Sometimes in life there are things which are more important than money. Yes, I, the financial planner, just wrote that!
Carolyn was going through a divorce after 25 years of marriage. She reached a point in her marriage and in her life where the hypocrisy of the happy marriage was more than she could bear. She was so eager to get out of the marriage and get on with her life in a more authentic way, she was willing to give up almost anything to buy her freedom. It was her wish to stay in her home, a place she had built to her expectations to include the room she loved the best, her kitchen. It was the place she associated with great creativity and love.
Her dominant concern in the settlement was trying to keep the house and fund her retirement so she could live the rest of her life in peace. She expected no man to rescue her and she was really looking forward to a life of grandchildren and gardening once she retired.
She asked me to help her figure out how to make it all happen, knowing full well she might not be able to have it all.
I used the Living Expense Worksheet to create, as close as possible, the total living expenses she would incur in the next year. The numbers came in that she would be able to afford to stay in the house.
But if she did, the retirement picture was pretty grim. She would have to work for the rest of her life unless something outside the box allowed her to stay in the house and retire comfortably. Being the practical person she is, she replied: “I know it will be impossible for me to work for the rest of my life. I don’t really want to. I have given my life to the care of others for so long; I am now claiming my own time for me. So, if I have to sell my house and buy another one for less value, I will. And I will take the money I make on the sale of the house and invest it for my retirement.”
I was so uncomfortable telling her this, because I wanted her to have it all. She could see the disappointment in my face and the frustration with which I told her the bad news.
With tears in her eyes, she said “Don’t be upset! I knew this was a possible outcome, but remember what I told you: my freedom is more important to me than that house. I’ll find another place to live and it will be better than this.”
She was more my heroine than she would ever know in accepting the reality of her situation and not trying to do what was right for everyone else.