by Maia Monell
These days we like to think about our health as “holistic.” It can be daunting trying to navigate what’s best for our own health, let alone our money. So, let’s talk about our financial health.
We’ll look at the critical question regarding finances impacting our overall health. Or was the question how our health impacts our finances? It goes both ways; each impacts the other. Holistic health is all about this great circular, cyclical endeavor to better your mind and body. Our financial health can impact our emotions and our access to resources, which are both significant components of mental and physical health.
So WTF is financial health?
Financial health (or financial wellness) is a term used to describe the mental and physical state of one’s personal financial standing and affairs. It considers things like savings, retirement, debt-spending ratio, etc. Exercising good financial health is a lot like how you would train your body or your mind to maintain good physical or mental health.
Here’s how your financial habits and habits can impact your physical and mental health.
Financial Health Impacts Physical Health
Financial stress is the top stressor for most households. Three in every four Americans are stressed about money at this very moment. Ever find yourself worrying about how much money you do (or don’t) have? How you’ll pay rent next month? How you’ll leave a job for a better (but lower paying) opportunity? Yep, you’re definitely not alone. Just like other stressors (family, relationships, work, etc.), financial stress can have a serious impact on your physical health. It can cause things like:
- Heart disease
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Weight gain/ loss
- Eating disorders
- High Blood Pressure
- Substance Abuse
Poor Financial Health Can Cause Delayed Healthcare
If you’re tight on cash, you’re likely more conscious of unexpected lifestyle costs, like a trip to the doctor. According to a Gallup poll taken in 2018, three in every ten Americans delayed at least one medical trip to avoid costs. While I’m all for penny-pinching where it counts, this does not count! Delaying a doctor’s visit (especially when something is wrong) can lead to much more serious health conditions that can grow more expensive than the initial consultation.
Poor Financial Health Can Impact Mental Health
I hesitate to even make this its own category because as research shows, anxiety and depression (the leading outcomes of chronic stress) are actually incredibly physical. You see, stress is a physiological response to a threat. It’s why we’re so familiar with that term “fight or flight.”
During a stress-induced scenario, your body produces more adrenaline. Your body wants to focus that adrenaline on one of these two areas: to fight or to flee/ flight.
While fighting often feels combative or confrontational, we often seek to avoid that which is not an immediate physical threat (like avoiding our financial stress which feels more abstract) than immediately harmful.
Unhealthy Coping Behavior
And that leads me to this final point on behavioral outcomes of financial stress. While the physical impacts of financial stress may make more sense given what you know about chronic stress, illness and physical health, we often fail to think about the day-to-day behaviors that actually cause those lasting effects. For instance, your chronic stress eating (or not eating) could cause diabetes or malnutrition over the weeks and months you experience that stress. These coping behaviors are what we can control, and our daily holistic health practices are what help us keep calm and carrying on.
Just like practicing good physical health by creating daily exercise routines or behaviors that reinforce overall physical maintenance/improvement, practicing good financial health can easily become a part of your day-to-day routine that helps “fight” off any unwanted stressors.
How can you practice daily financial health? First, know what impacts your overall financial health. Then consider some good ways to ‘manage’ those factors daily, weekly and monthly.
Your net worth is a calculation of how much you own, minus any outstanding debts (liabilities). Do you have a car, home or rental property? Along with your cash on hand, these less-liquid assets contribute to your overall net worth.
How to manage your net worth?
Evaluate this monthly or quarterly. Take stock in what you own and what you owe and do your homework. If you own a home, have property values increased? It might be worth getting an updated appraisal to determine the new valuation of your own home. Do you have money in the markets? While you’re likely not one to day-trade, keep your eye on big industry and federal news that could shake up your shares’ prices.
How much do you save every month? Allocating a certain percentage of your paycheck per month into a savings account is a great way to feel like you’re ‘investing in yourself’ while also putting enough cash aside to pay for things like food and the ever-fleeting toilet paper.
How to manage your savings?
Our friend and financial advisor, Jen Sapel over at Utor Wealth, got me thinking about my savings a little differently. Instead of setting aside a portion of my income every month into my savings account, why not set aside a portion of my income for my monthly expenses and deposit the rest into my savings account?
Sure, it feels like reverse-psychology, but it means that if I make more in one month (bonus, raise, etc.), then I’ll be automatically saving more that month instead of spending more. See what I did there?
Psst: Nav.it’s FDIC insured savings account is the perfect way to set up a savings rate that’s easy, automatic and totally transparent. Stash your cash, and see your monthly expenses and spending all in one spot.
Here’s how to think about your own financial health.
Maybe the least favorite topic, but an important one to consider if you’re applying for a loan or line of credit. The debt-to-income ratio (DTI) divides your monthly debt payments by your gross income.
How to manage debt:
Your debt is deemed manageable if your DTI is less than 30%. Like your net worth, this isn’t something you need to consider weekly. But it is good to calculate every month or so to know where you stand in case you’re in need of an unexpected credit increase or loan.
Need help paying down debt? Check out the Debt Snowball or Avalanche methods.
I don’t think this one gets enough credit as a key stressor in your financial mindset. We often seek to rationalize or justify our current income. This is especially true as new hires or if we’re in a good job and enjoy the work we’re doing. However, it’s always important to keep in mind a strategy for growing wealth overtime. A factor contributing to serious wealth generation is, of course, how much you’re making.
How to manage income:
If you love what you’re doing but haven’t had a raise in over a year, it’s time to pony up and ask for a raise. Inflation aside, if you’re doing good work and have the performance metrics to prove it, this should be a relatively straightforward conversation with your boss. Your income should be minimally growing 3-5% to account for inflation, but also consider your unique circumstances.
Does your job force you to live in an ultra-expensive city? Do you do the job of more than one person? Have you grown your team and are successfully managing other people? All of these should always factor into your salary negotiations and performance reviews.
If you are optimizing your raise-opportunities and still not making a comfortable amount to save more money, consider a side-hustle. Are there other avenues you can explore to make additional income dedicated to your savings or retirement account? Even if you love your underpaying job, you should consider how you can optimize your earning potential to alleviate some unwanted stress!
This financial health indicator regularly induces the most chronic stress. How much you are saving for retirement may seem too immense for day-to-day strategies and behaviors to impact. And…. that’s why it’s a leading cause of stress. The younger you are, the more likely it is that you think about as a “future” concern. But that can also lead you into uncontrollable uncertainty which can actually create severe anxiety now and into the future.
How to manage retirement savings
The factors mentioned above can actually help with this one. Consider how much you’re making versus how much you’re spending now. Then determine the age you want to retire. You don’t have to be a follower of the F.I.R.E (financially independent, retire early) movement to know you might want to do your own thing when you hit your golden years. That might mean income, that might mean sipping pina coladas on an island somewhere. You do you, but make sure you’re set up to do it. One way to evaluate where you are on your path to living that pina-life is by considering how much you have saved at different life-stage benchmarks, based on a multiple of your income (like 100%, 200%, etc.).
For example, some say it’s best to have one year’s salary saved for retirement by the time you’re 30-35 years old. You can also use a retirement calculator. Either option is a suggestion but could give you a first step in considering what you want your retirement account to look like at different ages.
Financial health matters to your overall well-being.
If you’ve stuck with me to the end of this article I hope you’re convinced that financial health should be a significant factor in your overall health mindset and practice. You don’t have to be a day trader, Wall Streeter, or graduate-degree holder to start feeling better about your financial future. You just need to have a strategy you can employ to help keep you focused on your goals. That strategy doesn’t need to consume you. Instead, it should make the process fun, practical and informative.
Nav.it was built to create a practical and positive approach to personal finances. Sure, it’s a bomb account aggregator, but it’s also focused on helping create better behaviors around your saving, spending and earning opportunities. We want to help you actually feel better about your financial outcomes. We think practical, confident feelings lead to positive actions, which result in positive outcomes.
From our Community Groups and Money Mindset quizzes to our savings, debt and wealth Health Checks, we want to be your financial health tracker. Your favorite financial friend. Your daily, weekly and monthly money management tool that helps you feel in control of your money, helping you build more confident money moves.
It’s why I know you’ve totally got this. Because we’ve got you.
Train Your Money Like You Train Your Body