Whether you stay healthy by exercising, eating well, or meditating; have you considered your financial health status?
The definition of financial health embodies something different for everyone, though there is one fundamental similarity: to have confidence and clarity in our finances. This can mean many different things to many different people, but a report published by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau summarizes four parameters describing what it means to be financially healthy. Participants in the study commonly described financial wellness to be a state where someone:
- has control over their daily finances;
- has the capacity to absorb a financial shock;
- is on track to meet their short-term and long-term financial goals; and
- has the financial freedom to make the choices that allows them to enjoy life.
Hopefully, after reading those four parameters, most of us feel like we are at least on the surface, a financially healthy individual. Not only is it advantageous to have our financial affairs in order, but it also helps our mental and physical health, too. Many of us have experienced stress related to money once or twice in our lives. Financial worry is typically associated as a long-term stressor, which can trigger a bump in cortisol, natures built in alarm system, and as a result, increased appetite, blood sugar, and blood pressure levels. A study conducted in coordination with four separate departments by researchers at UCLA, Duke University, and Drexel University found significant increases in blood pressure and blood glucose levels in US adults during the 2008-2010 recession (“The Link Between”).
Physical health is not the only thing affected by stress related to money. Dr. Nancy Molitor, a psychologist from Chicago, witnessed the impact financial stress had on finance executives during the 2008-2010 recession (“The Link Between”). During this time, she saw an influx of patients with depression, ulcers, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and psychosomatic symptoms. While the symptoms in her patients calmed as the economy recovered, Dr. Molitor has seen a recent increase in patients worried about their finances, particularly debt. As we navigate the aftermath of the Covid pandemic and an inflationary environment, many of us are feeling pressure. Luckily, there are ways to ease this tension, so we live happier and healthier lives.
Stress, especially related to money and during tough economic times, can have a negative impact on our physical and mental health. By making smart decisions and setting ourselves up for success, we can save ourselves from this cycle. As usual, it is easier said than done, especially in the taboo topic of money. This is primarily because when it comes to our finances, many of us choose to ignore the issues we face rather than address them. It can seem easier to keep treading water rather than swimming to shore. That is, until a wave crashes down onto us and we are forced deep into the waters. Even if we can keep treading water for a month, a year, or several years, eventually we will have to swim to shore, or we will drown.
While finding the motivation to get ourselves to shore can be tough, it is necessary for us to survive and ultimately, thrive. A couple of ways to help shift our mentalities and give us the courage to start swimming, are 1) acknowledge the emotional component, and 2) visualize your future self.
Many therapists say a solution to combat the emotional side of the brain which encourages us to ignore our issues is by first acknowledging it (“The Link Between”). To own and validate our feelings. By acknowledging the emotional part of the brain, it can sometimes become easier for the “rational” part of the brain to step in and help us make better decisions.
Another tactic is to picture your future self. Often, we think of our future selves as completely different people, strangers even (Hopkins). Research shows visualizing, writing, or connecting to your future self somehow, motivates us to make pro-active choices to raise our financial health status. Erik Lawrence, co-founder and President of TenBridge, authored an article discussing the details of the research, theory, and practice of connecting with your future self. In sum, visualizing your future self creates a link which encourages long-term planning and in turn motivates us to prioritize our financial wellbeing.
It is clear financial wellness is a key component of overall wellness. While it can be hard to take the first step to achieve financial health, it is a crucial one.
The first step to achieving financial wellness is to review our full financial picture and identify what we can do to become the most financially healthy versions of ourselves. Consider the following an initial assessment of your financial health (Kagan).
- How prepared are you for unexpected events? Do you have an emergency fund?
- Do you have the things you need in life? How about the things you want?
- Do you have and or keep track of a budget?
- What percent of your debt would you consider high interest, such as credit cards? Is it more than 50%?
- Are you actively saving for retirement? Do you feel/ know if you are on track to meet your short-term and long-term goals?
- Do you have enough insurance coverage—whether it be health or life?
- Do you have an estate and/or end-of-life plan?
If you are unsure about any of these questions, let’s talk about it. Our purpose as your financial planning partners is to be your guide to financial wellness, and make sure you know your path will get you there.
However we achieve and preserve our financial health, it is an important part of caring for ourselves, our loved ones, and our future selves. Being financially healthy and having a financial plan is like building a strong boat that will help us weather the storms we face. It keeps us from sinking and gets us to our destination, safe and sound.
Financial well-being is different for everyone. It is worthwhile to develop your own financial plan to ensure you are on track to reach your goals and you are not at risk if the unexpected occurs (Kagan). Knowing your path to success, or that you will be okay, can be comforting and reassuring, especially in economically turbulent times.
Lastly, our personal finances and plans are ever-changing, similar to how our bodies and minds develop over time. Just like we see our doctor each year for a check-up, we should be reviewing our financial health and financial plans on an annual basis, too. Being proactive, rather than reactive, is an excellent way to stay healthy knowing we will be alright if the unexpected happens.
As always, it’s a pleasure to be of service.
From the Desk of Sirra Anderson-Crum FPQP™
(971)277-1082 / www.tenbridgepartners.com
“Financial Well-Being: The Goal of Financial Education.” Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Data & Research, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 11 Dec. 2015, https://www.consumerfinance.gov/data-research/research-reports/financial-well-being/.
Frazier, Liz. “Financial Wellness Is Critical to Your Overall Health – and Financial Literacy Is the Key.” Forbes Personal Finance, Forbes Magazine, 19 Jan. 2022, https://www.forbes.com/sites/lizfrazierpeck/2022/01/19/financial-wellness-is-critical-to-your-overall-healthand-financial-literacy-is-the-key/?sh=38246c322cdc.
Hopkins, Jamie. “How to Get Investors to Save More for Retirement? Perhaps by Saying Hello to Their Future Self.” CNBC FA Playbook, CNBC, 20 June 2019, https://www.cnbc.com/2019/06/19/save-more-for-retirement-by-saying-hello-to-your-future-self.html.
Kagan, Julia. “Financial Health.” Investopedia Personal Finance , Investopedia, 10 Apr. 2022, https://www.investopedia.com/terms/f/financial-health.asp.
“The Link Between Physical and Financial Health.” Marcus by Goldman Sachs Financial Resources and Guides, Marcus by Goldman Sachs, 27 Feb. 2020, https://www.marcus.com/us/en/resources/lifestyle/physical-and-financial-health.
Tescher, Jennifer. “The Intersection of Physical, Mental, and Financial Health: What The Fintech Journey Can Teach Us.” Forbes Fintech, Forbes Magazine, 24 Aug. 2022, https://www.forbes.com/sites/jennifertescher/2022/08/24/the-intersection-of-physical-mental-and-financial-health-what-the-fintech-journey-can-teach-us/?sh=feace9869f7c.