Recently, my husband and I decided to separate after fourteen years together, eight of them as a married couple. Matt and I met at 18 years old and immediately fell for each other in our freshman year of college. We never looked back because we knew we’d make great life partners. And, we have been great life partners for the half of our lives we’ve been together.
But, we’ve started down different paths, which has made us both question and yearn for our identity as individuals. This decision has been bittersweet for us both, but I’m trying to be as optimistic as possible about the future.
Just as our life together took many years to create and build, there are now lots of puzzle pieces that need to come apart. The obvious ones are things like finding a new place for Matt to live, figuring out a schedule to each spend time with our three-year-old (who is pictured above), and separating our joint bank accounts.
Now that some of the dust has settled, we’re starting to think about additional, long-term details that need sorting out as we move forward with our lives as individuals. It’s challenging and a huge adjustment, but I want to make sure that no stone goes without being overturned and examined, as I head into single life. A significant portion of this is adjusting my finances to account for additional expenses or to make sure necessary protections are in place.
A few of the things I’ve had to revisit:
Enrichment activities: Our son is in preschool and attends lots of camps in the summer, so we’re figuring out how best to pay for these expenses. Moreover, as he gets older, he’ll likely join sports teams, play a musical instrument or have other enrichment activities that we’ll each need to budget for.
Health insurance: Since we’ve both been self-employed for years, we have private insurance that covers the three of us together. While that will probably stay in place for the short term, Matt will be starting a new job and will likely be able to join a group plan there. If it makes sense, we’ll transfer our son’s insurance under him as well. I will probably keep my own individual health insurance policy.
Budgeting and Long-Term Planning: Speaking of budgeting, since separating both of us are adjusting to new financial plans. We now have two households and different expenses to the ones we had when we lived under the same roof. For some categories, like groceries, consumables such as toilet paper, and dining out, the cost has gone down with one less person in the house. However, since our incomes are now split, the ratio of income to expenses has gone up too. Saving for retirement and keeping emergency funds up have remained a priority for me and now I have to think about what these goals are for me as a single mom.
Life insurance: We both purchased 20-year term life insurance policies when we found out that we were going to have a baby. We likely won’t need to make any changes here, since the term goes until our son is in college, and by then, he will be mostly independent. Even though we are ending our marriage, having life insurance for the father of my child is still important to me to ensure my son’s financial security. Should something happen to one of us, we have confidence that the other would be financially protected well enough to continue taking care of our son since ultimately he is the most important thing in both of our lives. If you don’t have term life insurance, it’s very affordable, and you should at least find out if you need it.
Saving for college: Just because we aren’t together doesn’t mean we don’t have the same goals for Mazen. We’ll need to soon figure out the best plan for both of us to contribute to our son’s 529 college savings program. Another question we’re asking ourselves is whether, if we earn different salaries, should we still contribute equally to everything for our son or should we base our contributions on a percentage of income?
Separations are sensitive subjects. We’re doing the best we can to make decisions, big and small, as practically and as amicably as we can – especially because the most important person in this mix is our son. And, I think we’re off to a good start.
Kath Younger, Registered Dietitian, writes a healthy food and lifestyle blog called Kath Eats Real Food. Her blog is a celebration of life through the lens of food. Kath writes about everything from recipes to organization tips to encouraging readers to try new “real” foods, including wheatberries, kale chips, chia seeds, and her famous whipped banana oatmeal. She lives in Charlottesville, VA with her sweet little boy.
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Photo credit: Kath Younger