"I wouldn’t change my decision to take a break, but I went through a feeling of lost identity."

My mum has been one of the earliest influences on my attitude towards money. She was a fierce budgeter for our household. A weekly budget for groceries was set and she would clip coupons and find ways to make our money go further. The goal was to save more money then we spent each week and she often achieved it!

I learned the importance of saving firsthand. The discipline extended beyond the groceries and to clothing, entertainment and even houses and cars. Everything was negotiated and the savings made a big difference for our family. It allowed opportunities we couldn’t have afforded otherwise. That really stuck with me.

As I embarked on my own career, I learned the importance of investing my savings. Sadly this was not something that I learned at college or grad school. I began teaching myself about investments, diversification, and risk tolerance. I started an automatic investment plan. It wasn’t a large amount but it ensured each month a fixed amount would be put away for my future. This was the start of my journey.

I’d like to say that I’d stayed the course all these years and my personal finances are well organized. Instead I found that life happened and I got busy. Career, marriage, kids – there was always something demanding my attention. I found finances and money management changed when I got married. My partner and I differed both in our approach to spending and also investing money. In the beginning of our marriage, we kept our finances separate. However, when I took a career break, we had to adjust our approach again.

I’m still on a career break to raise our three children. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t change the dynamic between my husband and me. I went from a peer and an equal in our earnings power – to essentially a dependent. As a strong, career-minded women, this has been humbling. I wouldn’t change my decision to take a break, but I went through a feeling of lost identity.

The break in my earning has taken me into unchartered waters for our finances as well. Our earnings power during a key stage of our life has been cut in half. How will this impact our savings and retirement accounts? Will our investment decisions be the right ones to see us through and produce the investment income we will need. It worries me. Going back to my mother’s influence on my spending habits, thankfully, I am a careful spender and rarely splurge. I used to allow myself the odd splurge when I was earning a paycheck but now I find it impossible to justify and I dread having to ask for help to pay the credit card bill.

Saving for our future and retirement has become my biggest challenge during my career break. For now, I can just maintain the discipline with our spending, saving and investing. I wish I had some wisdom or insight as to how to handle this stage and how it will all turn out. Hopefully talking to others who have gone through a similar journey will help!