Individual Americans spend hundreds of dollars a year and at least as many hours on keeping themselves physically fit — but too many people neglect their financial health. Just like physical health, being financially fit is crucial to your well-being, your future and your quality of life.
Here’s why being financially fit is so important and how you can overcome common barriers to achieving financial wellness.
Financial wellness: a ripple effect
Being financially fit is about more than just having enough money in your account to cover your expenses and put away something for tomorrow. Managing money responsibly will affect many aspects of your life:
- Marriage. According to a recent study by AARP, financial problems are the second leading cause for divorce in the country. Money brings resentment and arguments into a marriage. In a study reviewing over 740 instances of marital conflict between 100 couples, money was found to be the most common topic couples argued about.
- Mental health. Money stress can severely affect your mental health, causing depression, restlessness, anxiety and more.
- Physical health. Stressing over finances can also directly impact your physical health, leading to recurring symptoms like headaches, fatigue, upset stomach, insomnia, high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Work life. Being bogged down by money worries can make it difficult to focus while at work, which can bring down productivity levels and hamper career growth. In addition, prospective employers tend to review the financial wellness of new hires as part of their background checks; high rates of debt and a poor credit score can cost an employee a new job.
- Parenting. Managing money irresponsibly can mean not having sufficient funds to pay for a child’s education, private lessons, medical needs and more.
What are the leading causes of money stress?
- High-interest debt
- Insufficient savings
- Medical bills
- Living paycheck to paycheck
- Lack of retirement planning
Stressing over money is never fun. Stressing over money, when any of the above applies to you, takes on its own form of angst by adding a level of long-term anxiety. It takes time, sometimes years, to undo the damage of any of these stressors — but it can be done!
Barriers to financial wellness and how to overcome them
We’re convinced: being financially fit is super-important. But what happens now? Why are 80% of Americans in debt? Why do only 39% of Americans have enough saved up to get them through a $1,000 emergency?
Unfortunately, while many people may understand that financial fitness is crucial to their wellbeing, there are several barriers that make it difficult to follow through on their convictions.
First, many lack the basic financial knowledge necessary to responsibly manage their money. Second, many people mistakenly believe that budgeting, saving and being more mindful of how they manage their money are too time-consuming and tedious. Finally, some people may have fallen so deeply into debt, they’ve begun believing they will never be capable of ever pulling themselves out.
Here are some simple steps you can take today to help you achieve and maintain financial wellness:
- Get educated. There is no shortage of financial literacy available to the interested consumer, from financial literacy blogs to personal finance books, podcasts, online classes and so much more. Learning how money works, the power of a long-term investment and how much you’re really paying each time you swipe that high-interest credit card can help you make better choices.
- Have the money talk with your partner. Whether you’ve only been sharing expenses for half a year or you’ve been married more than a decade, it’s important to be on the same financial page as your partner. Talk openly and honestly, being careful not to be judgmental in any way, and discuss your individual and shared long-term and short-term money goals. Then come up with a plan for how you intend to reach them together.
- Pay all bills on time. If you can’t take aggressive steps toward paying down debt just yet, be sure to make the minimum payment on each credit card bill each month.
- Create a budget. Giving every dollar a destination makes it easier to spend mindfully and cut down on extraneous expenses.
- Start saving. There’s no such thing as a sum of money that’s too small to put into savings. Every dollar counts, and once you get the ball rolling, you’ll be motivated to pack on the savings until they really grow.
You give your abs a great workout each day — now it’s time to get those money muscles into shape! Follow the tips outlined above to stay financially fit at all times
Your Turn: What are your best tips for maintaining financial wellness? Tell us about it in the comments.