How I Overcame Divorce and Debt and Got My Finances on Track
Before becoming chief growth and lending officer at the fintech credit provider Mission Lane, Lisa Fischer went through a very tough financial time. Following a costly divorce, Fischer found herself $800,000 in debt. But through planning and discipline, she was able to get back on her feet and is now helping other women do the same.
Here’s Fischer’s inspiring story.
Hitting Her Financial Rock Bottom: Divorce & Debt
My divorce was costly in many ways, as I was pinned under my ex-husband’s accumulation of debt that I didn’t know existed. He had hidden a severe gambling problem that came to light when our house was foreclosed upon. On top of that, all of our savings and investments were gone, the credit cards were maxed out and taxes were not paid. As a result of my divorce, I was approximately $800k in debt, with no additional cash flow. When it rains, it pours, right?
However, it taught me a lot about being financially independent and taking control of my finances. Now, I am a stickler for budgeting and strive to be as organized and knowledgeable as possible when it comes to my finances.
Despite my background in banking, my divorce forced me to realize that life can be unpredictable, but how we move forward with our actions can define us. This life event ultimately shaped how I manage my spending to this day, as well as how I approach serving Mission Lane’s customers.
Digging Herself Out of the Hole
To begin the process of rebuilding my finances, I started by getting organized. I created an Excel spreadsheet for myself and began tracking my expenses, outlining what I anticipated for the costs, and distinguishing between luxuries and necessities. I started to set goals for myself on how much debt I could pay off in a certain time period. This helped me visualize my cash flow and cut down where needed, and before I knew it, I was surpassing milestones faster than the timeline I had laid out for myself.
Even now, after I have paid off my debt, I still use a spreadsheet to track my expenses on a monthly basis. It is something that I continue to do to this day to help me stay organized and manage my spending.
How Being a Woman Shapes Her Approach To Helping Others
Throughout undergraduate and graduate school, I was often the only woman in my STEM-focused classes, as was the case when I began my career in banking. While I didn’t think much of it at the time, having a daughter now who is interested in pursuing a career in STEM has opened my eyes to the importance of inclusion.
Fast forward to my divorce, and I learned that many women may have had similar experiences because they simply weren’t involved in their household finances because of preexisting stereotypes. Furthermore, many financial institutions are not equipped to properly serve and empower people in situations where they are facing a substantial financial setback. When you have faced a challenge that causes your credit score to drop, there are fewer banks and credit card companies willing to serve you, and what you do have access to can often be expensive or come with hidden fees.
These experiences have shaped my perspective, and are the main reason I shifted to work in the fintech industry — particularly at a fintech company that is so focused on helping people build back their finances after facing setbacks. I know at Mission Lane that I have the power to make a difference for women who find themselves in similar situations, need support getting back on their feet and need to know the financial options available to them.
Her Advice for Other Women in a Financial Hard Place
I would advise women, regardless of their financial situation, to ask as many questions as possible. Often as women, we tend to shy away from questions because we’re afraid of appearing uninformed, but the consequences of not understanding should outweigh these fears. Part of what contributed to my financial situation around my divorce was not asking questions and leaving financial decisions for my husband to handle.
Second, I find it helpful to write everything down. Whether it’s using a spreadsheet to track your expenses or writing in a journal, there is a power in writing things down and holding yourself accountable for how you save and spend your money.
Ultimately, there is a power in awareness and understanding. Educating yourself is key to your independence and happiness.
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