Many of us are aware of the importance of improving our physical and emotional health. We have heard it many times, that regular exercise and eating balanced and healthy meals can result in long term health benefits. But did you know there is a direct correlation between our physical well-being and financial health?
What is financial health and why is it important to a happy and successful life?
Financial health is a term used to describe the state and stability of an individual’s personal finances and financial affairs. Good financial health is about taking control of your finances, having the financial freedom to make choices now, and in the future, and being ready to cope with unforeseen changes to your financial circumstances, such as job loss. It is important to review your financial health as poor financial health can lead to financial stress. Stress in itself is not necessarily harmful but when we experience prolonged financial stress, it can affect our physical and mental health. Financial stress can create emotional exhaustion, anxiety, insomnia, depression, and can affect our relationships with family and friends.
Understanding your financial situation is the first step to improving your financial health. Below are 6 strategies to improve your financial health.
1. KNOW YOUR BUDGET
If you don’t already have one, create a budget to help you plan your expenses and identify areas where you can cut back on. For example, can you cancel memberships you no longer use? Work out what are your needs and wants and avoid buying under stress or impulse. Stick to your budget even though your income increases. Do an annual health check on utilities, insurance, phone bank charges, and mortgage to ensure you are not paying for expenses any more than you need to.
2. SET SAVINGS GOALS
Once you have worked out your budget, work out a savings plan. Perhaps you are saving for a house deposit, new investment, or for a holiday. Saving for something takes time and its important to be realistic about how long it will take. But having a savings plan and sticking to it will help you reach your savings goal sooner. It will also give you a sense of achievement and satisfaction that you have worked hard for something without needing to borrow funds. Some people found setting up automatic transfers to a separate savings account which they could not easily access was helpful.
3. HAVE AN EMERGENCY FUND
Do you have an emergency fund for that rainy day that you have set aside to access in the case of unexpected costs, such as a loss of employment, major repairs, or medical emergency? Generally, it is recommended to set aside 3 to 6 months’ worth of expenses for your emergency fund.
4. PRIORITISE HIGHER INTEREST DEBT
Credit cards and personal loans often have higher interest rates that are not tax-deductible and therefore considered bad debt. Focus on paying off these debts first or if possible, consider consolidating the debt to reduce what you pay in fees and interest.
5. PAY MORE THAN THE MINIMUM
Your home loan is also another bad debt. Consider reviewing your home loan to ensure that you are getting the best deal on the market and look at whether you can increase your repayments on a weekly or fortnightly basis. By increasing your minimum repayments and making home loan repayments weekly or fortnightly rather than monthly you can significantly reduce the interest you are paying in the long run and repay your debt faster.
6. SEEKING HELP
If you are feeling overwhelmed, remember it’s ok to ask for support. You may want to seek professional help from a Financial Planner or avail yourself of free financial counselling offered by community organisations, community legal centres, and some government agencies.
Helen Yau – Manager + Financial Planner
CA, BCom, Dip Fp, SSA