When life is collapsing in on you, yet your personal and professional lives are intertwined, how do you persevere? After 17 years of working together, Arwen and her husband made the decision to sell half of their business and she was going to work for someone else. Arwen saw the sale as an opportunity to lift a huge financial burden off her shoulders, but the impact on their lives, their kids, and their employees was simply too much for her to bear. At the last possible minute, she backed out of the sale, since she believed that decision would end their marriage.
This decision to not quit, led Arwen to her first ever panic attack in September 2016, because she didn’t know how to return to a company and life she believed was irreparably broken. This was just the start to the hardest two years of her life.
Today, Arwen is sharing the story of how she found freedom in living her authentic life amidst the pain and turmoil that choice seemed to cause. How Arwen and her husband transitioned their company and roles, worked through their financial devastation, saved their marriage and came out on the other side of these challenges with a flourishing business and a dream life, even in the midst of the COVID pandemic. Arwen wants to help you learn from her prideful mistakes and heartbreak. To help usher in your breakthrough — one that is only found on the other side of not quitting.
Overcomer Playlist Recommendation
Pearls of Wisdom
- How changing our business model affected our marriage and relationship – and what we did to avoid what could have been a messy and expensive divorce.
- Why recovery is possible after you hit bottom – and how outside guidance can save your life.
- When you are weak your boundaries become compromised and you become vulnerable.
- It’s okay to want to quit, just don’t. Your breakthrough is right around the corner.
- The importance of staying committed to your commitments.
Tweetables“Hard times don't mean that things are wrong. You are built for hard.” - Arwen Becker Click To Tweet “You're going to make it. This is not the end. The story does not stop here. Life is not over. You have something to live for.” - Arwen Becker Click To Tweet
- She Handled It, So Can You!: An Inspiring and Empowering Financial Guide for Women
- Smart Women Finish Rich: 9 Steps to Achieving Financial Security and Funding Your Dreams
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Connect with Arwen Becker
Arwen Becker: There's a song that it's been my mantra that I've really been listening to a lot during this time period, especially in preparation for working on this podcast, and looking at my life and all the things that I've been through and that I've had to come to terms with in my own past and I love the words of it. And if you have not listened to it, it is so good. This Is Me. It's from The Greatest Showman soundtrack. Oh my gosh, I could never sing it the way the amazing woman sings this but I just love this part and just listened to these words.
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I'm gonna send a flood, gonna drown 'em out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I'm meant to be, this is me
Look out 'cause here I come
And I'm marching on to the beat I drum
I'm not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me
I'm done apologizing for the crap that I've been through. It's time to walk it out, celebrate what you've been through and move forward. September 25, 2016, I walked out onto my front porch and I began to have a panic attack. “Oh my god. Oh my god. I don't know what I'm supposed to do. I don't think I can go back. I don't know what I'm supposed to do.” And my husband, Randy, is sitting there with his big wide eyes and he's just like, “Oh my gosh, what is going on?” And what happened is after nearly 17 years of working together, Randy and I decided to sell half of our business, and I was going to go to work for somebody else. It was a superb financial benefit for me. All this burden, financial burden and the burden of employees and everything that comes with owning a business was going to come off my shoulders, but it was absolutely devastating to our employees and to our kids. So, at the very last moment, I call the entire thing off because I really felt strongly that God was telling me, "You know what, you do this, it's going to be the end of your marriage.” But I had to go back to this company that I thought was totally broken.
Because we had spent 17 years of building this business and after going through the amount of years, following the Great Recession, I was done. I was done with the financial pressure. Because at that time going through 2008-2009, experience what it was like to have our revenue down 33% in 2009, another 33% in 2010, something had to give. You can't lose 66% of your income, and not have it affect things. And so, we were facing this decision. What do we do? Do we retain our business and our employees to the detriment of other things or do we retain the life that we had built and that we had created and have those things fall away? And to have to make that absolutely horribly painful, embarrassing, shameful decision to be foreclosed on our primary residence, where my youngest son, Easton, was born, was so awful. How is it that I could be in the financial planning business and have my finances be absolutely awful? By this point, a few years later, we found ourselves more than a half a million dollars in debt and I had just become tired. I was so tired of digging out of that hole.
And so, as I was looking towards my husband, and he was doing the best that he thought he could do, yet I was still battling with these financial insecurities that I have had virtually my whole life waiting for somebody else to make me feel financially secure, I became a financial advisor. I thought if I did that part of it and I went from this background role that I had of being the operations person of our company and I came into the role he was also doing as a financial advisor carrying all that weight of actually generating the “money” that I could somehow fix this problem. Yet, the only person I ever saw doing the job was Randy, was my husband, who is a musician, who sees the world in color, who loves to speak out loud and process things out loud and create these big visions and I am a processor. I am a person who doesn't speak until I've had time to filter all the possible scenarios that could come out of it. I am somebody who is going to want to do things strictly by the book and have a very designated process to run it. And I couldn't do that job. I kept looking at him going, “I can't do it your way.” And I'd sit in these meetings and I'd feel like the shadow on the wall just going, "What am I doing here? This is not what - I don't fit here.” And I started to feel like I was just an absolute imposter in the room, this little shadow that hung in the room that would say things to clients and just believe that they were seeing through all of it going, “What the hell do you know about financial security? You live in a rental.”
And through all of this, there were all sorts of other things that were starting to spin out because I was just so overwhelmed. And I found myself in the ER. I was sure I was having a heart attack and I got reprimanded because I drove myself to the ER and my husband was there and they were waiting there with a, oh gosh, I can't even think of what it's called. They were waiting there to wheel me back and I was getting reprimanded that I drove myself there, that I didn't come immediately. And to have chest X-rays and all these people descending on me like immediately, it was terrifying. I'm a very healthy individual. I don't go to the doctor except for my checkup. That's it. I don't need to go in there for broken bones for my kids and stitches and checkups. And so, now all of a sudden, I'm finding out after spending all this money, that my issues were solved with Mylanta because I was under such great financial pressure and such great emotional pressure and I had created so much anxiety and worry that it was creating such a physical reaction in me that I had never been more sick in my life.
And so, I was going through these things, and at this point was willing to sell a 17-year company and go to work for somebody else and just be done with the whole thing, leave it all behind. My youngest son crying on my lap going, “I can't believe you and dad aren't going to work together anymore.” That's all they had ever known. And now I had to go back to this company, but at that same time, my husband realized, “Oh, dear God, this woman needs to feel authentic. She needs to be able to walk out her own life in the way in which it works for her, not the way it works for me.” And so, at that point, he said, “Hey, whatever you need to do, you can lead this company. Go ahead do the things that you feel are necessary. I'm here to support you in that.” And so, that's what we did. And so, he stepped back and at that point, I stepped into the forefront. And in January of 2017, at that point, after 17 years of him doing the public speaking and doing seminars and being on stage and generating leads for our company, I took that over. Never done any public speaking a day in my life up to that point, good gracious. And now I'm not only taking that on but now that is what feeds our company, new prospective clients coming in.
And I remember I was learning the seminar and I was creating it from scratch because I knew I couldn't do it the way that he had done it. That was great. It worked for him, but I didn't want to do it his way. I did not feel that that was right for me. And I remember it was like my third or fourth-time seminar. I was not well, still dealing with major stress, was not well. I was sick. I remember being up in front of people and the restaurant had provided me with a teacup saucer. And so, I was already speaking and I just could not get past my nervousness that night and I remember grabbing the teacup and trying to pull it up and take a sip of it because my mouth was so dry and it's going clang, clang, clang and it’s clanging on the saucer. And I just was thinking to myself, “Oh, my gosh, how obvious is it that I don't know anything that I'm talking about? I'm totally nervous. Why would anybody ever schedule an appointment with me?” I got finished with that event. I left my microphone on. I walked out of the room. I went into the elevator, totally forgot to turn it off. And I was like, “Oh my gosh, why am I so nervous?”
And yet, two days later, I had to do the same thing. I had to give the same event. And I realized at that moment, it's because I had made it all about me. I was so worried about what other people were going to think of me and what I was saying and what I was doing instead of looking out at the people in front of me and going, "What is it that you need? What is it that they need, and providing that for them?” And so, I continued on. I got better as I did more, big surprise. You practice, practice, practice. You surprisingly get better, right? As I began to not just go through the motions of understanding my content, but really internalizing it and just making it, again, authentic for me. And so, at that point, I was about four or five months in and I ended up meeting a gal who specifically worked with women's events, did women’s only events. And I was like, "This sounds like a great idea.” So, I've been doing these other events that were open to everybody. I'm like, "This kind of could be fun.”
And so, I launched into women's events and I couldn't believe how much I loved it. And the reason I couldn't believe, it wasn't just because it was great and fun. It was because I didn't really want to be around women much growing up. I grew up a total tomboy. I only played with the boys. I felt like women were too complicated. There was too much drama. There were all these things that I didn't like and partly is because I didn't know how to deal with it. And I didn't work in that space. And so, I fell in love with these events and I would have women coming up to me afterwards and they would just say, "You know, my husband and I, I got divorced a year ago and I have nothing left and is there any chance that I can still salvage my retirement?” You know, I'd have women coming up to me saying, “I didn't expect it. My husband died four months ago. Completely blindsided. What am I supposed to do?” And so, hearing these women, but a lot of these women were women who received invitations to come to all of our other events many years prior, but they never came. They only came when it was an event where women could sit and talk to women because community happens there.
It's not just me. Before I even got on stage, you would have women, five, six, seven women in a table and they're like chit-chatty old friends, “Oh, my gosh, my kids went to that school too,” or, "I belong to that club,” or, "Oh, hey, I know you too,” or, "You're a friend from some sort of art group or whatever it might be,” and they're instantly connected. And I just was like, “Oh my gosh, this is what women do. They connect and there's just as meaningful piece.” But so many of these women felt overlooked. They felt talked down to for my industry. They felt discarded because they would have somebody say, “Well, do you have at least $200,000 of investable assets?” And they'd say, “No.” And they say, “Well, we don't work with people because we can't really do meaningful work with people that have less than that.” And for me, I saw women who needed hope. I saw women who finally had the courage and the guts to walk into a room and face their finances, which is about as exciting for most women as walking into a new gynecologist. You know what I'm saying?
I even told that to a friend of mine who's a male, and I said, "You know, it's like going to a new financial advisor is like a woman walking into a gynecologist,” and that's how a lot of them handle it. They basically say, “Oh, it's nice to meet you. Go ahead and strip down. Take off all your clothes.” And for a woman, that sucks going to a gynecologist that doesn't even have the decency to sit down and talk with you for a few moments, look you in the eye, truly ask how you are, get to know you for a moment before they asked you to do something so private. And yet financial advisors do it all the time. And so, I wanted to provide that safe space for women to say, "You know what, we'll eventually talk about the details of your financial picture but I first want you to tell me what matters to you.” Because money, it just feeds those things that matter. You know, there's a scripture, "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” We put our money into those things that matter. That's why women will oftentimes put money into things that are detrimental to them personally because they love the people that those finances help, yet they'll sacrifice themselves because of it.
So, I never really thought I would really enjoy working with women and yet something changed in me. And I felt at that point I needed to be an advocate for women who felt overlooked, dismissed, disregarded, devalued, who needed to know that they could have a safe place to land and that our company could provide that for them. There's a lot of great male advisors. My husband's one of them, who provides that kind of safety, just like there's a lot of great male gynecologists too. But recognizing women deserve more, and this funny piece of women being a niche, which is just, I hear it, it's so irritating. Women make up the largest segment of the US population. Women hold more wealth in the country now than men do. In the next 20 to 30 years, they're estimating that the passing of the inheritance from baby boomers, two-thirds of that is going to go to women and, globally, women will hold over 60% of the wealth in the world in the next 20 years.
So, for me, to be able to help serve women in that capacity is great, but that's not why I'm here. That's not what this podcast is about. It's about women who have overcome sh*t. That's what it is, tough things, devastation, heartache, things that would absolutely take you to the edge and overcome it. So, I found myself in a space and everything this first year in 2017, as I was doing all these events, it was just like my whole world was opening up and it was like all these things were coming out of the woodwork and people were asking me to keynote on stage and I was asked to contribute to my first book and I was asked to pilot this other seminar. And our business was financially booming. It was our best financial year. I was asked to be a mentor on a faith-based reality TV show. I was doing radio. It was like all this stuff and all these accolades. These accolades were coming and everybody was saying, “Oh my gosh, look at what you're doing. How great is this? Do you know how great you are?” Look in the whole world opening up that way. And pride began to get in the way. You know, there's that saying that pride comes before a fall. Yep, it sure does.
And in this time period, I really did feel that by brute force, I could accomplish what I needed to accomplish, that because now I felt like I had a level of responsibility for our financial security because I was doing things that had a direct impact on our bottom line, that it was going to solve that financial pain point that I had been carrying. And my husband didn't carry it the same way. He's built differently. You know, I see this so much with the women that I speak to at events. Women want to feel secure. They want to feel safe. You want to feel supported. Like they have some freedom and they have some choices. And Randy's just built different, you know, those people who can deal with the ebb and flow of commissions and the ups and downs and it was breaking me. And so, I was sure, by just working harder and doing more of what I felt was what needed to be done was going to be enough. During that year, Randy admittedly kind of took his hands off the reins in a large sense. So, instead of two horses running at the same pace, maybe just running the pace he was running, he was like, “Oh, this is great. You're doing this thing now. Now, I can kind of take some time off.” And so, what it did is it just shifted that burden in a much greater way to me.
And I got angry. I really just kind of got to the point where I was so resentful because I felt for so many years that he was responsible for the way I felt financially because I didn't take responsibility for it. And I just really got to the point where I was just like, "That's the best that you've got for me? Do you see how hard I'm working? Do you see that I am sick and I am basically on the edge of a mental breakdown?” And I was trying to communicate with him that I was having just these massive feelings of depression that were bordering on suicidal thoughts. And he just couldn't hear it because it was so far out of the realm of who I was but I thought if I could push hard enough, I could solve it. And at that point, when you are so weak, your boundaries become compromised and you become vulnerable to other people and people would look at me and they think, "My God, she has it all together. There's no way that anybody could ever take advantage of that woman. Look how strong and confident she is.” Would you break down hard enough? It can happen. And so, I had a coach that I just believe that I could trust that way overstepped his boundaries and it broke me. I broke.
And it was at that moment that I looked at him just like, “God, why would you let this happen to me?” He so clearly just spoke to me, just my spirit just said, “It’s because other women need to hear this. They need to hear that they should still come back from this. It's not the end that your pain will have a purpose at some point.” So, I started looking at my marriage and just wondering whether or not I even had the courage to continue because I was so tired. I was so tired. I look back the year before and I had called a friend and I asked her for the name of a counselor. And she gave me a great name of a great guy and, yeah, I was too busy, too busy being important, too busy being busy, too busy striving for something to pick up the phone and schedule a time. Maybe not wanting to go through the agony of having to open up our lives and our pain and our hurt to another person and rehashing that. God, I wish I would have called him a year before. But that wasn't God's plan for me. And so, needless to say, marriage crisis hit and I picked up the phone and called him. Big shocker. And that started over two years of weekly therapy.
And so, many of those things, those difficulties that I dealt with as a child and Randy had walked through and just so much baggage that had been brought into our relationship that hadn't been dealt with. We had to not only go through that. We had to start to understand why this financial piece was so difficult for me and for him to be able to understand it from my point of view. And as much as I wanted to quit, first of all, I had a husband who was unwilling to quit who said to me, “I will do anything that you want. I don't care what you asked me to do. You need me to move out. I don't care. I will close our business if it means that I get to save our marriage.” And that's when I knew I had somebody who's in the fight with me. And so, we did. We took it down to the studs. I mean, when you have a house and you remodel it when you really go down to just the studs, maybe even to the foundation. And through that, we began to rebuild everything and it was this rebirth that I started to go through in recognizing that there were a lot of things that needed to change and I had to address those.
There were a lot of communication issues that Randy and I had to work through more importantly for us because we run a business together. It affects people. It affects clients. It affects employees. I can't be dragging our personal crap from home to the office. That doesn't work, right? And so, we had to work through so many of these things and commit to the process. I had to commit to not quitting. That was my commitment. I would go on walks and I would tell myself, "It's okay to want to quit,” but tomorrow I'm going to get up and I'm going to do a little bit more work and see if these feelings that I have can go away and be replaced with something beautiful. And through that process, God just began to help us rebuild through wise counsel from friends of ours who have been through their own stuff and we're able to salvage and rebuild their marriages through a good counselor, who we trusted and had great insight into the ways in which we communicate, to business friends that knew us personally and could step back and help us see things from a different perspective, but also just lend an ear and a hug and say, "Hey, you're going to get through this. You guys have a lot to fight for.”
And so, we did one step after the other. And we just continued to look at these pieces in our lives and figure out what we needed to do to improve areas that were not as good. And that was a lot of areas. There's a lot of work but, gosh, to get to that point to say and for us, that was, I don’t know, that was good two years later to say to our therapist, I said to him, I said, "This must be like the Olympics for you where you get to stand up on stage and get the gold medal for taking a couple that are in massive crisis and everything is falling apart and it looks hopeless to be able to now sit with them and talk about very nebulous, ‘Oh, we were, you know, arguing about whether or not we should spend money on that couch, is there a different way we could talk about it?’” Or you just end up getting to this point where we're having conversations about things that don't really seem that important and to be able to say we don't need to meet with you every week. And to get to that point and the only way we got there was because we continue to do the work and believe that committing to the process was what was going to matter, not whether or not we were going to be happy in the process. Happiness is not guaranteed. Our commitment was what we were committed to. And both of us were committed to that, our business, our family, our marriage, our friends, our legacy together, that we were committed to and we were committed to God helping us do that. That mattered to us.
And so, in these last couple of years, as I look at what I took away through such pain, I have never been brought so low, so low that I wanted to exit my own life. And yet to clearly understand my coming to the edge of that cliff was so when I got myself built back to a place of health, that I could stand with somebody else and lift them up and say, "You're going to make it. This is not the end. The story does not stop here. Life is not over. You have something to live for. You have something to do. You have somebody who needs what it is that you have. They need your words. They need your encouragement. They need your time. They need you.” And so, I've had this most magical year. My book’s coming out, She Handled It So Can You. My husband and I bought our dream home. It was everything we could have ever asked for and more in a time where it seemed completely so strange at the start of COVID to be buying a home when we really weren't in a position that it felt that we had prepared for but God just aligned all these things and everything came together and we kept every single one of our employees employed during COVID. Our business flourished.
I built this training company, LIFE with Arwen. Leaders Inspiring Female Empowerment, that's what the acronym stands for, to really help train companies and individuals how to see women, how to help their employees and how to help their individual clients that are women to just to be educated in a way in which they understand. And now this podcast that was an idea in my husband's head a year-and-a-half ago. He contacted the woman who kind of got me started on this and now a year-and-a-half later, it's coming to fruition because I couldn't figure out why am I doing this? I don't know why I'm doing this. But I know that there are women who need to hear these stories and you're probably the one who needs to hear this story or you need to hear the next story because you have something so beautiful inside of you that needs to be shared with the world. And your world doesn't have to be hundreds of thousands. It could be two. It could be those two babies that you are raising in your home who just need to see a mom who loves them and is trying her best to be the best you that you can be and teaching them that.
And so, that's why I'm here. We’re going to walk this out together. It is my absolute privilege to have you spend this time with me. So, what did I learn as I look back in that three-year journey of hell? Well, there were a lot of great things in that journey, but they were colored by so much of the darkness that I had a lot of it created myself. But I learned, number one, it's okay to want to quit. Just don’t. Your breakthrough is right around the corner. I also learned that seeking a counselor or pastor or a therapist is so vital. You need to think new thoughts. You need to get a fresh perspective on the things that you see or can't see, a safe place to talk about those things, and you have to be willing to do the work. I tell you, if there wasn't more times that Randy and I left counseling than we had to go to the office together, usually we took separate cars we at least had a moment to kind of process what had happened, of course, we would leave upset because one of us in the process usually got our feelings hurt. But we had to do the work. We had to show up week after week and I absolutely can tell you the amount of money we spent on that was way less expensive than what we would have spent had we got divorced.
And then finally, happiness is not promised. You need to stay committed to your commitments. Hard times, they don't mean that things are wrong. For all you know, God could be burning off those impurities in your life and in order to burn them off, it needs to get frickin hot that you're built for this. You are built for hard. Believe tomorrow is going to be better. And then finally, each of these podcasts they're going to end with a piece of financial wisdom that each individual has been given, recommend a book and a quote. So, one of my best financial pieces of advice is talk to a financial coach/advisor. Get help for what you don't know. Because people will go to a doctor when something's not wrong, and they'll trust what it is that they tell them. But it's amazing how many people will ask their friends, coworkers, and siblings for advice on money but there are people just like myself that do that for a living. You need to find somebody who can communicate with that understands what it is that you're trying to do that speaks to you in a manner in which makes you feel good. If they don't make you feel good, find somebody else but getting a financial coach is like a financial therapist, very, very important.
And Randy and I really needed it too. I mean, that was part of not us just working with our counselor on communication, but we also had a friend of ours and mentor who was able to do that as well and kind of be ours because we needed that too, because there were things we hadn't worked through. Recommended book, I would say mine. She Handled It So Can You by Arwen Becker, but also, I would say of my dear good friend and mentor, David Bach, Smart Women Finish Rich. This book has been out 20 years, more than a million copies sold. It so blessed me and you will get so much out of it. My book is really kind of a financial perspective to inspire you to change and do the work. And then Smart Women Finish Rich is just such a brilliant book to really get the details, but he writes in such a fun and interesting way. It's not a boring read. And I wish I would have read that when I first saw it almost 20 years ago, but I didn't want to take care of that part. I wanted to leave that up to somebody else to handle and I learned the hard way. And then quote, "She believed she could, so she did.”
Arwen Becker: So, ladies, that brings us to the end of today's show. I am so humbled and honored that you would spend this time with me and I just can't wait for you to be able to hear some of these stories that I've heard and the other women they're going to be coming on and what lies ahead for what they have overcome in their own life. You are going to be so inspired to believe for more in your life and I am thrilled that you're spending time with me. Your future is bigger and brighter than your past. So, please follow me on social media LIFE with Arwen. Arwen is A-R-W-E-N. LIFE with Arwen or Arwen Becker and pick up a copy of my new book, She Handled It So Can You, or you can reach me at my training and speaking site, LIFEwithArwen.com.
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