Getting a Grip on My Finances Was Easier Than I Thought, and It Sent My Confidence Through the Roof

Photo: Stocksy / Manu Prats
So you want to have a healthy relationship with your finances and prepare for retirement, but you’re not sure where to start or how to get there. With Money Talks, three people in different life stages outline their experience of working with a financial professional for the very first time. As it turns out, it’s never too early or late to chat through your goals with someone who can help.

Two months ago, the life moves I'm making right now seemed terrifying. I'm in the process of job interviews to essentially restart my career in a totally new field. Given that this change will come with a pay cut that feels significant to me, I spent so much time worrying about whether it could be the right decision for me and my family. But after chatting with Fidelity Investments Vice President, Financial Consultant Ryan Viktorin, CFP a few months ago, I was able to develop financial confidence and realize that as long as I have a solid plan backing  me up, the numbers aren't that scary.

Viktorin helped me understand out how I could gauge whether my future salary (which I assume will be about $35,000 less than what I make now) could fit my family's needs. Furthermore, she helped me approach the shift with excitement instead of dread.

That mindset is where things got tricky; my plan is very on-the-horizon. I can't fully use the financial knowledge I've gained with the help of Viktorin until I land a new job, which initially left me feeling a bit deflated. But as the weeks have progressed, I've realized the impactful moves I can make. My mindset shift that has allowed me to cultivate a sense of financial confidence has made planning for my immediate future more manageable, and worries about my long-term future and retirement less riddled with stress.

How developing financial confidence has helped me develop better financial health

For starters, I've noticed myself feeling more comfortable and less anxious with regards to my finances. I've also found time to tackle small financial tasks that set me up for long-term financial health, like budgeting and organization, which has made me feel even more financially confident.

This increased comfort has translated into newfound assurance in my future plan. During a recent job interview, a concern came up about whether I was overqualified for the role in question. I was able to be able to confidently say, "You don't have to worry." I was able come from a place of actual confidence, with less worry about the salary reduction.

The financial value I bring to our family beyond just my take-home salary.

I also better realized the financial value I bring to our family beyond just my take-home salary. My partner and I share our dual income to afford our lifestyle of having a home and three children. I initially worried that with a smaller income, I'd be bringing less to the table, but after talking with Viktorin, I better understood that salary isn't all I contribute. Since I'll likely be working at a larger company, it could make more sense for our family to be on my health insurance plan, which would be subsidized by my company, rather than on my wife's, who is the CEO of a small company and pays for her insurance out-of-pocket. That's a massive contribution that I shouldn't downplay.

A not-so-fringe benefit of my financial confidence? Improving my marriage

Taking more ownership of the ways my work will continue to bolster my wife and kids has also improved conversations my wife and I have about our financial situation. I'm projecting more confidence, which is coming from real confidence, and that has led to a welcome elevation in our dynamic.

By walking me through a few models of how couples might approach finances, chatting with Viktorin helped me realize that my wife and I don't have to fully combine our finances. A specific takeaway for me is that you can have all the love and trust and closeness and even shared priorities and it can still be healthy, valid, and good to have separate finances to some degree. For example, I have my own checking account, but we also have some joint ventures as well.

I've associated any separation of the finances with being the beginning of the end for us and assumed it couldn't possibly be good for us. And now I'm seeing some separation of finances as beneficial our marriage; we both have our own separate things in addition to our joint assets: I've opened a separate bank account, so when I start my next job, I will have a portion of my paycheck deposited to my account first and then whatever we designate after will go towards the joint account.

Modeling financial health for loved ones

Now that I'm more confident in my personal finances, I've also been more open about money with my kids. A big part of my "why" with all of this is that I want my kids to grow up with a healthier relationship with money than what I've had. And I feel better positioned to include them in conversations about budgeting and talking to them about numbers. I want to lead by example, modeling how to live without financial anxiety, investing in yourself via things like taking jobs at a pay cut (after doing your homework to make sure you can afford to do so, as I did), and still keeping an eye on retirement savings. They're at a point where they're curious, and I am excited to entertain that curiosity.

My newfound financial confidence has spurred great conversation among my six closest friends, in that we've agreed to start naming numbers. We've long talked about everything: births, deaths, and everything in-between. But until recently, when we're talking about salaries, savings, and retirement plans, we didn't broach numbers. What's up with that?

It's neither shameful nor boastful to specify your salary. Social transparency of salary will only add to the greater good of helping to diminish the gender pay gap, which holds all women back, impacting our salaries, and, by proxy, lifestyle and retirement plans. So I'm excited about this shift, as well.

Overall, working with a financial professional has helped me realize that finances—both planning for the short-term and long-term—aren't as scary as they seemed. I'm no expert, but even gaining a little more understanding has made my own financial situation feel attainable. I'm excited to move into the next phase of my financial journey armed with know-how and confidence.

As told to Kara Jillian Brown.

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