I often think that the festive season is like a tide that builds and builds, slowly at first, but steadily gathering pace. Then, when it reaches its peak, it rushes out again leaving us all on a new shore, with our eyes fixed on the horizon of the new year ahead.
This fresh perspective is something I look forward to every year. It’s an opportunity for making plans and setting goals to strive for. But it’s also a time for letting go of the things that we don’t need and the baggage we’ve acquired after another year of modern life.
Both of these things are part of the wellness equation – taking on new positives and allowing ourselves to let go of the old negatives. We all have things that we’d like to conquer or control, whether that’s checking unhelpful thought patterns, banishing bad habits, or just shifting the extra pounds that the feasting season has left behind.
It’s commonly accepted that our physical and mental health are closely connected, and that neither are truly possible without the other. It’s also true that when one of the spheres of our lives – work, family, health, financial – is under strain, the others will also suffer.
Postponing decisions should not become a default plan
I find that looking after our financial wellness is something that often gets chronically deprioritised, always making way for the seemingly more urgent demands of everyday life.
And when I say financial wellness, I’m not referring to the financial health of our bank accounts. I’m talking about our approach to our financial affairs and how we choose to engage with the important decisions. If we’re not careful, constantly putting off financial decisions in favour of focusing on other things can become our default financial plan.
Part of the problem is that we tend to overcomplicate, in our heads, what it means to be financially literate or on top of our financial affairs. This becomes an obstacle to engaging with the issue, and so it looms ever larger.
We know that we should open those bank statements, plan our pension, reassess our investments to make sure they’re fit for purpose. But we end up postponing them indefinitely so that they become a source of constant, nagging stress, which is bad for our mental and physical wellbeing.
The sooner we acknowledge that these unaddressed decisions – the source of the anxiety – are not going to go away on their own, the sooner we can start to tackle them and the quicker we can let the stress go.
Here are some tips for making your financial wellness a priority:
Set time aside every month for your finances
Even an hour is better than nothing. You might find that some months you don’t even need as much as that, but it’s the commitment to the routine, making an appointment with your financial self, that is important. Over time, the more you get used to this routine, the less fear-inducing you will find your finances.
Familiarise yourself with your spending patterns
Look at your monthly and yearly expenditure. Set up a spreadsheet to track what comes in and what goes out, or start using a tool that does this for you such as Progeny Client Portal. You might be surprised at what you find – pleasantly or otherwise. Either way, having a clear view of your spending habits is the first step towards taking control. As the saying goes – anything that is measured and watched, improves.
Set financial goals for the short and long term
Everybody tries to behave well in January – often as a necessity to balance December’s excesses! Trying to set and achieve financial goals every month, year and further ahead is how you make sure your actions in the present day are pushing you in the right direction for where you want to end up in future. Looking to retire at 60? Want to give the kids a helping hand up the property ladder? Keen to give up the day job and write that novel? All these are financial goals and are connected to the decisions you make today and every day until you get there.
Face up to debt
This should be first on the list really, but I didn’t want to scare you off. Most of us know that we should clear our bad debts like loans and big credit card bills before thinking about investing or taking on other financial commitments, but sometimes we just need reminding of it. Working out a plan of what you can afford to pay off every month and sticking to it should be a no-brainer for anyone serious about their financial future.
Work with an adviser to bring it all together
You might have the time, tenacity and technical knowledge to define and meet your financial goals all by yourself, but in my experience most of us will need a helping hand, or at the very least will gain additional (and often unexpected!) value, by working with a financial adviser. A great adviser will help you to pull everything together into a coherent plan and – crucially – help you to stick to it. They can work with you to define your financial goals, sort out the tedious paperwork, and help you to better manage your savings and investments. When your life plans change, they are on hand to help you tweak your financial plans accordingly, making sure you and your family are always on course for your financial finish line.
Employing a professional adviser can save you money, time and eradicate your financial anxiety, while delivering the peace of mind that’s good for body and brain.
What’s more, at Progeny we can help ease the burden across other areas of your life. Our unique combination of professional services provides integrated financial and legal solutions for private clients, families and businesses, bringing all your advisers together in one place.
When you’re ready to welcome financial wellness into your life, we’d love to talk.