Getting healthy isn’t just about the food you eat or the exercises you do: gaining control of our finances can help us live better, more valuable lives. In 2019, the wellness movement is stronger than ever. Self-care is what’s current, with consumers everywhere spending time and money on juice cleanses, yoga classes, detoxifying face masks, supplements, meditation apps… the list goes on and on. Taking care of ourselves is important, and oftentimes an implication of this care is to spend large amounts of money for it. Yet, how often do we stop to consider how finances play a role in our overall health?
Throughout history, finance and wellness have run parallel to one another, never truly intersecting. Every day we swipe our cards for products designed to alleviate our stress and anxiety, rarely stopping to consider how our spending may pile on the stress even further. We focus on our physical and mental wellness, while taking control of our finances is left on the backburner. In doing this, we ignore an additional key aspect of achieving happiness and balance in our lives: financial wellness.
In 2018, Prudential Financial sought to quantify the state of financial wellness in the United States through their Financial Wellness Census. The results? About half of the country is struggling to manage day-to-day financially and plan for the future. With so much of America under financial stress on a daily basis, it comes as no surprise that the state of our finances also affects the state of our health.
As a financial therapist, 100% of my patients have come to me in a time of money-related stress. Even though each person’s situation is unique and individual to them, the solution we work towards together is universal: The goal of financial wellness isn’t to amass valuable assets to attain happiness. Rather, financial wellness is all about gaining control of your money in a way that helps you live a life full of value. Here are a few tips that I share with my clients who are working towards this goal:
- Think of money as an always-evolving relationship. Our connection with money represents a means to learn and grow as a human, not a problem to be solved. This reframes challenges and issues as something positive.
- Think before you spend. Financial health involves engaging with money in an informed, conscious and values-based framework. Approach all decisions by going through the following four steps: gather information, analyze options, prepare for change, and act.
- Make time for money. When we’re rushed or distracted, we make financial choices that satisfy basic impulses. If a choice looks attractive, we say yes, even when that “yes” is not in our best long-term interest. When we slow these choices down to examine if there’s an underlying emotion like insecurity or worry motivating us, we can respond to that feeling without making an impulsive financial decision.
- Take yourself on a money date. Time is also essential when it comes to managing money and making decisions. Schedule a monthly money date to ensure you’re putting aside time and attention for financial matters.
- Set goals that are positive, not negative. When we experience ourselves achieving something, that’s much more motivating than simply fixing or paying off something. We want to put more thought behind what it means to be debt-free rather than thinking of our bills and loans as things to be paid off each month.
- Treat yourself! Set achievable milestones and behavioral goals, then regularly reward yourself to reinforce those healthy actions. Reasonable rewards are a great way to solidify positive changes you’re making and to ensure that sustained, little habits turn into big results.
If financial stress is something you face daily, take comfort in knowing that you aren’t alone. Achieving wellness of any kind does not happen overnight, but consistency is key. By rethinking what our relationship with money means for our overall health and taking little steps each day, we can put the wealth into wellness and make our lives more valuable while doing it.