FinCon and the Center for Financial Services Innovation are sponsoring a writing contest: “In 500 words, explain what financial health means to you.” I'm late to the party, but I had some thoughts, so I thought it best to share (especially since the Center for Financial Services Innovation sponsored the US Financial Diaries which is my most recent obsession).
When I think about financial health, my first thought is gratitude. I grew up in a family where my dad once told me, "I never have to worry about losing my job. We might run out of money, but I'll never run out of work."
As an adult, those words wouldn't comfort me, but I'm lucky that I learned them as a child. Not many children have the fortune to see their parents build a business, but I had that fortune. Not many children get to know when their parents paid off their mortgage, but I knew. Not many children got to look at their parent's financial spreadsheets to see where the money goes, but I got to see that.
I'm grateful for many things from my childhood, but few things make me more grateful than the example of financial health that my parents gave to me.
The faces of financial distress
Of course, I've hit a few self-imposed bumps in my financial life, but those were the equivalent of a bout of diarrhea in a generally healthy person. Nothing I would wish on others, but of no great concern after a short time.
But after writing this blog for a few years, my friends started coming to me for financial advice. I assure them I'm no expert, but I'm a busybody, so I ask for details anyhow. What starts as a question about life insurance, student loan deferment, balance transfer credit cards or health insurance options quickly becomes a story about financial stress.
And behind the stories are often accompanied by the everyday stress of knowing that you're not going to make the bills that month. They are stories of couples who can't afford for one parent to stay home from work with the kids, but the high cost of daycare means they can't really afford for both parents to keep working either. It's the stories of running your checking account down to $1.12, and hoping against all hope that you can work overtime this week. It's covering your car window with a plastic bag because the car insurance payment went to cover utilities.
In real stories, nobody is blameless. Everyone has failed to plan for the future. Everyone has made a few stupid decisions.
But when you're already living close to the financial edge, a small misstep sends you careening down a mountain of financial stress. At that point, you're grasping for someone or something to help.
And as crazy as it sounds, sometimes an outside voice of confidence, assurance and hope, a bag of groceries, and maybe a practical tip or two is all it takes to stop the tumble. Not always. But sometimes.
The peace of financial health
And that's why financial health matters to me.
You don't have to be some weirdly frugal person, or an internet marketing demigod to work towards financial health. With ingenuity, planning, and a little hand up (or push forward in some cases), most people can start pursuing financial health NOW!
More than being debt free, more than having a hundred thousand dollars in the bank, or earning $20, $30, $40, $50 an hour or more, being on the path towards financial health breeds financial peace.
The journey towards financial health doesn't mean you'll never face financial troubles. It doesn't mean you'll never have more month than money. But taking even the smallest step towards financial health breeds confidence and efficacy and financial peace.
PS- There's still time to join the short term savings marketing team!
And as long as I'm talking about Financial Health, and someone from the Center for Financial Services Innovation is probably reading this, I'll go ahead and remind readers that there's still time to join the short term savings marketing team.
Over the coming days, I'll be explaining my favorite variations on short term savings options that can help eliminate the financial stress associated with income volatility. If you want to join the short term savings marketing team, contact me via twitter @HannahLRounds, and we will make it a thing. I'm sure Jamie Dimon wants to know all my ideas :)
I'm a wife, a mom, an employee, and a personal finance nerd who is devoted to spreadsheeting my way through life.