Opinion

Financial Wellness is the Ultimate Self-Care. 5 tips to Make Your Future Wealthier

Toronto-based financial expert and CPA Ann Hebert has a few keys to financial wellness. 

The concepts of wellness, mindfulness and self-care have reached the status of buzzwords today. But they do represent real approaches to life that can lead to greater success, positivity and happiness. There are many dimensions to wellness, and this article will add yet another – financial wellness. Money concerns are the leading cause of stress in Canada, and indeed around the world. In CPA Canada’s 2018 Canadian Finance Study, survey results showed Canadians were most concerned about saving for retirement and managing debt. That stress can be intimately tied to performance at work and can have severe impacts on both physical and mental health. So taking care of your financial health can help check the wellness boxes in many other areas of your life.

To that end, here are five ideas easy to implement and improve your financial health:

Focus on gaining by saving, rather than what you are giving up.

Life is about choices, and wellness comes from not second guessing those choices and simply living with them. The old adage that the best things in life are free (or almost) can be true. No, you are not “missing out” if you can’t afford that high-end night out. Find joy and happiness in living in the moment and enjoying the here and now. Whether it’s coffee with a friend, a walk in the park or under the stars, or a mug of tea and a great read (from the library!), it doesn’t have to be flashy or expensive. A positive attitude and approach to how you live your life, on your own terms, is key to both financial wellness as well as emotional and spiritual health. One read to help you develop that positive approach to finances is Happy Go Money, by Melissa Leong, The Social’s finance expert.

Sign up for a financial literacy workshop – and practice what you learn!

Knowledge is power, and having the skills to be able to take control of your financial well-being will provide you with the confidence and resilience to face whatever life throws at you, at least from a financial perspective. CPA Canada’s Financial Literacy outreach program offers a large menu of financial literacy presentations on a variety of topics. Many of these sessions are offered at your local library branches. Or, if you work for a corporate employer, why not speak to your HR or benefits department about offering one of these sessions at your workplace as a “Lunch n Learn”? I have been a volunteer in this program for over two year, and can vouch for the quality of the program. Delivering these sessions has been a truly rewarding experience for me. Take one or two nuggets from a presentation and put them into action. Contact CPA Canada to set up a session at your office, or to find a presentation near you.

Set up a system where you save when you spend

This one comes with a caveat – don’t let it be an excuse to spend! Living within your means is one of the basic tenets of healthy finances. This is a novel way to automate your savings. An app such as Mylo will round up your purchase to the nearest dollar and put the difference into a savings account. Your bank  or credit card provider may also offer a similar program. The amounts are so small you won’t notice the difference, but those small amounts can add up to BIG savings over time.

Invest in exchange-traded funds (ETFs)

The demographic that is the core readership of this site has shown a reticence to investing in the stock market. This has often been attributed to living through the 2008 financial crisis and the economic impacts that have lasted for many years since. The reality is that interest rates have been at or near rock-bottom since the financial crisis, and despite the recent rise in rates, leaving your hard-earned savings in a bank account will not get you to your financial goals. Sales of ETFs have exploded in recent years, and there is a broad range of ETFs that cover every segment of the market and investment style. And ETF fees are much lower than traditional mutual funds. You can talk to an advisor to build an ETF-based portfolio that will meet your goals and risk tolerance, or use a robo-advisor such as Wealthsimple or PortfolioIQ and go the do-it-yourself route.

Ditch the pen and paper budget, and move to a digital tool

Let’s be honest – you may not even have a pen and paper version…again, the process of even trying to set a budget is a fundamental part of a responsible approach to your finances. Most banks have a budgeting tool you can use to link your banking activity to your budget. Or you can try a different tool such as Planswell, or mint.com to track your spending or create a financial plan. If you need additional help, some of CPA Canada’s quick tips at Just the Facts can get you started, and for, more in depth help, mymoneycoach.ca has fantastic tutorials, articles and aids that can help you get your budget up and running. I have the last 30 years of my finances, both on the spending and investments side in Quicken, and devote an hour a week to monitoring my spending and a couple of hours a month tracking my investments, and it is time well spent.

Pick a couple of the suggestions above, put them into practice, and add a little Zen to your finances and your life. Namaste!