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Overcoming Financial Devastation
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The Three P's of Overcoming Financial Adversity
Looking back, I found three key elements essential to overcoming financial devastation. These include patience, persistence and priority.
Patience - The first and perhaps most challenging aspect of returning to success following a significant financial setback is patience. It’s only natural for us to make new plans that include results occurring faster - like before. However, after a big setback? Progress tends to occur at a snail’s pace. The people that survive this situation? They’re patient in this regard. They embrace a long journey and remain methodical in knocking down small achievements as part of a bigger aim.
Persistence - Although patience is a virtue of success, persistence is its heart. This trait lifts you to try again after more than one failed attempt at finding a job or scoring affordable housing in the face of “no”. Persistence can be difficult to maintain when things are bad. It often requires prayer to support its fuel. Without persistence? You’ll rarely make it back in the game.
Priority - Progress without priority usually results in waywardness. Staying on task regardless of present difficult is one of the most challenging aspects of a life turnaround. We get bored by little current progress or distracted by an easier looking obstacle that’s ale on our list of needs. Staying on priority is a big secret to sustained
Other Key Tools to Overcoming a Financial Setback
Reach for the Bottom
One of the toughest aspects of surviving a severe downturn is that things seem to only keep getting worse at a time when you’re hoping and praying for some sort of positive breakthrough. This reality takes a toll and can cause us to lose hope.
I finally learned a key to success was to “reach for bottom”.
What does that mean?
It means I deduced the worst case scenario’s and created a viable - albeit ugly - plan for how I would move forward in those bad circumstances. By doing this? I didn’t get depressed by additional setbacks: I was both emotionally and methodically ready for those dips.
In other words?
It’s not the ocean that can make you seasick? It’s the depth and frequency of the waves. You can calm the boat when you set anchor on the ocean’s floor.
Stop the Bleeding
We discussed learning and preparing to “cut to the bone” in the first chapter regarding surviving the initial financial downturn of transition. If you haven’t already done so? Its time to seriously cut costs. Can you sell your car and use public transportation? Can you move in with two other friends and get housing costs down to a minimum. These sorts of steps tend to add some drama and chaos to our existence but compared to ending up on the streets? They’re a cakewalk.
The other side of stopping bleeding is income: a job, a service, a product. What must we do to accomplish creating new income? Simple: whatever it takes.
To eliminate losses we need the lowest possible expense base and new income.
A Strategic Bankruptcy
There are times when a bankruptcy makes the best sense. A number trans-women financed much of their surgical expenses through credit card debt and subsequently found themselves overwhelmed with payments at the same time their post-transition income stagnated. A strategic bankruptcy is often a useful tool in these circumstances.
Bankruptcy is designed to wipe the slate clean and start over. It works well if you learn the lesson to live within your means hereafter and save money from each paycheck regardless of circumstances.
To prepare, you’ll ideally want to already be in a leased location so you won’t need to pre-qualify for housing, have and keep a current bank account and ideally - stay in your job. All these areas can become affected by a bankruptcy but before long - with the passage of time & rebuilding your credit - starting with a secured credit card - you’ll begin the path to get back on your feet.
Importantly, by clearing a large slate of debts, you’ll want to dedicate your new cash flow to building a savings next egg. Bankruptcy works perfectly - as its supposed to - when a person uses it to clear overwhelming debt and learns from those mistakes by not assuming new debt and making saving a high priority.
Rebuilding Your Credit Rating
A lot of trans-women end up with a less than stellar credit rating after the devastation from a gender transition.
Having horrible credit means you might be living as unbanked: a survivable condition but one that tends to add extra time to accomplishing menial tasks like paying bills. A credit score affects auto insurance rates and the ability to get many jobs.
The good news is that a credit score can be improved quickly by starting to paying bills on time.
Tips for Surviving Emotional Despair after a Financial Setback
One of the most challenging aspects is keeping a positive attitude and self-image in the face of huge setbacks. In my case? I kept recalling money I so readily wasted during better times and beat myself up for allowing me to get in this mess.
If you’ve ever seen the movie “The Edge”: you might recall a profound statement by Anthony Hopkins regarding why most people die when lost in the wilderness: “They die of shame”. Based upon experience, I’m guessing such passing isn’t limited to the wild blue yonder.
As my life deteriorated: I froze. I couldn’t function. I was ashamed of people I hurt. I beat myself up over mistakes.
I almost died…of shame.
Faith & Prayer
I can’t begin to explain the power of prayer & a basis in spirituality. I lost my connection with organized religion after being out-and-proud as transgender…but I never lost my faith in prayers to God. I owe my mother for this healthy habit: she was a devout believer in prayer.
Manage What You Can
The trick to surviving complete chaos is to not look very far into the future & manage what you can now. At times, I my entire “future plans” included only the next two hours. If I looked beyond that juncture? I felt overwhelmed & depressed.
I wasn’t yet able to love myself - I’ll always struggle with feeling deserved of love. I did, however, learn to forgive myself for getting in such a bad situation. I certainly didn’t “try” to end up a mess. I promised myself I would make better decisions if I found my way clear of this labyrinth. I openly & vocally apologized to myself…and asked myself to forgive “me’. Alas, it worked.
What gifts did I receive from surviving complete financial devastation?
Perhaps the greatest gift from my devastation was an improved sense of self. It’s only after you lose everything that you discover what you “really” have…you have yourself!
Other important lessons, included:
I discovered I didn’t require a single penny to my name to be truly happy.
I also never feel compelled to “act out” as if I’m someone important or wealthy. Know that type of behavior? Nowadays, it never bothers me to proclaim “I can’t afford it” even when by other people’s standards - I could. I’m much more humble about what challenges I can face with life & admire humility in others.
• I realized I never “owned” anything - I simply had possessions. That is a powerful & important distinction as you consider adding possessions to your fold.
• I learned the true value of money. I saw every day what money can buy…and what it can’t. More than anything else? Money buys freedom. But…it doesn’t buy happiness.
• I discovered who my real friends & family are
• I no longer care what people think or say about my life. I can’t even begin to describe the number of friends that chose to exclude me, family that chose to ignore me, business associates that left me out, long-term lovers that were never able to tell their family we…were once we. I got used to that - even rationalized their behavior. Nowadays? Very little gets under my skin.
Long Term Impact of Severe Financial Devastation
Living through a huge financial setback often impacts your psyche for the rest of your life. Ironically, I face a double edged sword whey it comes to how I view my financial future. On the one hand, I’m empowered knowing exactly how to survive in the worst of circumstances. On the other? Like a child of the depression, I often fear becoming broke again. I recently put to rest my greatest fear: the image of ending up old, destitute and trans. Having never had children & no more living immediate family - I totally feared the prospect of being alone without adequate resources in the years ahead. My retirement platform is now well organized & fully funded. That is a big relief to my soul.
I’m much more interested in the sort of legacy I leave behind when I’m gone & dedicated to creating successes that actually improve people’s lives.