Episode 042

Grief, Financial Loss and Gain with Emily Griffith

Many people believe that grief solely pertains to bereavement, but that’s not always the case. Grief can be the natural response to loss, transition, or change and it is a universal experience that we will all go through. But when it comes to entrepreneurship, grief and money can go hand in hand. If your financial identity is changing because of a loss or a gain, this week’s guest is here to help.

Emily Griffith is a certified life coach and founder of Felt Write, a one-on-one coaching service that helps women process and transmute their grief. Grief was the fuel that propelled her out of her corporate job and gave her life’s work purpose, and she joins me this week to talk about grief, money, financial loss, and gain, and share how she helps her clients manage their money when dealing with grief.

In this episode, we discuss some of the different types of grief and how grief has expanded Emily’s world and who she works with. Find out why grief isn’t something that is meant to be fixed or recovered from, and how Emily can help you navigate your grief, transition from one identity to another, and take your grief and turn it into joy.

If you want a flash of fresh financial inspiration and actionable tips to rewrite and master your relationship with money every week in your inbox, sign up for my email list! When you sign up, you’ll receive my free Money Mindset workbook that has been known to get people making more, investing more, and having warm, fuzzy, money conversations with their partners. I’ll see you in your inbox!

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • How winning the lottery can actually be a financial trauma.
  • Some of the types of grief Emily has experienced in her life.
  • One of the major realizations Emily had when she started her own business.
  • How she still feels triggered when she feels sizeable amounts of money hit her bank account.
  • Emily’s advice for new entrepreneurs.
  • Why grief can be associated with happy, joyous occasions.
  • How grief can show up in places you wouldn’t expect.
  • Why it is normal to go through multiple evolutions in your business.
  • How grief has impacted Emily’s relationship with money.

Resources

Read the full transcript now

You’re listening to the Mastering Money in Midlife podcast with Debbie Sassen Episode 42.

Welcome to Mastering Money in Midlife, a podcast for midlife women in business to overcome financial anxiety and make more money without burning out or sacrificing their families. Join Certified Life and Money Coach Debbie Sassen, as she shares practical business strategies and mindset shifts that help you dissolve the money blocks that keep you stuck in a cycle of under earning and under saving, sabotage the growth of your business and prevent you from building the wealth that you desire.

Debbie Sassen:  Hello, my friends and welcome back to the podcast. I am so excited today, to share with you my friend, Emily Griffith. We’re going to be having a conversation all around money, and loss, and gain, and healing. It’s going to be a fabulous conversation. Let me just start by sharing with you a little bit about Emily’s background.

Emily is a Certified Life coach and founder of felt Write, a one-on-one coaching service, helping women process and transmute their grief. After telling her boss that her mom and sister had cancer, Emily knew that she had to leave corporate life. Grief was the fuel that propelled her out, and gave her life’s work purpose. Emily, welcome to the podcast. I’m so happy you’re here.

Emily Griffith: Okay, first of all, this is the 42nd podcast that you’re doing. So, as you said that, my mom gave birth to me when I she was 42. My sister lost her life when she was 42. Forty-two is a life and death number for me.

When I turned 40, this past January, my boyfriend’s like, “Oh, what do you want to do?” I’m like, “Whatever, let’s just have dinner and keep it low key.” Forty-two is my year. Forty-two is when big life things are going to happen. So, when you just said 42, I’m like, talk about serendipity. Like yes, this is exactly where I’m supposed to be, talking about this with you. I’m so happy and thrilled that it’s 42.

Debbie: Oh, I’m so happy also. And you told me… Emily and I are LinkedIn® friends. We have had a coffee chat, or what Emily likes to call, “a sip and chat.” I think we both drank water, actually, because it’s summer for both of us, and it’s hot. Who wants to be drinking hot coffee? I mean, I do have coffee in the morning.

But we have met, and I feel like we are already like, one of my friends calls, “11-year friends.” I messaged you that in LinkedIn. When people become friends, there’s always this awkward stage where they’re kind of doing that dance around each other; should I say this? Should I do this? And, we just skipped over all of that and dove right in. That’s what I feel, anyway.

Emily: Same. It was very natural. It was very organic from the first moment that… Actually, before we even had that virtual sip and chat, just learning about you through your posts, and through our group that we have. I just felt connected to you right away. I connected with you through your words first. And then, when we had our virtual sip and chat, I’m like, “Oh, fast friends.” This is easy.

Debbie: Amazing. This is your first podcast interview, you told me, right?

Emily: Yes. I was very resistant to… I was being asked to go on panels. I was being asked to do podcasts. I would feel myself turned red. I would get so flustered, and I’m just like, “No, I can’t, this isn’t the time.” Meanwhile, I discovered I love writing. Writing is my jam; words are my thing.

I’m like, “Oh, I’m really starting to hide behind my words here.” Like I can write posts all day long. But when it comes to something like this, like right now, I feel good, because it’s like me and you are just having a conversation. I’m not thinking about the fact that this is a podcast, I’m just pretending that this is like our virtual sip and chat.

And actually, you talk about this, like, with money. Like how, like these money triggers get stored in our body, and like our nervous system, you know, has these reactions. Like when it comes to podcasts, like I’m having this reaction right now, as we speak.

Debbie: Okay, you could just do a little bit of tapping under your collarbone to calm down your nervous system. Because that’s something that I do with my clients. While you’re tapping, I’m gonna actually give you the backstory. I haven’t shared this with you; why I knew that we had to have this podcast interview.

Exactly one week ago, we’re recording this on a Thursday, in August. Thursday, last week, I was working out with my trainer. We’ve been working out together for over two years. We talk about all the things, you know, because you can just talk about weights, and what’s your next goal and your weightlifting, and how many squats you’re doing, and lunges and whatever.

And my trainer was telling me about a lottery in the United States, which was over a billion dollars. Okay, fast forward, it actually was already and somebody won, I think on August 1st, the lottery of $1.3 billion. As of the latest news, because I had to Google® it, they still haven’t found the lottery winner; I hope they do.

But what I told my trainer is, winning a lottery is a financial trauma because it changes your entire financial identity. Like many people, most people who buy lottery tickets do not have a tremendous amount of wealth. And they get like zapped from middle class or lower middle class, and sometimes they’re even in debt, to all of a sudden having a huge amount of money.

That, first of all, in terms of their money mechanics and financial management, they have no idea how to deal with. Also, their nervous system isn’t calibrated to deal with that much money. It’s just not who they are, in their bones, in their emotional reserves and capacity, to hold that much money. And it’s no surprise that within two or three years, so many lottery winners have ruined their life. They say it’s like the worst thing that ever happened to them.

Emily: I mean, when it comes to grief and money, they go hand-in-hand in a way. In the example that you cited… Well, you described it as like financial trauma, in a way. But grief is the natural response to any loss, any transition, any change, right? Typically, when people hear grief, they immediately assume it’s bereavement and it’s a loss of a person.

But what you’re describing, and what I work with my clients on, is exactly what you were just talking about. It could be a joyous occasion, it could be yeah, winning the lottery, or getting a promotion, or getting some sort of windfall of money, or whatever the case is. But there’s this, this limbo, this transition of; okay, I have to shed that identity, of who I once was in this position, because now I’m here. And yeah, I don’t have the tools. I don’t know how to navigate this.

People don’t identify that as great. They’re like, “Oh, I, whatever. I just got this huge amount of money. Great! This is the best thing that ever happened to me.” But if you don’t step into who that person is, who has that money and has the tools to navigate that, yeah, two to three years, it’s all gone, and talking about the worst thing that ever happened to them.

Debbie: Right. That was exactly what you posted last Thursday. Which was just a few hours after I’d had this conversation with my trainer. Because you talked about financial loss and financial gain. I’m like, “Wait a second. This divine providence, that I’m having both of these conversations on the same day, that means that we have to talk.”

Emily: It’s fascinating that, yeah, like you had both, you saw that and you had the conversation with your trainer. Because, like I said before, people don’t associate grief with happy, joyous occasions, right? For you to talk about financial gain and how there’s grief in that, is a very real thing.

Like with my clients, there’s some women who come to me, who are going through a divorce. So, besides the fact of grieving the marriage and grieving who they were, grieving being a wife, they’re also figuring out who they are now and gaining this financial independence. Try to figure out okay, what does this look like? Like, who am I now without, you know, my husband, who was the one that was paying all the bills and figuring all that stuff out, which, meanwhile, they weren’t privy to. So, a lot of that comes up when talking about grief.

Debbie: How do you help your clients in that situation? Because I also deal with it, I deal with it from a money side, not from the grief side. Do you actually help your clients to manage money or just change their…? First of all, to grieve the fact that he is no longer taking care of the money.

In fact, I’m also working with a woman right now, whose husband passed away unexpectedly, there was no life insurance plan. So, there’s the grieving of the husband, that was already a few years ago, and also a layer of resentment, that he left her without a life insurance policy, without a huge investment plan that she could use to take care of their kids. There’s a tremendous amount of grief, resentment, and trauma in this specific situation.

Emily: Yes, I’ve worked with women who have lost their husbands. I’ve worked with women who have also gone through divorce. The similar thing of anger, resentment, I can’t believe this, shock. So, yes and no. I mean, there are times, depending on how our session goes, where we’ll make a list and focus. Okay, like, what are the financial responsibilities that you currently have now? You know, where are you financially in that, in order to fulfill those responsibilities?

We’ll get some clarity on that, but mainly, the job that I am there to do is really support them in all of the grief. The financial component is one area that we focus on, sure. But for the most part, it’s really the loss of who they were, and coming into their new version of themselves, is really the overall thing that I do and focus on with my clients.

Debbie: Because they were part of a couple and they saw themselves as a couple, and now they’re a single person, again.

Emily: You have one entity, like two incomes, like being able to, you know, pay all the bills with both. And now, okay, now it’s her. Whether it’s leaving the home that they were in, whether she’s still in the home and still has the memories associated with him in there. I mean, it’s a lot. It’s multilayered, Debbie: Right. It’s deep work.

Emily: And yet, it’s the most fulfilling work I’ve ever done in my life. Like, I still can’t believe that I get to do this.

Debbie: Tell us a little bit more about how you got to this. I said very briefly at the beginning, when your mother and your sister were both diagnosed with cancer, how did you decide that you wanted to leave corporate life?

Actually, how did you even deal with their loss or with their diagnosis personally? And then, what did you realize, what aha moment did you have that you’re like, “Oh, no, this is my life’s work. Time to leave corporate and help other women as they transition from one identity let’s say, to a different one, and navigate the grief?

I actually want to point out something that I keep reading in your posts, which are so deep and so profound, is that grief isn’t something that we get over. I don’t remember your exact words. But it’s not like you do grief, and you do it for 30 days, or a year, or two years, and then you tick it off your to-do list and you move on.

Emily: It’s not a problem to be fixed. It’s not something that you recover from. It’s forever with you. So, as you evolve as a person, so does your grief. Going back to your question, yes. So, I lost my dad when I was 19. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t have any tools. I just was like, okay, that happened. That was terrible. Now, what do we do?

I just looked at my mom, and my mom went to work the next day. My dad died on the Sunday, my mom went to work on Monday, I went to school on Monday; I followed her lead. I remember going to my different teachers and telling them, “Hey, just so you know, I’m not going to be in on Friday, because it’s my father’s funeral.”

Just seeing their faces like, what are you doing here? I’m like, this is what we do. We keep going. We just show up. Like, what do you mean, what am I doing here? This is where I’m supposed to be.

When my mom and my sister got diagnosed, I was in my mid-20s. The story that you told of… I was working at Lord & Taylor® in Midtown. I went to my boss and told her that my mom was diagnosed with endometrial cancer. Then, I came back to her like, two or three weeks later, and told her my sister was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer.

I just remember being in this windowless office, in the middle of Manhattan, It was just dark and dingy. I just was looking around at my life, like, what am I doing? Why am I doing this? Why am I keep showing up to this when it’s just eroding my soul.

And on top of that, my mortality is being checked, when like, the two most important people in my life are dealing with cancer. That was the seed that was planted. Which took me six or seven years before I actually got myself out of the cubicle of okay, something’s not working here. But I need to figure out what I should be doing or what can I do.

My sister passed away when I was 29. The grief that I never processed or dealt with, with my dad, came rushing up with it. It was just like I was hit with a tsunami wave. I was drowning; I had to swim. I had to figure it out. Because it was just such a profound and powerful loss in my life that had to be dealt with. I had to reckon with this.

Again, I was still going from cubicle to cubicle being like, okay, this isn’t the place. The next spot is going to be it. I just know it. I mean, while I was still me, going to these places that were very much still who they were. You know what mean? Like, I was expecting the change to come from outside, but it had to come from me.

The final straw, I was working for Whole Foods corporate. I was 35. My mom passed away in March, I quit that job in May. I remember calling a friend of mine, I was like, “I just quit my job.” I felt elated for about five minutes, until the panic set in of, I just quit my job and I don’t have a job. Who does that?

“So, I’m looking for something that’s not going to kill my soul, as I figure out what I’m supposed to do with my life. I know you worked for Lululemon® so, what are your thoughts? Like, is that an okay place for me to go between my transitions?” She’s like, “Yes, absolutely. If you apply, let me know. I’ll get you a recommendation.”

I go into my CrossFit® gym the next day, and on the whiteboard there’s a message that there was a Lululemon opening 10 minutes away from my house, and that the managers were going to be interviewing people. So, if you’re interested, here’s the email address. I’m like; okay, Universe. I’ll take that sign.

So, I emailed them, got the job there. And, that’s when I started doing yoga teacher training. I got my 200 hours. Then, I got an additional 100 hours in yin yoga. I was working at the yoga studio, working at Lululemon. Okay, I can do this, this is interesting.

It wasn’t until I got my first one-on-one yoga client, where I started giving instruction and cues. And, she started to speak back to me. You know, they’re going through their own yoga practice, so there’s no… I was like, oh, I like this.

The next time I met up with her, I gave her a notebook. I’m like, “Whether it’s our session, before or after, like when things come up, just start writing them down. So, that’s where Felt Write was born, because of this woman just talking back to me during yoga.

Since then, that was in 2018-2019, Felt Write already had three rebirths since having this business, and it’ll be three years in September, that I started. I started out with, I was doing small group yoga instruction and doing one-on-one coaching. It wasn’t until I got my first coach…

Because I was blending modalities. I was doing writing, I was doing yoga, I was doing brainstorming, back and forth conversation and putting them all into one practice. And then, it wasn’t until I got my first life coaching client through doing felt Write, that I was like; oh, wait, I love this. This is where I’m supposed to be.

Then, it changed to, okay, I’m going to be a general life coach, whoever wants or needs help, I’m going to help them with whatever they come to me with. It really wasn’t until the last few months actually, that working with our friend Olivia, that she would ask me and challenge me.

She’s like, “You know, you talk about grief, but you kind of like dance around it,” and whatever. She’s like, “Why don’t you, you know, commit to this and talk about this? Like, you have a story. You have a message here.” The first thought, Debbie, I was like, “I don’t want to be grief girl, like, am I going to talk about grief all day, every day? Like, do I really want to do that?”

I’m like, okay, I can always change my mind. Because, again, I get I’ve already changed the business so many times already. Like, if it’s not working out, I can change it. I have to say since committing to, okay, grief is my lane, grief is my vehicle in order to like, connect with people and get this message out there. It’s been incredible. It’s been fascinating.

The people who come to me have been teaching me, that grief is more than just bereavement. Grief is in so many places that one wouldn’t expect. I was so nervous and scared of like, oh, am I gonna really pigeonhole myself here and just work with, you know, bereavement? When my clients really have proved me wrong. It’s like, no, let me tell you where grief is showing up in my life.

It’s so interesting to say how joyful of an experience I’m having in doing this deep work, that it can be really heavy. But I know it’s the work of my life.

Debbie: It’s like grief work sounds heavy, but in your situation, it’s actually expanded your world. It’s expanded who you work with. It’s not a negative thing. As I said before, it’s not something that we have to get over. It makes you more of a deeper, more complex… It’s almost like a fine wine that has been sitting in the barrel, and just the flavors have become more rich; is that the word? More flavorful, more whatever.

But it’s like the grief is there to make you more of who you already are. And to bring out that, you know… If you read the back of a wine bottle, on the label it talks about the boysenberries and the blackberries, and this kind of wood and that kind of oak, and it’s been in the barrel for so many years. I’m like, “Okay, right. I don’t taste any of that stuff. Maybe, if you’re a real wine connoisseur you do.”

But that’s sounds to me, in my language, what grief does to a person. It brings out all those nuances, and highlights, and accents and all of those aspects of a person that are hidden, until we meet grief. Which we’re all going to do, at some point on our journey here on this world.

Emily: It’s a universal experience that we will all go through. Yet at the same time, the way we go about it is so personal and individualized. When you’re talking about comparing it to wine, my boyfriend is a wine connoisseur and expert. He’s been in the wine industry for his whole career. So, as you’re talking about that, I’m like; oh, like maybe this is why me and him get along so well. Because the way that you’re describing that, like that’s how he is in his work. Yeah, that’s very much how I feel about my work, too.

Debbie: Okay, wine and dine. You guys can have something going with your businesses and bring it together.

Emily: There’s been conversations about that.

Debbie: Okay, well, you can definitely have, you know, I’m already going into the business of what you guys can do. Your like, circles and you serve wine, and it loosens everybody up. Then, they’ll talk about their grief without the shame or the, you know, all the tears or whatever. But anyway, you guys can build your business, and also have evolutions.

I want to point out that going through evolutions, in our business, is so normal because we’re finding out who we are and how we want to serve best. And to believe that we have to open up our online businesses, or even if we’re doing, you know, in-person workshops, or in-person one-on-one work, like you did with yoga.

To believe that that’s our last stop, like, just like the wine and just like our grief, our journey continues. It’s so normal to allow ourselves to meander through, and continue evolving and finding ourselves, and shedding skins and leaving parts of us behind, as we go through the work.

In fact, I’ll just bring in that I’m in the process of shedding, I like that word, my last two financial planning clients. Because I started, when I transitioned out of corporate, as a financial planner, and then I added coaching, money coaching, and then I added business coaching to my money coaching.

Three years ago, I said that I was no longer taking new financial planning clients. But I have a couple of clients who have been with me for over 10 years. I’m transitioning them, shedding them, you know, so that I can really evolve my work and be focused on the work that I do.

It wasn’t until only a couple of months ago, that I realized that it wasn’t in my best interest, nor was it in their best interest, for us to stay connected. Because I couldn’t serve them the way that I wanted to, my time was just focused in other areas. It was best for both of us. Like that journey, we had to part ways, we had to get to the fork in the road.

There is a bit of mourning letting them go, and moving them on, and saying goodbye. Because an 11-year relationship, is a long relationship.

Emily: Yeah, I mean, even my transition out of corporate, which I wanted to do for so long, there was a morning there, as well. Because it was so much a part of who I was for so long. My identity was like; yeah, I’m a buyer for Lord & Taylor, or I’m a buyer for Opici Wine Group™ or a buyer for Whole Foods®. Like, that’s what I did for so long, that even though I was embarking on this journey of not only finding myself but finding; okay, what is this business? How can I really serve and help people?

As much as I was so thrilled to be out of that cubicle, and out of that space, there was still very much a mourning and a sadness of like, oh. Like, there was happy and joyous times within that period. But also, I just wasn’t that person anymore. In fact, I wasn’t that person while I was even doing those things in corporate. So, the shedding for me, was as painful as it was exhilarating.

Debbie: I get that. Like, you know, when I transitioned out of corporate, I was thrilled to be going out on my own and doing different work, and not getting up in the morning and running out of my house, and getting on the bus and going to work, and coming home exhausted.

But there’s that security of knowing what you’re going to do every day. Having the same people around you. Even the same like; hello, how are you? You know, how are the kids? Like, that’s just no longer part of your life. So, it’s a transition.

Emily: Even that part, that last part that you just mentioned of, yeah, entrepreneurial work can be very lonely. Because yeah, I was so used to go… I mean, the office was filled. Yeah, talking about your day, talking about your life, like really getting to know these people becoming, you know, friends with these people. And then all of a sudden, it goes from this, like, social life within work to; oh, I here I am. It’s me, myself, and I. That took some adjusting, as well.

Debbie: Right. It can make you a little extra crazy because you want to know like, when is everybody gonna show up? When am I gonna be able to work with people? Where are they? And, why aren’t they coming fast? Right?

Emily: Yeah, absolutely. But at the same time, I think I was a bit naive when I first started my business. Because I was like; okay, like I’m just gonna get my website done, get like, you know, all the business things in order. I was not talking about it until all that stuff was done. And then, I show up on social media, on like, Instagram® or LinkedIn®, like Facebook®.

Hey, like, I’m in business. And for Instagram, I guess I was pleasantly surprised. I mean, people were just coming and hitting me up really quickly, like when I was first starting. I’m like, oh, great. So, when I started doing that, I was like, okay, I’m going to join this like business mastermind. Like, things are going pretty well. Like, let’s take it to the next level.

When I did that, that just imploded my mind, in the best and the worst ways. Because I found myself thinking about things that I wasn’t thinking about, because other people were bringing it into the group and they were stressing out about it. I’m like, oh, my goodness, like, should I be stressing out about this? Like, I haven’t even thought about that. Like, oh, okay.

I found myself going here, there, all around. Not paying attention to me, and what I want, and how I want this business to be, but rather what other people were saying. That took me out of my mindset for months. So yeah, I just was so insecure and felt so unsure of myself.

Once I started working with Olivia, like one-on-one, I started to really regain my confidence back, of like; no, I can do this. I want to do this. I’m well versed in this. I can really help people with this. When I made that transition, and started to, you know, work through all that stuff, that’s when things started to take off again.

Debbie: Amazing. Tell me a little bit about your relationship with money, because you said you had some insights and experiences that you would love to share with our listeners today.

Emily: It is so fascinating. My parents had their own business. They were insurance agents, and had their own agency. My dad, his emotional state, would coincide with the business health, like when the business was good, he was great. When the business wasn’t doing so well, he was doing worse.

Whereas my mom, like I said earlier, regardless of what was happening, she was showing up every day, and just being who she was, and just getting the work done. So, I’d see these two different perspectives and viewpoints of like how to navigate money and business. I had a little bit of both within me.

I was thinking of, there was a time after college when I took a job that was making less money than I was before. I went and got an apartment that was more expensive than the place that I was living. I started to put my rent on my credit card. It was after like, a few months of doing that, and just being on the hamster wheel of, like living to work, like barely scraping by. Getting to the point where I couldn’t sleep because I was racking up this debt.

I put my credit cards in a plastic bag and I drove to my mom’s house, and I just had this emotional breakdown, sobbing. Like sliding the credit cards over to her. I’m like, I can’t do this, like, oh my gosh. She thought someone died. She’s like, “What is wrong with you? What is the problem here?”

 But meanwhile, I needed to do that, because I felt so out of control. I just kept swiping, swiping, swiping. Like it’s fine, it’s fine, it’s fine, until I was up to like $10,000-$11,000 in credit card debt. I felt like I was in a financial prison.

That sticks out to me, when I think about my money story, because it came back up again when my sister passed away. I would go back and forth, and fluctuate between this like carpe diem, we can’t take the money with us, so spend it all, spend what you don’t have to. What? I’m going to be on this planet for decades, and the last thing I want to do or feel is to be confined by [inaudible].

It took me a while to figure out. Actually, it really wasn’t until I got with my boyfriend, who I’m with now. Because in his family, they were so open about talking about money, whereas in my family money was taboo. And, in the workplace money was taboo. Like, you weren’t having those conversations. Or, if you did, it was like whispering and like making sure no one else is hearing what you’re saying.

Whereas with him, he has a very healthy relationship with money. He’s like, yeah, let’s look at… Here’s my spreadsheet. He has a spreadsheet of all his accounts and like his financial goals, and he’s just so joyous when talking about it. When meanwhile, at first, I’m like, What? Like, it just would panic me, it would stress me out.

Debbie: Can I just interject here? It’s just fascinating, because your parents were in the financial services industry. They were helping people. Insurance policies are there to protect people from, I like to call it, “financial devastation”, right? Something that would be so challenging for your financial stability, for what happened…

Like okay, if you, I don’t know, you sprain your ankle, let’s say. Right, that’s not financially devastating. Most people have some sort of medical insurance. Or, even, you know, if it’s a sprained ankle you go to the doctor. If you have to pay your copay, whatever. It’s not going to set most people back and send them into a real financial pit hole.

But if it’s life insurance, right, the main breadwinner of the family dies, and there are bunch of little kids who still need to grow up, go to school, get educated, college, become independent, that could be financially devastating, right? Or, there is a traffic accident or medical, you know, procedures, or you know, health cares. And so, it’s fascinating to me that they were in the financial services industry, and money was taboo.

Emily: Money was taboo. And, even both of them, individually, the way they thought about money or went about money was not on the same page. Like, my mother was a saver and a planner. This story sticks on my mind like, I mean she grew up with nothing. One holiday, one Christmas, what her present was an Easter bonnet, and it’s the best present she ever received in her life. Like, she talked about it all throughout her life.

I think of that, she was a woman of very few wants or needs. She liked her Dunkin Donuts® coffee, she liked her crossword puzzles. She had her dog and she lived by the beach, and she was just low key, and that was fine. But when she passed away, she had her house paid off. She had, our old house that we lived in, she was renting out. So, she had that house. I mean, she had stuff in order, so that it was really not a problem.

She was able to leave her children an inheritance. Whereas, if it was the other way around, if my dad passed away before her, I feel like he wouldn’t have that wherewithal of being able to save and invest. He was very just, spend it while you have it. Even if you don’t have it, spend it.

Debbie: How did he grow up?

Emily: He was a twin. He was a family of the six of them. It’s when I came onto the scene… So, I’m the youngest of six. My siblings are like, between me and the second youngest sibling is 12 years. So, by the time I came around, his parents were already deceased. I didn’t get an opportunity or chance to know them. He didn’t really talk about them too much.

Anything I learned about his family was really through my mom. Like, just telling me one-offs of like, my grandfather worked at a like a meatpacking plant, and was so revolted that he lived off of peanut butter sandwiches the rest of his life. Like, little tidbits like that.

But as far as how they grew up, from what I gather, the little information that I do you have, they were very much like, spend it if you have it, or if you don’t. Whereas my mom’s family, it’s like, we don’t have anything and there’s no credit, like, what’s that? No.

They all lived together, too. Like, my grandmother took care of her siblings, as well as her own children. So, it was like a house full of people that, you know, had a very strict budget or not even a budget; it’s just, we don’t have money. So, there’s nothing to spend. We just don’t have it.

Debbie: Fascinating. But did your dad grew up in a financial lack, financial scarcity? Because sometimes, when people have that in their money story, or I like to say, their money lineage, they spend it because the moment they get some money, they just don’t know when money is ever going to show up again.

So, they have to spend it really quickly, because they don’t know, if tomorrow, they can buy this beautiful toy, or these clothes, or even a new car. Because, “Now we have it and tomorrow we might not. So, let’s just spend it. And, you know, you only live once.” Right? “So, let’s just do all the things right now.”

Emily: Truthfully, I don’t know. But all I can say is, the way that he lived his life. I mean, he would buy cars and not tell my mom. And would just show up and she would just be like, “We don’t have the money for this. Like, what are you doing?”

He was also a political figure in our hometown. He was a councilman. So, politics, and getting involved in that, and I don’t know if it was like ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ thing with him. Of like, I have to… Like, perfect example. When growing up, we lived in a two-family house. There was eight of us; three bedrooms, like one bathroom.

By the time my siblings were getting out of the house, my dad was like, “Oh, we have to move to this bigger house.” My mom’s like, “No, you’re doing this backward. The kids are leaving, we downsize. We go into a smaller place.” But he was so like, “No, this is the perfect house. I found it.”

So, we had this huge, spacious, big house and it was really just them and myself. My mom was resentful about that. She’s like, “This makes no sense. We’re just putting more financial strain on us and the business.” But she’s like, okay; she went along with it.

Once he passed away, she immediately sold that house to my brother and his wife and children. And went by the shore, and had this like, two-bedroom little cottage that was her favorite thing in the world. So, based on what I saw, because there was not much telling, as far as like his family history, there was no like, you just didn’t talk about it. I have no clear answer on that.

Debbie: Okay, well, felt Write is going to have to have like journaling assignments this year, when you all meet up for Christmas.

Emily: I’m sure they you would love that. I know I would. Like, okay, time to write.

Debbie: Tell us about money and entrepreneurship. Because you and I both did the same thing. We left our corporate life; we started something new. We are relying on ourselves really, to show up every day or almost every day, whatever, and invite people into work with us. How has that impacted your relationship with money?

Emily: It’s still evolving. Like I said, before, when I first started out, I was so green, like, that’s funny, green, money, didn’t even mean to do that. I just didn’t know. All I knew was I can’t be in that work environment; I cannot be in corporate. I don’t know what that means or what that looks like going forward. But I just know it cannot be there.

When I first started, again, I was just I was figuring things out. One of the major realizations I had was, first of all, if I get paid to do this emotionally intelligent labor, that’s just a win, in and of itself. Like, someone is paying me to do something that just comes with ease; it’s fun, and I love it.

So, already, I was like; people are gonna pay me for this? Oh, my goodness. But there is also a component of realizing I never want to have a boss again; I love being my own boss. I love the fact that I have to depend on me, like, that’s who I want… I’m betting on me.

Like, if I had to bet on anyone, it’s me, because I know I’m going to show up. Even if I don’t necessarily know what the outcome’s going to be, you’ll still see me there. I’ll be right there and waiting.

But it’s affected my relationship with money, in the sense, I realized that I don’t need as much as I thought I did. Because what I was doing in the corporate scene, of what I thought a fulfilled life should be, versus how I live my life, now.

I like taking my walks; walks don’t cost a thing. Like, there’s things that I love to do that fill up my day, that aren’t these expensive, extravagant things. Whereas when I was in corporate, it’s like; oh, we’re always wining and dining, and doing dinners, and doing all these things. Yeah, it felt like I just was living to work.

Whereas now, it’s such a passion for me. That yes, of course, money is important. You know, I love the fact that there’s no ceiling on what I could potentially earn in this space. I’m so glad I’m talking to you about this, because there’s still this like, it’s this awe mixed with sometimes just disbelief of, I get to do what I love, and people are going to financially compensate me for it.

It still blows my mind, because I’m working more now than I ever have. But at the same time, it doesn’t feel like work. I don’t even contribute it as like doing work. It’s like; no, this is what I do. I’ll do this all day, every day. This is a joy.

It’s affected it, in that, I understand and realize the importance, because it allows me to do the thing that I love. But at the same time, it’s not the number one motivator as to why I do it. Whereas before, going to any other job, it’s like, yeah, I’m here to get paid. Whereas, without that, it’s like; I’m here to serve and help, and enjoy this time, with this person.

Debbie: Money is the thing that is the consequence, or the result, of you showing up and helping people in your business.

Emily: There were times when payments would hit my Stripe® account that I would feel my chest constrict, and I would start to sweat and get hot. I was like; oh my gosh, it’s happening. Talking about the nervous system, I’m like; oh, I haven’t seen that much money hit my bank account at once. Like, it’s incredible.

So, I still very much have those things, though, of getting triggered a bit, when I see sizable, at least in my opinion, sizable amount hit my account. It’s okay, like yes, like, this is what I get paid. This is my job. I have to have like a pep talk with myself.

Debbie: Can I normalize that? Like really, when I see money hit my Stripe account… I did my first group launch in June. So, a lot of money, relatively speaking, for my business, at this stage of my business. More money came in July, than had ever entered my Stripe account in a single month.

Yeah, it’s a new nervous system recalibration, because you’re like; whoa, what is happening here? And, every level of your business is going to have that recalibration. That’s just something that we can appreciate. But, you know, when I talk to some entrepreneurs, who are on their way to half a million dollars or a million dollars in their business, they really want to push it away.

They really feel energetically, that they can’t hold this much money. That’s some of the work that we do, is to calm their nervous system, allow it in, think about the negative consequences that, they’re imagining in their mind, might happen.

I’ve worked with a couple of people who said, “No, but if I make that much money, my family members are going to start asking for handouts.” That feels very scary, and where do you set the boundaries; and I don’t want to become that person, I don’t want to be the enabler of whatever, you know, bad money habits they have. There’s a whole story behind that.

Emily: Absolutely. I resonate with all of that.

Debbie: Right. So, we just like take it step-by-step. Most of us will grow our businesses in a slower path, right? Like, we’re not going to go from zero to a million dollars in six months, or a year. Like all of those stories that you see on social media, of the overnight million-dollar success, is really a 10-year business in process.

We do have time, most of us, to really allow our nervous system to calm down and expand, over who we’re becoming and what we’re creating.

Emily: Yeah, and that’s the thing, like you talk about a million dollars and I’m like, I mean, it’s making six figures in this business; my brain wants to just explode. Like, wow. Like, when I get to the point where I’m going to be making more than I ever made in corporate like, yeah, definitely, I’m going to have to call you because I can already feel it.

Debbie: I want to point out the whatever you were making in corporate, that also had a whole package connected with it. Maybe have like, your 401 K, like your retirement plan, and Social Security was taken out, you knew what hit your bank account. When you’re an entrepreneur, you’re taking care of all of that yourself. You’re making six figures, like, let’s say you’re making $100,000, you’re taking home 60. Right? And so, it’s also this strange dance between what’s coming in, a lot of stuff is going out…

Like, one of my clients this year, has hit a new tax threshold, and she’s like, “Whoa, I don’t know if I like my taxes so much, at this new level of income,” right? Because all of a sudden, the numbers are bigger. So, that’s also part of shedding an identity of, you know, the beginning entrepreneur and becoming the sort of the middle level, you know, before you’re getting into the higher and higher numbers.

We have to just become aware and step into our new identity, and recalibrate and expand, and it’s all good. It’s all good. As long as you’re here serving and helping, and helping your clients heal and grow into their best selves, it’s all good.

Emily: Yeah, there’s definitely this moment where I realized, like, when I again, being so new to the business, I never even thought of myself, as a business owner, I was like, I’m a life coach. It wasn’t until, you know, getting like a few months into it of; oh, there’s these other components that I need to, you know, show up for, just as much as I’m showing up for my clients.

And really owning the fact that I am an entrepreneur, that I am a business owner, and I’m like; this is what it has to take in order for me to do, the work that I really want to do, is to handle all these other things. What’s been really exciting and fun is like actually starting to really enjoy that process. Whereas before, I was so afraid of it, because I just didn’t know it.

Like you said, like I went to work, you know, W-2, like they figured all that stuff out. Like I would just get my paycheck. I know exactly what… But to work with the bookkeeper, work with my accountant, you know, get these things in place. I’m like; oh, okay, like, A, I can do this and B, Oh, I’m actually enjoying doing this, which that’s surprise.

It’s so funny, too, because going back to my parents, like, my dad’s way of being parental was, you know, telling me and my sister like; you guys become nurses. And, the boys just get a pension job. Because again, for him, the emotional up and down with being an entrepreneur just like, weighed a lot on him.

My mom, when I went to declare like a business major, to you know, appease my dad, because there was no way I was ever going to be a nurse. But you know, let me at least do something where he’ll be like, you’ll be somewhat okay. She just couldn’t believe that I was doing that. She’s like, “You’re gonna sit at a desk for 9 or 10 hours a day? Like, really? You? Like, are you sure?”

And I’m like, “I’m doing the right thing. I’m doing right by you guys. This is what you guys want from me.” But meanwhile, she’s like, “Yeah, but I know you. And, you know you. And, you have to be like, creative. You have to you know, do these other things that aren’t going to keep you at a desk for 9 or 10 hours a day.”

So, I resented her for a really long time, until I got my first corporate job. After a few months of that, I was like; that’s what she was talking about. Okay.

Debbie: But you were at Lord & Taylor, you were in the fashion industry, so at least you got to bring that creative side of you, into the work you were doing.

Emily: That was my thought. Everyone has this idea like; oh fashion. Going to the shows, going to show rooms. Like it was more math, it was more retail math.

Debbie: That does not sound fun. I like numbers, but that does not sound fun.

Emily: It wasn’t. I didn’t think it was fun, anyway. Some people do; just not me, or you.

Debbie: So, I want to say one thing, and then we’re going to ask you… So, while I’m saying this, think about what is one or two last things you want to leave the listeners with today. As you were saying, that becoming a self-employed person, entrepreneur, you have new business skills that you get to learn and put in practice; like the bookkeeping, and sitting with your accountant, and figuring all that stuff out.

I’ve worked with many people over the years, who’ve had a business, and it took them several years before they actually met with an accountant. Like, there was a huge wall between who they were, as like; I just want to sit and do the work that I do. And, becoming that CEO, business owner, who also takes care of the tax side and the admin side, and all the other pieces of the business.

I want to unshame that for any of my listeners who have not yet done that, whether you’re working with the IRS, or in Israel, where I am the Israeli tax authorities. Like, you could file back taxes; there might be fines. I’m not saying there will or won’t. But if you need somebody to hold your hand, like really reach out and find someone who can help you and walk you through the process.

But you don’t want to have to live in fear that one day the tax authorities are going to come after you. And your taxes and your bookkeeping are not up to scratch. Just see this as a door and an opening, to also take care of that side. Because when you do, that gives you the opportunity to grow your business and no longer think you have to fly under the radar, and hide from people, and only earn a small amount of money off the books or something like that.

There are people who can help you with parts of your business that might not be your best friend, or might not be your best friend, yet.

Emily: Yeah, I mean, I think I did things totally backwards in starting my business. In the sense that, like I was talking about getting the website all fixed up, like having a bookkeeper, having an account, and like getting all those things set up before he even told a single soul I was going into business. I’m like; oh, this will make me official. This will make me legit, if I like, you know, have my LLC and I have all this taken care of, and I have my contracts, like yes, like I’m official.

But meanwhile, I wasn’t telling anybody that I was starting a business. So, it was like once everything was like all, you know, squared away and packaged up. It was like, oh, yeah, I’m in business now. I don’t advise people to do that.

Like, as you’re creating this business, like, let people know, like, this is what you’re working on. This is what you’re working towards. Because those first few months, after declaring like, yes, I’m a business owner, yeah, it was like crickets chirping. It was like; oh, yeah? Congratulations. And then, it’s like, oh, but where is everybody? Right? Oh, wait, I literally just started talking about this.

It’s okay, if you don’t have a bookkeeper or accountant right now. It’s okay, that if you don’t have a website, all these things are okay. If anything, I wasn’t okay with that. But I didn’t know better.

Debbie: I would even say that that’s part of your nervous system regulating, because in order for you to believe that this is who you are, it was important for you to get all of those steps in place.

Some people can do it the other way, because they’re just like, quick starts. They’ll just jump into the deep end of the pool and be like; hi, I’m here, come and work with me. Then, they’ll figure it out afterwards.

Some people are like; no, let me be the planner. Let me get all of my ducks in a row. Then, I’ll go and I’ll let everybody know what I’m doing. Either way is great. I actually think that the people who jump in just into the deep end, I think they make money more quickly.

Because they’re not spending time and money doing all of the foundation and infrastructure places. But I think at the end of the day, we all pretty much end up where we’re supposed to end up. If it takes you a year extra, two years extra, whatever it is, it’s all fine. When we really stretch out the lifespan of our businesses, and it really doesn’t matter. So, it’s just you do you.

Emily: Beautiful. Thank you.

Debbie: What are your parting words of wisdom today, for our listeners?

Emily: I think the message that I continue to say, that was one of the reasons why you invited me to be a part of this experience, is that grief isn’t something that’s meant to be fixed. Grief isn’t something that’s meant to be recovered from. And that you don’t have to go through the grieving process alone.

There are people out there who make it their life’s work to support and show that there is life beyond grief. That you can still have your grief and move forward, and do incredible, wonderful, beautiful things with your life. I’m just going to be saying that for the rest of my life, until everyone gets on board and understands that, this is what it is.

Debbie: Amen. All right. Thank you so much for being here today, Emily. How can my listeners find you online? Where do you hang out? What are your links and tags?

Emily:  I am always on LinkedIn; you can find me there, Emily Griffith. I’m on TikTok®, as well. My handle there is, @emilyfeltwrite. My website, if you want to check out what I do is, meetfeltwrite.com

Debbie: Thank you so much. We’ll put all of your links in the show notes. For anybody who has grief work around anything, not just bereavement, but changing your identity, probably moving house, becoming a, you know, divorced, widowed.

Well, that’s actually the bereavement work, but your financial identity is changing because of a loss, and/or a gain. I guess it can’t be both at the same time. But please reach out to Emily and do your grief work, because Emily helps you take your grief and turn it into joy.

Emily: Thank you so much for having me.

Debbie: Thank you so much for being here. Bye for now.

Thanks for listening to Mastering Money in Midlife. If you want more information on Debbie Sassen or the resources from the podcast, visit MasteringMoneyinMidlife.com.

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