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WELLNESS

Money Matters: Financial Wellness Explained

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• Financial wellness is a holistic approach to our relationship with money.
• Financial therapist Amanda Clayman shares three tips on how to take care of our financial wellbeing.

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When we talk about wellness, money probably doesn’t often come to mind. But as studies continue to point to financial insecurity as the main stressor for Hongkongers, the link between money and mental health is clear. In fact, financial wellness has been a growing trend internationally, especially after it was identified as a key focus by the Global Wellness Summit 2021.

Beyond the Numbers

“Financial wellness is a holistic approach to the decisions, behaviours and goals that comprise our financial lives,” says Amanda Clayman, a financial therapist with over 16 years of experience and founder of the Financial Wellness Program for US-based charity, The Actors Fund.

It’s more than having financial knowledge. We all know having a budget is important, but just like how we sometimes fail to follow a healthy routine, our psychological needs, when not addressed properly, can lead to poor financial choices. “When I was younger, money made me anxious,” she shares. “So I didn’t like to look at my checking account before making a purchase. Eventually my finances became unmanageable, I felt even more anxious and ashamed. I realised those struggles came from emotional reasons.”

In a way, money can show us where we need to heal and grow because it’s so integrated in our lives. “Understanding financial wellness allows you to develop a meaningful relationship with money,” she says. So, how can we turn money into a tool for empowerment? Here are three tips from Clayman.

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1. Write down your family money story

What’s your first memory of money? Were there any significant financial experiences in your childhood? What were some of the things you remember people saying about money? “Children are naturally attuned to their caregivers’ emotions, and money is often a source of anxiety, power and control, competition, or secrecy,” says Clayman. For instance, if we have a domineering parental figure, we may subconsciously avoid pursuing our full potential as we don’t want our financial achievement to be seen as threatening. “When we write out our family money story, we reflect on our initial understanding of what money is and how it works,” she explains.

2. Translate your financial values into concrete terms

Whether it’s security, freedom or thrift, consider what purpose you want money to serve in your life. Then, put these values into concrete terms, such as “I will save X dollars per year”. “Sometimes, certain financial values may become rigid ways to manage our emotions,” says Clayman. “For example, a client may say her financial value is stability, but really she is using the idea of savings to control her anxiety. She may end up fighting with her husband about never allowing for any comforts that he thinks they could easily afford.” With a concrete plan, we can negotiate for more harmony in our relationship and “ensure we aren’t avoiding an emotional issue masquerading as a money problem”.

3. Be inquisitive about your financial behaviour

“All financial behaviour has meaning,” says Clayman. Perhaps you overspend because you feel you “deserve it” for working in a job you hate; or it may be a self-worth issue that prevents you from allocating money to meet your needs. “Take a month to track what you earn and spend without changing anything on purpose,” she advises. “This will give you a more realistic baseline to look for adjustments – say, bringing meals out down by 50 per cent instead of telling yourself that you’re wasting money on restaurants.”

The Bottom Line
There’s no denying that money plays an important role in our lives, but it’s up to us to treat it as a stressor or a meaningful tool. As Clayman says, “Money opens the door and gets our attention. And solving our initial money problem is just the beginning of developing a growth-focused, positive relationship with money.”

Now that you have your financial wellbeing in check, see if you have any of these everyday habits that are secretly harming your health.
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