From Two Incomes to One – What’s Going to Change After Divorce
Updated: Nov 10, 2022
One of the biggest benefits of marriage is that it often increases a couple’s financial stability as they combine their incomes and enjoy the savings of shared costs. In fact, in 2014, the average married couple filing taxes jointly reported an income of $117,795. Compare that to single, unmarried individuals who reported an income of just $34,940 on their 2014 taxes!
Nuptials also tend to give a financial advantage to women who still typically earn less than their husbands and are more likely to drop out of the workforce to raise children or to take care of the household. However, not every marriage lasts. When the dark clouds of divorce roll in, you could find your comfortable income cut in half or more! Many women are not prepared for how big of a financial blow divorce can deliver. If you are considering divorce, here are the major expenses that are going to change:
Mortgage or Rent
One of your biggest expenses is your mortgage or rent payment. This is also where a two-income household offers a huge financial advantage to couples. The difference in price between a two-bedroom and a three-bedroom home in the same community really isn’t very much, but having two income-earning spouses to share that cost can dramatically lower the financial burden on each individual. You may want to keep your current home, but before you make that decision, figure out if you can really afford the mortgage and property tax with just your own income. Don’t forget that you’ll need to also buy out your husband’s ownership stake in the house!
Struggling to make the math work on that solo mortgage payment? Don’t forget that you’ll now need to cover utilities by yourself, too! According to Move.org, the average cost for water, electricity, natural gas, garbage, sewage, internet, and cable come out to roughly $472 a month.
Are you on your husband’s health insurance policy? That’s going to change after a divorce. Take a look at your company’s health insurance plan and make a note of whether the monthly premiums are higher and/or if you’ll be expected to pay a higher co-pay for doctor visits and medications. You may also find that your deductible is higher or that the limits are lower.
If your company doesn’t offer insurance, you’ll have to search for a private policy. According to eHealth Insurance, the average individual plan premium was $321 a month with a $4,358 deductible.
Spousal Support or Child Support
Were you the higher-earning spouse in your marriage? If so, you may be responsible for providing spousal support and/or child support to your spouse. Spousal support (alimony) isn’t as common these days, but it can still be ordered by a judge (or negotiated in a divorce settlement).
Your higher income will also make it likely that you will owe your spouse child support if you have joint custody, or if your husband has primary or sole custody of the children.
Talk to an experienced divorce attorney to determine what you may be expected to pay and add these financial obligations to your monthly budget.
Luxuries and Vacations
One beautiful thing about living in a two-income household is that you are more likely to have money left over at the end of each month after paying your bills. That extra money equals financial security, and it can give you a higher quality of life. You and your spouse can afford to eat out with friends, see shows at the local playhouse, and take a cruise each year.
These little luxuries may have to be curtailed or go away entirely after a divorce. As you spend a bigger portion of your income on your mortgage, utilities, groceries, and health insurance, you may find little left over for the finer things in life.
It’s important to remember that being trapped in an unhappy marriage isn’t worth nice clothes and yearly vacations. Divorce may lower your standard of living, but hopefully, it will increase your quality of life and your overall happiness.
The best way to truly prepare for life after divorce is to better understand the divorce process itself and to speak with a financial advisor who specializes in divorce. You can do all this and more by signing up for the next Second Saturday Divorce Workshop in your area.
This article is reprinted with permission from the Women's Institute for Financial Education (WIFE.org), creator of the Second Saturday Divorce Workshops. Founded in 1988, WIFE is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing financial education for women. Copyright 2019