“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”
Through conversations with many of the delegates in our workshops recently, we see that financial anxiety is a very real topic of conversation. In October 2022, UK households saw the greatest increase in the cost of consumer goods and services in over 40 years, over 92% of households saw an increase in the cost of living vs earlier in the year, and annual inflation sat at 8.9% in March 2023. Rising costs of living is a very real challenge.
It is the fifth World Wellbeing Week w/c 26 June this year, and the focus is on time to rejoice and the idea of connection. Post experiences over the last few years, many are now happy to reconnect with friends and family, invest in-person time with work colleagues and start to travel again. But of course, to do all of these things, you need to be able to fund them.
There is also pressure over the summer months to have the most amazing Instagram-worthy and life-changing experiences, which, if left unchecked, can impact our mental well-being. Summer weather can also wear down our bodies physically, as extended periods of heat can cause sleeplessness, lethargy, lack of appetite and dehydration. We may also see cortisol hormone levels rise with the heat, triggering anxiety symptoms. In fact, a study by the American Physiological Society found that people are more likely to have higher levels of
stress hormones in the summer than in winter. That’s why taking a proactive approach is
important to maintain your mental well-being this summer.
Taking all of these factors into consideration, in our blog this month, we wanted to explore the topic of financial anxiety, understand what it is, and share some tips to achieve financial well-being.
What is financial anxiety?
So let's start by defining what we mean by financial anxiety, essentially, it is when you are worried about your income. It is a perfectly normal response to feel stressed if you are made redundant, lose your job or struggling with debt. This does not necessarily mean you have depression or an anxiety disorder.
But financial anxiety does not necessarily mean that you have no income either, you could have a decent income but still fret about your mortgage, credit card bills or increasing costs. Or perhaps you can pay for things comfortably now but worry about having enough for the future eg: retirement. Here are a few signs that financial anxiety may be a more serious concern:
Physical symptoms: Perhaps you are experiencing aches, pains, headaches, or an upset stomach triggered when you review your finances.
Avoidance. Your bills may remain on the counter for weeks because you cannot bring yourself to go through them.
No work/life balance. You may feel that you are unable to go out or that you need to work all hours to stay afloat.
Planning. You might plan your budget down to every penny and get upset when you have to make changes.
Maybe you cannot stop thinking about your finances.
Trouble sleeping. You might lie awake at night wondering what you might do with an unexpected expense or retirement.
Tips for financial wellbeing
Our resident financial well-being advisor, Jane Johnson, shares some of the basics around maintaining financial well-being. Financial well-being is important because financial worries or difficulties often go hand in hand with poor mental health, stress and anxiety. People with extreme financial anxiety have a higher propensity to engage in unhealthy behaviours to manage that stress, often affecting their physical well-being.
We must discuss our finances with others we trust to help us resolve our challenges. Financial wellness will help to boost your overall well-being, improve health, relationships, productivity and engagement. So what can we do to keep on track:
1. Track your spending. Create a spreadsheet detailing ALL of your outgoings. This can help you see where you are spending, what is being wasted and where you can make changes.
2. Spend from a different bank account. One of the simplest budgeting techniques is to have two bank accounts. One where you get paid and a second where you pay a set amount each month to cover your bills. You will then know what you have left for day-to-day, non-essential spending, helping you to control your finances.
3. Save. One of the most important things you can have in place is an emergency fund. This can help you weather difficult times or pay for any unplanned expenditure. We usually recommend a minimum of 3 x your monthly expenditure (ideally 6).
4. Have a financial health check. Sit down with a financial adviser to go through your goals and objectives for now and the future so you can agree on a plan to work towards. If you are ill - more often than not, you will see a doctor, If you are moving house - you use a solicitor. And getting expert advice for your money should be no different. We use experts to help us with important decisions - it’s their job to have the knowledge we don’t. Most advisers will offer a free financial review.
We can all sometimes feel stressed and anxious about our finances, especially given the experiences over the last few years. But by seeking help when you need it and taking proactive steps to manage any worries is important. If you are concerned some of your teams might be experiencing financial anxiety, we offer several different workshops around this topic; please get in touch to see how we can help.
Here is a list of resources if you wish to see professional support:
MoneyHelpers free budget planner: https://www.moneyhelper.org.uk/en/everydaymoney/budgeting/budget-planner
Money Saving Expert: https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/family/cost-of-living-survival-kit/
Citizens Advice: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/debt-and-money/get-help-with-the-cost-of-living/
National Debt line: https://www.nationaldebtline.org
Turn2U benefits calculator: https://benefits-calculator.turn2us.org.uk