Marriage counselor + financial planner + career coach = ?
August 19, 2018 7:22 PM   Subscribe

My husband and I have a challenging year ahead with lots of life transitions. We need someone, or a team of someones, to advise us (and help us stay married). But who, exactly?

My role in our relationship and family for the past 30+ years has been Chief Emotional Labor Officer. I take care of just about everything, but can "delegate" tasks to my team (husband and two kids, 24 and 17). This dynamic, while feeding my need for control, has led me to feel very resentful, and I'm working on that with a therapist. I think the year ahead provides a great opportunity for Mr. Darling and I to actually plan our lives together rather than leaving it all to me, and he's on board with working with outside support. But I don't know where to begin.

Among the choices ahead of us:
- Mr. Darling is a very unhappy public school teacher who will reach the service threshold for retirement with partial benefits somewhere around January. I support him leaving teaching, but would like someone to help us figure out if he should indeed retire, or resign instead and wait to retire until he is however old he would need to be to qualify for full benefits. What kind of financial professional could do this? We don't need investment advice or a life insurance pitch, just someone to do the legwork for us in running pros and cons, forecasting income streams, getting questions answered from the state, etc.
- Whether he retires or resigns, he needs to keep bringing in an income. He has some ideas of what he might want to do for his next job/career, but is out of practice with job hunting in the modern world. Career coach?
- I need someone to help me run numbers based on our current spending to figure out exactly how much he/we would need to earn to maintain our standard of living, or to help us understand the real effect of a salary cut of $x. Is this a CPA?
- In the longer term, he has expressed interest in moving from the city where we've lived for 30 years. He has an idea of living in a very remote area, away from people. I actually like people and while I wouldn't object to moving, I'm not sure I'm cut out for remote living. We need to talk this through. I assume that's a marriage counselor?
- I wonder if some of his desire to escape is related to his current unhappiness with work and anxiety over the looming retirement and being empty nesters next fall. He drinks more than I'd like and is withdrawn (but not unpleasant to live with). He's currently resistant to the idea of therapy for himself, but it would be great if the person/people who help us through these other issues might provide an opening for him to work through some of his own stuff as well.
- We need to do all this while still figuring out how best to parent our kids as they work their way to independent lives. I need to engage less, and he could/should probably be more involved. How do we include them in the changes?

That's a lot to parse through, and if you're still with me I guess the question is - how many different people do we need to engage, in what order, and are there any magical unicorns that could do it all? (We're in Charlotte, NC if anyone has specific recommendations.)
posted by Sweetie Darling to Human Relations (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
We found a lot of retirement help from the retirement system counselors themselves (my husband is an educator in another state than yours, and I retired from that state as a public employee). They helped us figure out our dual retirement from the state (especially how the dual benefits would work) and worked through several scenarios for us to see if it would be worth "buying" years in addition to what we'd earned and when the best time to retire would be.

I think a good budgeting system would help you estimate your financial needs in different life scenarios - Dave Ramsey has a good one online (, but I'm sure there are others. Your retirement system may have one online as well.

I'd hit up your local Job Service for career options and assistance - they help many people with resumes and career exploration.

So... you might be able to get away with just hiring a counselor to walk through all these decisions with the two of you. Launching kids can be stressful, but it's a great time to re-evaluate where you want to be in the next part of your life and begin to make the changes you need to make to get there. Good luck!
posted by summerstorm at 8:45 PM on August 19, 2018

The financial part is the job of a fiduciary financial advisor, who are bound by law to provide advice that's only in your interest. Google around and you will find details on why that is a good idea. Then you can go look for people local and talented.

For other topics, I think what you are looking for might be life coach. Which topics your coach will be adapt to engage in will depend on the person. I would interview half a dozen people before settling on the person you want to work with. It's perfectly possible you will find a "magical unicorns" someone who has good advice across many different topics. Coaching (as it should be) is largely the art of asking increadibly clarifying questions, rather than providing answers outright.
posted by gmarceau at 9:01 PM on August 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

Just from reading all of your post, it sounds like you have many transitions ahead. I might leave the idea of moving on the back-burner, until you've each worked through all other aspects of job and household changes, and family dynamics shifting. A person can only take so many large life stressors at once. If you have too many, you put yourself at risk of illness. See the Holmes & Rate Stress Scale.
posted by itsflyable at 9:12 PM on August 19, 2018 [3 favorites]

I highly recommend the counselors at University Psycological Associates for couples therapy. Each person has a bit of a different vibe to them so it’s important to figure out who “matches” you but they are all wonderful. I can’t remember which, but one of the Dave’s is really great.
posted by raccoon409 at 4:48 AM on August 20, 2018

I have a friend who does this kind of work--fiduciary financial management--and she's exactly who I'd contact for all of your financial questions. I don't think she's taking on more clients right now (I can ask if you want), but this is one of the professional organizations that she belongs to, so it might be a good start in searching for a financial advisor. Things like "when can I retire," "how much do I need to make/save for X goals," and "what is the best plan based on the nitty gritty details in my benefits documentation" are exactly the kinds of questions she digs into.
posted by gideonfrog at 6:52 AM on August 20, 2018

He has an idea of living in a very remote area, away from people

Lots of good advice already but I came here to specifically address this point.

I know a few people who have expressed this exact desire, at various points, but often at a transition in life (moving in together, moving out, getting married, having first kid etc). They've often been living in a city for a while, and also often feel stale in their career. They're almost all men too!

The thing is, it's a romantic idea, but it's a) not always realistic or what they really want, and b) often a reaction to something else that they don't want to deal with, and that often involves emotional labour.

Regarding a), here is a case study: my friends Jane and Jim got married, and prepared to move out of the city they'd lived in for years. Jim wanted to go super-remote, so to test this theory they went on honeymoon to a ridiculously remote cottage in very rural Scotland. Being without company, a local shop, a pub, literally ANYTHING to actually do without driving other than explore the countryside and do things together in the house - don't get me wrong, they had a lovely time on holiday, but it was enough to get him thinking down lines that led to them instead moving to a house that's 5 mins drive from a village and 15 mins drive from a town.

Regarding b), if he's been living somewhere for a long time, maintaining friendships that feel a bit stale perhaps, and a career that is about to finish, it's tempting to think - I don't want any of this anymore, but I also don't want to start again. If I live in a cabin in the woods, no-one will bother me and I can have my happy little life all to myself. I mean, maybe? But realistically, he's probably just scared - of the future, of the work it takes to maintain friendships or make new ones when you're not a kid anymore, of change. And the "hide away and not deal with any of it" thing is an understandable reaction to that.

Anyway my suggestions, again just relating to this one point:

- Go on holiday, a few times if possible to very remote places. Let him scratch the itch. See how it goes.

- Have some "where do we see ourselves in 10 years' time" conversations. Keep them light and non-committal, not firm plan-making, but get him to really visualise what his ideal picture of his life looks like. What does he like about it? How would you get there, theoretically?

- What do you want your relationship with your kids to look like? How "in their lives" would you both like to be, in 5, 10, 15 years?

Good luck! And I wish you all the best kinds of change for the year ahead.
posted by greenish at 3:09 AM on August 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

If Mr. Darling is a public school teacher I expect his benefits are paid through some sort of reasonably large system. They probably have an adviser who answers just the sort of questions he has, like the pros and cons of retiring on partial benefits vs. full benefits. He should setup an in-person meeting with that person to talk through the various options.

And greenish has good advice for the living-in-remote-places bit.
posted by craven_morhead at 12:36 PM on August 21, 2018

Thanks, all, for the suggestions and advice and kind thoughts. We've made an appointment a few weeks from now with a local fee-only financial planner who specializes in working with state employees. I agree with those of you who recommended we tackle that piece first; once we know the financial impact of the various scenarios, we can figure out next steps. I appreciate you all pushing me out of the overwhelm!

School started today and I think Mr. D is now approaching this year with less anxiety and anger, knowing that we are starting to take steps that will eventually lead to his ability to move on.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 5:17 PM on August 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

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