Dimensions of Financial Wellness

Financial wellness is an important aspect in any persons life. Here’s why it’s being recognised as more than just rands and cents, now more than ever.

This article was co-authored by Mary J Fourie, Ondela Mlandu and Gugulethu Mfuphi for Modern Wellness Magazine South African Spring Edition published in August 2021.

THE INTERSECTION BETWEEN MONEY AND MENTAL HEALTH

Money is something that we are in a relationship with. For many, especially during the current economic climate, financial problems are stressful and can often arise unexpectedly, causing mental health issues. These mental health issues can then have a huge effect on how people behave with their money, potentially creating a vicious cycle. Financial planners now see the value in upskilling themselves to be better at working with the psychological aspect of money and not just the numbers.

Lifestyle financial planner and facilitator, Mary J Fourie is a certified coach and a member of the International Coaching Federation. She believes that bringing a coached approach to her client’s financial planning practice is of great benefit. Fourie helps her clients navigate the choices they
face around the intersection of their mental, emotional, spiritual, physical and financial well-being.

FINANCIAL WELLNESS EXPLAINED…

Financial wellness means that one has the financial, mental and emotional resources to empower themselves with choices when faced with any financial challenge or opportunity. “I am known to say to my clients that financial wellness is not about the money, it’s about the choices you have that are enabled by money and the choices you make that impact your money. What contributes to financial wellness is knowing the truth of your current financial reality, having a vision for the future that feels inspiring and, finally, knowing what manageable steps to take that will help move you towards that future,” says Fourie.

IMPROVING YOUR FINANCES DURING A PANDEMIC

The fundamentals of money mastery are simple. Fourie summarises them in what she calls “the seven steps to money mastery”:

  1. Create a spending plan;
  2. Choose a debt management strategy;
  3. Create your wealth;
  4. Protect your wealth;
  5. Create support and accountability structures;
  6. Take action and make better choices;
  7. Reflect on the journey, review your progress and renew your commitment to yourself.

“In practice, the first step is to take stock of where you’re at right now – and this requires radical honesty about every rand and cent that flows in and out of your life. With this knowledge, it’s then important to think about why you want money – what is important to you in life – and what you want money to do for you,” says Fourie.

She says you’ve got to go back to your stocktake and ask yourself whether the story the data tells you about how you earn and spend your money is in alignment with why you want money, what is important to you and what you want money to do for you. Fourie says you can then consider what alternative choices you have with regards to creating and protecting wealth and managing debt and make decisions that will result in you changing the direction your current actions are taking you, so that you get closer to where you want to go.

UNCOVER BELIEFS AROUND MONEY

A starting point can be to think back to what you heard adults say about money when you were a child. Did they have phrases or sayings that they would repeat over and over? For example,  “Money doesn’t grow on trees” or “Rich people are mean.” If you can remember what the grown-ups around you said about money, you can start to see what money beliefs you have taken on because children are influenced by what they hear around them. 

Another exercise is to think about experiences you had as a child watching your parents manage money. Were there occasions where they were stressed about money? Did they spend money easily? Was there lots of money? Did they struggle? Did they fight about money? Were you allowed to talk about money? Did you ever go without food? Did one parent control all the money and the other parent get in trouble for spending money? “Reflecting on your observations of how your parents related to money will also reveal money beliefs that you might have taken on, without even realising it,” says Fourie.

What contributes to financial wellness is knowing the truth of your financial reality.

IS FINANCIAL WELLNESS ABOUT WEALTH?

There are many sayings about the definition of wealth. Some will say that health is wealth. Others will say that wealth is a sum of the important people in your life. “I believe it’s healthy and important
not to make money and wealth the core focus of your life, otherwise you will never feel content or fulfilled,” says Fourie. She believes that happiness and feeling satisfied with your life comes from living a life of meaning and purpose. It is therefore important to build up monetary wealth that allows you to have the choices, opportunities and experiences you want in your life with those you love.

FOUR FINANCIAL MYTHS BUSTED

1. It’s only having a lot of money or earning a lot of money that makes you financially well.
“Financial wellness is mostly about how you spend your money, not how much money you have. You can have less money accumulated than someone else and be more financially well than them because you have enough to cover your spending, and they don’t because their spending is higher,” says Fourie.
 
2. You can’t create financial wellness in one generation (i.e. you need to inherit money to be financially well). 

“This isn’t true. If you control your spending and have a strategy for how to build the wealth you seek, it is entirely possible to create financial wellness in your lifetime,” she says.

3. It’s about minimalism or living a “bare essentials” life. 
 “This might be true for some because that’s what they aspire towards, however, it doesn’t have to be true for you. But you will face trade-off’s around what you need to do and how long it will take you to reach your goals, if your aspirations are to live an extravagant or luxurious life,” says Fourie.
 
4. Someone’s financial wellness can be judged externally by others. 
Often, those who have the flashiest cars and biggest houses don’t own them. “Those with true wealth and financial well-being are often not flashy people and have created their state of wellness by not spending money on looking rich, but have rather chosen to spend their money on what really matters to them, and that’s often what you can’t see when looking at a person,” she says.
 

THE IMPORTANCE OF FINANCIAL WELLNESS…

Conversation strategist, financial journalist and broadcaster, Gugulethu Mfuphi says financial wellness does not mean that one is a billionaire with piles of dollars sitting in a suitcase in their basement, but rather the peace of mind and presence of mind to know that you are working on and have developed a cohesive financial plan to manage the responsibilities in your life and cover any unexpected events that may occur. “It is always advisable to seek professional guidance to make sure that your money is allocated to the right places and able to work for you. Always ensure you speak to a certified financial planner to guide you through your needs,” she says.

GUGU’S TOP FIVE TIPS TO ENSURE YOU ACHIEVE FINANCIAL WELLNESS…

1. Credit Check
This is important as it is the passport to accessing financial assistance when needed. “It is imperative for one to have a clear understanding of their credit score rating as this is used by banks and all leading financial services institutions to evaluate if you are able to access credit for small and large purchases, like a house, car, personal loan, business loan or credit card,” says Mfuphi. The lower the score, the less likely it is that banks will lend to you. Given that most of life’s major purchases require one to have large sums of money, which is practically impossible to save up for, a good credit score and being able to borrow is important. Mfuphi says that by taking care of current debt commitments, paying regularly, on time and not taking on too much credit, consumers will be able to build a healthy credit record. This makes it easier for banks to want to lend to them as they have a track record of being favourable payers.
 
2. Pay Yourself First
“You deserve it after all the work you do! In order to make your efforts to save a lot easier and more effective, it has often been recommended for consumers to pay themselves first by automating
their savings transactions. Instead of waiting till the end of the month and after you have used most of your money, rather have a set percentage of funds that you are able to put away after earning your income,” says Mfuphi. Consider how much you are able to save and put it into a savings account or product that you can use to access it when required. These savings can be allotted to what your specific needs are.
 
3. Emergency Savings
If Covid-19 has taught us anything, it is that pandemics can have far-reaching effects – not only on our health, but the economy and our financial well-being too. With many South Africans having gone through job losses and salary cuts in the last year, emergency savings have become even more important than before. For those who are fortunate enough to leave a job with a retrenchment package or severance pay, there are others who leave with nothing but last month’s salary. “Given that, on average, it takes a retrenched worker at least six months to find a new job, consumers are encouraged to make sure that they have emergency savings that can cover a gap of this timeframe and even longer to make sure that they are able to meet their financial obligations. Even if you never get retrenched, emergency savings can assist with making sure that you can cover any unforeseen financial expenses that may arise – like a burst geyser, a flat tyre or the hospital or funeral expenses of a loved one,” she says. Make sure to use an account that can give you quick access to your funds, should you need them.
 
4. Tax-Free Savings Account
As the name suggests, the savings in this kind of account are free from tax! You pay no tax on any of the interest or dividends gained from this kind of saving. “There are rules that apply to the use of this kind of savings product though. A lifetime limit of R500 000 or R36 000 per tax year and the account can only be used by natural persons and not businesses,” she says. 
 
5 Don’t Stick Your Head In The Sand
Sometimes it’s easier to play dumb, stick your head in the sand and ignore any bad financial habits you might have. “When it comes to your money, ignorance is not bliss. It is not only important to know where your money comes from (once earned, gained or inherited), it’s also important to know where it goes,” says Mfuphi. This is where budgeting becomes important, but no need to worry about pulling out an Excel spreadsheet or doing some sums on the back of a used piece of paper. Various banks and financial institutions make it easy to track your spending habits as they have digital tools and apps available to help. By monitoring these trends, it will make it easier to acknowledge your weaknesses, correct them and continue to build on the good spending habits you have.
 

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