We have a choice daily on how we want to manage our lives. Every day we decide whether we’re willing to go the extra mile in ways that contribute to our financial needs. At times we drown ourselves in our work to chase that paycheck and ignore our own personal health.
We stress out on things that are out of our control, like pay cuts and job loss. It does not help that we are constantly bombarded with our mobile from the first thing we grab when we wake up and the last thing we see before going to bed. Currently, the average person is seeing up to 10,000 advertisements every single day.
It’s just a matter of time before we start fighting back or drive ourselves crazy. How are we supposed to feel in control when we are always bombarded by even living our daily lives? The whole goal is mastering our money control in pursuit of our dream life. We’re not meant to suffer all of our lives in search of happiness.
“Pain is inevitable, suffering is a choice.”
Focusing on Financial Wellness
I’ve realised it’s vital to pursue financial wellness because we must have a purpose behind all the effort we put into earning money. Some people can master their finances completely and even reach financial freedom but maybe extremely unhappy.
The current Covid-19 pandemic has not helped either, genuinely showing just how many people are unhappy in general, often falling into the rabbit hole of depression. It’s easier to understand financial freedom or financial independence, but the concept of “financial wellness” is a whole other story.
This is more of a personal take of looking at how we manage money. We’re not only focusing on the monetary aspect of finances but our emotional health too. I like that it’s not only focusing on the numbers but the dream we had before being buried by the numbers game.
When you think about financial wellness, it’s not typically something you can seek out a doctor for. It’s a whole new term that looks deep into the needs and wants of our soul. It’s taking an entirely new picture of the state of our wellbeing. It’s not only focusing on how much money you need in the bank or investments but also on taking care of your health and making sure you don’t destroy your body and relationship to pursue something as fleeting as money.
Often I feel I’m stuck in a financial trap where I’m bombarded with many boxes I need to tick to get my life “right”. But looking at financial wellness, I’m looking at myself in the mirror and asking what I need to do to feel happier and healthier.
It’s easier just merely to set a target number to reach. Let’s say you wanted to hit RM2 million to secure financial freedom, but in hindsight, you only needed RM1 million. The difference between this and financial wellness is that it brings you back to the present moment, focusing on the now instead of incorporating someone else’s thoughts and ideas into your race, which creates unnecessary fear that may not seem like the best-fit dreams.
This pandemic has taught me to really slow down and reflect. I’ve been in such a deep pursuit of my short-term and long-term dreams that I forgot how much I’ve achieved along the way. The act of chasing has literally made me feel burnt out.
Knowledge is the key to financial wellness.
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has started to recognise the impact of financial stress on people and their work quality. When employees have high financial pressure, they’re more likely to bring that stress to work, which can impact the quality of work and relationships with managers, resulting in a negative effect on the bottom line. Money affects most things that we do, but money is not everything, although the pressure of financial goals can create this illusion.
As I reflect on my childhood and how I was taught to manage my finances, it has always been drilled into me that we need to save as much as we can because we are not rich. There were so many limitations when purchasing something nice, and I didn’t grow up enjoying many luxury holidays or getting expensive gifts.
My grandparents and even my parents are frugal people when it comes to managing their finances. They’ll go the extra mile to save as much as they can of their money. My mother would even go to different stores and compare prices to get the best deal. This limited belief had me thinking that I needed to work extra hard to reach financial freedom, but in fact, it shouldn’t be so hard.
Typically, parents will try to shield children from issues relating to money as much as possible, which was no different when growing up. We never talked about exactly how much we had in the bank or how much we should be spending. My parents had one mantra – save as much as you can.
Thankfully, the abundance and accessibility of knowledge we have now have made it much easier to learn about managing our finances. Through the many psychological training sessions I sat through, I came to realise that it’s possible to have a balanced life without sacrificing mental health.
“1 in 3 Malaysians have mental health issues, with highest prevalence among those aged 16-19 years as well as those from low income families.”- Ministry of Health Malaysia.
This trend is not going down, and I believe it’s steadily increasing with many households affected by the current health crisis.
What can I do when everything feels out of control?
An essential thing that you can practice is breathing. Studies have shown that practising breathing exercises may trigger body relaxation that benefits both physical and mental health. One thing I have learned during this pandemic is the value of our breath. How valuable is something we take for granted daily until it’s taken away?
Focus on what you can control
Understand that you can control your input, but you can’t control the result of it. You can possess the time and effort spent preparing for a job interview, but you can’t control whether you’ll get the job.
You could work diligently on a task, but you can’t control how your boss would react to the end product. Just like any financial decision we make, we can’t control the outcome of it. We can either focus on the financial distress we face or look at it through a positive perspective by assessing our financial capability to turn the current situation around.
Therefore, financial wellness considers various aspects of our well being and our financial goals. It’s not merely focusing on monetary value but also covers all aspects of wellbeing.
This article was originally published on Smart Investor, Malaysia’s leading investment magazine.