Ahh money. Moola. Dinero. Cash.
Money issues are like a vine that spreads into every area of your life. It can be a blooming vine that helps tie things together, or an overwhelming dark growth that chokes out the light - or something in between, a work in progress.
We can prune back the most aggressive tendrils. We can be the boss or our pesos, but we may have to fight for it, like a warrior queen. More about that in a minute.
Here is some context for the money landscape we face in midlife:
Middle class squeeze:
Healthcare costs - I know you know. Raise your hand if you are putting off important check ups, dental preventive care, and have unanswered questions about your changing body. If you aren’t 65 yet, you are paying a ridiculous amount of money for health insurance and out of pocket costs.
I lost my US based health insurance a couple of years ago when I decided to travel for 18 months. I switched my permanent residence and the great state of Texas declined to offer me insurance based on my new single person income at that time. That’s fine with me because I don’t want to pay an insurance premium in a state I don’t spend much time in anyway.
I had surgery last year in Mexico City, with excellent care and outcome, that cost probably 25% of what it would have in the US. Health care costs are one major reason more people - including single women - are considering living and retiring outside of the US. More on that in a bit.
Higher education: the cost of a college education had increased exponentially in the last 20 years, far outpacing inflation. For those of us wanting to go back to school, or trying to save for kids college fund, this is a challenge.
Cost of housing - this is good news and bad news, depending upon where you live, if you own a house, and how much equity you have. On the emotional side, that house might be taking a big chunk out of your emotional energy if it is filled to the rafters with years worth of stuff that you “can’t get rid of” but that does nothing for you. More about that in a bit, too.
Divorce: The divorce rate for women over 50 is over 50% and climbing. More women now are initiating the split, as compared to 20 years ago. In spite of the chance to start a new life, there is no question that except for the very wealthy, divorce is hard on the finances for both men and women.
For a variety of reasons, the “typical” retirement .is becoming more and more rare - a dual income pension that comfortably covers the high standard of living most Americans are used to. The ripple effect of the 2008 crash still shows up in many people’s finances.
Pensions are being cut and layoffs happen. I know of a woman who made major life tradeoffs to stay with a good job into her 50’s, counting on retirement in her early 60’s - when she would finally do what she wanted to do. The corporation she worked for was acquired and the new owners systematically started laying off people in their 50s and replacing the with younger people. She lost her job.
We are starting to see the reality of this play out as more couples and single men and women are retiring overseas. The place to start is to take a couple of vacations to areas you are interested in, get to know the expats and the locals in that area.
I could go on about this at length, in face, I’m thinking of creating a “blueprint plan” for women considering retiring overseas - step by step process of discovery and implementation - let me know what you think.
Ostrich or warrior queen - our own accountability to the numbers. I just had a fascinating call with Donna Colfer, AFC, CMC, a Money Coach and owner of Building Wealth from Within, and also a very generous, intuitive person. She uses a quiz that tells what typical behavioral “archetypes” we use to respond to money in our lives.
(Archetypes are symbolic figures that represent personality types recognized as common to all humans, this work was pioneered by psychologist Carl Jung, a student of Freud).
I have to say Donna diagnosed my relationship with money more clearly in 60 minutes than any therapist I ever saw in the past could in several weeks.
One of my archetypes is the Warrior. (I know that sounds so cool, right? Before you think I'm bragging, I'll tell you another is the Fool. ha!)
I say Warrior Queen because it helps me see the Warrior in female form and, not to get all woo woo on you, but the Queen showed up in my meditations as a new Guide about a year ago. In my experience, she's not a warm and fuzzy Guide, and if I don't keep up my end of the bargain she is outta here. So when Donna started talking about the Warrior I thought, huh. I'll ask the Queen about her.
Ostrich is not one of the archetypes, although I certainly hide my head in the sand sometimes!
What energy do we bring to our money relationship? Do we have a healthy relationship to a budget? Do we know where the money goes? Do we understand the basics of our retirement fund, if we have one? Do we have goals for saving?
I will be honest with you - 3 years ago the answer to all of those questions for me was, no. I was not just in Ostrich mode, I was totally underground about it, more like a mole.
I spent some time catching up on that situation after my divorce. It’s definitely a work in progress to this day because I don’t want money to always be the primary deciding factor in what I do next. I also factor in the value of new experiences, what I am going to learn, who I am going to meet, into the equation, too.
No surprise, this sometimes leads to risk and spending more money than feels comfortable in the moment.
Unless we are wealthy, we have to make tradeoffs. I don’t have the funds to maintain a house in the US, travel like I want to and start a business. My tradeoff has been to live very simply in less expensive countries with few possessions.
Did I have to get rid of sentimental things? Yes, of course. But things sitting on shelves and in boxes do not pay my Visa bill, help me with my business plan, or teach me anything new, to be honest.
That isn’t everyone’s dream - to downsize in order to have more flexibility and a seed fund for a new start. I don't bring it up to say you should do it.
It may become your reality, though, if you reach retirement age after a divorce or a financial downturn in the market, with half the pension you were counting on, a houseful of stuff, maybe some debt, and a lot of questions. Then you are facing a wall of emotional challenges at the exact moment your confidence is shaken and your emotions are in tatters.
Money and Relationships
Money may or may not be the root of all evil, but it certainly can be the root of lots of tension in a relationship. If these conversations are hard to have with your partner, perhaps your next ''investment" can be with an objective money counselor or coach.
Looking money in the eye with your partner may unearth some challenging relationship issues. How we respond is different for everyone but here is one thing I know - those issues do not go away. They get worse as the reality for both you sinks in that you will not live forever, there are things you each have dreamed of doing, and have not done yet.
When my youngest child was in high school, my husband at that time and I started talking about what our life would look like after she graduated. It became painfully clear that we were not at all on the same page.
I had plans I had put on hold for my kids, I know he did, too.
My dream for us mostly involved radical downsizing, some intentional travel (as opposed to leisure travel) to refresh our minds and relationship with new perspectives, and craft a vision for what our next phase would be, perhaps starting an interesting new business together.
Which is basically exactly what I have done as a single woman.
As I started sharing some of those ideas I realized I should have been talking with him about this much earlier and more often.
I didn’t because they were hard conversations to have, raising a lot of fear and questions I didn’t know the answers to yet. And one reason was because I was not in touch with our money and I was not showing up to my own ideas and capacity to generate more revenue.
I didn’t know then what I know now - the answers to almost any goal come in having a plan, networking with others who know something you don’t, and taking some baby steps. The answers don’t come in tense conversations on a couch about what may or may not be an outcome in 10 years.
When I downsized I took hundreds of pictures of sentimental “things” - souvenirs, children’s artwork, wedding gifts we never used, decorative objects, love letters and cards - and then I let it all go. Now those photos are stored safely in my Google photos account, where I can actually find them, see them, enjoy what they represent without having to pay to store them someplace while they deteriorate.
Money and downsizing with less trauma are closely related - if you can sell those treasures and turn them into a seed fund for a dream you are excited about, it may be much easier to let go of them.
My hope for you is you make a money date with yourself - a weekend where you get all the information out in one place, get clear on your accounts, set up a simple budget, and start your list of questions. Then you can put a weekly money meeting on your calendar - a time to keep caught up and get your questions answered.
I did this early last year and then, well, quit coming to my own money meetings. My talk with Donna made me admit I have been putting off a refresher date with myself and my money.
Time to let the Warrior Queen help me dive into the numbers.
This is what I’m doing this weekend. I’ll be thinking of you. Anyone with tips around this tricky topic, I would love to hear them so please comment below.
PS I'm offering Dream Speed Date sessions through January 19, free one on one calls to help you get clear on a 6 month goal and 3 immediate steps you can take to get started. More info here
Got time for one more?
# 7 in the series was " I'm Behind Again".
# 9 in the series is "How Do I Get Out of My Own Way?"
Selected Sources, I have tons of research so if you are curious just email me:
In-state tuition and fees at public National Universities increased 237 percent since 1997. There are too many reasons to go into here, but I very much hope the day is coming when more parents consider helping their kids start a business around their passion for $40,000 instead of helping them take on that much and more every YEAR in student loan debt. They can always go back to college if they want to later. The institutions certainly aren’t going anywhere, as they have a sweet deal that is heavily subsidized by tax dollars in the form of federal student loans, which have also increased at the same upward curve in the last 20 years.