How to Improve Your Financial Wellness This Year

Most of us think of wellness in the physical or mental sense, but our definition of wellness has evolved over the last few years. Now wellness has expanded to include areas like beauty, spirituality, occupation, and environment. I’ve been thinking lately about what it means to be financially well. I interviewed Jesse Mecham, founder of the money management app YNAB, about what living financially well can look like. 

person holding pile of money

What does financial wellness mean?

“The first word that comes to mind with financial wellness is options,” says Mecham. As someone who’s driven by financial freedom, this clicks for me. The inability to pay your bills or have money to fund your life’s goals can leave you feeling stuck. At the end of the day, money is a tool to broaden your options to create the life you want.  

Treating money management as self-care

A recent survey showed that 65% of American adults say money is a source of stress. With current egg prices that make you question whether you should start raising chickens, it’s not surprising. Mecham’s approach to coping with financial stress? Expanding your self-care to include managing your money well.  

“I see money management as self-care because money is a part of everything we do,” says Mecham. “Whether we like it or not, it is.” Financial stress affects your relationships and physical and emotional wellness. “It might impact the communication between you and a partner or how you perform at work,” adds Mecham.  

Your financial situation can improve, though, so don’t lose hope. “For some people in the United States, their financial situation cannot be oversimplified,” says Mecham. “The vast majority, though, have the means and ability to truly change and improve their relationship with money. Eliminating unnecessary financial stress is a win for the rest of your life. It really gets me up every morning.

How to spend intentionally

There are a lot of approaches to improving your financial well-being, so getting started can feel overwhelming. Mecham says you don’t need more money to feel less stressed — you need to be more intentional about spending it.

“Intentional spending means your money is doing what you want it to do,” he says. “You may not want to pay your mortgage but you want shelter, a home. At the end of the day, they’re all wants of varying importance to us.”

Being intentional with your spending comes down to being honest. Be honest with yourself about your wants and if your financial habits align. I can think of times when an impulse buy took money away from something I actually cared about.

“We think, ‘I made an adult amount of money this year; where did it all go?’ Sometimes you have to ask yourself why you care about the things that you do,” says Mecham. “It takes work, but it’s worth doing because it directs your actions, your money, and ultimately, your results.”

Making sustainable financial changes

The YNAB founder thankfully doesn’t rely on tired financial advice such as cutting back on your Starbucks drinks. Instead, his favorite tip for making sustainable financial changes is encouraging. 

“Grace — you have to have grace with yourself when you’re trying to change,” says Mecham. “You do it at a gradual and methodical pace you can maintain. Be full of forgiveness for yourself when you slip or think, ‘I shouldn’t have done that.’ Give yourself grace and lots of room to learn and improve. Making sustainable financial changes takes time.”

Financial wellness in uncertain times

If you’re on LinkedIn or catch the news, you know there have been a lot of layoffs happening, especially in big corporations. It’s left some people wondering how to manage their finances proactively and the stress that comes with it. The layoff anxiety following The Great Recession has since been dubbed “The Great Apprehension.”

“It’s interesting — layoffs are essentially a business looking ahead and feeling worried about its future and reducing its payroll as a result,” says Mecham. “Each individual has to adopt the same attitude. What are the wants and needs of ‘future you’ four months from now? It goes back to that idea of financial wellness. We want options.”

You’ve probably heard the financial advice to have a three- to six-month emergency fund on hand. Having cash on hand can have a drastic impact. But what if you don’t have any money available? In that case, Mecham suggests increasing your options as quickly as you can.

“It can look like cutting back on my spending for a little bit for a sprint of saving for my future self — even reducing what I owe to others,” he says. “But it can also mean things like I’m going to start networking a little more than usual to understand my potential future options.”  

The bottom line on financial wellness

The impact of feeling financially stressed can impact all areas of your life. To start improving your relationship with money, define what being financially well means to you. Take yourself out on a money date to manage your finances and make it something to look forward to.

Be honest with yourself on if your priorities are in alignment with your spending habits. If you’re dealing with layoff anxiety, proactively taking steps can expand your options. And remember to give yourself grace if you fall short. Making sustainable changes to living financially well takes time.

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About Twyla Adkins

Twyla is a wellness content writer on a mission to help wellness brands educate and encourage their audiences to keep going through stories that unpack health and wellness in real and meaningful ways. Twyla has been writing since she was barely old enough to hold a pencil. She believes words have the power to connect us to others and help us feel less alone. Twyla also believes health and wellness are more than skin deep, but it wasn’t until she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and became pregnant with her first child that the importance of authentic wellness really hit home personally. When she’s not writing, you can find her smuggling a book in her bag, making obscure movie references, and planning her next trip.