By Cynthia Measom
The way you handle your finances can affect your mental and physical health. According to Bank of America’s 11th Annual Workplace Benefits Report, 93% of Gen Z and Millennials and 94% of Gen Xers reported they feel stress when they think about their financial situation. And 9% of Gen Xers and 11% of Gen Z and Millennials stated that this stress is likely to keep them up at night.
Feeling stressed about money can take a toll on you mentally (and physically), but that toll can extend to a whole new level if your worries are keeping you up at night. According to the Mayo Clinic, a lack of sleep can affect your immune system, making you more vulnerable to becoming sick after exposure to a virus. Plus, it also can affect how quickly you recover if you do fall ill.
That’s not the only way financial stress can potentially affect you. In fact, prolonged levels of stress of any type can lead to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
The solution to preventing and managing financial stress is to get your finances under control starting now. Here’s the expert advice you need to develop these seven financial habits that improve your health.
Taking Charge of Your Finances
Not knowing exactly where your money is going each month can be a source of stress, especially if you find your finances stretched thin.
“Tracking your spending is a good first step,” said Beth Lawlor, president of U.S. Bank Private Wealth Management. “Write down every source of income and every expense every month, including entertainment. Once you add up your income and all your expenses, you’ll know how much money you have left over to put toward your short- and long-term financial goals.”
Living Within Your Means
“It is important to ensure that your life goals are not above your standard of living,” said Chaim Geller, financial advisor and founder of Help Me Build Credit. “For instance, don’t go for an over-the-top house that is way above what you can afford because you think it will bring you happiness.”
Geller added, “Buying a house that is above your budget will not make you happy. You may be living in a dream house, but you’ll be weighed down for years with debt. Smarter would be to rather buy a smaller house, but one that you can afford and not have to constantly worry about your debt. That will be a better choice for your mental health.”
Using Credit Cards Wisely
“View your credit card as a source of credit to be paid back in full every month,” said David Peterson, co-founder of Bankdash. “This habit and mindset will prevent you from accumulating credit card debt which is one of the most expensive forms of credit available and notoriously difficult to recover from.”
“Practicing minimalism is a good financial habit that will also improve your mental health,” said Jacqueline Gilchrist of Mom Money Map.
“Minimalism is when you possess only what you deem essential. With a minimalist lifestyle, you naturally own less, which means you’re not spending as much money to buy and maintain your possessions. With less items in your house, there’s less clutter. Your house will be easier to clean and organize, which will make your mind clearer. Without the extra distraction and work that comes from having clutter, you can focus on what matters most like family and friendships and live more intentionally and not comparatively.”
Building Your Savings Automatically Each Month
“Setting up automated contributions to savings and investing accounts is a healthy habit that helps individuals feel less worried and more in control, especially with respect to longer-term goals that may feel insurmountable (like preparing for higher education expenses or retirement),” said Patricia Roberts, author and chief operating officer of GiftofCollege.com.
“The same goes for establishing and contributing to an emergency fund. Regularly contributing to an emergency or rainy day fund can help put one’s mind at ease about the ability to weather life’s unexpected financial circumstances should they occur. Taking the guesswork out of whether and when to save can contribute to overall wellness.”
Not Stressing Daily Over Investments
“Simply put, do not watch the minute-to-minute movements of the stock market on TV,” said Darren Colananni, wealth management advisor with Centurion Wealth Management. “Imagine a TV station that can only talk about one thing (the stock market) 24/7. After a period of time, it would have to fill the air with stories and insights with a lot of fluff and predictions that might only be true about 1 in 100 times.”
Colananni continued, “By watching each movement in your investments along with being stressed out by the stories you are reading and watching, you are providing much unnecessary stress to your mental and physical health. Try this: Whenever the market is down a lot, go for a walk, remind yourself that market pullbacks are normal and healthy and in the long-term, the market has a strong correlation to increase over time.”
Planning for the Future
“Even if you haven’t invested as much as you’d like (or as much as you think you’ll need) for retirement, there’s still time to start investing (or to invest more),” said Lawlor. “If you work for a company that offers a retirement plan, contribute enough to get the maximum match. If you don’t have access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan, there are other ways to start investing pre-tax dollars, such as an IRA. If it’s an option for you, just having a regular cadence for contributions to whatever your nest egg vehicle is can help establish your routine. Even if you can’t save a lot of money, a little is better than nothing. Eat the elephant one bite at a time!”
Cynthia Measom is a personal finance writer and editor with over 12 years of collective experience. Her articles have been featured in MSN, AOL, Yahoo Finance, INSIDER, Houston Chronicle, The Seattle Times and The Network Journal. She attended the University of Texas at Austin and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.