Divorce and FIRE: Frogdancer Jones
For an audio version of this post, please click on the speaker icon (top left).
Thank you for stopping by for another installment in my Divorce and FIRE series.
I have been thrilled with the support and comments shown by my readers to these individuals who have really opened up and shared with us a very traumatic time in their lives.
Every person who has submitted their story has told me that they were touched by the outpouring of comments.
I hope that this inspires others to continue this series by submitting their own tales of divorce.
I am continually amazed at how some of the connections and friendships I have made have been completely happenstance.
This next submission comes from an individual whose path I crossed solely because she commented on my guest post on Chief Mom Officer mentioning that she too was divorced and took 20 years to recover financially.
I reached out to her and she was kind enough to accept my invitation to share her story with all of us.
So it is my extreme pleasure to present this wonderful individual from down under with an incredible moniker to boot:
This is Frogdancer Jones from Australia here. I’d like to thank XRayVsn for the chance to share my story with you.
Many of you are newly divorced and are licking your wounds, both financial and otherwise.
I thought I’d send a message from the future – from 21 years into the future to be precise, to let you know what life is like once the dust settles from a marriage breakup.
A little background story of your marriage and spouse: How did you meet? How long did you date?
B and I met at a pub disco when he was 19 and I was 17. (The drinking age in Australia is 18, so calm down!!)
We dated for 6 weeks but then split up, but remained friends.
When I was 21 we hooked up again and after living together for 3 years we got married.
Children started arriving when I was 28.
How many children? (and how old they were at the time of divorce). How many years were you married?
I was married for 10 years when I left my husband.
He was 36 and I was 34.
We had 4 boys in 5 years, so my youngest was 11 months and my oldest was 6, with two in between.
What assets were in the marriage when you separated?
We had a 90K mortgage, 2 old cars and $120 in the bank. That’s not a typo…
I’m a secondary teacher by trade but at that stage, I was a SAHM [Stay At Home Mom] with the little kids and my husband was a small business owner.
The business wasn’t going well.
It was a stressful time because financially, we were drowning.
Describe your financial outlook during the marriage? Were you on the same page financially as your partner?
I’m a natural saver, whereas my ex-husband is a hard worker but money tends to slip through his fingers.
We wasted so much money during the marriage.
His shop was primarily a cash business – his accountant told him that if he didn’t want to pay income tax he should just “piss the money up against a wall”.
Thousands of dollars disappeared on ‘stuff’, which could’ve been used to set us up for retirement.
It bugged me, but when the accountant said that remark, I was only his girlfriend at the time so I didn’t feel like I had a say.
Stupid of me.
Can you elaborate on what the underlying cause for divorce was?
If I’d known how to recognise a narcissist earlier, my children would probably never have been born because I would’ve been gone!
Gaslighting is really difficult to spot unless you have years to work out how the stories you’ve been told are changing…
What changes occurred with your spouse that made you realize that divorce was a viable option?
When we were talking about problems in the marriage and he said, “In marriage, you ALWAYS get another chance.”
That’s when I realised that he had no intention of changing his behavior, so it was up to me to decide if I could continue living this way forever.
I decided not.
If possible describe how the marital properties were divided by the court.
After a 12 month separation, we divorced.
I kept the house, but I had to pay him 18K in a settlement.
We each kept a car.
I was entitled to spousal support but I waived it for 3 years, knowing that once my youngest was in school in 3 years I’d be working, so he’d never have to pay it.
After all, he had to get on his feet too.
Current state of financial recovery?
I have a net worth of just under 2 million dollars.
It took a long time to get here though!
Around 55% of that is tied up in my house.
This post tells how I tweaked geoarbitrage to our advantage.
How long did it take you to get back to pre-divorce levels or if you still have not reached that level, estimated time to get there.
Our financial level when I was married was parlous, so even on what used to be called the Sole Parents’ Pension, (while my kids were pre-school), it didn’t take long to be on a firmer footing.
However, it wasn’t until I was working again, 4 years after the initial separation, that I felt that we were going to be ok.
Do you have an idea of how your ex is doing financially post-divorce?
He has remarried and has a 10-year-old daughter.
They have a mortgaged townhouse in a nice leafy suburb.
He recently sold his business and is working as an employee in the same line of work.
Would you consider getting married again and if so what would you do different and what protections would you need to have in place?
I doubt I’ll ever live with someone again.
I’ve been the only person in charge of the household for 21 years now.
A wise person once said, “If you live on your own, everything you do is right!!”
I don’t know how I’d go with having to accommodate someone else’s decor choices, their food preferences or *gasp!* having to share the remote control.
I’m an introvert so I’m quite content with my own company.
I still have 2 of the boys living with me and I have my 3 dogs.
There’s always someone to talk to. 🙂
Any pointers to readers to prevent a divorce from happening in the first place or any advice if someone is currently going through a divorce?
Don’t stay too long when it’s obvious that things aren’t going to work out.
Putting your head in the sand does nothing but waste precious time.
I should have left during the first year of my marriage.
What impact did the marriage/divorce have on your overall financial journey?
It’s a funny thing.
We had so few assets that our financial settlement was a brutal fight.
I remember asking my lawyer, “Is it always this nasty?”
She said, “It’s usually only this bad when there are no real assets to speak of, because people are fighting to have enough money to establish themselves.
If they can split the main residence and the holiday house, the art collection and the car collection, it’s usually far more amicable.”
Bad behavior didn’t help.
Especially 6 months into the separation, when he violated the agreement we had that in lieu of child support, he’d continue to pay the mortgage.
I was literally eating beans and rice to scrape together a 1K Emergency Fund so that I’d feel safe.
When the bank rang to say that our mortgage was $960 in arrears, I had just reached the 1K. I was FURIOUS – but by gosh, it taught me the value of having money put aside!
I paid the mortgage and then set to the task of building the Emergency Fund up again.
The next three years were very much hand-to-mouth, as B kept leaving jobs and/or working cash-in-hand to avoid paying child support.
Once my youngest started primary school, I was finally able to go back to work.
Ironically, as soon as I had a regular pay packet flowing in, B got a regular job and started paying child support payments.
Gradually, over time, things settled down, especially once B stopped bouncing around between girlfriends and settled down with V, his second wife.
To his credit, he saw the boys every fortnight, regular as clockwork, for the next 15 years.
Statistically, that rarely happens.
Every few years a drama would erupt, sometimes about child support payments, but often it was about other things.
B seems to need to have drama in his life every couple of years or so.
But apart from that, things settled down and we became like reasonably friendly acquaintances.
However, B is a difficult man with his own demons, and when the dramas continued, even after child support ended when our youngest son turned 18, I had to think about what to do.
Up until then, I’d always been the bridge between B and his sons, insisting that they keep seeing him and trying to explain away some of the things that were happening.
When our youngest turned 20, I made the decision that as they were adults now, it wasn’t up to me to keep their relationship going.
So when they came to me with their accounts of what was happening/what was said, I kept out of it and they were forced to make their own decisions about their relationships with their father.
As of this moment, three of the boys have chosen to have no contact with B.
Our youngest still sees him every few months, but this is because he’s reluctant to lose contact with his half-sister, who is nearly 10.
They see their extended family on B’s side every Boxing Day and Easter Sunday, when their Grandmother has huge family lunches for everyone, and they catch up with their cousins on social media.
They see B, V and their little sister then.
She sometimes texts them as well.
Financially, the boys and I are doing ok.
Teachers in Australia are paid better than in the US, so I’ve been able to pay off the mortgage, travel internationally both with the boys and by myself, and start saving and investing aggressively for retirement, which I estimate will be in 4 – 5 years, far earlier than the mandated age for the Age Pension in Australia.
Here’s the takeaway for you:
The HUGE financial advantage that singles have over many couples is that there is only one captain driving the ship – if you’re good with money you can still get to where you want to go far quicker than couples with two wages coming in who are constantly struggling against each other.
Every day I see the benefits single people have, not just in my own life but in looking at the people around me.
Marry this with the wonderful opportunities we have nowadays to educate ourselves about finance and FI/RE and there’s really no excuse for self-pity. (See what I did there…? Heh heh. Can’t go past a pun.)
The blogging community wasn’t around when I was at home with the kids.
You guys are so fortunate!
If you look after your obligations, pay your bills and then make smart decisions about whatever’s left over, you’ll get ahead.
Sometimes, especially when the boys were young, I only had $5 a week left over.
But I’d put it in the Emergency account and I’d feel we were making progress.
Look at the wealth of information we have at our fingertips!
We’re really lucky to be living with the internet.
Hey, I’m old enough to be able to remember a world without it.
There are so many tools to help us to get back on our feet again, both financially and emotionally.
All we have to do is be open to it.
Honestly, I look back on my married self and it’s like I’m looking at another person.
For those of you going through marital breakups – it’s bloody hard.
It’s raw and visceral and there’s no pain on earth like it.
But life goes on.
You lick your wounds, you grow stronger and bit by bit you find joy again.
My life is wonderful now and it has been for almost 2 decades.
It will be the same for you too.
When people ask me what my biggest mistake in life was, I say, “Marrying the wrong person.”
I liked being married – I just couldn’t stay being married to B.
But fortunately, we’re not doomed to live in a holding pattern forever.
Believe me – there’s a wonderful world full of possibilities out there after divorce.
It’s a beautiful thing to start experiencing them for yourself.
And you will.
You can find Frogdancer Jones at Burning Desire for FIRE
On Facebook as Frogdancer Jones.
Thank you so much for your inspirational story, Frogdancer Jones.
I am thrilled you have pushed this difficult experience way into your past and have done extremely well for yourself.
If you, or someone you know, would like to submit a Divorce and FIRE story, I would love to hear from you.
You can remain anonymous unless you specifically give permission to reveal your identity.
I have created an outline of some of the topics you might want to consider elaborating on in your submission.
NOTE: The website XRAYVSN contains affiliate links and thus receives compensation whenever a purchase through these links is made (at no further cost to you). Although these proceeds help keep this site going they do not have any bearing on the reviews of any products I endorse which are from my own honest experiences. Thank you- XRAYVSN
Nominations for the PLUTUS AWARDS are going on now.
I would be incredibly grateful for your support if you do indeed choose to nominate this blog for an award.
(and it would make my first FinCon an even more incredible experience)