With May designated as Mental Health Month, it seems timely to focus on the important part finances play in our sense of well-being.
Below is information related to understanding the ways money management skills can affect people’s happiness, along with practical steps to stay financially and emotionally healthy.
THE EMOTIONAL SIDE OF MONEY
Do you ever feel overwhelmed by money worries? You’re not the only one.
According to a 2019 survey by CompareCards.com, seven in ten Americans admit that they’ve cried over something related to their finances. Additionally, age and gender aside, many acknowledge money as an emotional trigger.
In a 2018 Harris Poll, it was revealed that money was a major source of stress for 44% of respondents. Specific financial stress inducers included low income, the rising cost of healthcare, too much debt and a lack of retirement savings.
These findings are troubling not only because of the significant percentage of Americans who are struggling with money concerns, but because of how those concerns can impact our lives.
FINANCIAL ANXIETY AFFECTS MORE THAN A SPREADSHEET BOTTOM LINE
A number of studies show that financial insecurity leads to a host of other problems from general stress and anxiety to poor physical health and reduced job performance.
Within the medical industry, worries about the cost of healthcare are being defined as, “financial toxicity,” as patients struggle to pay for health and hospital care and prescriptions. Worry about large medical bills and related debt have been proven to cause illness and even increase the amount of pain people feel.
When financial stress hits close to home, it can cause relationship problems among spouses, parents, children and even friends. Additionally children raised in poverty have been shown to suffer from far-reaching physical and mental health issues.
While these are concerning statistics, a 2015 Gallup poll regarding the link between relationship problems and financial well-being offered hope. According to those who participated, the solution to reducing stress and increasing financial security wasn’t as much about the amount of money individuals possessed, but more about how well they managed their money. The good news is that managing money is something everyone can control.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO FEEL MORE FINACIALLY AND EMOTIONALLY SECURE
Worry is caused by uncertainty. While you can’t know what lies ahead, you can take steps to get a better handle on the present and more fully prepare yourself for the future. The following basic money management tips can help
Know where your money is going
- Write down your monthly expenses. How much are you spending on essentials like housing, food and transportation? How much are you spending on extras? Make adjustments so that you don’t spend more than you earn.
Get a handle on debt
- If you’re carrying credit card balances, create a payment plan that is realistic and that you can manage. Try to pay more on higher interest debt first, making sure to pay at least the minimum on all debts, including student loans.
Plan for emergencies
- Aim to put aside enough cash to cover 3-6 months of essential expenses in a savings or money market account. Starting from scratch? Aim for whatever regular amount you can afford and work your way up from there. Acknowledge there may be months when your ability to reach that aim will fall short, but don’t give up. Next month get right back on your savings track.
Boost your savings
- Make savings a part of your monthly budget. Even a small amount saved on a regular basis can make a big difference.
Contribute to your 401(k)
- Contribute at least enough to get the company match, more if you can.
Take advantage of workplace financial wellness programs
- See what your company offers in terms of retirement planning, healthcare, and financial education and planning.
MONEY MANAGEMENT AND HAPPINESS
There’s one more Gallup poll that offers particularly positive results. It found that among Americans worried about paying bills, 63% said they enjoyed saving more than spending.
Saving as much as you can, controlling your expenses, and feeling like you’re in control can reduce your financial stress and help you maintain a positive attitude no matter what life throws your way.
This blog was excerpted from an online article by Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, CFP®, Board Chair and President, Charles Schwab Foundation; Senior Vice President, Schwab Community Services, Charles Schwab & Co., Inc.; Board Chair, Schwab Charitable