Exercise for 30 minutes a day. Eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Get 8 hours of sleep a night. We’re all familiar with guidelines to sustain our physical wellbeing. But, what about our mental wellbeing? Some of the guidelines for our physical wellbeing also contribute to our mental wellbeing e.g. physical activity has been shown to alleviate the symptoms of depression. We’re also told that spending time with people can increase our mental wellbeing. For mental wellbeing, I feel as though there is a missing guideline: money management.
Money is an unavoidable resource. We earn it. We spend it. We save it. We’re all affected by money whether we acknowledge it or not. However, unlike discussing exercise with our friends, Western countries still treat talking about money as taboo. It doesn’t matter how much schools teach our children about managing their money, if we can’t talk openly about it with others. How do we expect people to make better decisions and take action when we don’t normalise personal finance management?
Money as a Taboo
I was born in Japan but grew up in the UK. As a half Japanese, half English child, my mother taught me about Japanese culture and my father taught me about English culture. My father had spent most of his time after the age of 16 living outside of the UK and spent 16 years living in Japan, so I never really inherited the Western culture of money being a taboo subject. My parents lived in Osaka, where my mother also grew up. There was a phrase I was taught to say to Japanese friends of the family in the Kansai dialect: Maido morkili maka? It’s colloquial but roughly translates to: How much do you earn? They always laughed in response and the conversation moved on. If I’d said the same thing in English to family friends, I would likely have been scolded and in the best scenario heard an awkward laugh. I knew not to say this to English people because talking about money was taboo.
Growing up in a bicultural household, I can understand both stances on discussing money. The Japanese feel as though there’s no reason to be coy about money whereas the English feel as though any discussion of money is an interrogation. What are the cons of discussing money?
- Perception of wealth. We spend a lot of time curating our appearance to others so revealing our true net worth (especially if it’s a negative number i.e. we’re in debt) ruins the perception that we’re wealthy.
- Perception of success. Whilst we all try to say that money isn’t everything, many of us still see money as a symbol of our achievements. When we have a lot of it, we may feel as though we’re boasting or we may alienate those who have less. When don’t have much of it, we feel as though we don’t want to tell our friends for fear of being seen as a failure.
In my experience, talking about money has more pros than cons including:
- A fair salary. By being open with your colleagues about your salary, you may discover that you’re being underpaid for your responsibilities. You’ll have better information for your next salary negotiation.
- Connect with others. When someone reveals that they’re struggling to make ends meet, it encourages their friends to either admit the same (making it a shared problem) or their friends can be supportive and sympathetic when their friends say they can’t afford to join for dinner and drinks.
- Destroy myths. Social media distorts our lives because we only see the highlights reel. Finding out that someone has a large debt on their beautiful, palatial house, can make you realize that some may have more than you, but that they also owe more money than you. You accept that the choices you’ve made are right for you.
Why Money Management is Key to Self-Care
Having average financial capability, a financially capable person is someone who has the skills, knowledge and confidence to make informed decisions about their finances, decreases the likelihood of suffering anxiety or depression by 15 per cent. In the UK, the main cause of stress for 18.5 million people is managing day-to-day finances. Like exercise and healthy eating, we need to make time for money management.
Building Money Management Habits
Do you think you don’t have time to work through your finances? Here are some classic barriers when it comes to physical exercise: time, effort, money (if you want to pay for a gym), and work out clothes. Essentially, you need to make time in your schedule for physical exercise.
To work on your finances, you also need time and your attention. If you think you don’t have time, consider the following: according to MediaKix, we spend just under 2 hours per day on social media. If you used just 25% of that time to review your personal finances, over a week you’d have spent over 3 hours. In that time, you could have identified areas of spending that don’t add value to your life, you could have switched your debt to a 0% interest arrangement, and you could have cancelled your unused gym membership. By doing all of these you could have found a way to save an extra $100 a month, but more importantly, you’ll feel a stronger sense of mental wellbeing. If 3 hours a week feels challenging, pick an amount of time that feels easy e.g. 30 minutes every weekend.
How have you built money management into your schedule?
About the Author
Maureen McGuinness is a personal finance enthusiast, blogger, personal finance mentor and DIY-investor. She’s on a mission to get everyone to be on top of their personal finances and feel good about doing so. Our relationship with money doesn’t need to be one of stress and worry. Asking the right questions, she’s helped her mentees feel more in control of their money, get out of debt and build savings.