Ask Paul: How can I start over after my ex gambled away everything?


Dear Paul,

I'm a 40-year-old single mum to three school-aged kids, and I'm renting and currently unemployed. 

I have $300,000 to make something of. I want to put about $150,000 towards a property we can call home and really want to invest $100,000 or so into something that could potentially bring some income.

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I'm open to starting a business or any recommendations you may offer. 

It is a fresh start from scratch for my kids after we lost absolutely everything due to their dad's secret affairs and gambling our whole life away.

We are now on our own with no belongings other than the clothes on our backs and money I will receive from a settled compensation. 

I want to do what's best for our future with some guidance please. - Ru

Ru, I know there is a whole lot of pain and distress that has led you to where you are now. I am so sad to hear about what you and your kids have been through, but delighted you have a fresh start with a good sum of money.

I love the idea of you using some of the funds towards a property. In fact, I would not be against you using a large proportion of the funds to allow you to own a home. Where I am instantly cautious is you starting a business.

I have absolutely no problem with people starting businesses - these are the backbone of our entire economy and can be a real wealth builder. In my own case, starting my business IPAC back in 1983 was the most critical step in creating financial security for me and my family.

But many businesses fail, and I have no idea of your business experience.

Naturally, if that has been an important part of your past and you have the skills, time and knowledge, then go for it. But if this is more of a "nice idea" I strongly encourage caution. Losing around half of your compensation is not what you or I want to see happening.

So where I am with you is to secure a home, preferably in a growth location where you and your kids can live full lives. Then if you have strong business skills, a business is a good idea. If not, I would much prefer you to seek employment, possibly in an area where you have a strong interest. Working for someone else is a fantastic way to test your skills in a business environment.

But, above all, good on you for getting through this very difficult stage and starting to plan your new life.

My very best wishes to you and your kids.

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Paul Clitheroe AM is founder and editorial adviser of Money magazine. He is one of Australia's leading financial voices, responsible for bringing financial insight to Australians through personal finance books, the Money TV show, and this publication, which he established in 1999. Paul is the chair of the Australian Government Financial Literacy Board and is chairman of InvestSMART Financial Services. He is the chair of Financial Literacy at Macquarie University where he is also a Professor with the School of Business and Economics. Ask Paul your money question. Unfortunately Paul cannot respond to questions posted in the comments section. View our disclaimer.