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

Midlife Awakening – Challenging beliefs that don’t serve you

with Kathleen


Kathleen’s vision board: reclaiming her passion for family, creativity, animals, and the environment.

Kim Potgieter

Kim Potgieter

March 20, 2024
What if you find yourself in midlife, living a life that you carefully planned – emotionally and financially – only to find yourself merely existing. Not connecting with people who truly matter, not having a sense of community and belonging, and not living according to your authentic self.

Kathleen is at a crossroads: after a lifetime in a job that did not fulfil her, all while putting her life on hold to focus on saving and investing, she overlooked the joy of living in the present moment. Looking for safety and security, she moved overseas, only to be overwhelmed by the isolation and a profound lack of belonging.

Kathleen shares a poignant story that challenges us to reassess our deeply held beliefs and the chapters we fill our lives with.

Kathleen’s story

Although a creative person with a love for animals, Kathleen pursued a corporate career and spent most of her working life in a professionally demanding role (conforming to societal expectations and neglecting her true essence). If she could have done it all differently, Kathleen would have loved to work with animals, pursue pottery and art, practise ecological agriculture, and participate in conservation and environmental sustainability initiatives.

Kathleen’s money and life lessons

Kathleen viewed money as a basic tool for living comfortably, not as an enabler for living life fully. She saved and invested wisely while avoiding debt, maintaining a disciplined yet detached relationship with money, especially with money she didn’t feel she earned.

You received a significant inheritance but felt undeserving of this money?

I have always been cautious with this money, investing in unit trusts, annuities and buying my home. I felt hugely privileged but also guilty, partly because I was a passive beneficiary and my awareness of the social inequalities in our country. I thought that I had done nothing to earn it!

What about your work?

It saddens me that I grew up in an era when some of the careers were ‘out of bounds’ just because I was a female (I really wanted to be a game ranger). My low self-esteem and lack of belief in my own values haunted me throughout my chequered 20-year career. At best, my work was a compromise in which I only partly realised what mattered to me.

Transitioning to the UK

An exploratory visit became a longer stay when Covid hit, leading from a challenging live-in carer job to a university position in Scotland. I sold my SA home for a modest flat in the UK – a decision I deeply regret. The isolation and work environment led to burnout and depression – it felt like a slow shrinking of my soul, a total loss of joie de vivre. I resigned and returned to SA to be with my family.

Pausing to check in with my values and redesign a life that reflects who I am and what I love

You have taken time to pause, reflect and envision your life going forward – how will you navigate this transition?

I will:

  • Heal my relationship with money and use money to achieve a more balanced life.
  • Rebuild a sense of belonging by reconnecting with my support system of family and friends.
  • Be mindful of how my thoughts can create reality – limit time spent on negative thoughts.
  • Dedicate time to thoughts reflecting beauty, hope and goodwill.
  • Practise self-care, be patient and kind to myself, and focus on things that bring me joy.
  • Build resilience: change and uncertainty are unavoidable.

Let’s talk about money

What money habits are you proud of?

  • Saving for unforeseen circumstances is crucial. I try to maintain a savings buffer equal to a few months’ income, just in case.
  • I am grateful that I never bought on hire purchase or got into debt.
  • Diligently investing towards my secure future.

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

  • Be careful when choosing situations where you face challenges completely alone. Without social and emotional support, a sustained solo struggle can leave you utterly depleted.
  • Be kind (and forgiving) to yourself.
  • Set clear boundaries: don’t force yourself to do things that make you feel depleted.
  • Dare to learn something new.
  • Embrace people and situations that put wind beneath your wings.

As Kathleen plans her life ahead and returns to South Africa, she is determined to embrace the significance of community, belonging, and living true to herself. Midlife is not just about financial planning but also about living true to your values and embracing the richness of life beyond money.

Have you paused at midlife to reflect on your own path? Challenge the beliefs that hold you back and redesign a life that truly reflects who you are and what you love – in line with your highest values.

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


Click here to read Kim’s advice to Kathleen

Click here to read the Midlife Money Reflection – To Rent or Buy: A Midlife Perspective