Financial Wellbeing | 3 min read

World Mental Health Day 2020 - Money and Mental Health: How much is enough?

As the Co-Founder of a financial wellbeing business, a professional coach and somebody who loves to write you’d think I’d be really excited about writing a blog to celebrate World Mental Health Day.  But I’m going to let you in on a little secret… I’ve been dreading it and here’s why:

I’m so fed-up of reading articles on how to improve your financial wellbeing! - write down everything you spend:

  • check your monthly subscriptions (yes, we do need Netflix), 
  • drink less coffee, 
  • and do not make eye contact with smashed avocado at brunch time! 
  • etc. etc. 

It’s all good advice but we all know it. 

It’s like losing weight – eat less, exercise more.  Simple.  But it’s not, is it? It’s not easy to lose weight nor is it easy to spend less and save more. Trying and failing to do something that sounds simple is damaging to our mental health; we get worn down, lose confidence and feel stressed.  Buying a coffee or going out for brunch are the things that support my happiness…...so I’ll be damned if the savings gurus of the world are going to tell me I shouldn’t be doing it. 

So, I’m not going to give you any tips or advice on saving money, instead I’m going to give you something to reflect on and see if you can find your own answer to what I believe is the most important question when it comes to money and mental health – ‘How much is enough?’ 

It’s often quoted that “money can’t buy happiness”; to which you might find yourself thinking… “yeah sure but I’d like to find out for myself!”.  But if we look to years of research in this area it’s been shown time and time again that above a ‘certain level’ of income there is no increase in day to day happiness or overall life satisfaction. 

The key phrase here is a ‘certain level’ and for most people, we’re not yet at that ‘certain level’ of wealth that makes us financially secure and able to live life in a way that we find fulfilling. 

And the key word we need to insert here is YOU… ‘to make YOU feel financially secure and to live life in a way that YOU find fulfilling’ – this isn’t about keeping up with others or competing. We so often look externally to set our goals by aspiring to celebrity lifestyles, flicking through social media and chatting to friends. So, when it comes to money goals many people have generic or unrealistic goals, e.g. ‘have/get/earn more money’ or ‘be a multi-millionaire’.

Two of the basic rules of successful goal setting are to be specific and realistic -most people’s money goals are neither! If we don’t know what we’re aiming for, it’s like being in a race with no destination.  Exhausting. Stressful. Anxiety-inducing.

So it’s time to take control and set yourself a healthy and helpful money goal. Here’s a little thought experiment I’ve adapted from writer Brad Stollery1 to help you think about how much is enough for you? 

Be still.  Be quiet. Give yourself time to really think about the following: 

***

Suppose you're one of five people who have been selected by a mysterious philanthropist to participate in a contest. The five of you all have similar financial situations. You're all the same age, equally healthy, have the same number of children, and you all live moderately low-risk lifestyles. Privately, and one by one the philanthropist approaches each of you and asks you: 

“How much money would you have to be paid, right here and now, to never receive another pound of income (from any source) for the rest of your life?”

The catch is that whoever among the five players says the lowest amount will be paid that sum of money. The other four players will get nothing.

What do you say? 

***

In our busy lives we often don’t take the time to reflect and think about what really matters to us. This thought experiment forces you to cut away the natural impulse to aim ever upward because if you do that, you'll bid too high and get nothing. It might also have helped you bring into sharp focus what really matters to you. 

Ultimately this activity isn’t about the number you come up with (because, sadly, I don’t think this mystery philanthropist exists)  - it’s about taking the time to reflect on what’s really important to you, what makes you happy, setting yourself sensible goals, and not constantly aiming for unrealistic or unnecessary goals that will stress you out.   

With this in mind, maybe these reflections can help you break from the pressurised norm.

Who knows, you might come to realise you’ve been rich and healthy all along...

--

1. https://medium.com/age-of-awareness/how-much-money-is-enough-dbbd79d328f4

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Financial Wellbeing

Lucy at StepLadder

Lucy is Co-Founder and COO of StepLadder. She is passionate about health and fitness, and being a PANK (Professional Auntie No Kids!). She is a trained executive coach and loves cheerleading people towards their goals!

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