WTF Wednesday: “I don’t want to earn too much to spite my ex.”

single mom advice


Dear Emma,

Two years after my divorce, I’m starting to make changes in my business and dream really, really big for 2016. I’m writing this at my desk, staring at my dream board. I set up my circle of awesome female entrepreneurs who are my support network. I invested in a coach and have a plan for killing it. I am so excited to live my full potential and show my kids what they are also capable of. Also – I want to be rich, and I’ve stopped feeling guilty about it!

However, if I earn above a certain amount, and my ex finds out about it, he will take me to court and have my child support and alimony payments lowered — or even taken away! I really depend on that income now — so if by chance my business does not take off, or has a downturn, I will really be hurting. Plus, he owes me and the kids that money. I sacrificed my career for many years to be home with the kids, and he cheated with a colleague and left. I can’t let him off the hook.

Do you have any ideas how I can hide my income, or be successful while also making sure I get support from my ex? What do other women in my situation do?




Dear Shari,

What do other women in your situation do?

One of two things:

    1. Collect financial support from their ex husband. This forever keeps them tethered to a man whom they are no longer romantically connected to, and from whom they should be moving on — but don’t. Because of money. Child support and alimony may be necessary and fair immediately after divorce in order for one or both parties to land on their feet and start anew. However, by relying on those fund long-term, women limit themselves professionally and financially because their life and future is dictated by another person — a person they probably don’t even like, and may even really, really hate. Plus, that is just poor risk management. The ex can die, become disabled or unemployed at any time. Or, women:

Listen to my Like a Mother episode on this topic:

  1. Get the eff over it. They decide they are adult women who are living in a time of unprecedented financial and career opportunity for women, and are autonomous adults. They know that they cannot live their full potential until they embrace this autonomy, as scary as it may be. First, they downsize to a life they can afford on their own. Then, they shake free the sanctimony of being owed financial support that, while perhaps morally justifiable, only shackles them with dependence. They do not throttle their success for the sake of punishing their ex — or anyone else — because doing so would be to give said ex their power. That would be ABSURD!

This is what you will do: Fire up that dream board, plug into your goals, network and do every damn thing that coach tells you to do. Forget about your ex and his checks and the sums deposited from his account to yours every second week. Compared with what you are about to create, those figures are but tumble weeds blowing in the breeze created by your whizzing to greatness.

For the record, I hear from women who pay their ex support and alimony, and they, too, limit themselves out of worry of having to pay out more than they care to. And, they may find themselves doing that very thing. But …  who cares?! Ask yourself this: When you are 82 years old, looking back at your life, what do you want to think:

Wow, I really stuck it to my ex all those years and cashed his checks. So awesome! 

Or ….

I am so proud that I seized on my creative ideas, worked really fucking hard, created not only a really amazing life for myself and my kids, but also gave them the gift of financial comfort and a role model for making their own dreams a reality — and never being in the crippling situation of financial dependence on another person. 


Are you part of the new Facebook group, Millionaire Single Moms? No income requirement, though BIG GOALS and a POSITIVE MINDSET required! Join now! 

Emma Johnson

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,, 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.

7 thoughts on “WTF Wednesday: “I don’t want to earn too much to spite my ex.”

  1. Cold hard facts. And that’s soooo many women’s mindset these days. They dont even know they are creating dependency. You’re almost taught, “if he leaves, you go to court and get child support” without ever considering 1. You may never recieve a dime or 2. You can’t depend on the $ you do receive. Some of the best advice I got as a single mom was PREPARE to do it alone. That helped me not only address the fear but not limit myself waiting on his income. Combined my exes “owe” over $50,000 but my kids and I moved on long ago. She’s got to let it go…

  2. Speaking as someone who’s had a lot of scary downturns with a business– what about a part-time or flex job? I did the whole “do something you hate to subsidize what you love” dealie and it worked for a grand total of three months. But after I fully switched careers, there’s different P/T jobs available that let me work on my business. (Sidenote: FlexJobs has been AWESOME and I already earned back the annual fee in my first week, and I’m only looking at consulting and freelance stuff.) I’ve found a zen in having multiple burners going because if a project or payer doesn’t pan out, there’s other irons in the fire.

    Having a P/T job– especially a telecommute one– that lets you work on your business could wind up being a lifesaver because you’ll have some stable income and build up your CV, and it’s all your money that has no strings attached coming from your ex. Win-win.

  3. Yes! I love love love this! Two reasons: 1) How mad would we all be if we knew our exes were contemplating doing this? 2) There is no sweeter revenge than living a happy & successful life despite the hand you’ve been dealt. Love that you addressed it! And best of luck to Shari as she kills it in 2016!

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