Does your pulse quicken a bit when you pay a bill? Financial stress could be doing lasting damage to your body and mind. Ohio State’s chief wellness officer has tips for getting finances under control and giving your health a boost in the process.
Feeling stressed about your financial situation? You’re not alone. Almost three in four Americans surveyed in a recent American Psychological Association study said they worry about bills, emergencies, taking care of aging parents, children’s college tuition and paying for retirement. This widespread financial stress has prompted many businesses and organizations to offer financial wellness training to their members and employees. The Ohio State University was one of the first universities to include financial wellness in its wellness initiatives for students, faculty and staff.
Financial stress can affect you physically and emotionally. Chronic stress can lead to increased risk for ulcers, migraines, high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, depression and anxiety. Financial stress also can affect your psychological and emotional wellbeing, distracting you at work and complicating personal relationships. And it may lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms like binge drinking, smoking and overeating. Clearly, your mind and body can’t afford financial stress.
You can take control. When you analyze, plan well and take control of your spending, you can make significant changes in how you spend, save and feel.
Set aside time to evaluate your finances.
Make a series of financial dates with yourself (and your spouse or partner) to plan for how and on what you will spend your finances. Once you’ve got a plan in place, schedule monthly checkups to stay on track.
Analyze money in, money out.
Identify how much money you have coming in each month. Then identify your fixed expenses, such as car payments, mortgage, student loans and utility bills, and your variable expenses, such as money spent on food, clothing, vacations, emergencies and health. Variable expenses may present opportunities to cut back or save, and fixed expenses can sometimes be renegotiated. Three months’ worth of credit card and bank statements should give you a clear picture of income and expenses.
Decide where you want your money to go each month and draw up a budget you can live by. Online resources like Quicken, YNAB and Moneydance can help. See The New York Times’ columnist Ron Lieber’s “31 Steps to a Financial Tuneup” for a checklist of money-savvy actions.
Money you invest earns you more money, and money you borrow costs you money. As financial analyst Trent Hamm of The Simple Dollar explains, three $4 coffee lattes a week for 40 years cost a total of $24, 960. But invest that $12 a week in a fund earning five percent interest and in 40 years you’ll have $79,772!
Protect yourself from big loss.
Reduce worry about financial emergencies by saving a cushion of at least six months’ pay.
A certified financial planner can help you evaluate your current situation and show you ways to pay off debt and invest in your future. Fee-based CFPs charge a one-time fee rather than taking a percentage of your investments’ earnings, and you’re likely to find the fee small compared to the benefits you’ll reap from good financial planning.
Find healthy outlets for your stress that cost nothing.
Getting 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week and taking care of yourself can reduce your overall stress, which will help you to think more clearly and get a better handle on your finances. Counting just a couple of things that you are thankful for every day gives you a sense of optimism and can help to reduce your stress.
About the author
BERNADETTE MAZUREK MELNYK
Bernadette Mazurek Melnyk is the university’s chief wellness officer, vice president for health promotion and College of Nursing dean.