Widowed or divorced with horses... how did you make it work
I became a widow 6 weeks ago, today. I lost my wonderful husband and best friend to melanoma. Right now, I'm looking at money coming in & money going out and realizing that there will need to be a lot of cuts- I've dropped cable TV, turned my AC up to 80, and put the chubby field horses on diets. I've never had to pay for childcare before & it's way more expensive than I expected it to be.
I know I'm not the only one in my shoes... I'm just wondering how have other people fared through a crisis like losing a spouse or becoming divorced and losing an income.
I really want to keep my farm & I want to keep several horses. I realize that all probably can't stay.
I'm considering options of:
free leasing horses (my first preference over selling)
renting a room
going to school for nursing- have most of the pre-reqs
moving somewhere where cost of living is cheap enough to live off the ss money
When John was sick all of my energy was focused on fighting the cancer and keeping him as comfortable as possible. Now, I feel like I have no focus there are so many things to think about... They say not to make any major financial decisions for a year... but I don't see how I can do that. Luckily, there is some life insurance money, but not enough...
So... for those who have been in my shoes... how did you make it work? Feel free to PM me if you'd like.
First, I am so sorry to hear of your loss. I was facing a similar crisis with Mr Jeano, whose mitral valve failed spectacularly Easter week. Fortunately for me his iron constitution and the surgeon's skill pulled him through and he is now in better shape than he's been for years--but there was a bad ten days or so before surgery when he was desperately ill and the outcome was doubtful.
I knew the life insurance would in all likelihood keep me solvent but I had zero knowledge of anything related to our finances. I literally had to tear the disaster zone he calls his home office apart to find the next series of checks for the checkbook (finding in the process unused checks from banks we no longer had accounts in in several states.)
I got my stepchild and her husband over to help me out during the wait. They helped me pay the bills, balance the checkbook, and hack into Mr Jeano's computer so I was more or less poised for the worst.
Obviously I was not bereaved and didnt have to face the same situation you are in, but I did have bereavement issues and my income more than halved when I was divorced by the First Mr Jeano fifteen years ago. I was devastated, I had no credit, I had no money in the bank, but I had a fulltime job as a RN and I had relatives I could tap for things I had to have (like buying my ex's pickup truck that he no longer needed.) I lived paycheck to paycheck until the new and vastly improved Mr Jeano entered my life.
I got a friend to do a half lease on one horse. I got friends to help me boost hay and haul shavings. I economized. I got a complete physical while I still had good insurance, made sure I didnt have anything serious going on with my own health. I leaned on friends and family like nobody's businees for moral support and company and I made sure I DID NOT SPEND holidays alone that first year. (Went with a cousin and his wife to Jamaica right before Christmas.) And I spent as much time as I could with my horses, even though I was sad and miserable and afraid and didnt even want to ride much. I swore that first summer that I would go riding and horsecamping and have a good time if it killed me. And I did have a better time than if I'd not ridden, I can tell you.
The only advice I can offer is don't make any huge changes (such as moving across the country) right now. Try to make some smaller changes locally now - remember, you might not even be conscious of how much support you have locally, be it friends, just knowing where to get the things you need day to day, etc.
Take some time to go explore places you might be interested in moving too - maybe there are more affordable areas within a day's drive that you can check out.
If you need to take some extra work, look for something part time and fairly low-stress (not handling the complaints line, for example!) temporarily, just to give you some extra.
One boarding idea: a friend of mine took in a bunch of pregnant TBs from a nearby stud farm for grazing board - the owners send a trimmer/vet over when they need that, and there isn't a stream of complaining owners stopping by each day wanting this and that. Try to avoid situations (like renting a room!) where you have to take on a lot of responsibilities or deal with other people's problems.
Sell or lease some horses if you can - riding schools are sometimes an option, besides private sales.
Get involved in some free and low-stress social groups, like a knitters group, book club, hiking group, or events at the local library, etc. to get you out and keep some social stuff going without costing much.
Visit the nursing schools you are considering, and spend some time on campus and watching the classes, if that can be arranged. That's a job much in demand, in many areas, so it might be a good choice. At least here I see endless ads for various health-care related jobs.
And if you love to ride, make time to spend with your horses every day - maybe get a group together for weekly "horse socials"?
So sorry to hear about your situation. When my husband left, I went to nursing school. It was rough for a couple of years because it is very hard to go to school and work full time and handle the farm and I only had two horses. I did lease one out my senior year and the other one was a bit neglected! That was 9 yrs ago.
Currently, I still have the farm, but still only the 2 horses. (And no kids). I think anymore than 2 would be too much work.
I would think you could keep a farm. Not necessarily the farm you have or the number of horses you have. If you have any that you could free lease to reduce the work load, I would recommend that.
Moving closer to relatives (if you like your relatives) would also be a very good idea.
First of all I am so incredibly sorry for your loss. My father in law passed unexpectadly in his sleep 6 weeks ago as well and I can definately relate to all the fears you have now with financial security, as we are helping my mother in law through the same thing. Luckily there are not really any kids involved as you have, since they are grown. First off I noticed in your tag line that he was a firefighter. Have you checked with the fire department to see what, if any benefits, you are now entitled to because of his service? We just found out my MIL is entitled to $1100 a month because of FIL's service during Vietnam in the Air Force. Perhaps you are entitled to a widow benefit that would at least provide a bit more money then social security. Whatever you do don't make any big decisions now, get the life insurance policy in and see if there is enough to pay down debt (if you have any). My MIL is getting enough to be able to pay off the house, cars, and all credit cards so basically she will get Social Security, the payment from the Air Force, plus she is eligible to retire and get that as well. With those combined and everything paid off, in some ways she will end up being more financially secure. If you need out from some of the responsibility right now, just free lease out the horses so you can go through what you need and get time to grieve and spend time with your children.
My sincere condolences on your loss. I can't imagine how devastating this has been.
How old are your children?
Some suggestions (and my apologies if you have already done any/all of these):
1. Call your bank and set up a meeting with someone who has been there for a while - what you are looking for is a financial advisor. Explain the circumstances and see if they can help you work out a money management plan. You need to feel you are in control of something right now, as things have clearly spun out of control over the last year.
2. Write up a priority list, with the MOST IMPORTANT things at the top. It might help you to have these things written down, and the whole act of doing it might help keep panic at bay.
3. Sell what you don't need. Not just for the money, but also to simplify your life. "Clutter" isn't just physically obstructive - it is mentally obstructive also.
I'm sure there are some posters here who have walked down this path who will have much more useful suggestions for you.
Again, I'm so sorry for your heartbreaking loss.
"My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we'll change the world." ~ Jack Layton
My DH is currently fighting melanoma and while I pray he wins the fight, I have been mentally making the contingency plan. I am lucky that there are no children to consider. If you can, stay where you are. You have your support system in place which you will need in the coming months as you adjust and learn how to live again. There are many places around the house you find to cut corners, store brands, coupons, turn your water heater down & blanket it, keep heat off until really needed and turn down, turn off un-used appliances
If you can, look to lease a couple of horses and if the right sale situation comes to light you can decide at that point. Look more to trades, can you offer pasture in exchange for hay/feed or whatever you need. With the wonderful pastures right now, maybe you can cut out grain and do a vitamin if needed. It was a great hay year, so its worth shopping as there should be very reasonable hay in your area.
I've also talked with the vet and discussed the what ifs with a major expense. My vet knows me very well and I have a perfect pay history, so I asked if I got in a bind in the future could we do a payment plan. It never hurts to ask. Keep everyone barefoot if possible.
Call your bank and set up a meeting with someone who has been there for a while - what you are looking for is a financial advisor. Explain the circumstances and see if they can help you work out a money management plan. You need to feel you are in control of something right now, as things have clearly spun out of control over the last year.
Agreed that the OP needs to talk to a financial advisor, but you're not likely to find a good one at a bank - the folks there are more likely salesmen who will limit you to the bank's products.
Find someone with both a Series 7 and a Series 66 license because this allows them to use whatever product they need to and they can actually give you advice. Make them explain what they do and if they only talk about investments then thank them for their time and go elsewhere. A financial advisor should look at your entire financial situation, including taxes, protection planning, cash flow, estate planning etc.
As for the critters and farm, you need to turn liabilities into assets. I'd be looking for on-farm leases to at least cover the cost of their feed, farrier, and regular annual vet costs. In-home day care is also not a bad idea, and I know many folks who do it. My daughter goes to one with a woman who is a retired nurse, and it's just three toddlers there so it's not overwhelming to her.
Renting out a room in your home can work both ways. I did it when I bought my first house (which is now a full rental). Some tenants were great, neat, clean, paid on time, etc. Others I had to go to court to sue for eviction and back rent. If you do it, screen the heck out of your tenants - background check, credit check, references, employment verification and salary check, etc.
My condolences to you and your family. My father died a few years ago, and my mom had to jump through some serious hoops to get the finances straightened out.
When the former mr timex walked out, I did some serious consolidating. My son and I moved into a smaller place, which helped a lot. I changed jobs, and moved the horses to a facility where I could work off board, not an option for you, though.
As for child care, etc, have you talked to your social services dept? Depending on your finances, you might be eligible for assistance with child care costs. And as another poster mentioned, see what your husbands service might make you eligible for. Good luck!
I've met tons of pre nursing students at my school. Where its inevitable for college students to be broke by default, I've also met those who work full time, are young parents, or have other things going in addition. You might find a group of fellow students for support as well. Depending on the age of your child(ren), the amount of credits you take, and your school there might be student child care available for you.
I'm so sorry for your loss. I lost my mom a year ago to colon cancer and as your tag read at the bottom, yeah CANCER SUCKS!!!
I am not sure of the laws in Maryland, but here in PA, I found out from a friend who talked this over with her attorney, all unsecured debt, in my mom's name only, did not have to be paid. We sent the death notices to her creditors and the vast majority dropped any claims. There were a couple that did continue to call and send letters, but eventually gave up. My dad would just restate that he was not required to pay that money as per PA state law.
I just thought I would mention this in case your husband had bills in his own name that you were concerned that you might have to pay off. Please check with an attorney in your area that specializes in this type of thing.
Losing a loved one to cancer is tough on its own, but remembering my mom crying about "leaving my father destitute" from all the medical bills (hers and his. He was diagnosed with esophagial cancer 6 weeks after she was diagnosed, though his was caught very early and he has made a full recovery) and other expenses they had racked up over the years is something that continues to haunt me. NO ONE should have to worry about medical bills being paid when they are dying (yes, both had good coverage through employers, but not all costs are covered).
As for yourself, please try to stay involved in some kind of activity where you can be with others. I am kind of a cynical person by nature, but I really was overhelmed with the good that is in most people, especially in times like what you and I had gone through and will continue to go through. Don't be afraid to accept anyone's help when offered, if you want it. Most of all, take care of yourself and use this opportunity to pursue things that you want to do. After my mom passed, my dad and I almost didn't know what to do with ourselves, as most of our non-working time was spent caring for her and worrying about her. Getting back to "real life" took some adjusting and I know my dad still struggles about what to do with himself, like on weekends. It all just takes time.
You have my best wishes as you embark on this new path...
Mary- I wanted to offer again my deepest sincerest condolences. I have thought of you and Nathaniel often over the past weeks. I wish I lived close enough to you to offer some concrete support. Your emails to me when my daughter was first born and I was in the "baby blues" were so supportive and helpful and I wish I could say something now to help you. I just re-read your husband's blog on his Livestrong ride, and cried again over it. One of my dear friends has beaten cancer not just once but twice and he rode again this year, but that spectre of relapse always looms over him. This year was even more bittersweet as he rode in honor of the 2yr old son of another set of our mutual friends who beat cancer last fall- only to have it return again a few months ago. HE IS TWO. He is in chemo now and has lost all his hair and just yesterday got readmitted on his "week off" from the chemo for a liver and bladder infection. It is a pernicious, insidious disease and I am so very, very, achingly sorry for your loss.
And now down to brass tacks. How can you keep your farm. Agree with other suggestions about leasing your horses, etc, but the first thing that sprang to my mind... can you get your mortgage reamortized to lower your monthly payment? Generally there is some small fee for this- a few hundred $$- but no where near as much as refinancing would cost you. Or, depending on what your interest rate is, you may actually want to refinance. Also, probably your property values have dropped (like everyone else's ). Can you get your farm reassessed to lower your property taxes? Does MD have some kind of farm preservation act where you could enroll for substantially reduced taxes?
Good luck. You probably don't know it but I"m very certain there are many, many COTH'ers sending you well-wishes and postive thoughts every day. I know I am.
MK, I wanted to offer my condolences as well. I'm very sorry about your loss.
I don't have much that I can add except to make sure as much debt as possible is paid down, clip coupons, stretch everything with frozen vegetables, and maybe take on a boarder or something. I'm sure you'll make it work, because in spite of how crappy you're probably feeling, you do come across as quite strong in your posts.
Just thought of another thing for childcare for you that may or may not work, I am not sure where you live. Are you near a college at all? If so perhaps you could "rent" a college student a room in exchange for babysitting. They could work off their rent with babysitting for you, and they could pay half of utilities. That would be a bit less for you out of pocket, and provide some company for you as well.
I agree with the free lease on the horses-but remember if you do an on farm lease you will have to adjust your insurance, get binding contracts, and do financial checks on everyone. If you rent a room you might find someone who is already retired or is widowed/divorced and doesn't have the job skills to go back in the regular workforce who will be a live-in nanny with light housekeeping involved (Aunt Bee from Andy Griffith type of thing). Make sure you do a complete financial and criminal background check on anyone before you let them inside your house. You should go to nursing school if that's what you want, but in spite of cheaper housing other places you might not want to move because you'll have to pay out of state tuition probably. Some states subsidize nursing school tuition in return for you working in that state for a certain time period. The admissions people at the nursing schools near you will be your best resource. If you get student loans DO NOT get private ones, just public FAFSA, Pell etc because the private loans have interest rates that are truly hideous. A friends daughter looked at private loans and for $10,000 now would eventually have to repay $30,000!!! And public loans, as long as you are in certain jobs and repay the minimum for 10 years are forgiven, and that may get better in the future also. Find out about accelerated nursing programs. A friend has gone back in a one-year BS RN program after having a 4 year degree in another, totally unrelated field, after he completed his preliminaries he goes one year full time and graduates, he is then going to do one more year and be a nurse practitioner-so there are faster routes than 4 years. Remember, you don't have to be a hospital nurse or a job with late shifts-there are tons of clinic or doctor's office nurses with regular hours, nurse practitioners work some good hours in a clinic or HMO setting, or even teaching at the nursing school (but I think many require a doctorate for this). Private duty nursing or working for a nurse registry can pay very well but may require longer hours than you want.
I would be afraid of the legal liability of boarders, and the extra expenses, plus what happens if you get a boarder that abandons the horse or horses? Since you have your own land maybe you can allow someone to raise cattle or something on it, they supply their own feed and take care of them and you get the money. Do you have timber you could sell? Or any collectibles (Lladro, hummels, etc) you could sell? Maybe rent out part of your property for someone who wants to build a greenhouse-I think most garden centers prefer locally acclimated plants so that could be an option too-there are lots of greenhouse flowers and plants and they need room for them. Any extra vehicles or other equipment you don't need that you could resell? You could put your place up for sale and see what happens, but in the current economy you'd probably get a lot less than you expect, and depending on what you still owe and real estate commissions plus other expenses you might end up losing money, or not being able to afford another place you like.