ugly.

Starting again is all of the above and more. It breaks my heart hearing these stories, they are all true, every one of them. Parts of my life have shared those parallels too in a way, so I can relate. Ladies, we need more emotional and rational chutzpah from the start, but we can’t change what’s past so we must address the lessons to be learned for the future.

First though, I must say for the record, I love men. I have a hand in raising three boys to become good men and there are many, many good men who simply would not entertain the notion of any situations I describe here. I’m not for a moment suggesting that all men are bastards. They’re not. Neither are all marital breakdowns their fault and we women the victims. That’s simply not true. Both genders are equally responsible for ensuring fairness and equity in a committed relationship – on all fronts. Responsibility and accountability are equally mandated to both partners. This is 2012, not 1950. Let’s get that clear.

Ladies, whether or not you are in a relationship with a good man or woman, and I hope you are, or will be in the future, either way the same rules apply. In my friend’s words:

“Breathe. And then, fight for yourself, be in your own corner. Think ‘self protection.’ Women often put themselves last. Put yourself first.”

She’s wise and pragmatic. She knows, she’s been there, has three grown up kids and she’s still only thirty-seven. My take is slightly different but hers is raw.

To offer more meaningful help is a challenge. Tips simply don’t cut it here, it’s too emotive a topic. This was supposed to be a short piece but then I reconnected with some of the women in these situations, and there erupted a major volcanic eruption of latent emotion and post-rationalisation in my inbox and over my phone.

What they did tell me was me what they’d do differently if they had their time again. In part two of this piece, I’ve interview the women and published the extracts of their stories.

You may or may not agree with all they have to say, but at the very least, please know where they’re coming from and before you judge, please, consider the heartbreak they and their families have been through. This stuff is never, ever pretty. It can however, be largely avoided.

But until then, how about sharing your own thoughts on this topic?

Sara Lucas is an Authorised Representative of Fitzpatricks Dealer Group Pty Limited ABN 33 093 667 595 AFSL 247429

This information is of general nature only and is not intended as a personal advice. It does not take into account your particular investment objectives, financial situation and needs. Before making a financial decision you should assess whether the advice is appropriate to your individual investment objectives, financial situation and particular needs. We recommend you consult a professional financial adviser who will assist you.

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