According to theAmerican Psychological Association (APA), roughly 72% of all adults report feeling stressed about money. When you think about it, that number isn’t all too surprising. After all, money is easily one of the most complicated, emotionally-charged topics out there.
From what we wear to what transportation we take to the food we eat, money impacts almost every facet of our lives. What’s more, even one small change — be it a pay raise or decrease, a stock market downturn, an unexpected expense, or a bill increase — can create a cascading series of events.
Meet the Experts
Joyce Marter is a licensed psychotherapist and author of "The Financial Mindset Fix."
Dr. Megan Ford is a financial therapist, president of the board of directors for the Financial Therapy Association, and spokesperson for the Stackin' app.
The Power of Financial Self-Care
Today the topic of money feels particularly top-of-mind, especially as we consider an uncertain global economy, “the great resignation,” pandemic fallout, and soaring inflation. While these topics can trigger stress, taking time to practice financial self-care can help minimize money-related anxiety.
“Financial self-care is a form of self-love that involves taking care of your finances as you would for somebody whom you love very much,” says Joyce Marter, licensed psychotherapist and author of The Financial Mindset Fix. “Financial self-care involves taking time out of your day, week, month on a regular basis to take care of yourself financially both in the present and in the future.”
She says to think of it as being your own good parent. Someone who’d want you to have enough healthy food, a safe home, health insurance, savings, be debt free, be able to treat yourself, and have a nice nest egg going into your older years.
As hard as it might be, it’s imperative to prioritize financial self-care since money directly affects virtually every other aspect of your life. “In my 25-year clinical practice, I have seen financial distress lead to depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, job performance problems, relationship conflict, substance use disorders, PTSD, and suicidal thoughts, and feelings,” notes Marter. “Not only is financial self-care a way to be good and kind to yourself, it can be life changing and life saving.”
How to Start Prioritizing Financial Self-Care
Even the smallest steps can lead to big changes both now and well into the future. Here are a handful of ways you can start prioritizing financial-self care starting today.
1. Improve Your Financial Literacy
The reality is that most of us aren’t finance gurus or professionals. And the majority of us don’t really grow up in a setting where even the basics — like investing, interest rates, and strategic saving — are taught. This means it’s up to us to do some digging to educate ourselves.
“In my practice, I’ve seen imbalances in financial literacy between partners cause great imbalance in power and control in relationships. Financial literacy promotes our financial self-confidence, financial empowerment, and financial independence,” notes Marter.
Here are some ways she says you can improve your financial literacy:
- Listen to money podcasts — like Her First 100k and HerMoney — and read financial books, such as The Financial Mindset Fix.
- Take a personal finances course at a local college, community center, or online. You can also reach out to your personal business banker/credit union representative to ask about any seminars, training, or online resources they provide.
- Learn the basics of budgeting, banking, investing, and reading financial statements and reports.
- Educate yourself on interest rates and the pros and cons of various financial products and investment opportunities.
- If you struggle to control your finances, attend a finance-related twelve step program, like debtors anonymous or spenders anonymous.
2. Explore Your Personal Money Values
Practicing financial self-care involves using money in a way that aligns with your values. What is it that brings you the most enjoyment? What fuels your desire to buy certain things? When are you most at peace regarding money? What financial goals do you have for your future self?
“Many of us spend or save thoughtlessly, so reflecting on what your financial beliefs are is key to understanding your behaviors with money and implementing more financial self-care,” notes Dr. Megan Ford, a financial therapist. She adds, “Try money journaling and tracking how purchases are making you feel on a more regular basis. What patterns do you notice?”
3. Embrace Your Worth
Over the years, Marter has recognized a profound trend in regard to financial well-being. When people experience higher levels of self-worth, their financial health improves. “They put themselves out in the world with more confidence, applied for promotions, advocated for themselves, negotiated, and expanded their comfort zones by trying new things that would help them grow,” she says. “They began to save and invest more, and even start their own businesses.”
Starting today, take note of your self-talk and silence your Inner Saboteur — aka that voice in your head that insists you’re not enough. Instead, replace those thoughts with uplifting, positive affirmations and money mantras. Know that you are more than capable of building the financial life you deserve.
4. Pause & Evaluate Spending
If you’re not quite tuned in to your spending, take a pause so you can give yourself space to think, evaluate, and plan.
“About 90% of our financial decision-making is emotion-based. Our feelings, whether we recognize it or not, are in the driver’s seat when it comes to money decisions,” notes Dr. Ford. “Taking a step back provides distance between our emotional state and our financial choices. This is helpful not only to our wallets, but also to our level of insight into what emotional climates influence us financially.”
Before hitting “complete purchase” or running off to Target, slow the spending process down and consider your emotions first. Dr. Ford says, “If this is a struggle, try hacking your instant gratification system by telling yourself that if you still really want it after three, seven, or 30 days you’ll buy the item.”
5. Create a System of Financial Support & Accountability
Sure, money boils down to a numbers game. You need to bring in more money than you spend so you can save and invest for your future. Unfortunately, emotions and psychology tend to get in the way, which can make it tricky to stay on target. The result? We end up self-sabotaging.
“We need others to keep us accountable for our financial self-care on the road to financial health,” says Marter. “Create an unofficial ‘Financial Board of Advisors’ by enlisting the help of three to five individuals who you are going to ask — in the next week — to keep you on track with your financial self-care.”
These people might include a therapist or coach, a financial advisor or planner, a debt consolidator, and/or an accountability partner (a friend or other person who might also be working on improving their financial self-care). Schedule routine check-ins with these individuals on a regular basis.
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