How To Take Control of Your Money After a Devastating Breakup

This article was first published on mindbodygreen.

The end of a relationship is often devastating. As hard as it is to wake up and face the day when your emotional life is in chaos, dismantling a shared financial life can further add insult to injury. Aimee Harstein, LCSW (a relationship therapist) and I have been writing at 10-article series on heartbreak. For this article, we reached out to Ellen Rogin—a financial advisor with 20-years of experience and The New York Times best-selling author of “Picture Your Prosperity.” Having counseled both men and women through traumatic breakups and their financial aftermath, Ellen offers the following 5 strategies to navigate your financial future solo:

1.    Shift Your Perspective.

No matter the circumstances of your breakup, set your mind on developing a resilient attitude. As we’ve said many times throughout this heartbreak series, every hurt provides an opportunity and a gift.

“When people see events happening for them and not to them, they are better equipped to problem-solve and see the potential for personal growth,” said Ellen. “A failed relationship may be the beginning of a wonderful new chapter. I have seen individuals go back to school to further their education; change jobs to do something more fulfilling; or simply hunker down to understand their finances—all in furtherance of creating a life of independence and self-sufficiency.”

2.    Flex Your Gratitude Muscle.

Along with developing a resilient mental mindset, cultivate a daily gratitude practice. People who are grateful not only experience better health, less stress and improved sleep, but they report increased financial happiness. 

“I’ve noticed that over-spenders tend to talk a lot about what they don’t have in their lives. In contrast, good savers are consistently taking time to show gratitude for what they do have. Practicing gratitude consistently has a positive ripple effect in other areas, as well-- reduced materialism, more fulfilling social relationships, and higher optimism and self-esteem. “Feeling prosperous—regardless of your financial situation—tends to attract more goodness into your life. This is true prosperity,” said Ellen.

3.    Face Your Debt Head-On.

In Ellen’s book “Picture Your Prosperity,” she tells a story about Jeannie, a thirty-something woman whose live-in boyfriend suddenly decides “it’s not her, it’s him” and moves out. Jeannie stays in the apartment, but redecorates to remove all traces of her ex—quickly racking up credit card debt in the process. 

It’s very easy to splurge—buying a new wardrobe, treating yourself to expensive dinners, indulging in facials and massages—to soothe an aching heart. But, if you’re spending more than you earn (or paying the minimum on your credit cards), you’re actually adding to your stress and depression.

“Studies have shown that a 10% increase in credit card debt leads to a 14% increase in depressive symptoms. The short-term ‘high’ you feel when you indulge is quickly replaced by low-grade depression, a loss of appetite and feelings of loneliness,” said Ellen. “Instead, shore up your self-esteem and tackle those things that are frightening you. Get a handle on how much you owe and to whom. Devise a strategy to pay more than the minimum on your credit card bills. Knock out debt with the highest interest rates first. The feeling of satisfaction and self-sufficiency will stay with you much longer.”  

4.    Visualize Your Goals to Prioritize Your Spending.

While a tightening of the belt may be in order, we also advocate building a life that makes you feel good and that is a reflection of your values. Setting goals both immediate (i.e., a new dress) and long-term (i.e., a vacation in France to study cooking) makes life rich with possibility. 

“I encourage clients to use visualization techniques to create inspiring goals,” said Ellen. “People who use visualization are actually strengthening and conditioning their minds. They have a much better chance of making their dreams a reality because they are alert to opportunities.  This ‘dream-time’ is actually a very a powerful tool to create an abundant financial future.” 

Plus, compelling goals are a wonderful incentive, making it easier to say “no” to unnecessary expenditures. You’ll make more informed financial decisions that reflect your values and that are in furtherance of your dream life.  

5.    Take Ownership of Your Financial Future.

In many long-term relationships, one (or both) partners may have been “willfully blind” when it comes to understanding money. While it’s realistic to feel nervous about this subject, don’t allow fear to hamper your ability to get ahead.

“You’d be surprised at how many ‘successful’ professionals have no idea how much they make, let alone how to invest money and save for the future,” said Ellen. “The good news is that fear is often much worse than reality. There are so many resources available that teach how to invest and save money, purchase insurance, and create an estate plan—the building blocks of financial wellness.”

If this seems daunting, consider enrolling in a finance class or enlisting the services of a financial advisor. Whatever you do, commit to using this time of transition wisely and take bold steps to creating your strong financial future. 

Monica Parikh