This Mom Wants to Help Others Prosper Financially After Divorce
Michelle Jacobik was raised by parents who aimed to teach her about finances from an early age. At 10, her mom handed her a checkbook register and taught her how to balance it out. It became one of her monthly chores, and she remembers thinking it felt like more math. "I didn't even like math," she says. "Little did I know really how important that task would be in the years to come."
Her mom and grandmother were also into couponing, saving for a rainy day, and doing layaways for Christmas gifts. "I felt like we couldn't afford things, because I felt like I was witnessing penny-pinching," remembers Jacobik.
At 19, she moved out of her parents' house and felt fueled by "a huge sense of adult confidence." She says, "I had this huge freedom bug, and I was not going to pinch pennies."
She moved from working at a spa to being employed at a financial services firm. "I was making $11 an hour, and I was spending like I was earning $75," remembers Jacobik. "It was not normal for a 23-year-old to have a $15,000 credit card problem."
In her mid-20s, motivated by the fact that she was getting engaged and starting a family, Jacobik realized what her mom and grandma had been teaching her all along and got intentional about paying down her debt.
"I realized that there were some foundational lessons that actually came with that first attempt at adulting," says Jacobik. "I learned that financial consistency is actually what leads to financial stability."
To address her debt, Jacobik poured energy into side hustles and put $25 then $50 and ultimately $100 a month into a mutual fund. By the time she and her then husband welcomed their daughter in 1994, they had paid off all of the credit card debt. "And we had money in the bank, and we were able to buy a house," recalls Jacobik.
At the same time, she began to master her vision for earning, transforming from a 23-year-old young woman drowning in a sea of debt into a 29-year-old woman who, alongside a business partner, bought an insurance agency that they worked for and scaled into a seven-figure business over the course of 15 years.
"Life was pretty rosy, and it looked really good," she notes. But while Jacobik and her husband were doing well parenting together, they were struggling with the marriage piece of their relationship. In 2013, they decided to separate.
"Everything that we built together was split in half," she notes. "It was challenging."
When she first moved into her own place, her spending habits stayed the same even though her financial picture had changed. "I felt like I was right back to being 20," says Jacobik.
Eight months post-divorce, she found herself with about $8K in credit card debt, which served as a wake-up call to hit the brakes and assess her spending. Jacobik began using a "virtual envelope system" with a budgeting app, splitting up how much money was going to go in various categories like eating out, family entertainment, clothing, and the kids' after-school activities.
Her son would help her stay on top of the budget by keeping tabs on their spending. "I remember him asking me, 'Are we poor? Do we not have money?'" says Jacobik. "And I said, 'No, no, no. That's not the case.'" She explained that funds simply needed to be distributed to other categories like savings and his college fund as opposed to eating out.
Jacobik realized that while much of this budgeting work can be done on one's own using apps and spreadsheets, there are times when everyone needs support, expertise, and someone who can offer a glimpse of the big picture, and help them to feel empowered around money.
That's why she was inspired to start working as a business profitability strategist and success coach. In 2018, she wrote a book called Prosperity After Divorce: Take Charge of Your Finances & Create the Life You Really Want Using LifeStyle Re-Design Planning aimed at helping women of all ages and means find true prosperity after divorce.
Here, a few of Jacobik's best tips for anyone navigating post-divorce finances and dreaming of a more secure future.
Carve Out Time for Yourself
Jacobik says everyone needs space and time to figure things out. "Give yourself some quiet time, even if that's at night after the kids go to bed or Sunday evening, you know, when you don't have to worry about running them to sports," suggests Jacobik. "Do some self-reflection and some planning."
Even if you're simply devoting 15 minutes or a whole hour, you get to use that time to start dreaming, she says. "Sometimes that's challenging," she acknowledges. "But you have to realize that there is life after divorce, that there is prosperity after divorce, but it only can be trumped up and activated by you."
Be Open and Honest With Your Kids
Although you don't want your kids to feel like anything has changed, divorce presents an opportunity for many teachable moments when you're clear that you're moving through a transition time, says Jacobik.
"The truth is that we're raising adults," she explains. "We get to use this transition and the things that we're willing to share with them about what it looks like to reset your lifestyle so that they can be successful when they move through a transition of their own, because they will. It's bound to happen."
Focus on Your Family's "Financial DNA"
Jacobik encourages parents to "make a conscious effort to shift and improve" their financial DNA. "That honestly starts with the kind of money mindset that we have, what we think about money, how we talk about money," she explains.
Ideally, she'd love to see people stop saying, "We can't afford that" or "I can't afford that." "Those four words put us in a place of helplessness and victimhood."
Those phrases also determine where you're going to be in the future, says Jacobik. "It's an energy of stuckness when we use these words, and it starts to affect everybody around us," she notes. "It affects our spouses. It affects our kids. It affects our coworkers, our teams. And I know that we all want better and can do better than that."
Ultimately, she hopes that parents will step into a creator mindset, asking questions like, "How can we make that happen?" and "What am I not seeing here?" Then, they'll be able to make the small changes and steps toward the next chapter.