Thursday, October 13, 2005


This is not a favourite subject among the affected women but you need to know certain things if you are in such a situation. Better you learn what really counts. Otherwise, life is not going to play fair with you or your children, or both. So you are forewarned and you should "armed" yourself with information that can get you out of financial jams in future.

MARRIED women would probably prefer not to read a book with such a title.
However, in reality, its importance to three-quarters of the female gender
cannot be overstated.
For divorcees, after that scoundrel of an ex-husband has left you for a
woman half his age, or worse, he has taken a fancy to someone of his own
gender, there will come a time when reality bites. You can postpone
thinking about it while you take your time wallowing in self-pity and
misery, but that does not mean the money problem will go away.
For many, not all, money matters begin to impose their daunting presence
very soon after a spouse has gone off with another, or gone off hereafter.
Few widows or divorc`es are left with generous portions of their life-
partner's properties to last them and their children a lifetime.
Therefore, it is imperative that the issue of money be tackled early, and
with great foresight and careful planning.
Kerry Hannon, a columnist at USA Today, has put together a fine
collection of thoughts and solutions for women who are unfortunate enough
to be on the receiving end of such tragedies. Suddenly Single - Money
Skills for Divorc`es and Widows is not a book to be taken lightly. In
fact, it is immensely useful to women who are totally lost when it comes
to financial matters. Many women take for granted that it is the man's
responsibility to provide for her and her children. If it is her destiny
to live happily ever after with her faithful spouse, then she probably
won't need to know anything about financial independence. Unfortunately,
for a large portion of womankind, unfaithful and ungrateful husbands can
be a very painful personal reality.
Suddenly Single does not pull any punches about the aftermath of a
personal tragedy, be it a divorce or the sudden death of a spouse. Hannon
leads the widow and the divorc`e through a tough course of getting the
best and the most from insurance, alimony, savings, investments,
retirement and employee benefits. To bring reality into the reader's home,
Hannon relates several heart-rending stories. This is one of them.
`Melissa and James began dating in high school as first loves. As soon
as they graduated from college, they married. While he studied for his
doctorate, she supported both of them on her teaching salary. After
completing school, James had excellent prospects. Employers from around
the country were vying for his talents, and the money was good. With their
two children, aged 6 and 8, the couple moved from their hometown in Ohio
to Connecticut so James could work at a leading pharmaceutical firm. Two
years later, Melissa discovered her husband was having an affair with a
woman he had met at a scientific conference. When she confronted him, he
asked for a divorce. Melissa was shocked, bitter, and completely
unprepared. She and James had been partners for more than 20 years; now at
the age of 40, she was alone, far from her family, and had two small
children to raise on a modest teaching salary. James claimed he had no
assets and was saddled with huge credit card debts. He was finally
starting to make some money, and I was planning to take some time off to
spend with the kids,' says Melissa. `Now I've got to fight him just to get
child support. It's not fair.'
Yes, life is seldom fair. That is the bad news. The good news is help
has arrived in the form of this book. It has practically all the
information a widow or a divorc`e needs should the inevitable happen. It
will save you endless hours of worry and gallons of tears.
Hannon explains in detail about tax tips, setting up your own credit
line and determining your net worth. These subjects may be as palatable as
sawdust to you right now, but if chewing on sawdust means putting food on
your dinner table for you and your loved ones, it is better to acquire a
taste for it as early as possible.
Although the book refers to the American tax system and other laws
governing properties, the advice rendered can be applied to other
countries outside America where laws on similar subjects may differ in
certain aspects, but with similar fundamentals.
Hannon puts forth this advice at the outset of the book because she
realises the urgency of her message. She says: `I have known dozens of
widows and divorc`es who felt compelled to spend on everything from a new
car to a new wardrobe to a long vacation. It made them feel better. It
gave them a fresh start of sorts. Try to resist this splurge mentality.
You need to hang onto your money right now, not blow it frivolously. There
will come a time when you can do something nice for yourself, but that
time is not now.'
On where to get financial advice, the writer has devoted 15 pages of
advice, beginning with how to make it through the first year, then
choosing a financial advisor, figuring out who those mysterious financial
planners are and then maybe hiring a stockbroker.
And if you, as a divorc`e, are still looking for a ray of light in the
corridor of ignorance as to the kind of things you need to know, there is
a checklist of 22 questions you can memorise to ask your financial
advisor. In turn, there is another checklist of about 27 questions the
professional consultant will ask you regarding your financial status.
All this simply means homework, concentration and organisation.
There is a sprinkling of pie charts and bar graphs to drive home certain
points about investment. Let them not scare you. These are just little
pebbles under your feet on that bumpy road you will later call `back to
recovery'. For those whose lives are entangled in some sort of business,
there is a chestful of tips to get the best out of a difficult situation.
The writer warns: `Any woman who isn't informed about the inner workings
of the family company is setting herself up to be taken advantage of by
either her ex-husband, her deceased spouse's partners, or other
scavengers. A woman who is naive in matters of business is a conspicuous
target for a variety of folks looking to help themselves to the spoils.'
Soon after, the reader is tutored on a series of strategies like
determining the value of your business, obtaining an appraisal of the
company's worth, dividing the spoils and negotiating the deal.
On the subject of sharing property, in this case the company, the woman
is strongly advised not to let her emotions get in the way. Be mercenary
by all means. This is no time to feel sorry for him. Cold-hearted as it
may seem, a calm disposition devoid of human compassion may be a
divorc`e's or widow's strongest weapon. Some men would probably read this
and weep. Life is not fair to them either.
There is also a chapter devoted to estate planning. This is a backup
plan in case something happens to you, and it will, sooner or later. So,
it is best not to leave your hard-earned money to the fickle whims of
fate. Your children will greatly appreciate your great foresight after you
have gone to retire in God's green acres.
Since the world is all wired up now, Hannon has included a chapter on
online investing. She has given a list of web sites where you may get
useful information regarding investment. Thrown in for good measure are
assessments of certain computer software programs designed to give you the
best of what you can do with your money and how to organise your expenses.
This book is not bedside reading. It touches on what may be deemed by
some as unsavoury subjects. Death is not distasteful. It is reality.
Divorce is never pleasant but when it happens, you either get over it or
let it destroy you. Hannon has performed a great service to women who have
to suffer divorces and untimely deaths of husbands. She has drawn an
elaborate route out of misery and hardship for the victims. Memorise the
escape routes and go on to live a better life for yourself and others.

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