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5 steps to change the way you think about money in midlife

Midlife can drastically change our finances. It's also an important moment to shift how we think about money.

Like a lot of people, I started thinking about money differently when I had a lot less of it. Midlife for me brought divorce, single motherhood and a vastly reduced financial picture. Out was the four-bedroom house with a piano and antiques, in was the two-bedroom flat with a Bluetooth speaker and IKEA flat-packs.

As part of my retrenching, I started a podcast, called Women Take Stock with three other friends who each had their own challenges in this time of life. One had masses of debt, another was balancing the demands of marriage and family with creative pursuits, another has switched careers and was looking after her son. All of us wanted to change our financial story, using investing to reach our money goals. (Read more in my story about financial fitness and why you should be investing now.) But before any of that could happen, I realised I had to change not just my money, but my thinking.

Midlife can drastically change our financial picture. For a lot of women, a new financial plan in midlife doesn’t just make sense. It’s a necessary adjustment to our vastly different financial picture. Divorce, loss of a partner, a change in career, children who are no longer financially dependent, a new partner, blended families, caring for parents – there are so many factors that can affect our circumstances and what we want or need to do with our money.

The good news about your finances in midlife

Unlike in generations past, women in midlife don’t look at this time as the start of a slow long slide into death. In our 50s we can expect to have several decades still ahead of us. That’s especially good news if a dramatic change to your financial status has left you reeling. There’s time to regroup and redeploy a whole new plan, a whole new mindset, a whole new financial life.

At Noon we recognise that sorting out our money plan now is an essential building block for the life we want. And the first phase is to change your approach. Get started with our 5 steps to start changing the way you think about money in midlife.

5 steps to change the way you think about money in midlife

1. Get a true picture of where you’re out now

This crucial first step in deciding your financial future is among the hardest. We all need to get an overview of what our financial picture looks like. This mean knowing how much money you have in your current account, your savings, your pensions, your SIPPs, your stocks and mutual funds and every other place you have socked away or invested your pounds.

It also means accounting for all the money you owe: from credit cards and mortgage to loans provided by friends. (Money borrowed from people you plan to avoid for the rest of your life – just forget about those.) The third part is your bills and commitments. Make sure your budget includes not just monthly outgoings but annual bills and projected costs that come up over time – money you spend on house and car maintenance; how much you spend on highlights, holidays and home furnishings.

Break this task down into chunks so you don’t feel overwhelmed (spend, say, a couple of hours every Sunday for a month) and set yourself a deadline to complete it. Even if your debt is higher than you want, your pensions lower and your cash flow merely a trickle, congratulate yourself on having a firm grasp of your financial picture and taking this vital step!

2. Play the Billionaire Game

It might seem counterintuitive, when we’re trying to get a handle on our real situation to indulge in money daydreaming, but this exercise is a great way to expand your thinking about what you’d like to do with your money and then really examine those ‘wishes’. I got it from the book Coach Yourself to Success, by Talane Miedaner — a book recommended by a successful friend who, in midlife, is already planning her retirement and thinking about the next phase of her life. I’d love to be in that position so I tried it.

The Billionaire Game is simple: Ask yourself, “If I had a billion pounds, what would I do with it?” On a piece of paper, write down every wish, desire, dream in which money is no object so you have at least 100 entries.

“Do not censor anything…If you always wanted to have a house on the beach, write it down. If you’ve hankered for a Ferrari or a Rolex, write it down,” writes Miedaner. Put it all down on the list, whether it’s taking private tennis lessons, spending a year sailing around the world, owning an original Frida Kahlo, having a wardrobe full of Balenciaga, whatever your money dream is.

Owning a house on the beach sounds divine, so imagine the reality.

Then, go back through your list and imagine the experience of each one. You’re going to whittle down this list to your top 10 ‘dreams’. Owning a house on the beach sounds divine, so imagine the reality. Would it be a welcome escape or would you feel obligated to return every holiday to make it worth your while. Would you relish the upkeep of the building and gardens, enjoy the journey there and back or does that sound like a faff? Would you like to host friends in our beach house or actually do you prefer to take holidays exploring new places? By imagining what all these ‘wants’ look like in reality, you can evaluate how they actually fit with your life plan and goals. Some things we ‘want’ or ‘need’ will fall away (after all, a Ferrari looks good but have you seen the boot space?), allowing us more head space and resources to focus on the things we want.

By imagining what these ‘wants’ look like in reality, you can evaluate how they actually fit with your life plan and goals.

Still trying to figure out your current life plan and goals? Check out our 2 Expert Masterclasses on the topic:

Find Your Purpose – Discover how to chart your
courageous new path in life.

How to Repot Your Life – So you can flourish and grow

3. Ask yourself if you’re (secretly) still waiting to be rescued.

This one is a little embarrassing but something that’s particularly challenging for women. Sit yourself down and ask yourself if realistically you are waiting to be rescued from your finances. You might be surprised at the answer.

When I was younger and living in New York, I desperately wanted to buy an apartment but always felt I never made enough money. I was known among my friends as being cautious and prudent with money but when my serious boyfriend and I broke up, I realised I’d actually been subconsciously waiting around, hoping I could buy a place with a partner to make it easier and cheaper. That’s all fine and dandy, except that thinking was keeping me from building my own nest egg and actually putting together a plan. And if marriage didn’t happen for me, I would have wasted years toodling along, hoping someone else (perhaps with their own large down payment) would sort it out for me.

The same can apply from the big financial goals to the smallest tasks, like hoping our partner will look after the pension accounts or taking care of the monthly budget. It’s never good to cede control of your financial life to anyone else. We are grown women and yes we can look after our money and our futures. The benefit: being able to plan the life we really want.

4. Realise it’s not about the math, or the jargon.

Too often we get hung up on the numbers and confused by the lingo. This often isn’t helped by financial professionals, who just love acronyms (AMC, APR, AER, SIPP…). “The math is only 10%,” says Julia Lorenz-Olson. Julia, with her husband Phillip Olson, runs a popular YouTube channel and the US-based consultancy The Art of Finance, which focuses on a holistic approach to money. We interviewed them for our podcast and they were eager to dispel the notion that sorting out your finances means having a magical way with spreadsheets. “It’s about knowing yourself,” Julia says.

Understand your goals and your money personality. For example, some people love the ‘gamification’ of investing: using an app on their phone to track their stocks as they blip up and down through the day or week, relishing every small win. For others, that’s a stressful nightmare. The good news is, once you understand your own goals and style, there’s usually just a little addition, subtraction, multiplication and division left to do.

5. Embrace the fact that you can have a new type of financial life.

We grow up with notions about money, shaped by our parents, our families, our schooling and our friends. That affects how we amass and spend our money and often means we don’t really examine our own preconceptions. For example, we might think that people working in finance are shallow and money-obsessed and we don’t want to be like them. Or that making money in a creative field inevitably requires selling out. We can often rely on that old chestnut that ‘I’m just not that good at finance’. Research from The Wisdom Council shows that the finance industry can reinforce that perception by focussing on barriers and lack of confidence in investing.

Tosh.

The very fact that you’re reading this article means you are looking to create a different kind of financial life for yourself. You’re already on the journey. Keep pushing forward to the next step!

Noon will soon be launching a midlife money Masterclass – a daylong event in London featuring inspirational speakers and informative sessions aimed at helping you put together your plan for financial happiness. Spaces will be limited, so sign up using the button below to be among the first to hear more when tickets go on sale.

Get more information and receive updates about attending!

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2 responses to “5 steps to change the way you think about money in midlife”

  1. Emma says:

    Such an important read, thank you. I had my daughters sit in on my pension meeting with my FA to educate them. Looking forward to your masterclass!

    • Jennifer Howze says:

      That’s a great idea! The more we normalise financial education — just something else our children need to know — the better they’ll be prepared to understand their financial choices for life.

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