How to move forward when it feels like too much

We all have some money goals that leave us overwhelmed, drained of energy.  So we push them aside, but the longer we do so, the more this disconnection tends to fuel a feeling that we just don’t know how to tackle them. But it’s important to get past these feelings, and find your way forward into these difficult topics; I’m going to share three “bigger picture” framing ideas that can be applied to many of our inner challenges.

One of the biggest uncertainties for many of us is planning for retirement.  How will we live in our elder years?  What choices will we have? What will our lifestyle be?  The focus here is on retirement, but I hope you will see that you can apply the three “big pictures” to any of your overwhelming money goals.  I have seen hope and progress, movement, and relief come out of doing these three things:

Move from fear of the unknown to clarity

Our biggest most overwhelming goals often loom over us in an abstract way.  It’s scary to face their reality.  Still, I have found for myself and working with clients, that the abstract is usually much scarier than the reality.   The reality always shows a way forward and space for hope.  One specific way I’ve done this with clients is to work look at a range of different retirement-years scenarios; this can be difficult at first, but our focus is always on the clear actions they can take to move forward.  Moving from the overwhelming abstract to a more concrete clarity will give you confidence and encouragement to not worry about what you can’t control, and take action steps where you can.

Bring in loving kindness

While it feels natural to consider the ways our choices impact those around us today (coworkers, family, neighbors), it can be harder to see how choices today impact our future self.  So try to connect with your elder self and see how you might support its needs. To do this, breathe deeply a few times, relax, close your eyes and envision yourself as an elder.  Smile.   Breathe.  Feel love and compassion toward your elder self.  What do you wish for your elder self?  What does she / he need?  You cannot control everything about how your elder self will experience life, but what are two or three key things you can do to begin creating the choices that your elder self would like to have?  Some may be things can do right away; others may be multi-year plans.  Examples could be: paying off your mortgage by a certain age, learning about long term care insurance to see if that’s a helpful option for you, and of course, taking steps to build your savings for retirement.

Shift from being reactive to creative

Many people have gone into their retirement years without a real plan, just reacting to each new challenge, each new phase, each new year.  Begin to move toward creating the lifestyle and choices that you wish for your elder self.   This may mean taking a step back, throwing out the “shoulds” of what retirement is supposed to look like and opening to other possibilities.  It’s never too late, or too soon, to begin getting things in place for your elder self.

Investing in your health now with exercise, stress management, self-care, and food choices is sure to pay big returns down the line.   Perhaps you’ll consider downsizing, moving to a more affordable situation/place, or finding co-housing options that light up your soul.  It may mean exploring new ways to bring in income. Getting creative now, starting a small business in your 50’s or 60’s (art, teaching, consulting?) may create a revenue stream that could make a world of difference in your lifestyle and choices.  Many people now realize that what used to be called retirement is more a grey area of phases, and these joyful revenue generators (let’s work toward the ideal!) can be a wonderful way to move from full time employment toward full retirement.

I encourage you to do this exploration/work with a loved one or a financial professional—or both.  This is big work that can stir up a lot.   Create a supportive space.  Because, as a wise friend said to me recently when talking about our deepest money challenges, “we are not meant to do this work alone.“

This article first appeared in the Fall 2015 edition of Natural Investments News

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Carrie Van Winkle

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