A few months ago I was at a presentation about money. It was not a presentation about new tax rules or how to invest, but it was about how hard it is to talk about money.
“I know that!” I thought to myself. A+ for me.
Why is talking about money so hard?
Well, that night of the presentation, we were all asked what money meant to each of us. We all had varying answers, but I knew what mine was.
For me, there is a strong link between money and my feelings of self-worth.
I think this undercurrent drives our society.
When I was negotiating my divorce, I felt like I had no voice and no value because I was not earning any income as a stay-at-home mom. Every meeting with divorce coaches and lawyers was torturous because I did not feel heard. At the time I was lost, I did not know why I did the things I did, what value I brought to the family. I believed that everyone was listening to my co-parent as he held all the power because he earned all the income. They were listening to him because he had more value because he earned more money. I truly believed this and had for my entire life. In fact, it is a belief that still lurks beneath the surface in me and as stated above I think it lurks beneath the surface of our society.
In fact, I felt like I could not live my life according to my values. I had walked away from my highly paid job as a financial analyst to be a stay-at-home parent and during our legal meetings, the only thing I kept hearing was: “when is Renée going to go back and get her high paying job back?”
Instead of figuring out what I needed to continue to move forward with my life, I proposed all the plans I would take to do just that; get back to that high paying job. In fact, it was even written into our separation agreement – Renée’s plan for getting her career back – clearly laid out on page 5. Because I wanted that separation agreement. That is what I felt I needed. Once I had that agreement, I would be able to move on with my life. The divorce coaches and lawyers (all collaborative) tried to help me elucidate what I wanted but I didn’t know myself and being the type A person that I was and wanting to save money, I kept driving the separation process forward while burying the emotions that kept trying to pop to the surface. I also did my budgets and figured out how to divide the money. I thought that part was easy.
Since that time, my life has not taken that clear path that I thought it was going to take. It was not simply a matter of making clear logical choices to get to the end goal.
Instead, I had to battle against the thoughts of what was expected of me and figure out what was going on under the surface. It was only once I got a handle on that, that decisions and choices become easier for me.
As I grow my business and work with people and their finances as they negotiate their divorce, I realize that we are all on a similar path. I have yet to meet a client that can easily decide when faced with different financial options. I have yet to meet a client that can clearly articulate their feelings and thoughts around their financial situation.
I am often the first professional newly separated couples contact for help. After all, society has driven home the message that divorce is about dividing the money. So, they contact the financial professional because there are clear rules and ways to divide the money, right?
No. Divorce is that stop light in life that says, “you are not living your life according to what drives you and you’ve reached that point where you can go no further on the path that you are currently on.” You could sit at that intersection for quite some time before you figure out how to make that light turn green.
But I’m going to help you. Who is the first professional you should see?
Well, this is not going to be the answer that society tells you it should be.
The answer is you need to see a team.
You need a financial professional to help you figure out where you stand financially at this moment in life and to also give you information about what your future financial situation could look like depending on which option you choose and decision you make.
You need a mental health professional or coach to help you develop options that are in line with the values that drive you forward in life.
And you need a lawyer to advise you of the legal rules around separation and divorce and who can also document the separation agreement that you are going to use to navigate your new life post-divorce.
Don’t be like the old uninformed me. Don’t use your professional advisors to create a separation agreement that clearly outlines the steps to the life you don’t want post-divorce.
Instead, take it from the new me, a financial and divorce expert. Use the team to help you create the life you want.