What stresses you out? If you’re like nearly two-thirds of Americans, issues surrounding money are right up there near the top of the list, according to the American Psychological Association’s “Stress in America” survey. Money ranked alongside work and politics as the thing that’s creating the most anxiety these days among our fellow citizens.
A New Way of Thinking
The cure to financial anxiety – “money stress” – is not simply more money. Instead, it’s to adopt a whole new way of thinking about, budgeting, spending and saving money, referred to as “financial wellness,” and described in this article that appeared recently in Forbes magazine. We’ll explain more in a moment, but first it’s worth pausing to consider the huge cost of all the stress and anxiety many of us bear on a daily basis, especially in the area of our money. “Financial stress and anxiety remains a prevalent issue with far reaching implications,” says Forbes author Scott Spann. “The side effects of poor financial health include stress-related illness, decreased work productivity, absenteeism, marital discord, depression and anxiety.” Those with high levels of unmanaged stress caused by debt are more likely to deal with heart problems, and they experience more relationship issues and substance abuse. In other words, Spann goes on to say, “no matter how you interpret the Stress in America survey, personal financial wellness and the future of the country are indeed intertwined.”
Spann describes what Forbes calls the “five myths about Financial Wellness.” We should say at the outset that the philosophy behind this article truly reflects our own here at AgingOptions. As Rajiv Nagaich puts it, “Forbes is really speaking our language. What they’re describing concerning financial wellness is right in line with our LifePlanning principles. Sometimes,” Rajiv adds, “I feel like we at AgingOptions are so far ahead of the pack when it comes to conventional thinking about financial health and retirement planning!” Read on and see if you don’t agree.
Not Just a Slogan
The first of Spann’s five myths is that Financial Wellness is nothing more than a feel-good buzzword – a trendy marketing gimmick, in other words. But this is completely untrue. “Financial wellness,” he writes, “is more than retirement preparedness, credit repair or debt management.” The ultimate mission is “to change lives.” Spann says authentic financial wellness is measured by a combination of factors including our overall sense of financial satisfaction; our actual financial behaviors such as budgeting, saving, and debt reduction; our attitudes toward and knowledge about finances; and our objective financial status (i.e. income, savings and debt load). “The mission to improve financial wellness in America is to help create financially healthy people who are able to weather any economic or political challenges,” says Spann in Forbes. “Financial stress is real and the financial wellness movement is working to counter the negative effects of stress.” He adds that roughly 84 percent of medium to large companies now offer financial wellness programs for employees, which shows that corporate America is getting on board the bandwagon.
Knowledge, Money Don’t Foster Wellness
Myth number two, says Spann, is that All we need is more financial knowledge. “Financial education alone will not change financial lives,” Spann counters. “Financial education opportunities have been around for decades but we still have poor financial behaviors in the U.S.” The goal of financial education has to be action. “The underlying goal is to achieve a positive sense of well-being backed up by actual financial behaviors that help us instead of create stress,” says Spann. Confidence grows when we put knowledge into practice.
Myth number three says All we need is more money. This may be a common belief, but it’s false. “Financial wellness is not a sole function of your income level or overall net worth,” Spann writes. “Perhaps the underlying issue is finding a way to better utilize current resources while seeking a balance between living in the moment and planning for the future.” We say a hearty “Amen!” to that.
Who Needs a Budget?
Myth number four says, As long as you can pay your bills, you don’t need a spending plan. A Gallup survey said that only one American household in three has a budget, which may explain the sad financial state of so many when it comes to savings and debt. But even if you are fiscally solvent, a budget is a valuable tool, says Spann. “Personal spending plans create awareness of whether or not your spending is in alignment with important life goals,” he says. By identifying ways to free up extra money for saving, investing, or paying down debt, you will gain motivation and a greater sense of financial peace of mind.
Finally, here’s myth number five: All financial wellness programs are unbiased. If you’ve listened to our AgingOptions radio broadcasts at all, you’ll recognize this one. “As financial wellness programs have grown across America, product-focused financial services companies have also latched on to this concept,” Spann writes. “Some firms are selling financial products and services under the guise of financial wellness programs. It is important for all industry providers to protect the term,” ideally using an established set of standards to protect the customer. Our caution remains, if you’re working with a financial adviser, make sure you know how he or she is getting paid. You may be getting poor advice while your adviser reaps fat commissions.
It appears there is such a thing as financial wellness, but what about “retirement wellness”? Actually, in a very real sense that’s what we at AgingOptions offer our clients. We treat retirement in a holistic way, combining the critical aspects of solid retirement planning – finances, housing, medical coverage, legal protection and family communications – into one comprehensive plan which we call a LifePlan. With your LifePlan in place, you’ll have the blueprint you need to build the retirement you’ve dreamed of, one that is fruitful and secure. Best of all, you’ll realize your hopes of protecting your assets, avoiding burdening those you love, and escaping the unhappy trap of being forced against your will into institutional care.
Why not take a simple next step and learn more at an AgingOptions LifePlanning Seminar? Join Rajiv Nagaich at one of these highly popular free events. Thousands of people just like you have discovered the power of LifePlanning in this easy and entertaining way. Click here for our Live Events page and select the seminar that’s best for you; then register online to reserve your place. Come learn more about “retirement wellness” at an AgingOptions LifePlanning Seminar near you.
(originally reported at www.forbes.com)
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