Why you MUST know about your 401(k) and why you don’t.

Or Merely Advice to a Younger Woman — or Man — if you wish.

I have become an avid seeker of survival skills of late. This was less by choice than by chance and for this I write of some things that I wish I had such advice, years ago. Being at a point where, perhaps, I have some wisdom or at least experience to offer — looking at life backwards — I offer you this.

How we learn from our mistakes! Too bad our successes aren’t more useful. Women! Do not relinquish your finances to anyone but yourself — single, married, divorced or any state in-between.

That being said, I made some mistakes, big time. When the notion of an intense art career combined with an intense “stay-at-home-mommy” role, I knew something had to give.

The mothering couldn’t give — biologically inconvenient are us! Pregnancy aided by physician assistance — for the first two children, and a surprise third — made for the beginning of an intense ride.

The first 10 years are a blur; coveting a nap, I do remember. Fast paced life as a CEO of the home Greenwich-style-mother-do-thisdo the best at everything, children’s parties, sports, schools, camps, nannies, tennis teams at the club, corporate events — US Open in the IBM box, a few perks. Oh — and in your spare time — start an annual film festival, a product, service, event, or as I tried — buy a post office for a future art center. Many of the older mother overachieverssyndrome there.

Then the fairy tale spun apart…. Cinderella vs. Clark Kent.

Three years of divorce court — living under the same roof, trying very hard to keep the poisonous conditions from the children.

So, I speak with some authority. I made some very bad mistakes. For which I am also writing a post called “The Worst Time to Get a Divorce is When You are Getting One.” Stay tuned.

Today is a primer for women who are either divorcing or understand that the chance of divorcing is 50/50 and the awareness needed to prevent a similar state that I found myself in. (Men are not immune — for you too). Better to know the issues than face the consequences of ignorance.

Not unlike paying attention to living a healthy life, knowing the risks of disease.

Studies show that women have different investment patterns than men. They tend to be more conservative, less impulsive than men, resulting in the turtle who wins the race, syndrome. BUT, the big caveat is that women, though they may show an aptitude, still tend to defer to a man’s abilities — of the perspective that he faces more business world finance and is more closely aligned with “bread winner’s role ”. The results are that women often relinquish the major responsibility for long term financial goals such as Retirement Plans, Life Insurance plans, 401(k), annuities, Roth, qualified and non-qualified, pensions…. Necessary evils if you wish.

You may meet this advice with resistance but know that relinquishing your finances to your husband or partner leaves you volnerable; partnerships may change but your 401 (k) will not make amends. The allegiance he may have for you will change, if your relationship changes. Ex-spouses, you will find, are not as generous as spouses. (Your relationship to your mother-in-law will also change, big time, surprise).

Would you have trusted the most popular girl in your high school clique with all of your material possessions, granted that probably was not of great value then? The point being — relationships can and most often do change, without guarantees. YOU want guarantees, this is your future.

If you find yourself already too late for this advice — despite murderous impulses — your remedy is of a legal sort. Be aware that the courts, the legal system has a bias toward men, people that look alike often do. (However, women are granted superior intellect, ask scientists — our redeeming survival mechanism).

Legal where-with-all is not just for law school grads, though they will try to convince you otherwise. It is not as complicated as you may think.

Not having the funds necessary to hire a lawyer might be a blessing in disguise; you will be prevented from the huge bill at the end of your efforts to rectify the issues. Surprise! You CAN do it!

Law is like a foreign language, so learn the terms and google away. You would be surprised at the answers you can get, without paying for those sacred legal services.

Revenge, poverty, ethics, promises broken are bigger motivators than the commitment most lawyers make — at an unthinkable hourly rate.

Be aware that it is unethical, if not against the “Rules” — the lawyer’s book of conduct — to drop clients when their fees are unpaid.

If you are low income, apply for waivers for all fees and court costs, in making the necessary actions.

First common-sense reminder — you DO know this, after all, you have been around boys then men for some time now — figure out what motivates who ever you are up against.

Here is a good example. Victims of some professions have a process for making grievance complaints about the services hired, say, a legal practice. Now think about the motivation principle. How likely will it be that a panel of attorneys will find a peer group of attorneys culpable?

Attorneys will only betray their tribe in cases of really stupid, criminal-like desperate financial malpractice thefts. I laid out two sound cases and the responses that came back from these esteemed authorities had enough mistakes to make the most checkered clerk look good.

Lawyers against lawyers, not happening. Same goes for Citizens Police Review Commissions — don’t waste your time (like I did).

What really counts is what motivates the courts. I have had a Perry Mason-likedialogue in my head for months. It makes for an interesting rant but only with myself— so, write it down (for the 12th time, if it will make you happy). By the twelfth time it will start to become less convincing and perhaps even whiny. Why? Because it is your passion, not that of anyone else’s concern.

What are the concerns of the COURT? To keep the dockets moving along at an acceptable pace. Remember that the court officials report to a score keeper too. This is the area that a lawyer does have it over you. The acts of making of the correct motion (a call for action), can seriously harm or aid your strategy. Think chess game, not Dostoyevsky.

Study the Judgments (decisions) of similar cases in order to understand the chess game moves of the legal system. The Court will have natural biases that are not in your favor, so you need to be twice as good (we’ve heard that before).

Don’t expect a ruling based on common sense or based on the obviousness of the case. Judges will make decisions based on case law, local, state or federal laws and the RULES of the courtroom.

Self-litigation is going the way of many do-it-yourself activities and gaining more support. Website to help you include Courtroom 5, Self-Representative Litigants Network or SRIN.org, or IAALS.du.edu; even the AmericanBar.orghas self-litigation information.

Remember there are many pros for self-litigation: lawyers are expensive, spread too thin, have less at stake than you do, and you know the case better than anyone — or you should.

Now go, enjoy your youth with this awareness in the background!!!

— -Debra Sherwood

More from das651@msn.com

Involved in all things that engage our minds and strengthen our souls. Art making, curating, writing, entrepreneurial endeavors.

Mar 12

The Love of My Life was from Ukraine

A fairy tale that grew out of the land that is now a bed of horrors It was the winter of 2006 and I had been divorced for a year. As was a likely meeting ground of the recently divorced, internet dating became my dance card. My choice of dating…


6 min read

The Love of My Life was from Ukraine

Share your ideas with millions of readers.

Write on Medium

Mar 8

“Letters of Engagement” and other unromantic notions

Who would be writing: addressing you with a “letters of engagement?” An old flame, a new flirtation, a marriage proposal, …. the product of one’s first romantic crush… a promise ring. Or perhaps the law firm that you have finally convinced to take your case? It was only the 7th…


4 min read

“Letters of Engagement” and other unromantic notions

Mar 8

$$$ Mothers are not working- if you believe the Dept. of Labor !!! $$$

A simple but infuriating equation: mother’s work is in the same category as the ‘voluntarily idle’ aka unemployed! Thinking in terms of fairy tales and not. My pot of gold — through a convoluted path — has become that of a ‘W-2’ wannabe. Through a series of semantic truths, you will see the level of distortion, within the activities of human categories. A ‘W-2’ is only a statement of wages, taxes, benefits, etc; however, it represents…

Stay At Home Parent

6 min read

$$$ Mothers are not working- if you believe the Dept. of Labor !!! $$$

Feb 28


Gold Filings Gold filings exists somewhere between a blog and a diary. The content ranges from that which I can effectively share with you based on a trifecta of experiences, ruminations and/or deliberations. Perhaps you will find a moment to pause for reflection, or will enlighten your day or even ruffle your dander to action. Which ever it is, I am fairy certain that there will be something for everyone.

Artist Writer

1 min read


Jan 26


Gold Filings Gold filings exists somewhere between a blog and a diary. The content ranges from that which I can effectively share with you based on a trifecta of experiences, ruminations and/or deliberations. Perhaps you will find a moment to pause for reflection, or will enlighten your day or even ruffle your dander to action. Which ever it is, I am fairy certain that there will be something for everyone.


1 min read


Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Try Knowable