My ex-husband handled our finances, the car maintenance and basically everything manly around the house -- from un-clogging the toilets to changing light bulbs. I did the laundry, cooked and cleaned... well let's be honest there was a lot of take-out and I'm not very adept with Pine-Sol and a mop, but I made a valiant effort.
I had no idea what was going on with our finances and that was my fault; I didn't even bother to inquire. We had a joint account that I had access to but I never saw any of the transactions, nor did I really care to. My paychecks were directly deposited. I had faith in my husband that everything was handled. Plus, I will be honest; math was never my strong suit. I'm dyslexic, especially when it comes to numbers and directions. Although I was in AP English in high school, I was in remedial math with boys who sniffed glue for sport.
I will also admit something here that I'm not all that proud of -- my husband and I liked to gamble. We journeyed to Vegas quite frequently. We'd start off the night playing Texas Hold 'Em at the swanky Mandalay Bay then end up much later in the night at the Excalibur playing poker with old men with oxygen tanks and missing teeth. All I can say about that is, "you gotta know when to fold 'em'" as Kenny Rogers so brilliantly sang. I knew what I was winning or losing but I had no idea about him.
Don't worry, after getting into a drunken verbal brawl with a plump woman in Vegas (who called me a "cheap Jew" for not tipping the dealer enough), I have not gambled or even been to Vegas since. Although I was pleasantly surprised at how many "you-so-fat" jokes I knew, I was appalled at my behavior, especially when security was carrying me out with a goblet of booze in one hand and a "pointed cone" princess hat in the other. Not one of my finest moments, but it made a good story once the shame wore off.
My blatant avoidance of my own finances cost me. When my husband and I were divorcing, I had no clue where the money was. I certainly didn't get monetary help when we were going through the divorce. I went from sleeping in my car to crashing at random celebrities' houses (I have no idea how I came to befriend such celebrities, it just happened).
Unfortunately, my husband had a far better and more expensive attorney than I did. When it came down to dividing the assets, the money went missing. I know we had savings, I know we had stocks, but where were they? Where did he hide them? I tried to fight for my half of whatever and for alimony but was fought tooth and nail at every turn.
A very wise friend of mine said to me, "would you rather be right or would you rather be comfortable?" I knew I was entitled to the money but I was uncomfortable in terms of having some sense of peace and calm. I just wanted to move on with my life. The minute I gave up the fight was when I got a small amount of alimony. It was just enough to help me get back on my feet.
When I finally moved into my own small studio apartment, all I could afford was an air mattress. I will tell you it is really difficult dating when a guy comes over and you have to inflate an air mattress for ten minutes so he has somewhere to sit.
I had to take control of my own finances so I would never be in that position again, so I took a finance class. I was in my early thirties when I finally learned how to balance a check book. I also learned about paying off debt and 401k's.
If I could impart any advice to the ladies out there it is know exactly what is going on with your own finances. Make sure you have an account set up in your name and balance your check book. Do whatever it takes to make sure you're taking care of yourself financially.
The big challenge for me now is apartment maintenance. I had very high ceilings in one apartment and the light bulb in the ceiling fixture went out. I used candles and flashlights for months because I thought that I would need a monkey and a pair of stilts to change it. How many female divorcees does it take to change a light bulb? None, you call your landlord who will laugh hysterically, but will change it for you.