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Ask the Experts – Financial Wellbeing

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In our latest ‘Ask the Experts’ article we explore the concept of financial wellbeing, particularly as it relates to our mental health. As a strong and active advocate around this subject, Tribeca advisor Daniel Testa shares his insights including why we all need to continue removing the stigma of talking openly about our financial and overall wellbeing.

You’re a strong advocate for talking about and supporting our wellbeing – both financial and mental. Why is this so important to you and Tribeca?

Like many people, I’ve faced some mental health challenges which made me reshape and reframe how I look and approach different aspects of my life. Once you go through it, and you actually get the help and guidance around those challenges to make some really good decisions to get your life back on track – whether it’s to do with money or mental health – you see how important it is to talk openly about it.

Tribeca has always got this. It’s why I’m now part of the Tribe.

Often people worry about money more than their own health. They’re so intrinsically linked as the relationship you have with money – good or bad – has a large bearing on your emotional responses. So understanding how you relate to money (are you a saver or a spender for example) and adapting your thinking and approach to find a balance that suits your personality, habits, needs and goals is incredibly healthy for your overall state-of-mind.

There’s nothing better than seeing people achieve a sense of security and freedom through enhancing their financial wellbeing. That’s what drives us at Tribeca.

Click here for the 2017 report: Exploring financial wellbeing in the Australian context.

So how do you help people understand and enhance their financial wellbeing?

It starts with having open and honest conversations. We know talking about money is not something that comes easily to most, especially if you’re in a difficult financial position. But it’s really the only way that we can truly understand an individual’s or couple’s motivation behind areas such as spending and saving habits or appetite for risk; so that we can shape a plan that has meaning and impact.

It gets back to asking lot of questions. The key one is: do you feel like you have a good relationship with money? In other words, is your financial wellbeing at a healthy level? If it is, great, let’s explore why and look for ways to make this relationship work even better to achieve your goals. It isn’t or you’re not sure? That’s OK, as there’s plenty of resources we can use to map out where money sits in your life to help put in place strategies to create more balance and structure.

One of those key tools is our financial wellbeing matrix, which allows people to rate their relationship with money in terms of their sense of security and freedom for the now and future. Do you have a nest egg? Do you have a buffer to get through short-term financial pain from unexpected costs? Do you have the right insurances in place? Can you spend money on what you want, rather than what you need in the short-term? Where do you want to get to with your financial future? Are you going to be able to retire when you want to?

When we’ve got those numbers on where people rate themselves, we can dig a bit deeper into the reasons behind these answers. And work out ways to move a five to a six today, and then a six to a seven in 12 months time, and maybe a seven to an eight or nine in the next few years. The timing will take care of itself. It’s the willingness and openness from the person to make the change that’s important.

Understanding the why behind it all and how someone feels about it is really powerful for us.

Want to learn more about our Wellbeing Matrix and other resources such as our Wheel of Life tool? Click here.

Are there common characteristics for someone who comes to you with a low sense of financial wellbeing?

It’s going to be different for every single person as no two stories are alike. For many, their upbringing will dictate how they approach money. For some, it could be a specific moment or moments that have altered their sense of financial wellbeing, be it from good fortune or tragedy.

We see all extremes. There’s the person who is living from pay check to pay check who has a really weak sense of security day-to-day, and they certainly don’t have a feeling of freedom because there’s no extra money. So what tweaks can we make to give them a greater feeling of being in charge of their money. Tools such as our Tribeca Tracker can help them create certainty and structure around their budgeting and cash flow.

But then I’ve had conversations with people who earn absolutely fabulous incomes, but don’t feel like they’re on track to do anything. They’re happy accumulating money, but they don’t have a strong sense of security in their future because they don’t know where they’re going. And that leads to anxiety and stress. Here, it could be helping establish some long-term goals like investments, where they don’t need to worry about managing their money but know it’s working hard for them in the background to open up more opportunities.

And then there’s people who sit in between, who have comfortable incomes but still live pay check to pay check as they can’t help living up to or beyond their means. They love spending, but know that if they can curb this they will end up with better financial outcomes which is actually one of their goals. How can we help them help themselves? Is it putting in a spending cap? Do we reduce their credit card limit or cancel the card altogether? Do we catch up once a month initially to hold them to account with their spending?

This coaching aspect of helping people along the journey to financial wellbeing is where we can add the greatest value.

Not using our Tribeca Tracker? Learn more here.

Earlier we touched on the link between financial and mental wellbeing. Can you expand on this further?

I read a great article recently by BeyondBlue where Laura Higgins, Head of moneysmart.gov.au, explained how financial wellbeing and mental health are intrinsically linked.

“Being in an unhelpful financial situation can have a negative impact on our mental health. Conversely, if we’re struggling with our mental health, sometimes our finance management falls by the wayside,” she said. “So being conscious of how financial health and mental wellbeing are connected, openly acknowledging that, and seeking help early on if you’re facing financial difficulties is really important.”

It’s such an important message to put your hand up when you’re struggling, and to break down the taboo of speaking openly about our financial and mental wellbeing. Especially in the workplace where people are worried about the ramifications – personally and professionally. But not talking is far worse than staying silent as it can compromise our work life; home and social life; and overall mental and physical health.

At Tribeca, we’re really strong in educating businesses about the importance of creating an environment where employees feel supported and respected for speaking up. And when they do, are offered the help they need. We created our Workplace Financial Wellbeing Program for that very reason.

The biggest gap to bridge is making people understand that they are not alone. We can do this by opening up dialogue and generating positive conversations and actions around our financial wellbeing. To this point, Laura from moneysmart.gov.au offered up some great tips in her article:

  • Acknowledge the link between financial wellbeing and mental health and think about how this affects you personally.
  • Get in control of your finances by setting time aside for money matters – try and get into the habit of doing this regularly.
  • Don’t delay – the earlier you get on track with your finances the better.
  • If you need a helping hand, ask someone close to you who will offer help without judgment.
  • Make a plan and take a step-by-step approach, acknowledging each task ticked off your to-do list as an achievement.
  • If you have any niggling concerns related to your finances, don’t hesitate to seek professional help.

As life events change, so will the level of your financial wellbeing. It’s going to have its ups and downs. What we can help control is giving you the support, guidance and tools to respond to this change – and most importantly – the confidence and peace of mind that comes from knowing that we’re on this journey with you.

You can read the BeyondBlue article from Laura Higgins here.

If you would like to discuss any aspect of your financial situation we’re always ready to chat. Please talk to your advisor or arrange an appointment with one of our Tribeca Tribe here.

There are many organisations you can talk to regarding your mental health:

Lifeline                        13 11 14                      lifeline.org.au

Beyond Blue               1300 22 46 36             beyondblue.org.au

1800RESPECT           1800 737 732              1800respect.org.au

Would you like to read more from our experts? You can by clicking on the following links for our Ask the Expert articles on cashflow coaching, career transition, superannuation, lending and the recession.

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