This post originally appeared for Organic Spa Magazine in September 2019.
Growing up, my ever-pragmatic mother always stressed the importance of financial wellness. By the time we were 13, she had taught my brother and I both how to write a check, how to open a bank account and how to manage our $20-per-month allowance responsibly (as long as we did the laundry, of course!).
Today, I still find myself calling my mom for advice on saving for retirement. But not all parents teach their daughters the same money management skills they teach their sons. A survey conducted by Credit Karma found that women are twice as likely as men to feel discouraged by their finances.
Much like the gender wage gap, women also face a confidence gap when it comes to money. Some women avoid building personal finance skills as adults because they grew up hearing that girls are “shopaholics,” “spenders, not savers” or simply “bad with money.” These money messages then perpetuate the cycle of inequality by discouraging women from building personal wealth. So, if anyone needs the growing financial wellness trend, it’s us women!
Financial Finesse, a company providing financial wellness programs for the workplace, defines financial wellness as “a state of well-being where an individual has achieved minimal financial stress, established a strong financial foundation, and created an ongoing plan to help reach future financial goals.” You don’t need a subscription to the Wall Street Journal -- or even a stellar credit score -- to practice financial wellness. In fact, financial wellness requires many of the same skills as mindfulness meditation: self-awareness, introspection and discipline. And, like mindfulness, you can take part in financial wellness anywhere, at anytime. It simply takes practice!
We’ve all heard the age-old stereotype that “women are more emotional than men.” But who said emotionality had to be a weakness? Our emotions critically impact our decision-making; without awareness of our emotional triggers, we can’t get to the root of what’s causing our toxic financial behavior -- nor can we change the behavior without addressing the underlying problem.
So, what’s the healthier alternative? Pay attention to when you feel happy, sad, guilty or enthusiastic about a purchase -- and note how those emotions affect your spending. For example, if you notice yourself impulse shopping after a stressful day at work, you may simply need to substitute a healthier coping mechanism for your wallet’s sake.
Money expert Jean Chatzky also recommends taking a mindful pause before making an impulse purchase. Forcing yourself to wait a day or two before clicking “Add to Cart” might just shift your perspective on whether you really ‘need’ or ‘want’ that pair of vegan leather boots, after all.
On airplanes, in the event of a crash-landing, we’re told to put on our own oxygen masks before assisting others around us. The same goes for your financial well-being! Pay yourself first by establishing a preset part of your paycheck to set aside for your savings. Better yet, ensure you don’t even see the money before it hits your savings account by setting up direct deposit or using an automated savings app like Acorns.
When it comes to long-term savings goals, be a sustainable investor by participating in “ethical investing,” “environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing” or “socially responsible investing.” Whatever name you choose, ethical investment portfolios support initiatives such as green development and micro-loans to small business owners -- helping you do good while building personal wealth.
The easiest way to partake in ethical investing? Invest your money in ethical mutual funds, which pool your money together with other investors’ to purchase shares of stocks in companies doing good. For example, Ellevest’s Impact Investment Portfolios support sustainable companies working to advance women’s standing in the workplace, while Vestive’s Sustainable Investing supports a reduced carbon footprint, better treatment for workers and more.