Today is Stress Down Day, to raise funds for Lifeline. As part of their promotion of Stress Down Day Lifeline conducted a Newspoll to discover what was stressing Australians.
The Newspoll found that two thirds of Australians are stressed about money, second only to being stressed about work. Does that include you?
The Lifeline poll reminded me of research published last year by Relationships Australia, which found that financial stress was the second largest contributor to relationship breakdown, affecting 35 percent of relationships.
This may be a stretch, but if we can work together to reduce our financial stress we may be able to lower the divorce rate and bring more joy into everyone’s lives.
Causes of financial stress
I started writing a list of what has caused financial stress among people I’ve met. Most of the causes fell into two broad categories:
- Not enough money (to do, buy or retain)
- Doing it for the money
In this article I’ll share some tips for reducing your stress caused by “not enough money”. Later, I’ll write about “doing it for the money”, but if you’re keen to learn how to earn money doing what you love then please call me now.
Stress about not enough money
Our stress seems to rise when we don’t have enough money for something that is really important to us. For example:
- To join our close friends on a big interstate or overseas holiday (maybe to celebrate a milestone birthday)
- To buy a bigger house when our family has well and truly outgrown the current shoebox
- To keep our car and house when we lose our job and fall behind in the mortgage repayments
Our stress doesn’t appear to rise when we decide we can’t afford the $2 chocolate bar or $15 movie ticket. I believe that is because those things aren’t really that important to most of us.
Financially related decisions can also stress us, and I believe they fall into this broad category. Our stress level is affected by the materiality of the loss or by the consequence of a wrong decision. If we get the decision wrong it may mean we won’t be able to upgrade our shoebox house when we want to, so then we stress about the decision.
Save for the Significant. Minimise the Insignificant
To reduce your financial stress plan to have enough money for those things that are most important to you. This is a personal thing and is based on your values.
Once you have plans to be able to afford the most important things in your life you can spend the rest of your money on whatever you want, guilt free.
You need to move your thinking from “next pay” to “next year” and then onto “next decade”.
I believe it is through spending too much on daily insignificant things that we end up not having enough for the significant things. This is often because the significant experiences and achievements are lumpy and irregular, so they can sneak up on us.
Bring far away important things into focus
Here’s an exercise that you can do.
Get a blank piece of paper and place it in landscape orientation. Across the middle from left to right draw a thick line. The left represents now; the right represents your passing, say at age 100.
Divide this line representing the remainder of your life into bite size chunks. The length of each chunk is not fixed, just make it meaningful to you. You may like symmetry and therefore make each chunk an even five years. Or each chunk could be of different length representing different life stages you have in mind.
Next fill the rest of the page with all of those achievements and experiences that are really important for you in each of those meaningful chunks of life. For example:
- Career transitions you’d like to make
- Places you’d like to see in the world
- Experiences you’d like to have with your family
- Time out of the workforce to study, reflect or travel
- Contributions you’d like to make to your community and world
For inspiration on what is really important reflect on your personal values.
Now implement plans
Implement a clear plan to manage your money so that you achieve and experience what is really important to you. Then you can happily spend the remainder on whatever insignificant pleasures you want, guilt free.
This is how you can achieve what I call financial fulfilment. And this exercise is part of the process that I call Fulfilment Financial Planning. To learn more call me on 1300 669 101. I take clients from all around Australia and would love to hear from you.