Money is a vexing subject for many mid-singles. You might be a single mom forced into the workforce for the first time by a divorce or the loss of your husband to death. You might be a single dad who has suffered business losses or career setbacks–whether they contributed to the misery that caused the divorce or resulted from it. You might be a single man that has not yet been married and wonder if your lack of financial success has contributed to being unable to date the women you wish to. There could be thousands of variations on any of these scenarios. Men may fear that women will rule them out for their financial problems. Conversely, some women may be looking for a marriage to solve their financial problems. (This situation may be reversed in some situations.)
I have personally known the kind of business and career setbacks that pushed my first marriage over the edge–and contributed to the financial disaster that followed. My business started to really decline in the wake of the 2008 Great Recession.
For two years before my first wife and I separated, my income had gone way down. For the next four years following the separation I just had a hard time functioning. I had a hard time figuring my life out. I felt like God had given me the things I wanted, including a family, a good mind, a good career, and a nice house overlooking town and out to Puget Sound–and in a short time it was all taken from me.
So, I wondered, “what’s the point?” I had this recurring thought that, “I can slave for another 15 years just to get back to where I was, and then I can lose it all again.” So financial disaster led to a depletion of life energy, which led to further financial trouble. It was a perfect storm. After her divorce, Cathy found herself a single mother with a handful of violin students–not nearly enough to provide the income she needed. She knows what it’s like to scramble to feed herself too. So, if you are facing financial difficulties as a mid-single, please know that we feel your pain.
Here are a few suggestions if you are a mid-single facing financial hardships:
Render unto Caesar first (Matthew 22:15-22). If you don’t pay your taxes or file your returns, your financial problems are guaranteed to multiply. Pay your taxes even if that means going without some other things or getting a second job.
Pay the Lord. He has promised to “rebuke the devourer” for our sakes if we pay our tithing (Malachi 3:8-11). I have had a lot of experience with the devourer; and I don’t want him in my life again. If you haven’t paid tithing in a while, just start where you are and pay it regularly.
Take care of your mental health. My experiences taught me that taking care of my mental health is job one in creating financial success. If I have no life energy or mental clarity, I can’t make good decisions and I can’t put in the effort necessary to be successful. So, do whatever you have to do. That may mean seeking medical treatment or counseling. What you pay for those things will be pennies on the dollar to what you will save. Physical exercise is also an important component of mental health. It provides a proven release of endorphins and elevates the mood. Physical fitness will also contribute to mental health.
Change your thoughts–change your destiny. Earlier in this essay I wrote about the despair I felt because everything I had worked for had been taken away and could easily be taken away again, “so what’s the use of trying?” That thought leads to lack of effort and compounds the problem. What if I thought instead, “I did it once and I can do it again–with the benefit of all the experience I’ve gained!” That is motivating right? It’s not deluding myself. If you have never built a business or had a professional level job, you can think, ”The Lord has something special for me to do.” Then you can go about finding your purpose. Negativity and pessimism do not lend themselves to financial success. They lend themselves to giving up and being a bum and making the situation worse. A good life coach (such as Cathy or me) can help you turn this around and get you to a better place.
Work hard. In a day when we preach the law of attraction (something I believe in), it is tempting to think you can just make a vision board and wait for the money to come rolling in. That is a misapplication of the law of attraction. When I was first married to Cathy, I had barely been in business two years. I was making a living, but not the kind of living I expected of myself. Shortly following our marriage, I lost my biggest client. I was running around going to meetings, networking, having business lunches, writing articles, and even starting a multidisciplinary organization. I told Cathy, “I’m running a real three ring circus here, but I think in a year or two it’s all going to make sense.”I was working 12-hour days pretty much every day. Then Covid-19 descended on the world, and I had to pivot quickly to online marketing efforts and online meetings. Switching my business model actually created some welcome efficiencies, and my business grew more. A couple of years into our marriage, I was making more money. Hard work was not the only factor, but it was one of the few factors I had personal control over. I favor working smart and making good decisions. Those are not a substitute for working hard also.
Be patient. Tony Robbins is fond of saying that most people grossly overestimate what they can do in a year and grossly underestimate what they can do in a decade. (I have also heard him say that people grossly underestimate what they can do in five years.) I have found this to be true. Five years or a decade may seem like a long time to be miserable. But they won’t be miserable years if you are making progress and seeing some results–even if it takes time to get some momentum. Furthermore, 2027 is going to come regardless of whether you have made progress. So, think about where you want to be in 2027 and work hard to get there. Remember to enjoy the journey and take hope in every little bit of progress you make. A little progress every day will add up to a lot over years.
Use a budget. I know you may have very little money to budget. But using a budget lets you control your spending. Start by adding up all your fixed expenses such as your car insurance premium. Add them together. Then realistically estimate the variable expenses, such as your electric bill. When you add all this together, you know how much money you have to make before you start buying food, clothing, and entertainment. If your income is meager, remember the Lord’s promise that if you are, “faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things” (Matthew 25:21). Cathy got through a difficult time after divorcing and prospered on a modest income and watched it grow. Having a budget and keeping scrupulous track of her finances was one key for her.
Find a bigger shovel. If you are digging out of a financial problem, sometimes the answer is not just better budgeting. Sometimes you need a bigger shovel to dig faster. That means you need a skill allowing you to make more money. When I started all over in business in 2016, I was fortunate that I had skills and licenses allowing me to make $200-300 an hour for my time–when I could get the clients. Getting clients isn’t the easiest thing in the world. But as long as I kept adding new clients, my income continued to rise. If you are 50 years old, you may feel like taking on the debt to go back to law school or medical school is unrealistic with the number of productive years you have left. And you could be right.But if you have no skills that earn you a reasonable income, there are options open to you. I have known middle-aged people who have become journeyman welders or electricians in a matter of months. I know someone who recently got his CDL certification in a matter of months and now stands to make $90,000 a year as a long-haul trucker. So, if your income is not what you wish, look around. Invest a little time in yourself and a little money. Borrow a little if necessary. But make sure you have a skill that is valuable and will allow you to dig out of your predicament faster.While you are investing in education, you may need to work a low-paying job. There were times when I was trying to start a business where I did legal work for another lawyer for $25 an hour. It wasn’t much money, but he would give me all the work I wanted. It allowed me to keep the lights on while I was working to get my own clients that would pay me 10 times that amount. I am grateful I had that situation. During another time in my journey, when I was working to get my practice up and running, I worked nights doing phone surveys. That’s not a job most people with a doctorate degree will touch. But it served a purpose at the time.
I know looking at these suggestions might feel overwhelming, and you may believe you lack the time and energy to implement it. Remember that a little progress every day adds up to a lot of progress over a year, five years, and ten years. I can’t offer you a miracle that will solve all your financial problems in one fell swoop. I can promise you that applying the principles above will help you get to a happier and more comfortable place sooner than you can imagine right now.
Also Published in Meridian Magazine October 3, 2022