Managing Your Money

Wealth & Health

In a 2015 survey by the American Psychological Association (APA), money tops the charts as the most significant source of stress, and interestingly, women report higher levels of stress about money than men. Money-related stress is not just a matter of “not having enough”, it’s more than that. In my experience, the stress and anxiety over money comes from the way we think and interact with money, and can’t be solved by simply having more of it.

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Now, if you’re living pay-check to pay-check, or taking huge financial risks, of course you’re going to have more money stress. But financial stress is not limited to the “less fortunate” or high risk takers. A survey by UBS Investor Services reveals that most millionaires don’t have enough wealth to feel financially secure, and they still worry about money. So it seems that having more may reduce, but does not eliminate anxiety.

So how does all this money stress affect our health? We’ve often heard the expression “stress kills”. According to the APA, chronic stress is linked to the six leading causes of death: heart disease and cancer being the top two. It has become clear through many studies that the relationship between health and wealth are strongly connected at every level of the economic ladder, and that more wealth is associated with better health.

What I find even more interesting is that a study done by Nancy Adler at the University of California, showed that it’s not just wealth that correlated with good physical and psychological health, but even more highly correlated with good health, was people’s own perception of their socio-economic or “wealth” status. So my simplified summary of that is, if you reprogram the way you think about and interact with money, and manage financial stress in a healthy way, you can improve your health. Simple? Maybe. But not necessarily easy.

Most people thing that having more money will make them feel more safe and secure and free of worry, but obviously, based on the research, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Virtually all millionaires feel fortunate for what they have and recognize that the average household faces bigger challenges than they do, according to the USB survey, but many of them feel an “ever-present fear of losing it all”. Looking in the rear-view mirror at the last financial crisis, coupled with current market volatility, interest rate risk, political uncertainty, and increasing tax rates, there is no lack of financial issues to worry about. I will point out that having some anxiety around money can be a good thing. It can sometimes push us to reconsider our spending habits, get a second opinion on our investment portfolios, or prompt us to sit down and come up with a plan.

In my practice, I start out by helping people define their fear or anxiety over money.  Sometimes it’s an underlying worry that they don’t think about every day, but it’s always somewhere in the back of their minds. Or they worry about money, but lack clarity on exactly why. Certain financial anxieties can be quelled by taking simple actions. For example, comprehensive projections, a proper risk assessment, getting a second opinion, can all help alleviate certain worries. Boundaries, whether they be social, financial, or moral, provide a structure for life that most people thrive on, so financial boundaries can provide a helpful framework to work within and provide a sense of control. But sometime we need to go deeper.

Refocusing money conversations on empowerment and
educated choices can transform them from fear to confidence

Refocusing money conversations on empowerment and educated choices (knowledge) can transform money conversations from fear to confidence. Own your actions and take responsibility for your relationship with money – how you earned it, how you spend it, how you share it, and how you save it. Having financial professionals around you that you trust is critical, but taking responsibility for the decisions you make is empowering. Make sure you have relationships with your advisors that support you to truly understand the options that you have and the decisions that you are making, and also the potential consequences and trade-offs of those decisions. This will help bring you a sense of clarity, confidence and control over your money. The above-mentioned survey by the APA confirms that those who manage money stress most effectively don’t do it alone. They have a solid support network that helps empower them, and does not make them feel judged for their decisions, or for their lack of knowledge or experience.

You can have the best advisors, best investments, and best financial plan in the world, but in order to manage your fears and have true peace with money, your fundamental beliefs and values must be clear.  Study after study confirms that money won’t make us happy. Obviously we need our basic needs met, but we need so much less than we think we do. Money is not a badge of success. It may be an indication of financial success, but “life success” is about so much more. One of the most stress-reducing things you can do with your money is to give some away. Generous people are happier, healthier, more satisfied with life, and have deeper relationships with others. Many people search for security, and believe that it can be found in money. Our search for security and happiness in life is essential – we just need to start looking for it in the right places.

Lynn MacNeil, F.PL. Vice President, Investment Advisor, is a Financial Planner with Richardson GMP Limited in Montreal, with over 22 years of experience working with retirees and pre-retirees. For a private financial consultation, or more information on this topic or on any other investment or financial matter, please contact Lynn MacNeil at, 514.981.5795 or [email protected].

The opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of Lynn MacNeil and readers should not assume they reflect the opinions or recommendations of Richardson GMP Ltd. or its affiliates. The comments contained herein are general in nature and are not intended to be, nor should be construed to be, legal or tax advice to any particular individual. Accordingly, individuals should consult their own legal or tax advisors for advice with respect to the tax consequences to them, having regard to their own particular circumstances. Richardson GMP Limited, Member Canadian Investor Protection Fund.