“How I’m Rebuilding My Financial Life After Losing My Spouse & Becoming A Single Parent”

By | Tuesday, July 02, 2019

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Reflecting on your past financial mistakes can generally be a very sobering experience. Many of us never realize what we’re doing “incorrectly” with our money until we start to actively feel the repercussions. We try to shed light on preventing regrettable money decisions as much as possible, but let’s face it: making mistakes is human. Getting yourself into debt or losing points on your credit score doesn’t mean you are a bad person. And there are emotional factors that can drastically affect the state of our money, oftentimes beyond our control. 

The truth is, you can’t change whatever it was that put you in a bad financial position — whether it was within your control or not. The most you can do is get educated on how to best move forward, practice patience, and be kind to yourself.

We followed up with Mary, one of three TFD readers working with our longtime partners at to help rebuild their credit. After losing her husband, her job, her home, and her car in a span of less than six months, Mary has dealt with so much more emotional and financial distress than many of us can fathom — and she’s learned a lot along the way. She graciously shared her thoughts on her own financial and emotional journey with us. Here’s what she had to say.

TFD: Sometimes our credit scores are affected by things beyond our control. What circumstances led you to have a low credit score?

Mary: In early 2010, I was preparing my personal finances and brain to file for a divorce from my husband. Unfortunately, I then lost my high-paying job in May. In July, my husband took his own life. In August, I had to have my Toyota Matrix voluntarily repossessed so I wouldn’t have to make car payments any longer. In September, the house we had bought together was foreclosed upon by the bank. That year was a disaster for my finances. My husband did have a small life insurance policy through work, and it was the only way I was able to find another place to live and sustain myself and my kids until I found another job.

What has been the hardest part about dealing with a low credit score for you personally?

The hardest part has been trying to rebuild my credit and financial situation while being a single mom. You tend to take good credit for granted when you have it, but when you don’t, you realize that so many things in our lives depend upon it. You need a decent score in order to rent a place to live. You need a decent score in order to not get taken to the cleaners over an interest rate if you need to buy a car. You need a decent score sometimes in order to get a job. 

All of these things can prohibit a person not just from getting ahead in life, but merely surviving. If you can’t get a new bank account because something happened to your last one, you have to rely on a check-cashing place. A significant percentage of your paycheck can end up going to cashing checks. Then, you can end up in the hole and you don’t have enough money, so you need to maybe take out a payday loan. It’s bad out there. 

I think people can think about that life or maybe even have empathy for others who go through it, but in no way can they actually understand unless or until they have to go through living life that way. (And I hope fewer people will need to do that.)

Was there anything you wish you would have done differently to prevent your credit score from dropping?

I wish I had paid more attention to our finances in 2010. I wish I had been able to and taken the initiative to communicate with my husband about our finances. I wish I had not been so scared of talking about them. I have had little dips along the way and I really wish I would have known that one late payment can cost you a huge amount of points on your credit score. I did not know that. People need to know that. I’m not talking 10 points…the people at told me it could be as much as 60 points. 60 points!!

What are some ways you’ve learned to be kind to yourself during the process of rebuilding your credit and financial life?

Mostly, it’s realizing that I’m not a perfect person nor will I ever be. I’m going to mess up. I’m going to overextend my credit as I rebuild it. I’m going to spend a little too much and have to carry a balance for a while. It’s okay. Life will go on, and the hole will eventually become shallower as time progresses, provided I mostly stay on the path. Being proactive makes me feel better and removes a lot of the anxiety about my credit and finances.

What has your experience been like working with so far?

They’ve been great. I even got a negative item removed from my report the other day! They have been educational and are helping me realize that there are small things I can do which will make a difference in my credit score.

Think could help you? Check it out to learn how they can help you work to repair, build, and maintain your credit score by working directly with the credit bureaus to challenge any items on your credit report, and teaching you how to understand both your own score and the rating system.

Image via Unsplash

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