Financial health and mental health are intrinsically linked.
The state of our mental health and wellbeing can make it harder to get on top of our finances and can lead to experiences of the financial stress which can then further impact our mental health.
Yet talking about money is still taboo and uncomfortable for many, making it even more difficult for people to share their concerns and worries and seek support.
We know taking control of our money can have positive effects on many other areas of our lives.
Most writing on this subject focuses on people who may have financial difficulties because of debt, or loss of work etc, and it is obvious that these people need practical help.
But at Magenta, our experience is that even if people have a lot of money, the responsibility that they feel in relation to the management and stewardship of that money can be overwhelming and cause a great deal of anxiety and mental health issues.
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 money management is neglected and thus our ongoing security is put at risk.
So being conscious of how financial health and mental wellbeing are connected, openly acknowledging that, and seeking help with problems and concerns is really important.
The size of the problem
According to MHFA England, the total cost of mental ill-health in England is estimated at £105 billion per year. People with a long-term mental health condition lose their jobs every year at around double the rate of those without a mental health condition. This equates to around 300,000 people.
One of the simplest strategies for employers is to address a common cause of mental health issues: financial worries.
Clearly, it makes sense for employers to address this situation and many have now introduced employee wellbeing packages and counselling services, many of which concentrate on financial issues.
Typically, we might understand financial stress to be when people can’t meet their day-to-day financial commitments. It’s important to understand that financial stress is different for everyone and it isn’t necessarily just about a lack of money.
Everyone’s personal circumstances are very different, so understandably, our experiences of financial stress vary. For some people, stress relating to money may simply mean one unpaid bill or a lack of confidence when handling finances. For someone else, not knowing how to access helpful advice if they need it, may induce stress.
If you or someone you know is experiencing stress related to money issues, we definitely recommend acting on it quickly. Whether by signing up for some financial counselling and coaching or calling the National Debt Helpline, these services not only provide practical advice but peace of mind too, which is key in terms of supporting mental health.
How financial issues affect mental health
The issues caused by financial worries that are reported the most are increased levels of stress and lack of sleep. It’s also worth considering the various knock-on effects that can be caused by these, – lack of confidence, poor motivation, etc – especially to physical health and general happiness.
Take a step-by-step approach
It’s easy to adopt a head-in-the-sand approach, especially if we’re in a bad place mentally, but things can quickly spiral out of control. So, try and schedule a specific time on a regular basis to take a look at your bank statements, pay your bills, etc. It really is well worth it, particularly when it comes to alleviating and managing financial stress.
Feeling in control of our finances is incredibly empowering and getting on top of our money matters needn’t be an overwhelming task that we try to complete in one big hit.
We suggest setting aside a small amount of time (maybe only 10 minutes at first) and breaking things down into easily achievable bite-size chunks.
Set yourself a small task, for example just checking your bank statement, or paying an electricity bill, and recognise that as an achievement. Then set yourself another little task, and so on.
If you struggle with this, do it with a family member or a friend. Don’t do it alone if you know that you’ll find it hard and disheartening.
Let’s talk about money
We know that stigma still exists when it comes to talking about both money and mental health but being honest and open about both subjects is key.
Many people find it difficult to admit that they are struggling with their mental wellbeing, and often, the same applies with their money. But if we take the time to talk honestly with our family and friends about our finances, we encourage open discussion, the sharing of good financial choices and resources, while also helping to destigmatise the issues.
Good money habits
It’s also really important to get into the habit of tending to our finances on a regular basis. We recommend looking after your finances the same way you look after your health or your car.
Annual or more frequent “check ups” can have real benefits, which is why we see clients at least once a year to help them keep on track, but also to reassure them that everything is and will continue to be fine.
We know that when people are suffering poor mental health and/or anxiety issues relating to money, our personalised cashflow forecasts and ongoing monitoring of their money in relation to their life goals, provides reassurance and is crucial to their ongoing security and happiness.
10 Tips for managing your financial wellbeing
• 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.
• Don’t get overwhelmed – baby steps at first with small tasks will give you more confidence to deal with larger issues over time.
• If you need a helping hand, ask someone close to you who will offer help without judgment.
• Ask your employer for access to its counselling and wellbeing arrangements
• Make a plan and take a step-by-step approach, acknowledging each task ticked off your to-do list as an achievement.
• Boost short-term savings to create an emergency fund which in turn will provide a feeling of security should anything go wrong.
• If you have any niggling concerns related to your finances, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. There are a number of free financial counselling services providing practical advice and support, while the National Debt Helpline is available to help anyone experiencing financial hardship.
• Speak to Magenta about your personal financial planning, to provide you with reassurance, an objective view and your own accountability.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with concerns about money, we may be able to help. Do contact us for a friendly chat.