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Learning to Set Financial Boundaries

Learning to Set Financial Boundaries

After surviving financial abuse and being well past the drama of that time in my life, I tend to think of myself as “healed”.  What I learned recently is that just like my recovery from sexual abuse, there are always more layers to the onion of healing.

Even though I have recovered for the most part, occasionally life throws another lesson at me. I am reminded of my past and am forced to deal with another layer of the onion.

A few days ago, I opened my email and found a message from a past client. He said that he was in a better position financially than previously and would like to work with me again.  I was very surprised to hear from him since the last time we spoke he basically tore me apart. He was more than a little upset with how I had handled a different situation.

Looking back, although I didn’t deserve to be disrespected, I could have handled things better.  He had approached me to help with a new business venture, but he still owed me money.  I accepted the opportunity to present a proposal, thinking that if we worked together again I might get him to pay his back debt.  Since it had always been a struggle to get him to pay, I was dubious about working with him. But I was willing to find out if his situation was more promising than it had been before.

Learning to Set Financial Boundaries
Learning to Set Financial Boundaries

I remember one of my team members, who knew our history, asking, “Sherry, are you sure you want to go there again?”  And I said I thought it was worth it if I could get the back payment, plus making more money would be good.

After I spent time evaluating the new situation, I decided that it wasn’t as solid as I thought. So I backed out and said that I wasn’t comfortable moving forward. 

That’s when he threw me under the bus and things ended badly.

So, when I heard from him recently, I thought it was a bit odd. But as a business owner, I am always looking for new business. I thought about it, wondered what could have changed in his situation, and briefly considered working with him again.  Then I heard my gal’s words in my head, and I thought, “No, I don’t want to go there again.”

It no longer mattered that there was business to be had. The reality was he would probably not pay me again.  I finally realized I don’t need to operate my business from a place of scarcity, feeling obligated to take every opportunity that comes along.  They are not all in my best interest or in the best interest of my company.

I wrote him back, telling him I was happy to hear he was doing well. Then I politely declined his request and referred him to another possible resource.  I felt so empowered.  I set a healthy boundary with a person who had taken advantage of me financially too many times in the past.  

Setting a boundary, even if it means turning down business, is healthy if it protects you from someone who has never treated you with respect.  

It’s time we learn to set financial boundaries and stop apologizing for our reasons.  

Not allowing someone to take advantage of you financially could mean many different things.  In this case, I realized that it wasn’t worth the potential income. Historically, this man cost me greatly in unpaid bills, extensive time trying to renegotiate payment terms, and endless attempts to get paid.  Not to mention the abusive way he treated me last time. 

Why would things be different now?

What surprised me most was when I realized this was a new boundary for me.  I didn’t connect it to the financial abuse initially, but then I realized that was what this was really about.  When you are being financially abused, you lose all sense of security.  In this case, I still carried a bit of that scarcity mentality. I got past that need to accept all business and recognized that sometimes it’s better to say no. Then I was able to grasp what was going on and stand firm.

Peeling away yet another layer of the onion of my healing felt so amazing.  I have no regrets and feel confident that I will get another opportunity soon that will be better and will feel right to accept.  

Learning to say “no” is a powerful “yes.”

Sherry Lutz Herrington is the owner of Sherrington Financial Fitness, a business consulting and accounting firm specializing in strategic business planning and solid financial accounting for businesses. She is also the author of Strong Women Thriving (, a blog which focuses on empowering women to be financially savvy, particularly after experiencing financial abuse. Sherry is currently writing a new book that both shares her personal story and addresses financial abuse. She can be reached at Join our FB group

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