How to invest wisely in yourself as you divorce – Five Simple Steps
We are still in February, the month of love (well, the month of love and pancakes). It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking love is all about the romantic stuff and has no place in divorce.
But, as we saw on the blog last week, the most important person to love is yourself. And part of how to do that is with practical action. Which is what we’re looking at now – how to invest wisely in yourself as you divorce.
Know your money story
As humans we make sense of the world through stories – it’s just how we’re wired. Sometimes these stories help us, and sometimes they do not. The important thing to recognise is that many of your thoughts and feelings about money may not be wholly based in reality. Or, at least, not your current reality.
If money stories are not totally grounded in reality, where do they come from? Well, they come from our personal history. We absorb all sorts of emotions and assumptions about money from our childhood. If you grew up with parents who were always worried about money being tight, chances are you have carried that assumption into your own adulthood – even when you have a comfortable amount of money in the bank. Equally, if your childhood was a whirlwind of spending, you may have that same approach today. Plenty of money comes your way, but you don’t hold onto it. I talk more about this on the Podcast this week
It’s useful to spend a few moments thinking about the relationships with money you learned from childhood. I’m not saying they’re all lies, or they’re all unhelpful. They may well be grounded in some truth. And being cautious about spending is a good thing if money is tight. But quite often we view money through the lenses we developed as children. And as adults, it’s a good idea to take those glasses off and see things more clearly.
My clients often develop their money stories in their marriage too. So many women tell me that they entered their marriage financially independent. They were doing fine, going about their work and daily life managing their money perfectly well. Yet, over the years, maybe decades, of marriage, they’ve lost their financial know-how. Maybe your soon-to-be-ex happily slid into the driving seat with money and you were happy to play passenger. Or maybe they were the main breadwinner and you didn’t feel as though you had as much right to get involved in your marital finances.
Whatever it is, recognise even the word ‘money’ will bring with it emotions, assumptions and responses that are unique to you. And once you’ve recognised some of it is just story, it’s possible to step away and do things differently.
Know your numbers
So we’ve looked at the story. But now it’s time for the cold, hard facts. How much do you know about your financial situation? Do you have a handle on the day to day finances? Do you know what assets or investments you hold in your marriage?
If you do, great. This is an important start to financial independence and making a healthy plan for the future. If you don’t yet, don’t panic. You can and will get to grips with this. Break it down into microtasks. Start by finding all the bank accounts you are named on, either individually or jointly, and getting access to them.
Get yourself organised – digitally and at home. Invest in some filing to get all your paperwork together so it’s easy to lay your hands on when needed. Keep passwords and pin numbers in a safe, private space. You want as few hurdles as possible when spend time getting to grips with your numbers – especially if it’s something you are uncomfortable with. So make life as easy as possible for yourself.
If you’re not sure how to go about sorting your finances, get a copy of my book ‘How To Be A Lady Who Leaves: The Ultimate Guide To Getting Divorce Ready’. There’s a whole section in there on your numbers, with step by step guides of what to do so you can set yourself up for an informed divorce.
Know what’s important to you
If you understand your divorce story, and take back control of your financial situation, you will be in a much stronger position in your divorce. You’ll have a greater understanding of what assumptions, fears and strengths you bring, and what your assets and liabilities are, as well as your general living costs. Which means you’ll know what money you have available during your divorce and to help you plan for after.
We all make choices about how to spend money – even those who have very little cash to spend. And I’m not here to sit in judgement on any of those choices. But I do invite you to treat today as a blank sheet. Rather than repeat old patterns of spending or saving just because it’s what you’ve always done, try something new.
Ask yourself, ‘what is important to me?’ This question is vitally important. And the key thing is that no one else can tell you. Only you can give yourself the answer. It’s about digging into what matters to you most.
Of course, basic needs – food and home – come first. But then what? Especially when money is tight, getting to grips with this question will serve as a compass, helping you decide where to invest your money wisely as you divorce.
Invest time and energy, not just cash
How to invest wisely in yourself as you divorce isn’t just about spending money. It’s also about choosing where to put your time and energy. Money can help you buy your way out of problems, that is true. But, even if you spend thousands on a solicitor, you will still need to do some work. You will still need to invest time in providing the information needed to complete forms, for example. If you work with me I can help you make decisions, but you will need to implement them. Money is not the answer to everything.
So, as well as your money, think about what and whom is deserving of your time and energy right now. Are you spending lots of time on things that are not serving you? Maybe you’re doomscrolling on social media. Or tying yourself up in knots over how badly your soon-to-be-ex is behaving. Or paying attention to toxic family members who are determined to make you feel bad.
Now’s the time to take stock. You are important – your time and energy are precious. How can you invest them more wisely as you divorce, rather than drag you down? Making a plan is one of the best ways you can ensure you stay on task, rather than get derailed into drama and distraction. Once you’ve decided what’s important, prioritise investments that take you in that direction. And stick to them.
Surround yourself with people who get it
One of the best investments you can make is in a community. There is nothing like having a cheerleader at your side to bring out your best. Imagine if there were a whole team of them! That’s what it’s like in The Absolute Academy.
It’s a place to be entirely yourself – and be determined to focus on doing what’s right for you and your divorce. Members in there have saved thousands on solicitors’ fees, by developing the confidence and knowledge to navigate their divorce themselves. And so much more than that – they also have a supportive crowd of women who’ve got their back. Not just for divorce – for life.
So if you want to show yourself some serious love this month and invest wisely in yourself as you divorce, come and join us.
Emma Heptonstall, the Divorce Alchemist is 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. To find out more visit www.emmaheptonstall.com