For many women, money is a negative force, a source of fear and stress that permeates all parts of your life.
Worried about paying your bills?
That stress affects your physical and mental health and makes you more prone to get angry at your kids, create conflict in your romantic relationship and lead to career and business decisions made out of fear — not confidence.
Everyone needs a regular financial self-care practice — just like you need a self-care routine for your physical, spiritual and mental wellness.
When you prioritize your financial wellbeing and create goals then you can identify the root of your money challenges, make constructive changes and begin to breathe positive energy into not just your money, but all the ways that money can bring joy and energy into the rest of your life.
Face facts about your money
Money still carries heavy taboos, and talking about it with anyone but your partner is still considered rude in many circles. This shadow over money carries over into our own feelings and management of our personal finances, which are easily ignored.
Do you tend to leave bills and financial statements unopened? Do you know exactly how much debt you have — and at what interest rates? How close are you to healthy retirement savings?
If you can’t answer these basic questions, it’s time to get really honest with yourself. Face all the facts about your money.
One of my favorite tips is to use free online tools to easily pull in all of your financial accounts into one place, tallying all your income, debt, investments and credit cards. Simply looking at these numbers in one spot is often life-changing.
You may be pleasantly surprised — one single mom who undertook this step at my advice told me she was stunned and thrilled to learn that she had six-figures in assets. You may be less pleased with what you see, and that is OK. Be kind to yourself, and appreciate the bravery involved in taking this first, hard step — which growth depends upon.
Identify the root of your relationship with money
To start a new, better relationship with your finances, dig into where your current relationship started. Think about your earliest money memories and write them down.
What lessons did your parents teach you about earning, spending and saving? Did your parents fight about money? Were finances a source of stress or joy in your home? Was money revered as a very important source of status? A means to control others? Or simply a currency to help achieve comfort?
Just like it can take decades to decode any other life challenges, money issues are complicated and nuanced, and your insights will evolve over time. But honoring the very real early influences on your money relationship can help you take control of a new, better path.
Surrounding yourself with others who are on a positive, self-care journey with their money is critical to your success in this part of your life. Studies find time and again that the people you surround yourself with have a huge impact on your habits.
For example, teenagers whose friends smoke are also likely to smoke. Same, too, with personal finance habits.
If your friends are all swimming in debt, love to shop when they can’t afford it and care little about their investments, it is time to find a new tribe.
This might include joining a Facebook group of like-minded women, forming a support group in your neighborhood or house of worship, or reaching out to a friend who lives far away and scheduling monthly accountability calls to keep each other on track.
Getting the financial support you need also likely includes working with professionals. A good accountant or tax preparer, financial advisor, bookkeeper (if you own a business), debt counselor and a banker might all be part of your financial team.
These experts will not only provide money- and time-saving services, but will also hold you accountable to your goals. Plus, simply reaching out and creating a professional relationship is a positive action step that will make you feel empowered.
Whether together with your accountability partners, professionals or simply with a notebook and favorite pen, jot down your personal finance goals. Go big! But don’t just stop at tangible things like paying off debt, buying a home, retiring comfortably, giving back to a cause you care about, boosting your credit score or going on a vacation to Latin America.
Alongside those admirable goals, write down the larger sentiment behind that achievement.
For example, if your goal is to buy a condo in three years, also share the why and the feeling attached to that accomplishment. This might include: “I want to buy a home because I believe it will be a good investment. Owning a home will also give me a sense of security, as it will be a home base for me and my kids that we can count on for decades to come.”
One way to feel in control of achieving your goals is by having the right rewards credit card.
It’s one simple way to take some stress out of your finances while working toward a tangible goal.
No matter how many money challenges you face right now, I guarantee that you also have a lot to be grateful for. Part of wellness includes focusing your time, thoughts and energy on positive things and feelings, and away from the negative.
When it comes to the money part of your gratitude practice, include all the ways that money makes your life better. This might be that you have enough money to have good healthcare, which has helped you and your kids in important ways (be specific here!).
Maybe you can afford to live in a safe neighborhood, close to good schools and kind neighbors. Does money allow you to eat delicious food? Do you get paid enough so that you have time each day to exercise, or spend time with loved ones, or volunteer? Does your budget include donating to causes you care about, which benefits those charities, as well as makes you feel good and sets a great example for your kids?
Once you get in the habit of focusing on all you do have, you will start to recognize even more ways your life is abundant — including your money life.
Create a money self-care practice
Just as everyone needs a fitness routine and can benefit from mindfulness or spiritual practice, so, too, is the case with money. Creating an action-based plan for staying conscious and actively involved with your money habits and attitudes is the essence of financial self-care.
Examples of items in your self-care practice might include:
- Daily money gratitude writings
- Weekly check-in with financial support group/friend
- Weekly review of all expenses
- Monthly assessment of financial goals
- Twice-yearly meeting with financial advisor / CPA / banker
- Monthly charity donation
Of course, your self-care practice will be your own. As you commit to and tweak your own wellness practice, you will find that it can feel so powerfully positive that — not unlike a great exercise habit — your whole being will crave it when you miss a day or week. That is when you know true change is underway.
Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list.
Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.