Tips for Financial Self-Care
Guli Fager, MPH
If you feel like every time you scroll social media, read the newspaper, or flip through a magazine you see an article on “Self-Care,” it’s not just your imagination: for 2021, Google News counted 42 million results for “self-care”, a huge increase over 2019, when there were just 10 million hits. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the term into popular use, with widespread illness putting self-care on the front burner for many people like never before. Self-care strategies can include pleasant activities like taking a bath, meditating, reading for pleasure, or spending quality time alone, to more drastic actions like quitting a miserable job without another one lined up—Great Resignation, anyone?
Self-care is essential. Self-care is also radical act, particularly for marginalized people. One form of self-care doesn’t get as much attention as the others–financial self-care.
Financial health is a lot like sexual health—incredibly important yet almost never taught in school. I like to define financial self-care by paraphrasing the World Health Organization’s definition of self-care:
Financial self-care is the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote financial health, prevent financial disaster, maintain financial health, and to cope with financial setbacks or emergencies with or without the support of a financial services provider.
In my two decades of experience as a sex educator, I saw countless people who were in anguish because they were afraid, ashamed, or felt guilty about their identity or behavior. The emotions surrounding money and financial decision-making are similar to what many people feel about sex. Those feelings can lead to avoidance, secrecy, and risk-taking. What I know about sex ed –- that preventing negative outcomes isn’t enough to get people to a state of wellness – is also important for financial self-care. Most people can rattle off a list of financial “Don’ts” but are they able to identify what they can do to facilitate financial wellness?
Financial self-care strategies should be tailored in a way that best fits the individual, couple, or family’s, particular situation. Here are some suggestions to try in 2022 that can be useful for anybody, no matter where they are on their journey.
- Set a financial intention for the year. The last two years of pandemic living have forced many of us to unintentionally and dramatically reduce spending in some areas (like meals out, happy hours, and travel). What would you like to do with this extra financial capacity? What will make you feel rewarded for your work and see the impact you want to have in the world? Here are a couple of examples:
- “I want to be more generous.” Set up a recurring donation to a few organizations you care about or increase ones you already make. You probably won’t notice an extra $20 or $30 coming out of your account each month, and regular donations are critical to keeping nonprofits on strong financial footing.
- “I want to honor my body and keep it healthy.” It’s important that some of what you earn pays for activities that sustain you. Deprivation and over-saving can lead to impulse spending to “treat” yourself. Book regular massages, join a gym that has classes that make you happy, or sign up for a meditation class—pick something that will nourish you.
- “I want to reduce my spending.” After using Mint to track my expenses (see #2 below), I realized I spent a lot of money at thrift stores, and often wound up with stuff that I didn’t keep for long. I set a yearly limit on how much I would spend, so I could still have fun playing dress-up but not go overboard and end up re-donating much of what I bought.
- Track your expenses for 3 months. One of the most interesting ways to learn about the role that money plays in our lives is to look at our data! Reviewing your transactions will give you some insight into where you spend and identify any areas where your spending might be out of line with your intentions. It will also remind you of subscriptions you may not want anymore, or bank or other fees that you can avoid. Mint and GoodBudget are free; You Need a Budget (YNAB) offers a free trial.
- Monitor your credit and work to improve your credit score. If you have consumer debt, like credit card balances, pay them down first.
- Save enough cash in an emergency fund to cover 3 months of expenses, plus some savings for the next big expense, like a car or a home improvement.
- Save at least 5-10% into your company’s retirement plan and invest this account in a target retirement fund. If your company offers the option to make “Roth” contributions, this will be a long-term benefit for most people. If you don’t have a plan with your employer, you can open a traditional or Roth IRA yourself.
- If you have kids, check your life insurance! You need a personally owned policy that would pay 10-20 times your annual salary in case of a premature death. An independent insurance provider can help you get the best policy for the least cost.
Not sure how these fit for your situation? Not everybody’s situation is a do-it-yourself project! With financial advice, I hear from many people that they value having a trusted professional “on their team” who they can turn to for help.
Finding an advisor that feels like a good fit can be a real challenge! You are welcome to schedule a conversation with an advisor at our firm by clicking here- https://go.oncehub.com/tolerfg – at no cost and no obligation – or check out our website to see if we might be a good fit. We love working with women and nonbinary folks, professional practice owners and progressive leaders.
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