How financial wellbeing fits into our hierarchy of needs

Maslow hierarchy, basic needs, affordability

Table of Contents

Whether we like it or not, money is a fundamental part of our society. So why wouldn’t increasing our financial wellness be considered a top priority?

Although you might not have heard of Maslow, most of us are aware of his concept on the hierarchy of needs. His widely accepted theory states that our needs can be placed into a hierarchy (represented by a pyramid). The lower a need is positioned in the pyramid, the more important it is to our general wellbeing.

Maslow first published his theory on the hierarchy of needs back in 1943. Back then, the price of bread was around four cents and the concept of financial wellness didn’t exist. Obviously, a lot has changed since then. So why hasn’t this hierarchy changed along with it?

Many organisations use Maslow’s framework to identify what is important to employees in the hopes of finding solutions to poor workplace performance and stress. Rather than use this current model, we need to take a look at how society has evolved, and come up with a better hierarchy that accurately reflects who we are today. The key to this? Financial wellbeing.

Maslow's pyramid

In the hierarchy, basic needs are seen as the most important, as they have the greatest and most immediate effect on our overall wellbeing and survival. These must be met before other needs higher up in the pyramid can be addressed, and include things such as food, water, rest, safety and security.

Higher in the pyramid we can see our psychological needs, which are all linked to our relationships with ourselves and others. Finally, at the top of the pyramid, there are our self-fulfilment needs. These include our desire to reach our full potential and achieve personal growth.

Notice anything missing from here? Our finances aren’t mentioned once. For something that affects so many of us on such a large scale, it would be naive to exclude it from our hierarchy of needs.

Finances and the pyramid

Personal financial issues have consistently been reported as the leading cause of stress in Australians, with 53% of workers claiming that their finances cause them stress. On top of this, 46% of us spend three or more work hours per week thinking about our finances (PWC 2017 Employee Financial Wellness Survey).

It’s clear that financial wellbeing is important – in fact, I believe that it is a basic need, on par with necessities such as sleep and water. This might sound extreme, but without having a healthy relationship with our finances we jeopardise our ability to meet our other needs.

58% of us feel stressed about the affordability of food and other basic necessities, while 39% of us are worrying over whether we’ll be able to afford the mortgage or rent. Without financial wellbeing, our access to food, water, rest, shelter and other basic needs are at risk, and our relationships will begin to suffer because of it.

The bottom line

If the new hierarchy of needs is to reflect our modern society, it must acknowledge that financial wellbeing has become a basic need which must be met in order for us to thrive.

The first step towards financial wellbeing starts with understanding your relationship with your finances. If you’d like to know more about financial wellness or are an employer and want to enquire about booking a Financial Wellness Program for your workplace, don’t hesitate to get in touch by calling us on 1300 388 285.

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