People these days seem to spend considerable time and money taking care of their health, paying particular attention to choices about diet, organic food, exercise, different kinds of alternative medical care and spiritual self-care. What about the notion of financial self-care?
Recently, I led a discussion group on the topic of financial self-care. Some interesting points came out of the discussion. People seemed, generally, to have a good idea of what they need to do to take care of themselves financially. Statements about the feelings resulting from successful financial self-care were powerful. Consider these comments: “I feel better about myself,” “I feel empowered to make choices,” “I feel more confident in the money choices I make,” “My self worth is not tied to my net worth.” Wouldn’t we all like to have these kinds of feelings in response to our financial lives?
In this article, I invite you to think about financial self-care, what you might consider doing to achieve it and how it may ultimately make you feel.
Here are some of the actions needed to take charge of your financial life:
- Keep track of spending
- Plan for the unexpected (by having an emergency fund)
- Save for the future
In addition, the following steps are important for long-term success:
- planning, investing for retirement
- setting goals (or knowing what you want and need)
- defining what is most important in your life according to your values.
My intuition is that we don’t actually do enough of these things.
If you look at this list and see a lot that needs attention in your financial life, that’s OK. Life is a marathon and you need to start somewhere. One of the comments that came up in our discussion was the fact that taking care of one’s self involves facing fear. We all have our own areas of insecurity or avoidance where money is concerned. We may spend years avoiding our money fears for some unknown or unconscious reasons.
The American Psychological Association’s annual Stress in America surveys consistently rank money as the number one stressor. Long time readers of this newsletter will not be surprised to encounter a recurring theme: the financial planning process is the place in our lives where emotions and values intersect, often on an unconscious level.
By taking a systematic and organized approach to our finances we may reap unexpected benefits. Imagine being in touch with what is really most important to you, such as doing work you love, that allows you to feel good about yourself. Maybe you need to find ways to pursue interests that get you excited and energized. Organizing your life around these key values and making conscious decisions to create a financial environment that supports them is a strong incentive to face your financial fears. Consider the rewards – feelings of empowerment, making better choices and having a greater sense of self-worth.
Returning to the example of health as a primary focus of self-care – if maintaining good health is important, we will make sure to spend money on this goal and not on something else. In making this conscious choice, our values and financial planning align, providing more satisfaction from our money. By extension, the same will hold true for other ways we spend money, if we have followed the guidelines of sound financial self-care.
Take care of yourself! Start small. Notice how taking even small actions toward caring for your finances can make a big difference in how you feel.