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How Life Transitions Can Help Your Relationship with Money

How Life Transitions Can Help Your Relationship with Money

August 18, 2021

Life transitions are usually never fun. But here’s the thing: they’re inevitable.

Transitions feel like an abnormal disruption to life, but in fact they are a predictable and integral part of it. While each change may be novel, major life transitions happen with clocklike regularity. Life is one long string of them, in fact. The author Bruce Feiler wrote a book called Life Is in the Transitions: Mastering Change at Any Age. After interviewing hundreds of people about their transitions, he found that a major change in life occurs, on average, every 12 to 18 months. Huge ones—what Feiler calls “lifequakes”—happen three to five times in each person’s life. Some lifequakes are voluntary and joyful, such as getting married or having a child. Others are involuntary and unwelcome, such as unemployment or life-threatening illness. (Source)

What if we reframed transitions from something to be feared to something to be expected and sometimes welcomed? I know that seems like a tall order, but let’s take a look at an example.

An Unexpected Cut in Income

Years ago, nurses worked a great deal of overtime at local hospitals and many of them had become accustomed to receiving an extra paycheck with overtime compensation.  Of course, they enjoyed more shopping, owning a nicer car, and taking more vacations.  

Suddenly, the pay structure was altered due to labor law changes that dictated how many hours a nurse could work. Naturally, many nurses felt the pain of this transition in the short term – a pay decrease is never fun.

In the long run, however, most of the employees learned to adjust their expenses, and discovered that their income taxes decreased since the overtime compensation had put them in a higher tax bracket! This discovery was a very positive result.

Take a Deep Breath

If you find yourself going through a major transition – especially if it’s related to your finances – just pause for a moment. The truth is that at the beginning of a life shift, we’re not sure where we’re going to end up; automatically assuming it’s going to be a bad thing might be jumping the gun a little.

When it comes to finances, a transitional period often requires that we evaluate what’s more important: what’s a NEED versus a WANT?

  1. Sit down and write out a detailed expense sheet for items you need and items you want.
  2. Remember – this is YOUR life. Make it your own and be choosy about how you spend your money. As Henry David Thoreau said, “The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.”

When many people complete this exercise, they often discover they can actually live with much less – and there’s a lot of freedom in that revelation.

I’ve worked with families who have changed jobs in order to focus more on their families – sometimes going from two to one income. However, when we’ve calculated everything – the decrease in income tax, the cost of buying lunch or dinner on the go every day, the cost of childcare – they’re often surprised at how these factors affect the bottom line.

It’s often difficult to see the forest for the trees when you try to evaluate your own financial situation. Working with a professional financial planner can help you make concrete decisions about often emotional issues. An impartial third party who can clearly “see” your situation can truly be worth its weight in gold.

So, before you start feeling helpless during your next life transition, remember that this is a natural part of life. It’s often in these moments when experience the most growth. There are always resources to help you through them.

And I hope you remember that I’m one of them.


Source: The Atlantic: The Clocklike Regularity of Major Life Changes



Debbie Charpentier has been serving clients since 1989 by using a holistic, comprehensive approach that helps clients create the life they value and the legacy they envision. Charpentier Wealth Strategies is a Bakersfield, CA Financial Planning practice that offers fee-based financial planning services. To contact Debbie, email Debbie Charpentier is a registered representative offering securities and investment advisory services through Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp., (Member SIPC). Charpentier Wealth Strategies is a marketing name for registered representatives of Lincoln Financial Advisors.  CRN-3718863-081621