This post is brought to you by CreditRepair.com.
When it comes to getting good with money, no two people have the same journey. It’s easy to search online and find a prescriptive list of directions to achieve a “financially healthy” life, and think you’ll just follow it and be set. But life happens to everyone — we can’t rewind time and not go to that super expensive college, stop ourselves from taking up that sketchy pre-approved credit card offer, or un-move in with that boyfriend way too soon. And that’s one of the main reasons why TFD exists: to show you how people under all sorts of different circumstances have dealt with all kinds of financial struggles.
At the beginning of this month, we shared that our longtime partners at CreditRepair.com are giving three of our readers help with rebuilding their credit. Today, we’re following up with Robynne, a 57-year-old woman from California. She’s working towards overcoming a pretty big setback: rebuilding her financial life after a divorce from a 30-year marriage. She graciously shared with us some honest thoughts on her post-divorce financial challenges, as well as updates on her journey to rebuild her credit score. Here’s what she had to say:
TFD: What has been the biggest change in how you spend and handle money since getting divorced?
Robynne: Compared to others post-divorce, I feel like I am still in an early stage financially, as it has been less than a year since the divorce was finalized. Change is further complicated because, due to limited income, we have continued to live together through the current sale of our home. This has made saving difficult, as I can not fully trust my ex to be responsible for their share of expenses.
However, going forward, I do feel relief in planning a budget for my new home and I am able to see that even with a fixed income, I can start saving. While relying solely on benefits is not the ideal situation, I do feel a sense of security in its stability compared to the drastic fluctuation in income I have experienced before.
You mention wanting to “unlearn the things that have weakened my relationships as well as financial status” — what kind of habits/beliefs were weakening your relationship with money?
The instability of our income during my marriage actually led us to splurge on bigger items when we should have been saving. Our cycle was this: most of the time we were frugal, going without and denying smaller impulse buys, but when there was an unexpected increase or something like a tax refund, we would reward ourselves for being good at being broke.
We did make bills current before these big ticket items, so we didn’t really feel guilty over them. Unfortunately, this mentality also caused us to feel like there would always be another upswing even as the bills got higher. At the worst times, as the influxes got smaller and the income dropped, we sought out payday loans to try and cover the gaps. These decisions were detrimental to our financial well-being: our credit score dropped to the 300s, bills in collections grew, and we barely missed foreclosure.
What are your biggest financial goals now that you are on your own?
For a while, most of my goals have felt pretty general — things like building my savings, working on my credit, and changing spending habits. But recently, I was able to travel to see family out of state for the first time using my own finances, and it felt great — both the long-awaited trip and the lack of guilt over such an expense. In the past, something like that would have only been possible by cutting the household budget (almost always resulting in late or default bills) or a family member would have covered it. Personally, I have had both scenarios happen and I felt guilt and shame over both.
So, now, having felt the relief and pride that financial independence gave me on my recent trip, I am setting a goal to travel more, even modestly, and I am making room in my budget to do so. I hope this will also lessen some of the anxiety and guilt I have when spending larger amounts solely on myself.
Separate from travel but still connected to my financial independence is that I also need to be stronger when it comes to setting boundaries. At different times in my marriage, my ex and I would open our home to friends and family, and our sympathy led us to often undercharge rent (if we charged at all), even when it hurt us financially. While these situations were usually more complex than I can summarize here, ultimately they caused us to further snowball in late fees and payment arrangements. Going forward, I know that for my own financial security, I need to be realistic in my own financial status and use that to set the boundary that I can no longer help others at my own detriment.
Why do you think you were afraid to seek out help in the past, in regards to getting better with money?
Growing up, the “behind closed doors” mentality was very much ingrained in me. One of the many taboo topics was money; it was harsh enough that even among close family you would not always know the full details of someone’s financial situation. I carried this with me into my marriage where I often did not share with many people our difficulties. I often assumed that many around us were in a similar situation and felt ashamed at the idea of burdening them with my issues.
As I grew to be more open, the thought of professional help was not something I saw as a fit for those in our financial status. I assumed advisers and programs were only for those with money to make money.
How has your experience with CreditRepair.com been so far?
While I have only been using the service for a little over a month, so far it has been great. The setup of the account was very easy; a representative called me and explained the process thoroughly. During setup, they would wait for questions and verification that I was comfortable with the information being shared and the details of the repair process (things like the timeline and contacting creditors on my behalf). The representative was also very kind. I never felt judged when discussing my score and negative factors.
I am surprised that I have already seen some results. The major issues that I am facing are several accounts in collections. Each one has two negative hits on my credit — the original creditor and the current collection agency. I was told during the account setup that when the debt was sold, the original mark should have been removed, but sometimes they get overlooked. This is a type of inaccuracy CreditRepair.com deals with regularly, and they have already helped remove two of these original creditor marks. Going forward, I am excited to see what else might be improved and the recommendations they have to help rebuild.
Think CreditRepair.com 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.
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