We have clarity, so where to now?
First, take a moment to acknowledge your progress. It’s tempting to think that “clarity” is just thinking “I don’t have enough money”, but you’ve done the sometimes tedious and often confronting work of figuring out exactly where you stand. Now what? Self-care. Self-care is a vital, yet often missing piece to the money puzzle. It comes before the logical side – which we will talk about soon. We can’t take care of our money without logic but we need to take care of ourselves too. Our money may be cold, hard numbers, but we are not.
Whether the clarity you’ve gained gave you good or bad news, centre yourself. If this isn’t something you ever do, I can recommend sitting in a chair with your feet firmly pressing into the floor, and your hand pressing firmly over your heart. Breathe deeply. Remind yourself that right now, you’re OK. Whatever you’ve seen that might be coming down the road hasn’t happened yet.
Now, communicate those feelings, fears, hopes, and ideas. Journaling is a great way to lay all your thoughts out so they don’t end up swirling around in your brain. Supportive, non-judgmental friends and family are awesome to talk things through with. Mental health professionals are available, online, by phone, or in person and are a great option if you feel overwhelmed. Sharing your worries and having them acknowledged often feels like a fruitless thing to do, before you do it. Once you’ve done it, even though your position may not have materially changed, it feels better. You’ve processed your thoughts and feelings, and are better positioned mentally to take action.
Important note: your children are not the right people to listen to you through this. Your role as a parent is to give them as much age-appropriate information as they need. For example “We have enough money to get by for now. I’m figuring out how to make sure we have enough in the future, and I’d appreciate it if we’d all try to not waste any.” Try to model adaptive, flexible, problem-solving thinking and behaviour when you discuss money with them. Channel your inner Dr Ashley Bloomfield – the situation may be serious, but you’re calm and in charge, here’s how they can contribute in their own small way. You’re teaching them to adapt to a changing financial situation, which is one of the best gifts you can give them for their financial future.
There are basic, good self-care things that we know make us feel better which often fall by the wayside when we’re stressed or anxious. Sleep, nutritious food, time with good friends, exercise, sunlight, fresh air – fill your boots with these things as this is the foundation to tackling anything including financial stress.
Finally, get clear on all your non-financial assets, your health, immediate family and wider whanau, and the people (and pets) who love you. You can then expand that to communities that you’re part of, the skills and resources you have that could either generate an income or food for your family at some point in the future, items you could sell, the welfare system, and charities that provide support.
Is it ideal to be relying on the last two? No, it’s not. But they are there, they are part of your safety net, they will catch you if you need them to. None of this is your fault. This upheaval has happened to us, not because of us. We will come through it. Whatever steps you need to take in the future, the first two steps of clarity and self-care constantly run alongside them. Stay connected to the numbers – update them every 2-3 days as new information comes in. And keep up the self-care, whatever happens.