In 2017 I filed bankruptcy. The act of doing that was life changing for me. I was very ashamed of getting myself in trouble with my finances. I resolved to gain control of my relationship with money. Turns out, growing up in a household with parents who had generational trauma around finances didn’t teach me how to have a healthy relationship with money.
Some of my most vivid memories of my parents dealing with finances was seeing them sitting at the dining room table on a weeknight evening with folders, piles of bills and a calculator or two. Their budgeting sessions, as my mother called them, started out calmly. Rapidly they deteriorated to arguments, often involving yelling. The energy in the room was super tense and every cell in my child body was on high alert. I learned quickly to avoid the dining room on budget night.
The theme of those budget sessions was that we didn’t have enough money to cover our expenses. It was also clear that my mother and father did not agree on how the money should be allocated. Mostly I remember the tension and the disagreement.
No money management skills
In retrospect, it makes sense to me that I didn’t learn how to manage my own money and I never really learned what it meant to live within my means.
When I started TeamWILD Athletics LLC, the business I ran for six years, I really had no idea how to manage the financial aspect of the business. It was because of that lack of skill that I ended up not paying all my taxes for a few years, ending up in trouble with the IRS, which led me to my suicide attempts in 2012 and 2013. The despair I felt about my financial well-being was overwhelming and I didn’t know it was okay to ask for help sorting it out.
How to ask for financial help
I was so embarrassed and ashamed and I had no idea how to ask for help with the business finances or with my troubles with the IRS. The only thing I could figure out was removing myself from earth, because I was such a financial failure.
Help does exist
Thankfully my suicide attempts didn’t work. Along the way I found excellent help sorting it all out. I had a lot of emotions to feel and a lot of shame and trauma to work through. I found an organization that helped me figure out filing my taxes. I made contact with the IRS and created a plan with them. I finally started talking to my therapist about my financial despair and feelings of overwhelm. Several of my various therapists helped me sort through what was from my childhood and how it carried out in my adult life. I am profoundly grateful that I had people in my life to help me sift and sort and feel. Knowing I wasn’t alone made it easier to seek specific financial support.
It is possible to Prepare and Prosper
The tax help came from an organization called Prepare + Prosper. They had a money coaching program called Money Mentors. I signed up. For the first time in my life I learned how to create and maintain a budget. I learned how to track all of my expenses. I learned what it meant to plan ahead for upcoming expenses. I learned how to save money. It was miraculous!
Money Mentor Coaching
It was so transformative, I ended up becoming a Money Mentor coach. I did that for a few rounds. My coaching background and listening skills came in handy in this role. Then I moved to other volunteer activities for a few years.
Financial Anxiety Strikes, Death as my retirement strategy
Then COVID-19 hit and over this past year, my skill in managing my finances slipped. I realized that my anxiety about my retirement was increasing. I have retirement funds, but I don’t really understand retirement, and I don’t really know if what I have is anywhere near sufficient. I used to think that I would not live very long. My retirement strategy was death.
Plan for retirement
Turns out that’s not a very hopeful retirement strategy. I have learned to love life and being alive feels good. I know I have a purpose and a reason for being alive. I know there’s a good likelihood that I will live a lot longer. Planning my finances for retirement is a good thing to learn and to take action around.
As these realizations hit me, I decided to sign up for another round of Money Mentors. What I really love about the program is that the coaches are well trained to be supportive and non-judgemental. It’s up to me to set my goals each month. My coach and I meet every month over Zoom and we review my goals and plan my goals for the next month.
Monthly Financial Goals
You likely know that I am a very goal oriented person. I love setting goals. The thing is goals work best in the context of community and support. I have amazing friends, but we don’t really ever talk about finances in depth. I don’t have great comfort in talking about finances with anyone. Having a Money Mentor coach creates a time and place each month to talk directly about my finances. That is a skill I am grateful to be working on once again.
What is your Net Worth
I’ve met with my Money Mentor coach once so far. I will work with her for a minimum of six months. My goals for this month have me reviewing and updating my budget, calling the retirement benefits person and meeting with them, and starting the process of learning about net worth. Turns out if you want to write your will, which I want to do, it’s helpful to know one’s net worth. Truth be told, I have never calculated my net worth.
Thankfully, I do finally know in my heart and soul that I have worth. Now I just need to figure out my financial net worth.
Prepare+Prosper is a Minnesota organization. I did find a few other financial coaching organizations. For reference they are Ellevest and Bari Tessler. I haven’t purchased a membership with either organization, but down the road I just might.
What about you?
Have you had to ever work on your relationship with finances? I suspect there are quite a few of us in the world who have had to deal with this. I want to hear. Please leave a comment. Your comments mean the world to me.
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