There’s no question that physical, emotional, and financial health are intertwined. Financial concerns may trickle into other life domains: it is common to be more stressed, prone to health issues, and less engaged at work. My role as a CPA financial planner is to help families reverse that trend. You can live richly even if you aren’t yet “rich.”
Financial Health and Wellbeing
According to a recent study by Blog Her and Chase Slate, 94% of study participants believe that financial health and well-being are linked. Having a high credit score is key to financial well-being, and Betsy Mikel’s article offers three other tips.
Gallup’s 2016 poll found that 69% of Americans who strongly agreed with the statement “I have enough money to do everything I want” were also healthy eaters. Long-term stress may cause unhealthy habits, such as binge eating. Similarly, this Nasdaq article points to the high correlation between the increasing obesity rate and credit card usage. CDC statistics say that over 70% of Americans are overweight or obese, and the same percentage of Americans have at least one credit card.
Credit cards aren’t intrinsically evil. However, charging the card when you don’t have a plan to pay it off in full is dangerous behavior. This overindulgence could trigger unhealthy eating habits, too.
A Personal Example
Studies and polls only go so far. The story below explains how I learned the correlation between financial, physical, and emotional wellness firsthand.
As many of you know, my family and I recently spent three months in Spain. We had a great time but also encountered plenty of hardships. I didn’t opt for healthy food choices and gained 8 pounds in Spain. I can blame some of that weight gain on lack of options – many restaurants NEVER served entrees with vegetables - but that’s not the only culprit. Several of those restaurants offered salads as entrees; they just wouldn’t give you an option of ordering a “side” salad with your traditional entrée. We also could have eaten in our rentals more often. There was a store exclusively selling fruits and vegetables within two blocks of each apartment.
Although physically active in Spain, walking and using public transit daily, I never really stopped to consider how my eating habits were impacting my financial health. Eating out is expensive, especially for a family of five. In addition to meals out, we frequently purchased ice cream or other sweets while exploring the city.
It's hard to adjust back to our healthy, pre-Spain habits. It is tempting to fill our pantry with snacks and junk food when we should be stocking the refrigerator full of fruits and veggies instead. My husband Bryan now does most of the cooking, and he’s a meat and potatoes kind of guy. So it’s my job to add veggies to each meal.
Carving out time for exercise has also been challenging. In Spain, it was common for me to walk at least a mile each day just to explore the landmarks. In the US, cars are the norm in suburbs, so I must schedule at least 30 minutes of exercise three days a week or more.
Transitioning back to the US is emotionally difficult as well. To make our Spain dream a reality, we went from two incomes down to one. And we were OK with it because of the amazing opportunity but also because we didn’t have to pay any costs for childcare. The private elementary school for our two older sons didn’t charge us while overseas, and our youngest son stopped daycare. In Missouri, we put the kids back into private school and our youngest recently started daycare. Although my husband is searching for a new position, the interview process is long for experienced professionals. The financial stress of having a single income in the US is taking its emotional toll on both of us.
If you’re in a similar financial rut, what actionable steps should you take to improve your overall level of wellness? Here are my suggestions:
1) Let the Serenity Prayer Guide You
“God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.”
It’s so easy to feel like a victim. God has a plan for your life, but He also gives you free will. Certain decisions ARE within your control. After prayerful reflection, choose the path to which God is calling you. And remember, He wants us to be happy! Sinful behaviors like overindulgence turn us away from God. Rely on the serenity prayer to turn toward Him.
2) Form New Habits
Recognizing the bad habit is the first step. Next, know that behavior change is possible. Think about habits that are preventing you from reaching your goals, and take small steps to reverse them. If you struggle with debt, consider the debt snowball method where you pay off your smallest debt first, the next smallest debt after that, and continue with the process. You build momentum with each incremental win.
When you’re feeling more confident about finances, you can easily improve in other areas of life. You’ll free up time and have the energy to reinvest in relationships – whether that’s self-care or relationships with others you love. Spending money on a massage or a date night won’t seem as worrisome.
Improving your physical health will also come naturally. Want to run a 5K or half-marathon? You’ve already exhibited self-discipline with finances. Use that same discipline to create and adhere to a training schedule. If you need to buy gear for a triathlon, you won’t be as concerned with the financial outlay. Rather, focus on the goal (completing the triathlon) and trim other less meaningful expenses in your budget. Just remember to keep this fitness goal fun ... does the paddleboarder in the top picture inspire you like it does me?
One of my clients took steps last year to improve his financial situation, and he’s in the best shape of his life now. He was underinsured and received an unfavorable health rating for life insurance, so the premium was his primary motivator. He overhauled his diet, created a rigorous work-out plan, and lost a significant amount of weight. Talk about power through purpose!
3) Monitor and tweak
Even the best-laid plans need to be monitored. For example, if the debt snowball method isn’t working for you, consider switching to the debt avalanche method whereby you pay the highest interest rate debt first (regardless of the balance).
Or, let’s suppose you have a good cash flow plan but know you should be saving more for retirement. You start by contributing an extra $100 per paycheck to a company-sponsored 401(k) plan. Two months into the change, you realize that you’re pulling money from your family’s emergency fund to pay for daily living expenses. Consider cutting the goal in half and elect $50 per pay period instead.
What Areas of Your Life Need Improvement?
I hope this article inspired you to think creatively about ways to enhance your overall quality of life. Financial wealth translates into physical and emotional health. Although money can’t solve every problem, Dr. Elizabeth Dunn believes money can buy happiness if you spend it wisely.
So, what is your biggest financial struggle right now? Is it …
Communicating more openly with your spouse about money?
Formulating and sticking to a budget?
Building a cash cushion?
Saving for retirement?
Paying for kids’ education expenses?
Determining the right investment mix?
Whatever your financial challenge, I can help. Schedule a complimentary, initial consult or call me at (636) 344-0415 to find out more.
P.S. If you've been following me for a while, you may want to take a peek around the website. I've made some changes and would love your feedback. Comment below, or email me directly at email@example.com.
Deborah L. Meyer, CPA/PFS, CFP®is a fee-only financial planner and investment advisor based in greater St. Louis, Missouri who helps conscientious parents achieve their financial and life goals. As the owner of WorthyNest, Deb empowers faith-filled families nationally to grow, protect, and share wealth. Find Deb discussing family-minded finance on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter.