My Two Cents: “I'm 39, Divorced, and I Lost All My Income”

New York magazine|May 25 - June 07, 2020

My Two Cents: “I'm 39, Divorced, and I Lost All My Income”
How a massage therapist who can’t work is getting by.
Charlotte Cowles

THE LAST DAY I WORKED was on March 14, the Saturday before Governor Cuomo closed New York down. I rent a workspace in Brooklyn, and no one in my building was on the same page about hygiene protocols. I was also nervous about taking the train to get there. I knew there was no way I could say for sure that none of my clients would get infected at an appointment. So I was just like, “I can’t do this,” and I canceled all the next day’s appointments.

Shutting down my business was terrifying financially. And the irony is I was just getting to a good place money-wise. About a year ago, I got a divorce, and that process was finally ending. I’d also doubled my business revenue, which allowed me to start paying down my consumer debt more aggressively. I had one shared credit card from my marriage that had about $11,000 on it and another personal credit card with about $9,000. My plan was to pay off both by June or July and then start tackling my $90,000 of student debt from when I went to graduate school for acupuncture. Before all this, I mapped it out so that I could pay it off in the next five years.

I was also planning to go to aesthetician school this summer so that I could add facials and skincare to my services, and it would have bumped up my annual revenue by about $50,000. Everything was lining up perfectly—and then it all just came crashing down.

Not only did I lose all my income but I also lost over half the money I received in my divorce settlement, which was a 401(k) worth about $26,000. The Monday after I closed my business, I liquidated that portfolio because I didn’t feel comfortable leaving my money in the market. That was the same day that the Dow dropped 3,000 points—so what started out as $26,000 wound up being only about $10,000 in the end. I consolidated what was left of it with the rest of my money in a savings account. I also have some cash from a promotional offer that I did in mid-March where clients bought gift cards and packages. It’s basically a credit to be worked off later, though, so I don’t feel great about living on it. Altogether, I had about $40,000 total at the beginning of the pandemic. I’ve spent about $8,000 of it so far.

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May 25 - June 07, 2020