Kari Schmitz, a Twin Cities-area mother of three, was struggling to provide for her children after divorce. She worked as an occupational therapist at a school for the deaf and hard of hearing, arriving at her job after dropping off her kids at the bus. But even with full-time employment, three years into her divorce, she’d often find herself strapped for cash.
To make matters worse, her ex, who was self-employed, didn’t always make his child support payments. Schmitz suspected the problem was a question of poor financial choices rather than not having enough cash. But she didn’t believe that filing another motion in court against him would lead to actually getting more help.
They’d been dogged by money problems while married, too. “We've all heard that money issues are the number one thing that married couples fight about, and unfortunately my own marriage was no different,” she says.
When the home they had shared for 14 years fell into foreclosure, Schmitz sat her children down to let them know that she’d be picking up a third job. She also said that they’d have to quit their extra-curricular activities in order for the family to make ends meet.
“It completely broke me open,” she says. “I was trying to be so strong, but I just couldn't stop the tears pouring out of me when I saw the fear and heartbreak in their eyes. They didn't want me to work more, and they could see how hard I was already struggling. They were also scared to have to look at cutting out their beloved activities.”
Schmitz remembers making an excuse that she had to use the bathroom, running in, shutting the door behind her and sobbing on the floor so her children wouldn’t see how defeated she really felt. When she emerged red-eyed from the bathroom, her son asked her when she was going to meet someone who would be able to help her so she wouldn’t have to work so hard. “I’m pretty sure he was referring to a man, but for me another husband was not the answer,” Schmitz says.
It was a heartbreaking moment for her, but it was also the beginning of what became a turning point in her post-divorce life. She continued on, living partly off her savings, until she couldn’t do it anymore. Three years after divorce, she knew she had to change the way she approached money.
“I finally came to the realization that the only person I could change was myself, and I didn't want to feel disempowered again and again every month.”
Schmitz sought professional help. She found a “money therapist” to help her work through financial and emotional challenges. A money therapist, also called a "transformational wealth and abundance coach," helped her dig deeply into her financial situation, looking at not just numbers in her bank account, but also her connection to money.
Everything started to change for Schmitz. She found the approach so life-altering that she decided to become a money coach herself.
Schmitz now counsels women in similar positions on how to take charge of their life and their finances. “We will talk about your savings, debt, income, income goals, and ‘toxic’ money, but during a coaching session, you don’t need to share a single number. It’s really about the mind-body connection and the personal meaning those numbers have for you," she says. "I help you identify what money means to you—how it makes you feel about security and self-worth, for example."
Once she helps you uncover your feelings about money, she uses a mind-body tool called "Emotional Freedom Technique" or "tapping," which she describes as a “nervous system hack.” It's a way to turn off the stress response around money, and reduce feelings of fear or aggression that money can arouse. “Our body can start to shut down, or go into the automatic ‘fight or flight’ response every time we have to pay an unexpected bill, or think about the money we have (or don't have) in our savings account. When your body is in a more relaxed and resourceful state, you are able to think more clearly, allowing answers and opportunities to flow in,” she explains.
Unlike traditional therapy, money coaching helps clients deal specifically with their money stress. Schmitz, who had worked as a coach in the past, formerly referred clients to a financial advisor for financial help. “Often, the advice they came back with was essentially, ‘spend less or make more’,” she says. “I found this disheartening. It's extremely important to work with someone who can help you uncover how and why you may be subconsciously self-sabotaging yourself and your finances, or placing limits on yourself.”
Sometimes we place limits because deep down, we don’t think we deserve happiness and abundance, which a money coach can help you see.
A money coach is also helpful if you don’t feel 100 percent confident when you think about about your savings, debt, and income. “Maybe you feel a little stab in the heart, a heavy feeling in your chest or stomach, or feelings of stress, shame, fear or anxiety. These are all pretty clear indicators that you need some help in this area,” says Schmitz.
Money coaching can help someone going through or contemplating a divorce adjust to a new financial “normal.”
Maybe you were in a relationship where your partner took care of all the finances and you’re now feeling completely lost, unsure where to start, and not confident in your ability to manage money well on your own.
While divorce often prompts feelings of uneasiness and anxiety about your financial future, you can look at it as an opportunity. “It’s actually a wonderful time to deal with your limiting beliefs around money so you learn how to bring in, handle, and save money in a way that honors you and what you want out of life,” says Schmitz. “A money coach can help you mentally clear out those things that might be holding you back from creating that life.”
To assess your emotional relationship with money, Schmitz suggests writing down your current monthly income including money from your job and child or spousal support. Focus on this number and say out loud, "It's not enough." Notice what comes up for you, and how you feel. If you had to rate the intensity of your emotions on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 representing an incredibly intense and uncomfortable emotion and 1 being completely relaxed and satisfied, how would you rate what you’re feeling now? If you are at a "5" or above, it would be helpful for you to have a conversation with a money coach.
Here's are a few tips to get started now.
Three tips for developing a positive relationship with money:
1. Develop an honoring relationship with yourself.
No one gets through separation or divorce without taking a self-esteem hit. Now is a great time to be extremely compassionate with yourself, about money and everything else. Allow yourself the time and space to heal, and to get happier and healthier. Your net worth will increase as your self-worth does.
2. Focus on the abundance you have.
Abundance isn't about a number in your bank account, or getting something we don't have, it is recognizing and being grateful for all that we do have. Know that you can feel immediately abundant at any time, and in any place.
3. Keep a gratitude journal.
Write down three things you are grateful for each day. You will be amazed at how this practice can change your life, especially during a divorce when you may be feeling like you’ve lost so much.
“My relationship with my ex is so much more pleasant now that I am able to remove the stress and emotion from my money story. We are now better able to focus on co-parenting our incredible children, which is our number one priority,” Schmitz says.
Alysia Patterson Mueller is a Brooklyn-based writer whose waking (and non-waking) hours are mostly absorbed by looking after her two-year-old daughter, six-month-old son, and 90-pound black Labrador Retriever. She has a Master's Degree in Journalism from the Medill School at Northwestern University and has worked as an Associated Press reporter. She and her husband are both children of divorce, which makes contributing to Splitopia a meaningful assignment for her.