Money is the No.1 cause of stress on Americans according to Northwestern Mutual’s 2018 Planning and Progress study. At 44%, money was said to be more stressful than relationships (25%) and work (18%).
How did finances reach the top of the list?
Money infiltrates every aspect of our lives. It supports our lifestyle, fuels our social engagements, and sustains our livelihood. We find it present in our marriages, partnerships, jobs, and recreations. In fact, money is the benchmark for our society.
The world puts a lot of pressure on money and on our ability to manage it. As pressure builds and capital dwindles, desolation is right around the corner. This cycle often leads us to develop an unhealthy relationship with money. How can we change the narrative and start a new chapter in our financial journey?
Back To The Beginning
The introduction to a story is the most crucial part. It sets the scenes, establishes characters, and situates the reader in the narrative. Though important, introductions are one of the most skipped or skimmed sections of a book. Why?
They often do not have any action and are expositional in nature, but if you skip it you may miss crucial details that inform the plot later on. Don’t skip the introduction to your relationship with money.
How does it start?
Perhaps your parents were not avid savers and did not teach you the value of saving. Maybe you grew up in an environment where money was never an issue so you always assumed there would be enough. You may have been exposed to financial troubles, leaving you acutely aware of your finances. Think through the beginning of your story. The introduction to your relationship with money has laid the groundwork for your current relationship with it.
Be honest with yourself here. Knowing your background with money will be able to better inform your future with it. The way we view wealth is a testament to our ability to live a fulfilling life.
Assess Spending Habits
Now that memory lane isn’t so far in the past, it is time to critically examine your current financial situation. Are you where you want to be? What areas of your finances need some TLC?
The first thing to do is look at your spending habits. Think through the questions below to figure out where problems might be emerging.
-What do you spend your money on?
-Are you living within your means?
-Does your spending have a value or intention behind it?
-How does your spending make you feel?
Spending is one crucial area that everyone can improve upon.
Our society depends on the exchanging of money, but it is important to know how and why we spend. The questions above are difficult and will force you to be honest with yourself about your finances. But if answered genuinely, these questions will show you areas where you can improve and will provide a clear path forward.
Spending Before and During Retirement
It is also important to note that spending habits change depending on the state of life you are in. Pre-retirement spending should look different than post-retirement spending due to the many changes that occur.
Your cash flow will significantly change once you retire, and you need to be prepared for that shift. Developing healthy spending habits before you retire is a great way to ensure that you do not spend too much of your savings early on in retirement.
This is why making a retirement budget is so important. But your retirement budget will not be realistic if you don’t have a solid foundation in your relationship with your finances.
Conclusion: Set New Goals
After assessing your current relationship with your finances and the areas you wish to improve, set new financial goals. Make these goals attainable and positive in order to give you momentum to keep going.
It may be necessary to talk with a financial advisor to help you set those goals and give you a new path to embark on. Don’t be afraid to reach out to an expert. We are here to help you in your financial journey.
Relationships take time to build and time to fix. Give yourself the resources to rebuild your relationship with money. With honesty, time, attention, and care you will be able to see a huge change in the health of your finances, building a relationship that lasts a lifetime.
Mark Fonville, CFP®
Mark has over 18 years of experience helping individuals and families invest and plan for retirement. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and President of Covenant Wealth Advisors.