by Savvy Ladies Member Dawn Drzal
When the Cupboard Looks Bare
I still remember casing my new apartment like a cat burglar a few months into my divorce, except the possessions I was evaluating were my own. The long process of dissolving the marriage had barely begun, and I had already exhausted my meager personal savings. All joint assets were tied up in escrow. I needed cash, and I needed it fast.
Many divorced or divorcing women find themselves in a similar position at some point. Even if they don’t have an immediate need for funds, they often have credit card debt or feel they have gotten a late start investing for retirement or their children’s college education.
If this situation sounds familiar, take heart! There are hidden gems in your home if you only know where to find them.
The obvious first place to look is your jewelry box. Your diamond engagement ring is probably the most valuable piece of jewelry you own, but almost two thirds of women (64%) don’t think of their ring as a financial asset. According to Laurie Itkin, CDFA, “Some women mistakenly believe their ring will increase in value over the next 20 years. That is unlikely to happen.” Worthy is a company devoted to helping women sell their engagement rings online. Many of their clients use the proceeds to fund an investment or college savings account or pay off pre-existing debt. Assuming the ring was gifted to you prior to marriage or the signing of a prenuptial agreement, it’s your property to dispose of as you please. Ok, be honest. When you look at this ring, are you flooded with happy memories? Right? In a financial study conducted by Worthy, I just loved that they said “A diamond can be a divorced woman’s best friend.”
The Eighth Wonder of the World
Let’s go one step further and picture Laurie Itkin’s scenario: if a woman sells her ring at Worthy for $2,000 and gets a side gig of $400 a month and invests that money, in 20 years she’ll have $300,000. That figure might seem hard to swallow, but it’s the miraculous result of compound interest at work! I don’t remember when I first heard compound interest explained through the legend of the young man who invented chess, but I remember that it blew my mind. The story goes that when he presented the chessboard to the king, the monarch was so delighted he offered to grant him whatever he wished. The young man asked only for a single grain of rice to be placed on the first square of the chessboard, doubling on each square up to the 64th. So the next day two grains were placed on the second square, then four grains on the third, eight grains on the fourth, and so on. The king was chuckling to himself about how lightly he got off until the court treasurer came to him about a week later with news that the realm would soon go bankrupt. “Your Majesty,” he said, “when you get to the 64th square, you will owe him 18 million trillion grains of rice, more than enough to cover the entire surface of the earth.” No wonder Albert Einstein is reputed to have called compound interest the “eighth wonder of the world,” although there is no record of him actually saying it.
So now that you’re fired up by how compound interest can change your life, poke around further in your jewelry box. Engagement rings aren’t the only pieces that you can sell. Go through your other rings, bracelets, earrings and necklaces. What about watches? Most of us use our cell phones to tell time nowadays. Ask yourself what you actually wear, and if you actually need it. For me, the hardest thing to part with was a pair of beautiful art deco emerald earrings I wore once or twice a year when I got really dressed up. It sounds harsh, but I finally asked myself, what’s the use of looking rich if you’re poor? Then l realized I could wear a pair of perfectly nice amethyst earrings instead, and I didn’t feel so bad.
Monetize Your Hoard
It’s time for a deep dive into your closets and drawers for other saleable items. You might feel the cupboards are bare, but let me assure you there’s more hidden treasure there. Here’s a list to get your mental wheels turning:
- Collectibles (your kids’ old Pokémon cards, action figures or video gaming consoles; American Girl or Cabbage Patch dolls; Lladró, Hummel or Herend pieces)
- Vintage board games
- Designer purses
- Handmade shoes
- Hermès or other designer scarves
- Perfume (even if it’s partially used!) and vintage perfume bottles
- Fountain pens
- Books (any signed, limited or first editions?)
- Signed pottery and art glass (such as Roseville or Mochaware)
- Kitchen appliances (espresso machine, juicer, Kitchen Aid mixer)
- Cameras, binoculars, tools
- Comic books
- Sporting equipment
- Silver flatware or serving pieces
Get That Miracle Growing
Many of these pieces, especially the collectibles, can be sold on E-bay. Some–like designer purses–have dedicated sites that authenticate and fetch better prices. Websites like Worthy are a better fit for engagement rings and other fine jewelry. Large items like furniture might be better sold locally. Do your research. A few minutes of nosing around the internet will show you how quickly you can turn your clutter, which gathers dust, into cash, which generates interest.