Finances and discussions regarding money are weaved into every aspect of our lives. This includes saving allowance money as a kid, getting your first job, paying for college, buying a house, having children, retirement, and estate planning; the list is endless. Financial implications reach across the lifespan. In fact, “Finances” gets its own section in the 8 dimensions of wellness used by social workers as a tool to explore with their clients what pieces of their lives need care and attention. The 8 dimensions of wellness are:
- Occupational (or work related), and
- Social (see graphic below).
Experts believe that financial literacy and financial well-being are so closely connected to our collective health that we should intentionally cultivate a positive relationship with our money and overall financial identity.
Finances and the topics surrounding money can be scary which can cause people to go to great lengths to avoid. Just the other week, while I was at the dentist and discussing my career with my hygienist, she shuddered at the thought of having to talk about finances and plan for retirement. She said, “it is something I hate talking about; I hate talking about money, budgets, retirement, and all of the above.” She continued to tell me that her husband has tried for several years to get her involved with their financial matters but she just “wants him to handle it all.” I wanted to know why she felt so many negative emotions surrounding the financial aspect of her life. Even though she couldn’t point to an exact reason why, she explained how it made her feel stressed out and very uncomfortable. Even with someone as close to her as her husband, she absolutely avoided financial discussions. It made me think about just how emotional finances and money can be, and how we can all make our relationships with finances better.
Start by taking small steps and set SMART goals. When attempting to improve your relationship with money make sure you set goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time bound (SMART). A common habit for people with negative financial thoughts is to avoid regularly checking their bank account or other financial accounts. You can easily break this habit by setting a goal, that for the next month you will check your accounts at least once a week. This could include 401(k) accounts or simply your checking and savings accounts. Setting goals will help you realize your financial potential and can offer guidance for your journey.
Practice financial mindfulness. Be mindful of your thoughts and emotions when you are doing something that normally makes you feel uncomfortable. This could be talking about finances with your partner, paying bills, preparing for a meeting with your financial planner or even online shopping. Anxiety, fear, anger, and guilt are just a few emotions that are often tied to how we feel when we deal with finances. Deciding to develop positive thoughts and feelings (instead of falling in the negative emotions trap) when dealing with your money can lead to a happier and healthier life overall. Next time you are working with your finances eliminate distractions so you can focus on how you are feeling in the moment. Take one task at a time and focus on staying calm and stress-free. Take deep breaths and be intentional about your thoughts and feelings. Eventually, you will be able to associate positive feelings with financial planning.
Talk with people you trust and build your team. I can guarantee you that if you talk with your close friends you will find that they most likely share the same negative feelings about money management and financial planning that you experience. Sharing thoughts with people you trust can be comforting and will help you realize that you are not alone. Seeking professional help is also beneficial for those who struggle with financial planning. Talking with a financial planner will help you feel confident that you are handling your finances properly and effectively preparing for life changes, including retirement.
Educate yourself because as the old saying goes, knowledge is power. People find themselves feeling uncomfortable when it comes to finances because they lack knowledge and confidence. There are endless resources for people who want to educate themselves on different wealth management topics. When you educate yourself and embrace financial planning you will feel more confident and less stressed when it comes to managing your wealth and finances. Utilize your financial planner to tap into resources and learn as much as you can about finances and financial planning.
Money and finances are an integral part of life. Instead of running from your fears, jump feet first into them! Embrace your fears and turn them into opportunity. Transforming your financial emotions into positive ones will change your life for the better. You can reduce stress, achieve your goals and plan for a happy retirement.