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In Hindsight – wise money lessons I wish I could tell my younger self

Empty-nest at 50 – where to from here

with Olivia and Liam


Kim Potgieter

Kim Potgieter

April 22, 2023
Last month, I shared David’s story with you. As an entrepreneur restarting his business after bankruptcy, David shared some of his biggest regrets and mistakes. I love that David is excited to start afresh but willing to do things differently. Business-wise, David learnt to be fierce with reality, take control of his finances and get expert help. So many entrepreneurs make the mistake of seeing their business as the only income stream, while it is a good idea to have additional income streams (savings and investments) separate from the business.

This month I’m excited to share Olivia and Liam’s story with you. They are both midlifers, still working and earning, and recently experienced an empty nest for the first time. The new reality is scary with both their children out of the house. Their whole lives have been centred around their kids up to now. “I sometimes walk through the door and am overwhelmed by the silence and neatness,” says Olivia.

It’s easy to relate to Olivia and Liam’s story, especially if you have children. The reality is our children will leave home and in some cases, even countries. They are now faced with two burning questions:

What will their new chapter of life look like – possibly without children?
Do they have enough money to retire?

Introducing Olivia and Liam

For Olivia and Liam, the very concept of retirement seems far away and somewhat unattainable. They are caught up paying for their children’s education and setting them up for their futures. The sudden empty home with their children studying away is a massive transition period for them. There is much uncertainty for their next chapter, especially around their children. Like many kids, they are both considering going overseas for further studies after completing their courses in South Africa.

Olivia and Liam’s money and life lessons

What are your views on retirement?

Retiring in the traditional sense does appeal to us although we both want to keep working, possibly in different capacities.

Both your children have left home. How are you each coping with the sudden empty nest? Has this brought you closer together, or has it been challenging?

We have always prioritised our relationship, so we are doing great as a couple. Still, coming home to a silent, tidy house is a massive transition and a frightening thought.

Thinking about your next chapter, what do you hope to achieve? Do you have a shared vision? Combined goals? Do you plan to do everything together? Is there room for individual hopes and dreams?

Unfortunately, our lives seem to be up in the air. It’s difficult planning if you don’t know where your children will end up in the world. We don’t have a clear vision of what our next chapter could look like if it turned out exactly as we wanted it to be. For now, we are pretty-much playing catchup. Our combined goal is saving and paying off our children’s education fees, so we can eventually retire.

As a couple, we have always believed that it doesn’t matter in what area each other grows, as long as we are growing at the same pace. We spend many hours discussing this and honouring ourselves as a couple, but also exploring our individual needs.

What are your fears and worries about the future?

Money! And that we have not done enough to save for the future.

We were young parents and not financially savvy. We wanted our kids to attend the best schools, and I am glad we did! But if we were savvier and had run the numbers, we would probably have decided against it.

Olivia was also a stay-at-home mom for a period and feels her not contributing financially, has set them back.

Let’s talk about money

Who takes charge of the money in your relationship? Is it a shared responsibility?

Liam is overall responsible, and Olivia has never played an active role in managing money. Olivia finds finances overwhelming – Liam has always been frustrated by this.

What does money mean to each of you?

For Liam, money means safety and security, and for Olivia, a tool to look after her family.

How have your money memories from your youth impacted what you do – and how you behave – with money now?

Liam remembers his parents sitting together at month-end paying bills and seeing what they had left. His family didn’t have a lot of money. Both his parents worked, and they lived a conservative lifestyle. A clear memory is his father cutting up a credit card.

Olivia grew up thinking that money was always accessible and felt ashamed about being called “rich.” She lived in a wealthy home and was embarrassed by her mom driving a fancy car. Her father was generous with money and regularly helped people less fortunate. Olivia’s mom managed the money in their family while her dad had no interest.

Olivia was taught to follow her heart and pursued a career with limited earning potential: money was not her priority.

In hindsight…what advice would you give your younger self…

Thinking back there are things that Olivia and Liam would have done differently, knowing what they know now. This is their advice to their younger selves:

  1. Take control of your money, take responsibility and be involved. That goes for both partners in the relationship.
  2. Challenge your belief that you are not good at managing money. You are capable.
  3. Challenge your belief that money is bad. Money is a tool to create the life you want.
  4. Save more.
  5. Don’t cash out investments to pay for expenses. Be careful about the decisions you make when taking on debt.
  6. Educate yourself about finances and partner with a financial planner.

The way forward …

It is never too late to do things differently. You can reset your life and your money at any age, as long as you’re willing to invest time and effort to do the inner work that kick-starts change.

Olivia and Liam have started their journey on a Midlife Money Makeover and talking about their money mindsets and money habits intentionally. Olivia has invested time in coaching sessions around her relationship with money and starting to see money as a friend, instead of an enemy. She also feels empowered as a partner in their couples money, and Liam is grateful and appreciative that she’s getting involved and sharing the responsibility.

Pausing and resetting for your next chapter is a journey and you cannot expect to have all the answers at once. I am grateful to Olivia and Liam for sharing their story and am confident that the hard part of taking ownership of their money mindsets and putting money in its rightful place has gone off to a great start. The next step is to visualise what they want their next chapter to look like and put action steps in place to make it happen.

Always remember, when it comes to your money, be inspired, be brave and be on purpose,


Click here to read my advice to Olivia and Liam