Life Transitions ― Money, Emotions and Confusion

Beth Jones, RLP®, AIF®, CFT™ |

December 27, 2013

By Beth Jones, RLP®, AIF®, CFT

Life is full of changes

What do a lottery winner, lawsuit recipient and a widow have in common? Sudden money ― and sudden, similar emotions. While it may seem their experiences are polar opposites ― one is a “celebratory” experience and another involves deep grief ― both result in shared emotions. Shock, surprise, loss of identity and self-esteem, guilt, confusion, overwhelm, dramatically altered relations with friends and family. Other transitions which can elicit similar emotions are divorce, retirement, sale of a business, loss of money or a loved one. Life transitions are a time of change ― “what was” no longer exists and “what will be” has not yet taken shape. By definition, a transition is a temporary state. One of the keys to a successful transition is to take the time to re-examine your sense of purpose and consider your new choices in light of your highest life goals. Working with a financial planner trained by the Sudden Money® Institute in Financial Transition Planning can provide the needed guidance and structure to handle this time effectively.

UNCERTAINTY ― Each time we go through a transition we face new responsibilities and choices. As a result, our emotional climate becomes more turbulent and we have a feeling of uncertainty. However, transitions have a beginning and an end, sometimes taking as much as 5 years from start to finish.

EMOTIONS ― Be aware of the negative emotions that generally show up during a transition and can last for a few years after: abandonment, fear, grief, and low self-esteem. All of these emotions can lead to feeling overwhelmed ― physical fatigue and short-term decisions that may turn out to be regrettable.

DECISIONS ― The decisions we make while in a state of transition will shape our future as we settle into our “new normal.” Each decision will have a personal and a financial component. The secrets to successful decision making while in transition begin with understanding your new resources, organizing and prioritizing your choices, and allocating your resources to create the life you would most like to live.

DIVORCE ― In a perfect world, you would go through the legal process of divorce and be able to deal with your financial decisions with a calm, clear mind. Divorce propels you through one of life’s toughest transitions. The passage from being a married person to being single is often charged with emotion and riddled with uncertainty, denial and confusion. In order for this transition to be successful, it usually takes time, good planning, and a willingness to face the myriad of changes around every corner. It is easy to become fixated on what you have lost instead of what you have now and how you are going to make the best use of it.

LOSS OF SPOUSE ― When you begin to process what has happened to your life after the loss of a spouse, you come face-to-face with two major issues: the grief over the loss and a new financial position that has been thrust upon you. Both of these issues are so powerful and at times overwhelming that you may find yourself acting as though one or both of them does not exist. This loss is not one of those miserable situations you can work around –you must work through it. The amount of time it will take to feel “normal” again varies widely as there are no magic time tables you can consult to find out when the grief will end.

INSURANCE SETTLEMENTS ― Money that comes from the settlement of a lawsuit is hardly a joyous windfall. Most of the time, this money is a recovery of damages, pain, suffering, and loss. It has probably taken many years of legal battling to secure your settlement. While getting the money might be nice, the real blessing is to have the matter over with so you can go on with your life. You may be surprised at the way you feel when you finally receive the settlement. This event can reignite the pain and suffering you experienced when the tragedy first occurred. Ideally, you will begin the orientation and planning process prior to receiving the settlement.

BEWARE OF FUTURE SPENDING ― Even if the settlement amount sounds huge, be assured that it is limited. You don’t want to end up owing as much or more than you receive. Pre-settlement is a confusing time, you can either improve you chance of successfully managing your life, or you can permanently and unknowingly damage your future financial security. 

Work with a financial planner trained in Financial Transition Planning. The Decision Free Zone is your best tool to separate the necessary and unnecessary decisions. Then begin to build a system for stress-testing the financial impact of your ideas; what house to live in, need for additional income, how to afford the best insurance coverage and so on. Sudden Money® Advisors are uniquely suited to guide you through the complexities of life transitions.


Third Eye Associates, Ltd disclaimer

This article is provided for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as investment advice.  Always consult a qualified Financial Consultant or Planner who can guide you in creating a globally diversified portfolio that provides growth and income with an eye on managing volatility.

Beth Jones, RLP®, AIF®, CFT is a Certified Financial Transitionist, Registered Life Planner, and Financial Consultant with Third Eye Associates, Ltd, a fee-only Registered Investment Adviser located at 38 Spring Lake Road in Red Hook, NY.  She can be reached at 845-752-2216 or