In this weekly feature I answer your personal finance questions.
Dear Emma, WTF?!
When I was married, we never had a lot of money. My husband and I lived frugally, paid off the house and saved a little. We are both state workers and will get decent pensions, but I will never be really comfortable – especially now that I’m divorced. I’m 55.
After my husband moved out and my youngest daughter left for college, I couldn’t believe how free I felt – or how ugly. I’ve never been an exceptionally beautiful woman, and my sex life with my husband was always so-so. So last fall my friends were surprised when I got a double-D boob job and liposuction on my thighs. It was expensive and I put part of it on a credit card, and am making payments on the rest to my plastic surgeon. At first I worried all this “work” was foolish and indulgent, but I now see it as an investment.
First of all, I can’t believe how wonderful I feel! I’ve been going to singles bars in my town, and posted an online profile, and I’ve been dating so many really rich men – all of whom are crazy about my rack! Now I can envision a new life for myself with a man who is crazy about me (unlike my husband, who barely touched me), fun (again – unlike my ex), and one who is RICH (hello?!)! I’ve scheduled a facelift and a tummy tuck and really do see this as an investment in finding a new, wealthy partner. My daughters – now both in their early 20s – as well as my girlfriends all think I’ve lost my mind. What say you?
–Smokin’ in Sacramento
Oh my god. I don’t even know what to do with you.
Let’s start with your daughters. I assume that they are single women, and reasonably educated. That they think you’re nuts makes me assume that they’re reasonable people. What are your shenanigans teaching them about life, relationships, money and happiness? Would you encourage them to spend their energy and go into debt to try and snag some rich douche? Would that make them happy? Would it offer any real financial security? People get divorced, remember? If they don’t have assets or a career before marriage, both will be that much harder to attain when their sugar daddy dumps their pathetic, dependent selves. Which he would. That is, if your daughters are anything like their mother.
Now for you: You’re having a freak-out. It happens. Midlife crisis. Post-divorce emotional purge. Menopause symptoms, perhaps? All of this is a totally normal part of the ups and downs of life. Except that you are making big decisions that will affect the rest of your days. If you are plunging head-first into debt and deforming your body under the crazy fantasy that a man will rescue you, well, you need to lay off the Disney movies and take a big breath. Stop. Calm down and get a grip.
You need a plan in which you depend on no one but yourself. Can you live happily in your body and current financial situation? Yes? great! Now we need to figure out someplace to put your newfound joie de vivre. A hobby? Volunteer work? Dating with a mission other than a rich husband? This is a new chapter of your life – the last chapter, I hate to say. Make it meaningful.
But if you don’t have enough money to be comfortable, we have a whole new set of tasks for you. Find a side job. A small business on the side. Lots of women find they are very successful at Tupperware-party style direct-sales operations – especially vivacious gals like yourself. Maybe we can find a product you can sell to men. This site outlines a few opportunities including steaks, home security systems and bush whackers. From what I hear, guys who crave red meat also often like big tits.
Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post’s ‘Must Read” list.
Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.
A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.