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When I lost my husband unexpectedly at 31, I had to learn to manage my money fast. 3 tools helped me buy a house and start my own business.

writer allison nichol longtin and her late husband are photographed outdoors in front of a lake on their wedding day
The author, left, with her late husband.

Allison Nichol Longtin

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  • When my husband died suddenly a few days after my 31st birthday, I had to take the financial reins.

  • I hated dealing with money, but Jen Sincero's "You Are a Badass" empowered me to change that.

  • The book "Worry-Free Money" also inspired me, as did working with a financial planner I chose.

  • Vanguard Personal Advisor Services

"Dear money,

I'm sorry that I ignore you. Hate you, even. I know that I need you. I'm ashamed to admit that I'd love to have much more of you. You make me feel so safe one minute and so completely vulnerable the next. I know that avoiding you isn't the answer."

So begins a letter I sat down to write in the summer of 2020, deep in my first house hunt that looked nothing like I thought it would. Learning the ins and outs of real estate in the middle of a pandemic and making countless offers on places I'd seen via FaceTime, only to be outbid, I was feeling utterly deflated. This wasn't how it was supposed to be.

My husband and I had been saving to buy our first home when he died very suddenly, not long after my 31st birthday, and just days before our wedding anniversary. According to our plans, as I sat writing a letter to money at the age of 34, we should have just had our first child and be hunting for our new home as a family. I was ready - I didn't want to spend another pandemic lockdown in my tiny one-bedroom apartment on a busy street. I could improve my situation, so I would. A few resources helped me finally reach my goal.

'You Are a Badass' by Jen Sincero

To keep from losing all hope when the house hunt went sour - more than once - I turned to a trusted resource: "You Are a Badass" by Jen Sincero. That letter I wrote to money? It's a tool from Sincero's book. There's real wisdom here, and much of it hard-won.

Her philosophy around believing that what you want already exists, is already out there waiting for you to claim it, was revolutionary for me. And learning to approach things from a place of abundance instead of a place of lack has been useful beyond money management.

Sincero''s pragmatic take on money inspired me to unpack my dysfunctional relationship with it. And so, I sat in a park on a warm day in June escaping the trapped heat of my tiny apartment, writing a letter to money, sharing my hopes and dreams for it, and manifesting my new home - which already existed and was waiting for me to claim it.

I successfully bought my first home on September 1, 2020, leaving big-city life behind. A year later, I've started my own business and plan to dive back into "You Are a Badass" to write part two of that letter to money as I navigate yet another big life change.

by Jen Sincero (small)

'Worry-Free Money' by Shannon Lee Simmons

That same summer, I read "Worry-Free Money" by Shannon Lee Simmons, personal finance expert and founder of the New School of Finance in Toronto. Simmons' accessible book explores the psychology of money and humanizes finance for the reader.

One of my biggest takeaways from the book was recognizing and understanding my own "F*ck-It Moments." For example, I had a rough day and opted to ordering takeout instead of making dinner using the groceries I just bought - that's a "F*ck-It Moment." Simmons shares tools for navigating those "F*ck-It Moments" with self-compassion, identifying behavior patterns, and keeping them in check.

And then there's the Beyoncé factor: learning how to stop comparing my own financial situation to someone else's. For example, how did my colleague afford to buy a house in Toronto before the age of 30 on a single salary? Although their circumstances might look like mine, I really have no idea about their financial situation; they might as well be Beyoncé.

by Shannon Lee Simmons (small)

The New School of Finance

Whenever big life changes come up, my first stop is the office of Liz, my financial planner at the New School of Finance. I turn to Liz to help me plan for and navigate big life changes and adjust my finances accordingly.

I first started working with Liz after my husband died and I took the reins of our finances. She helped me prepare to buy my first home, making the muddy process clearer. And more recently, when I decided to start my own business and go back to school, Liz helped me see that I could do it, empowering me to make yet another big life change by making my finances work for me.

This past summer, the first one in my new home, I sat in my peaceful backyard re-reading "Worry-Free Money" and admiring the new deck that I'd had built. Just one year earlier, I was reading Simmons' book in a park to escape the heat and the noise of my tiny apartment. I've been proactive about adding a variety of tools and resources to my financial management toolkit since taking over management of my finances after the death of my husband. Recognizing the inherently emotional nature of money has led me to resources that demystify the psychology of finance and provide tangible tools for navigating and healing unhealthy patterns.

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