Updated: Aug 3, 2022
“Money is Amazing and Nobody is Happy”
By Rima Zabian
There is a story about two mental health professionals orbiting Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids. They talk a lot about money and say things like “It’s a rich person’s game.” “The poor get the blame, the rich the pleasure.” One of them says, “I’m broke.” The other answers, “We’ve always been broke.” They stare into the blackness and whimper and sob from the stress.
Because you work in the non-profit sector, you probably already know a lot about what it is to have no money. I was a teacher for 15 years, and I am thinking about writing a book of short stories about this. The mental health professionals-in-space is the first story. Worrying about finances is one of the most toxic forms of stress. Everything is in pain. Heartburn, stomach aches, diarrhea, restless sleep, puffy concentration, you get sick more, you’re hungrier but you feel less full, to name a few consequences.
Money problems = mental health problems. Stress! Here is one way to think about financial well-being. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau defines it as:
You can absorb a shock to your finances.
You’re in control of your daily and monthly finances.
You are able to meet the financial goals you have set for yourself.
Your finances allow you to make the choices you want to enjoy your life.
When you read this, do you feel your stress levels rise? Do you have a large amount of debt? No disposable income? No emergency funds? No financial goals? Would you rather orbit asteroids in space and watch the dying embers of stars than read about financial well-being? Physical exercise and nutrition will help manage the stress, but not your money. Think about the families we serve. Can we advise them without knowing what financial well-being feels like ourselves?
Improving your financial well-being is a lot like improving your physical and mental well-being. You set small actions that accumulate into practices and skills that meet your overall financial goal. Be more mindful with your spending. Yes, go to space if you can. No, don’t upgrade your car unless necessary. Remember that mindfulness is a lot like stepping behind a waterfall and watching the water (i.e. your thinking about money).
Keep Detailed Records and Find a Mantra
“My finances are falling like a waterfall” is not a good mantra. A mantra is simply a way to focus your attention. “My finances are rising like a phoenix!” Keeping detailed records helps too. Think of record keeping like a MyFinancialPal. It will show you if you’re backsliding in your actions. You never know when you will need to locate a financial record!
Use Digital Budgeting Tools
Digital tools can make this entire process easier. Mint is supposedly the best for beginners. There are lots to choose from: You Need a Budget, PocketGuard, EveryDollar, Honeydue, Albert, Goodbudget, etc. Do you see a theme in these titles? Digital budgeting tools can get your finances on track without all the pesky adding and subtracting and whimpering as you calculate.
Level Up with Games like the All-Cash Diet
I do not mean that your money is like Monopoly money. It is actually pretty hard to buy properties, construct buildings, pay fines and taxes, and make it past Go in real life. The All-Cash diet means spending only with cash. The inconvenience of carrying around that much hard currency is a way to control spending. I haven’t heard of the All-Coin diet, but you get the idea.
Bite-Size Money Goals
We need small wins. Define what you want to do today, this week, this month, 3 months, 6 months and this year. Turn those goals into projects (or games). How much do you need to save today? This week? Etc. Perhaps you need a side-hustle to meet your goals. Perhaps you need to cut back on Starbucks’ venti seasonal drinks. Learning how to sacrifice is the right kind of pain.
Make a Savings Plan ASAP
There can be a lot of rainy days and you need to stay afloat. Sure, cash should be set aside for emergencies and unexpected expenses. Saving money also ensures a level of freedom and flexibility that you might not have otherwise. Less stress—the name of our well-being game. Fool around with a compound interest calculator for savings account. If that doesn’t get you excited about saving money, nothing probably will.
Retirement Savings and Investment
Financial counselors come in handy for these two topics. A good counselor can reduce your stress by improving your financial literacy. Find one who is experienced, credentialed, aligned with your needs and values, and works with your financial situation. No one can lose significant weight in just a day. The same holds true for finances. Take the long view. Take that view with someone standing next to you.
Savor Your Free Experiences
Paul McCartney is wrong. You can get something for free. Visit museums, old churches, parks, lakes, mountains, etc. I’ve also heard about a full moon rave that is free but I’m a bit scared. Ask yourself, what qualities do I enjoy in my experiences? How do I want to feel? What do I value? Where do these three questions align with one another? Having experiences will lead to more joy and happiness and gratitude than having things. These positive feelings are proven to improve your well-being. It’s all about making small changes. Healthier finances lead to healthier lives. Game on!