Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Turning Over a new leaf

I have been struck over the past month how many things have really begun to come together recently in my life. I went through a rather difficult period for about 18 months and now things are feeling somewhat better. I thought that in this post I would discuss a little bit about the relationship between your health (both emotional and physical) and your financial situation. For me, there is undoubtedly a relationship between these two things.

After my divorce, I found that I was really struggling with a variety of different issues. I had to move multiple times, I was suddenly single, and also was older (much older) than I was when I first 'dated' in college. I am not terribly novel in terms of the story but my story might give someone some help, so I think it is worth sharing.

It can be helpful to have a measurement of the different aspects so that I can describe them. The measurements will surely be different for you, but I find the following measurements helpful:
For financial health, I will use my net worth.
For physical health, I will use my endurance and my daily activity.
For emotional health, I will use the number of times I feel overwhelmed either by anxiety or sad feelings.

Prior to divorce, my net worth exceeded 250K, my physical health was good, I was able to comfortably run a 5k, went to the gym 3-5x weekly and felt overwhelmed perhaps 1x month for about 1-3 hours.

After my divorce, my net worth decreased to about 200K, my physical health based on the same measurement decreased to about 2x/week for exercise and I frequently felt overwhelmed, perhaps 1x per week, especially in the past year as I began to live with someone new.

Turning the Corner

I began therapy immediately during the difficult time. I tried that for many months, resisting the idea that I might need a medication to help me get more stable and able to handle the situation. With the help of the therapy and the support of new friends, I found myself able to be stronger, slowly.

And while I was able to begin to deal with the discomfort of divorce, I also began to reexamine my values. I continued to value love, but I also examined my other values and really thought about what mattered to me. And I worked more and more to live out my values and took real steps to live more simply--something I had felt strongly about for years.

I practice a version of Inbox Zero at work. I eliminated my car. I pared down my personal possessions by about 50% and all of that was helpful and created more space for me to consider and really focus on what was important. And strangely, as I write this, I realize that eliminating all of these other things really created more anxiety in me in some way because there were fewer and fewer distractions.

As my life became simpler, I still was becoming more anxious and I struggled to understand it. Over time, I even became comfortable with the idea of taking medication to assist with my anxiety.

This was a real turning point for me as I was open and honest with those around me about this problem I found that many people had taken these kinds of medications. Besides the help of the medication, the openness in my relationships as a result of this was a real boon.

As that improved, I found myself able to attack and succeed in a new job and also be able to grow my net worth. Now, at over 100K of liquid assets I am truly considering what to do next. As a renter for the past 2+ years since my divorce I am not building any equity and the timing of this is right around the election. Combine that with interest rates going up and I am personally concerned that at this point, we're going to see enough of an increase that home ownership will become more and more difficult in the future, especially in the part of the country where I live.

Once I began to clean house with my job, I moved on to my new relationship. I have continued to work on the relationship and honor my needs and strength, but more than anything, to express my truth as best I can, without regret or apologies. The therapy provides an incredible sense of calm for me. I am definitely able to manage stress and anxiety better with the medication than without it.

More than anything the lesson that I have learned again in my life is simple: look out for yourself. No one else is going to do it for you. So, I am now looking to buy a house for myself in a neighborhood that seems both nice and is also accessible for me financially without wasting and ruining my entire life plan. What would you do at this point with the money in an uncertain environment? I have my 401k in the market so I don't want to take risk there; buying a place to live and working to pay it off quickly seems like a no brainer.