Stress and money are often happy bedfellows. At least, it might be happy for them – less happy for you. In this blog we look at how you can alleviate financial stress in your divorce, whatever your wealth levels. What’s the answer to financial stress in divorce?
The power of now
Let’s start with the most important issue. Money is one of the most emotive, taboo topics we have in our society. We still don’t talk about it. It’s considered rude to ask what someone else earns. And taboo topics bring with them a lot of shame. We need to uncork that shame now – let it out so it floats away and loses its power.
Whatever your wealth situation, you will likely have some hang ups about money. If you are struggling to make ends meet you are likely to feel shame about living in poverty. If you are getting by, you’re likely to feel ashamed that you’re not making the most of it. And if you have a lot of wealth, your situation is likely to be complicated. You may well feel shame that you don’t understand all the financial implications at play.
It’s so important to let go of this sense of shame. Whatever’s happened until now is in the past. You can’t change it. Yes, there may have been times when you could have made wiser choices, or got more informed about your situation. But it doesn’t help you to spend energy agonising over that.
You can spend that energy on dealing with where you’re at now instead.
Take an audit
Money is a classic topic for ostrich behaviour. Especially if things are tight. How many times have you ignored the bill that dropped onto the letterbox?
Now is the time to get your head out of the sand. I know it feels daunting and scary. But, I promise you, you will feel a whole lot better once you start to get to grips with it.
Finances can seem complicated. But, like everything in life, the key to making progress is taking it one step at a time. You are unlikely to be able to get on top of everything at once. But you will be able to start getting a clearer picture once you start looking at your numbers.
Take a moment to think about what you know and what you don’t know about your financial situation. Do you know what your bank balance is? Do you know where to find all the bank accounts in your name, or that you are jointly named on? What debts do you have?
It’s fine if you don’t have all the answers right now. Knowing what you don’t know is a great start. The next step is knowing where to go to plug the gaps in your knowledge until you have all the pieces of your financial puzzle. And you might need some help with that.
An independent financial planner can help you ask the right questions and plan for a secure future.
If you have a complicated wealth situation, and you have reason to believe your spouse isn’t being upfront about finances, you may decide to employ the services of a professional asset tracer, who can help you track down hidden or undisclosed assets.
If you are in debt and need a strategy to make your money work over the next few weeks or months, you can use the free services of an organisation such as Step Change.
Use your stress energy
Stress isn’t inherently bad. It’s a physiological response to get us ready for action. So the antidote to the lying-awake-at-night sort of stress is action. Looking your problem in the eye and taking steps to deal with it.
Many people get into the habit of telling themselves they’re ‘no good with money’. But it’s simply not true. Money management is a skill, not a virtue or a talent. It’s something you can learn – something that everyone can learn. Children can start to learn it from a young age, by helping you with the food shopping, for example.
The first step, as we’ve seen, is getting to grips with your current situation, including recognising any gaps in your knowledge. The second step is filling those gaps. And the third is making wise decisions based on what you know.
There is no shame in not understanding the financial world – whether that’s tax, business frameworks or the benefits system. Just as there’s no shame in not understanding German, or how to change a tyre. It’s simply something you can learn, if you want and need to.
So shift your stress from anxiety mode to curiosity mode. What is there to learn about your finances? What options does your financial situation give you? What can you do with what you have?
As soon as you put yourself in the driving seat with your finances, you’ll feel better. I promise you that you are more resourceful than you realise right now. Even if money is tight and things seem dire. When you decide to take control, you’ll look for answers and opportunities, rather than being weighed down by fear and what-ifs.
You are not your finances
You are so much more than your bottom line! If you’re feeling shame because you don’t have much money, please stop. You are worthy of love and respect whatever debt you carry. And if you’re feeling shame because you have lots of money and feel like you don’t deserve it, know that it’s not your wealth that makes you worthy of love and respect. It’s you – the person you are.
Know your numbers, for sure. Getting clear on what you have and what you know is essential in divorce. But separate your self-worth from them. Stand tall as the resourceful, powerful person you are. Know that you can handle what this divorce will bring.
And I am here to help. If you are looking for free support, you will find an abundance of advice and information on this blog (you can search for money or finance topics). And have you discovered my podcast yet? The Six Minute Divorce Podcast is packed full of information in easy to digest six minute sections.
If you want personalised advice as you navigate your divorce, I can do that too. You might just want to book an Ask The Alchemist session to get to grips with a particularly thorny issue. Or you might want me to support you through the whole journey. Just book in a free 30 minute consultation and we can get your divorce on track.
Emma Heptonstall, the Divorce Alchemist is the author of the Amazon best-selling book How to be a Lady Who Leaves, the Ultimate Guide to Getting Divorce Ready. A former lawyer, Emma is a family mediator and founder of Get Divorce Ready the online self-study and group programmes. Emma has been featured on BBC Radio, The Telegraph, the iPaper and in Marie Claire Magazine. Emma is also the host of The Six Minute Divorce Podcast. To find out more visit www.emmaheptonstall.com