10 Tips to Improve Financial Wellbeing
Written: 29 April 2022
Author: Kirsty O'Hara
10 min read
As we move through life, it’s not uncommon for our comfort levels around money to shift. Covid aside, there will always be patches we feel a little more apprehensive when we may choose to reassess or review our personal financial goals. The purpose of this blog is not to give advice, but to offer guidance and share some ways to think about money – which may foster confidence towards how we boost about our wealth and financial attitudes.
There could be a time when we stretch to buy our first home, and our KiwiSaver gets drained. There could be times we temporarily drop to one income, as the pitter patter of little feet makes our lives richer in other ways. There may be unexpected circumstances where we are financially impacted by an unexpected redundancy. There could be times we want to help our children achieve academic or sporting goals, or times we may want to help our adult children pay for qualifications or their first home. Some people nearing retirement, despite a lifetime of hard work and good money habits, may still feel uncertainty around their savings and the effect inflation is having.
If you think it’s just you that is feeling concerned, let us reassure you it’s not. The latest economic insights available through the Financial Services Council’s (FSC) Money & You April 2022 report, raised the alarming concern that large sectors of New Zealanders feel worried about money. The Commission for Financial Capability (CFFC) also ran a study which identified that financial literacy dropped in 2021 across four of five areas indexed.
The FSC Money & You study summarised that in the 18-39 year old demographic 79% admitted to feeling worried about house prices; 68% were concerned about wage stagnation; 67% were worried about interest rates; and 81% were worried about inflation. While demographics aged 40-59 and 60+ weren’t quite as high, they still illustrated that concerns stretch across all age demographics on these four key economic drivers. Industry commentators observed that it’s not uncommon for people to worry about these items. However, they noted that historically it’s uncommon for people to feel worried about all four of these issues at once.
To back up this data, studies conducted by the Commission for Financial Capability (CFFC) in 2021, highlighted similar statistics, showing that more than 1 in 5 New Zealanders believe their financial situation is largely outside of their control. The average overall perceived financial wellbeing of women was identified as being lower than men with 49% of women ranking poorly for financial resilience and identified as having a more anxious relationship with money. This brings us to the fact that in many ways, money is just that – a relationship. A money mindset relationship. In the modern world money lives very much ‘on paper,’ yet for many people it can be one of the biggest triggers that keeps them awake at night.
In the wellbeing sector, Naturopath and Newstalk ZB wellbeing expert Erin O’Hara talks openly about how the common clinic triggers for stress generally centralise around three key themes: work, family and financial stress.
Erin’s biggest clinic questions revolve around ‘how anxious people feel during the day?’ and ‘if they are sleeping well at night?’ Erin talks about the importance of giving people a chance to reframe their thinking and highlights the importance of seeking the correct support through local councillors and mental health experts if required. She notes that seeking help early and ‘looking to identify areas where micro changes can be made’ is key to helping clients make incremental improvements to increase wellbeing.
If nothing else, the above observations highlight a need to encourage New Zealanders to feel confident, informed and inspired around their wealth creation strategies. With this in mind, we share with you 10 tips to reduce money worries and boost financial wellbeing:
TIP 1: MAKE A MONEY MAP
The Commission for Financial Capability (CFFC) suggest documenting your own personal financial situation may help you to take stock, set some goals and improve your situation for ‘future you’.
For many people it can be helpful to take a look at their financial situation on paper (this will be as relevant for someone in their twenties as someone in their seventies). You can do this through the form of a notepad, an excel spreadsheet, or through meeting with a financial planner. If you’re in a relationship, get your partner on board too. List all of your assets, savings, debts, regular repayments, and budget your cashflow both for incomings and outgoings (see tip 3 below for budgeting ideas). Seeing your financial situation noted down is recommended by the CFFC to help reduce anxiety. It can take uncertainty out of your head, and into a more tangible format.
TIP 2: PLAN FOR ‘FUTURE YOU’
‘Future You’ is a concept we consider all the time here at Flint. ‘Future You’ is hard to plan for, because it means that ‘Present You’ is sharing some of your immediate disposable income, and effectively gifting it forward to better provide for yourself in years to come. It can be a concept that is challenging to adopt, especially if it requires demonstrating purchasing willpower in the present.
According to the Financial Service’s Council’s (FSC) 2022 Financial Resilience Index 57.4% of New Zealanders feel concerned about retirement planning. Some money anxiety that people face, is linked to a feeling that they have not started planning for retirement. We all want to know, ‘when I’m no longer working, will I be ok?’ While we can’t answer this question in the concrete crystal ball gazing way that you might like, we can point you to some great tools to help calculate the amount you may need to save to enjoy the lifestyle you prefer in retirement.
We recently put the Sorted planning calculator through its paces. You might like to check it out for yourself by clicking here.
TIP 3: ALLOCATE YOUR INCOME
Now that you’ve established how much you may want to save for retirement, you can think about allocating your income. It’s all about effectively taking from ‘Today’s You’ to give to ‘Future You’. When it comes to tightening up on spending, websites like Sorted offer excellent budgeting tools.
In recent years zero dollar budgets have also gained traction, with the popularity of apps like PocketSmith. If you don’t trust yourself to follow a new budget you have set, then considering an app such as Pocketsmith may help to hold yourself accountable. It works much the way that Xero does, it automatically pulling through your bank statement feeds so you can code your transactions and see in a tidy snapshot if you are following the budgeting goals that you have set. To reduce spending, some people prefer methods such as having pre-determined ‘no spend days’, where they only allocate a couple of days a week when they allow themselves to make discretional purchases.
Another way to achieve a similar result is to have an accountability partner. This can be a friend, partner, or a family member. Having someone to keep you accountable towards any savings or investing goals might help you to stay on track.
TIP 4: CONQUER BAD DEBT & AVOID COMPARISONS
Once you have reassessed your saving capacity, you may find you have some immediate goals you choose to address – such as paying down debt. It is easy to understand why some people may seek to pay off any high-interest debts first before they consider investing.
On the flip side don’t beat yourself up if you are still paying down ‘good debt’ like a mortgage on your home. The FSC identified that 2 out of 3 people feel worried about house prices and interest rates. If you are one of them, it can be worth remembering that, when considered over a long time horizon, this ‘good debt’ relating to your home will provide you with shelter and your home may also potentially grow in value.
For many people not yet in the housing market, this particular trend we have just mentioned is a large source of financial worry and we regularly hear of people navigating between FOMO (fear of missing out) and the property mindset around FOOP (fear of overpaying). If you find yourself in this camp, please remember you’re not alone and not to compare yourself to others. It’s important to acknowledge that our parents, and some older friends and colleagues, purchased homes in a very different economic climate.
TIP 5: ACCEPT CHANGE IS A GIVEN WHEN INVESTING
Accepting that markets go up and down is a good way to reduce anxiety around loss aversion. Some people even like to consider a dip in the market like a retail-sale but for investments - in other words, some people may see it as an opportunity! If you go into any investment knowing that investments might not track upwards 100% of the time, then you may reduce your potential for anxiety by allowing permission for investments to move in in both directions, while hoping for an upward trend over the long run.
Other ways to psychologically buffer yourself from market volatility is to do plenty of due diligence around any investment you are considering; form a strategy that includes some diversification; and ensure that you can stay in your investments for the recommended time horizon associated with the risk profile stated on the investment Product Disclosure Statements. The Flint research, insights, and Product Disclosure Statements (PDS) are a great starting point for due diligence if you are wanting to consider investing in managed funds.
TIP 6 : KNOW YOUR RISK TOLERANCE
Before considering any investment, it’s good to know your personal risk profile. Sorted’s Kickstarter investor profiling tool can be used to better understand your personal risk tolerance. In a nutshell, this risk profiler can point you towards where you sit on the risk spectrum. The results it generates will be very much based on your age and stage, upcoming goals, current assets, and other factors. Once you’ve completed the profiling, it will give you an idea of the ‘type’ of investor you are, and the areas you might like to consider focusing your investments.
If you want to check out the calculator you can try it by clicking here.
TIP 7: KNOW YOUR VALUES
Thinking for a moment about guilt when investing, we sometimes see investors wanting to invest to make money AND wanting to invest to support the planet. In the early days of ethical investing, this was hard to achieve. However there has been so much groundswell in recent years. There are increasingly more offerings available that support Environmental Social Governance (ESG) methodologies, Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) and Impact Investing.
To help reduce the fear of being greenwashed, Flint is proud to be the first investment platform in New Zealand to display the Responsible Investing Association of Australia (RIAA) certification against certified funds on Flint.
Recent findings from the From Values to Riches 2022 study, showed that people felt more motivated to invest in funds with an independent certification, such as RIAA; and that people feel more motivated to save money and invest, when they know that their money can do good and create positive outcomes in the world.
TIP 8: FEEL GRATEFUL
At the risk of sounding woo-woo, Positive Psychologists have demonstrated that practicing gratitude can reduce anxiety. Gratitude can be as simple as thinking how grateful you are when making a payment. Acknowledging, in a positive framing, that you are in a position to make a payment can build healthy feelings around your money habits. You might also think about the person receiving these funds – and find comfort knowing your transaction might make a difference in their life; and potentially reduce collective money anxiety (if they feel grateful for your payment).
The CFFC comments that parents may like to remain mindful of financial conversations in front of children. They acknowledge how the early interactions children overhear may potentially create future financial attitudes in children. While we all acknowledge the Covid pandemic has challenged people, it has also been the perfect time to model resilience for our children in navigating uncertain times.
TIP 9: REALISE GOALPOSTS MOVE
Please remember that whatever goals you set, the goalposts can move. It’s not uncommon for people to think that ‘when I have a house I’ll feel happy,’ but once they get the house, to then think ‘when I have a beach house I’ll be happy!” This pattern of achieving one goal, and immediately setting another is not uncommon. We need to acknowledge that goalposts do move. We’d encourage you to give yourself permission to set big goals, but also feel proud of yourself when you make small incremental steps towards your goals.
TIP #10: GIVE SOME OF IT AWAY
This one may seem counter-intuitive, but humans in general enjoy a warm fuzzy feeling when they do something kind for others. Even if you can only give $10 to a charity or a Give A Little page, the act of doing so can give you a good feeling. It can help you feel that you were in a position to contribute. These feelings and actions, while small, may help to create a mindset that you are good with money and able to do-good with money.
Many people have a mindset block and can feel guilty if they have significant financial aspirations. However, Twitter founder Biz Stone points out that the opposite can be true. Biz is of the mindset that having money amplifies the type of person you are. If you were an arrogant, selfish person before having money, having money might amplify this. And if you are a kind-hearted person then having more money now or in the future may amplify your kind-heartedness. In setting financial goals for yourself, you also may be in a position to set financial goals that support society in large – and that is something to be admired.
We realise that anxiety around money and finances is a very real thing – thanks for investing your time in this article and important conversation. As a team, Flint feels lucky to be able to empower generations of financially confident people. We want to move the needle on financial literacy in New Zealand and financial wellbeing. If one of the above tips inspires you, or someone you love, to learn, share or be curious about ways to reduce money worries, for us that’s a win!
IMPORTANT NOTICE AND DISCLAIMER:
All content shared is of a general nature, current to the time it was penned, and is not financial advice. Before making any investment decisions, please be sure you have completed full due diligence. This should include reading the product disclosure statement (PDS), considering fees and taxation, identifying your time horizons, and understanding the performance history and reputation of the investments you are considering.
Please note: When investing you are not guaranteed to make money (and on occasion you may lose some or all of the money you began with). Seek independent advice to establish if an investment is suitable for your financial situation and long-term wealth generation goals.
FSC : Money & You Study 2022 ; FSC : Financial Resiliance Index 2022 ; CFFC : Triggering Financial Behaviour Change ; Retirement.govt.nz | Financial Stress Impacts Wellbeing ; From Values to Riches - Responsible Investing ; Planning for Retirement - NZ Govt ; Newstalk ZB Wellbeing Series ; Erin O'Hara Naturopath ; Radio NZ | Mary Holm ; It's No Secret Podcast ; Pocketsmith Budget Tips ; Designing Positive Psychology ; Berkeley on Gratitude ; PositivePsychology.com ; Things a Little Bird Told Me - Biz Stone