For a few years, while I was married, we were multi-millionaires. We sold a business that we had created together. Due to several factors, including financial mismanagement and greed, our biggest asset in the divorce was a tax loss in the millions. Mine is not a story of a husband leaving me to fend for myself — it didn’t go down like that for us. We got rich together and then we got broke. I am not a member of the “First Wives Club.” However, how I finally achieved my “comeback” can be applied to anyone who feels stuck with an empty mindset, and an empty wallet.
In the 90’s and 2000’s, I acclimated to having all of the money that I’d ever want. We bought homes like we bought groceries. We built 3 of them from scratch, all of which were featured in architectural magazines. I felt rich, and I was. Suddenly, because of earlier-mentioned events, we lost our fortune. Then I felt broke, and I was.
It took me a while to get used to living without all of that money. For years I clutched onto the story of our dramatic downfall, and I retold it time and time again with the inflection of a Hollywood cliffhanger. Telling that story attracted attention to me. It also pinned me to the habit of feeling like a giant loser. Just like I had gotten used to popping in and out of department stores for expensive shoes, I quickly became habituated at setting aside $20 to make sure that I could afford toilet paper at the end of the month – one time I took a roll from a bathroom stall at Chipotle out of desperation.
I finally left Malibu to live in an understated house in a neighborhood that I could afford. I pinched pennies. I hated telling the kids over and over again, “We can’t afford it…” and I beat myself up all of those times when I got myself in the red. My social circle changed and I went out drinking with other broke people who loved to complain.
I wasn’t slacking — I had invested all the proceeds from a small business sale (after the divorce), and all of my time, into another business. I was always working. I never had time for my kids and when I was there in body, my mind was always somewhere else. I did not sit still. I survived in a state of financial panic and I couldn’t figure out why I never got a break.
Finally, it hit me that I had adjusted to the struggle. I not only no longer identified with abundance, I had no evidence of it in my surroundings. Even more importantly, I had attached some really messed up ideas to money. I had been convinced of the idea that I needed money for security. One day, I consulted with an executive coach and she helped me to realize that from my past, money had been the opposite of security. What she said in our one session (I couldn’t afford to hire her for more than that) is that money is good, money can give us options, but for me, money had never represented security. Therefore, my goals had a disconnect with what I really believed.
I concluded that what money would mean to me from then on was personal freedom. Money is a renewable resource. When I had a lot of money, I spent too much time worrying about losing my money. Now when money shows up, I am grateful for the things that it allows me to do. Saying, “Yes” to my girls is the best part.
I shut my business because I ran out of cash after struggling to raise the funds to keep it going, and after having gone deep into debt. I had an investor lined up who was a “sure thing.” I took out high-interest loans to tied us over until we received the money. The money never came and I finally had to shut our doors. I eventually declared Chapter 7.
You can bet it was hard to see abundance in my situation, but I finally realized that I needed to make some big changes in my head in order to see the changes that I wanted in my finances.
Then, some amazing things happened. The week that I was shutting my business, I was asked to be a volunteer coach at women founders competition. I started getting consulting work. I had extra time so I sharpened my skills and kept professionally active by experimenting with various side hustles. When there were lulls in consulting, I worked on my blog. Because I stayed active on social channels like LinkedIn and Twitter, and because I never stopped networking (even when it was the last thing I wanted to do), I got better and better work — work that is interesting and fulfilling.
I changed my group of friends, and invested time in people who could cheer for my successes. I realized that those people are harder to find than those who like to give advice and commiserate when you are down. I became vulnerable myself and put energy into becoming a better friend.
Around this time, my landlord decided to sell the house I had been living in for three years. Rents had gone sky high in my neighborhood, and at first, I got pretty stressed. Then I did something unprecedented — I let go. I let go even though my credit was trash and I was about to declare bankruptcy. I decided that instead of telling myself that I would never find a suitable place for me, my 3 daughters and my 2 dogs that was remotely near the girls’ school; and instead of convincing myself that I would need to lower my standards and find someplace less inspiring, I just let go and had faith that we would not be homeless. Three weeks later, the landlord texted me to ask when I thought I’d be able to move. The idea popped into my head to post on a Facebook group of which I had never participated, or even read any other posts. Hi. Looking for a rental for me and my daughters — ages 14 and 16 (18 year-old too, but she’s going to college), and our two dogs. currently relocated from Malibu to Agoura and would like to come back home.
Within 48 hours I had a lease for a 3 bedroom house on one of the most desirable roads in Malibu at an unheard of price. The week prior I picked up a second new job that guaranteed an income that would allow me to bring home more money even after the rent increase!
Now, I am surrounded by abundance. My house is far from fancy, but we can hear the Pacific Ocean from every room. I work from home so I get to enjoy our surroundings. I set my own schedule and I am continually grateful for every check that I earn.
I would not have predicted that it would have been so easy to adjust to the broke life, but it was. And it would have been easy to stay there and convince myself that I was stuck. It took a lot of work to change my mindset, but I knew that I needed to make a change. Because I believe that people are adaptable, I find that it is important to carefully choose my settings and relationships so that I can adapt to the things I want in my life, instead of getting stuck somewhere else!
These days, I don’t have the high-tech gadget equipped kitchens or fancy mood-lit bathtubs of my millionaire past, and I miss those things sometimes! But I have something more. I have a self-supporting beautiful life in a Craigslist-furnished ocean-front gem. Our sweet little home is filled with love and gratitude and mismatched towels. Someday those may be fluffy and color coordinated. One day at a time…
For a list of books that have helped me in these discoveries, visit my Pinterest Books Board