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I Lost My Retirement Savings in a Divorce: Here’s How I Made It All Back

Drazen Zigic / Getty Images/iStockphoto
Drazen Zigic / Getty Images/iStockphoto

When Violet (a pseudonym used for this article) separated from her then-husband, she was looking forward to enjoying a fresh start away from what she describes as a toxic marriage. But as she initiated divorce proceedings, she was shocked by how much that clean break was going to cost her.

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“Under the law in my state, Minnesota, my ex was entitled to a significant portion of my 401k earnings during the time we had been married,” she told GOBankingRates.

“As part of the divorce proceedings, we had to go through a ‘qualified domestic relations’ process where it was determined how much my husband would receive.”


Turns out, the price was $60,000 out of a roughly $200,000 retirement fund. During their marriage, Violet had been diligently putting 5% of her paycheck into her retirement fund, which her employer matched.

“It hurt to basically pay him off to get out of my life,” Violet admitted. “But I decided the best thing to do was concentrate on my own well-being.”

One of the first parts of focusing on her own well-being again was earning back the money she’d lost.

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Increasing Retirement Account Contributions

Violet started rebuilding her retirement savings by boosting her contributions to her 401k. For the past four years, she’s put closer to 15% of her income into her account, in addition to her 5% company match.

Crucially, Violet also started working with a broker from the company that managed her retirement fund to help diversify her investments.

“It meant less money in my paychecks in the short term, but I can see the benefits growing for my long term,” she said.

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Working with a Financial Advisor

In addition to speaking with the broker, Violet also reached out to a friend who works as a financial advisor. She became one of their clients and together they worked on budgeting, setting goals and putting savings away.

Consulting with the experts has been essential to Violet’s journey toward regaining, and even increasing, the money in her retirement account. While she was fortunate enough to have a friend in the know, there are ways for other people in her position to find an advisor.

According to Chad Gammon, a financial planner and investment advisor at Arnold and Mote Wealth Management, “The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors is a great resource to find a fee-only, fiduciary planner.”

Gammon recommended that you interview several firms to find an advisor who makes you feel heard and at ease. Also, he noted that many firms will also help you with recommendations if your needs differ from their expertise.

Sticking to a Budget

Violet admitted that reworking her budget was not without its challenges, specifically having less money available to spend on hobbies or dining out over the past few years.

However, she quickly added that the end result — watching her retirement fund recover and grow — has been “a big deal.”

Foregoing the non-essentials is advice that Jeff Rose, CFP, founder of, and former CEO and founder of Alliance Wealth Management, would also recommend.

“Cut back on all non-essential expenses to stretch your remaining funds further,” he said. “Yes, this includes all your streaming services or any other conveniences you’ve grown comfortable with. It’s a straightforward approach to rebuild your financial security.”

Knowing It’s Okay To Ask for Help

Thanks to all her hard work, ability to stick with a budget and, above all, her willingness to reach out for help, Violet has more than earned back what she lost. In fact, she’s not only back to her pre-divorce amount, but she’s also added an extra $40,000 on top of that.

“I knew I needed help to make sure I would recover from my losses, and talking to experts who had been trained in how to help me do it made such a big difference,” she said.

“If I have any advice for someone who is trying to climb back, it is that it’s not just okay to ask for help, it’s really important. You don’t have to do it alone.”

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This article originally appeared on I Lost My Retirement Savings in a Divorce: Here’s How I Made It All Back