“Money can’t buy you happiness” so the saying goes. It’s often sage advice. Many of life’s pleasures such as a drink with friends or a bracing walk cost little or nothing and throwing money at a problem won’t necessarily make it go away.
There also seems no significant correlation between wealth and contentment. There are wealthy people that are unhappy, and fortune combined with fame seems an especially miserable recipe for some. Meanwhile, many people of comparatively limited means are perfectly fulfilled.
I’ve grown to realise that there are nuances around this conventional wisdom, though. Money can’t necessarily buy happiness, but a lack of it can certainly bring unhappiness. Anxiety around finances is the number one cause of stress in the UK. Clearly, poverty and indebtedness are the most acute examples of this, but money can be a source of worry for everybody, no matter their status or bank balance.
At the root of this is uncertainty. As human beings we seek to control our own destinies, and we want to have the freedom to do the things we want to do. Money is what we use to achieve this, so uncertainty around our finances, both now and in the future, is cause for anxiety. It is why we all seek to shore up and ‘futureproof’ our lives as far as possible. To be more confident. Money buys us time and gives us options, as well as provides what the heart desires.
While not receiving the same attention as physical or mental health, financial health is a big deal. Indeed, financial concerns can sometimes be contributory factors in issues affecting our mental and even physical health. Being in control of your finances, feeling confident about your future and being in a position to make choices that enable you to enjoy life are all part of the financial wellness picture – and they are really important to our happiness. So why do they receive so little attention?
Have confidence it’s the right thing to do
One reason is talking about money can be uncomfortable. Many of us hesitate to have frank conversations about financial affairs, even with close friends and loved ones. Perhaps we are in fear of being judged – as too spendthrift or too measly; too cavalier or too conservative. We’re not sure we are the same as others or different and we are a bit afraid to find out.
While we don’t need to know precise details of each other’s finances, having some general conversations can be really useful, offering new perspectives and helpful strategies that can build knowledge and confidence. Sadly, there is usually very little financial education in schools, so most people end up needing lots of advice, both formal and informal, during their lifetime. Sharing experiences, good and bad, can help us achieve our goals, solve problems, avoid costly mistakes and, ultimately, give us the resilience and peace of mind that comes with financial wellness.
Conversations about money can be especially awkward when family is involved – but these are often the most important. Tackling complicated issues such as transferring wealth between generations and inheritance tax planning are daunting, but they are generally best achieved with everyone’s priorities and goals discussed in full. The first step in confidently planning the future is an open conversation.
If this is all too nerve wracking and calling a family ‘AGM’ just seems too formal, then it can make sense to get a professional involved. Not only will they be an expert in the subjects you are discussing, but they can act as an impartial third party that keeps the conversation on track. For complex Financial Planning, they can also be your guiding light and provide invaluable advice. Have the confidence to start these discussions – they will be welcomed by your future self.
There’s never been a better time to talk about your financial tomorrow than today.
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