Financial Wellness: Kvell’s 5 Pillars of Financial Well-Being
Satisfaction with current and future financial situation (or financial well-being)
You may be feeling a constant pressure in today’s media-rich society. Advertisements are interwoven throughout our sources of essential information and beloved entertainment. Experts predict that the average person receives 6,000-10,000 ads each day.
Whether it’s from talking to friends and loved ones on social media, or driving our daily commutes, we are constantly being influenced by consumerism. Consumerism is the idea that increasing our consumption of goods and services is better for us or leads to our increased happiness. A vast majority advertisements are asking us to buy more, use more, and ultimately spend more in order to feel better somehow. Subconsciously, these ads are telling us that we don’t have enough and that we ourselves aren’t enough, pressuring us to make more money in order to attain a certain level of satisfaction.
Whether it’s healthier foods or higher education, money and income stand as barriers to creating a holistically happy and healthy life. The American Psychological Association places money as a top source of stress for U.S. citizens. This sustained stress can greatly diminish your quality of life and lead to chronic health conditions like heart disease and diabetes. Consumers all over the globe are also experiencing similar effects of financial stress.
Before you fall victim to those feelings of disappointment and dissatisfaction, focus first on what it is you truly need to be happy with your life. In what ways can you detach your financial well-being from your social, mental/emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being? This will give you a clearer picture of the role money should play in your ideal life.
The truth about financial well-being is that it means (and should mean) different things to each individual. We’re all pulled down different paths in our lives based on opportunity and preference. While we think of numbers and finances as straightforward and logical things, when we try to translate a given hourly or salaried income into actualized happiness, that logic tends to fall apart.
Financial markets are constantly shifting and therefore, what it means to be financially stable or secure is relative to a person’s:
- Enjoyment of work
- Income stability
- Cost of living
- Credit / debt management
Keep this in mind as you consider our 5 pillars of financial well-being.
Financial Pillar One: Making Enough Money
The first step towards financial wellness is simply to make enough money to live your ideal life now and obtain peace of mind for your future savings and retirement. As we’ve already discussed, this number will vary from person to person.
So what is “enough money?”
We spend every day bombarded with other people’s thoughts about what we should do with our money. It’s important to remember that those messages are focused on their best interests, but not necessarily yours. As you learn to allocate your earnings in order to attain your goals, you’ll also learn to free yourself from those external messages and be sure that you’re aiming for what YOU really want.
This number will vary depending on a person’s interests – your personal needs, priorities. Instead of falling into what society wants you to be, find what matters for you. Is it freedom to travel, the lifestyle you desire for your family or legacy for many generations ahead – could be anything. As long as it is what you want, it should be the goal. So, to simplify things, let’s refer to YOUR version of “enough” as X from now on. Let’s also establish your current income as Y.
In your most stable and complete life, you will have the funds, energy, and time to:
- Socialize enough
- Eat a well-balanced diet for your body
- Take care of your physical strength and vitality
- Attain mental and spiritual fulfillment
- Perform your most fulfilling hobbies
- Work a full schedule, commensurate with an amount of hours to achieve X
This means that your income is only part of what feeds into your X. It also means that Y may be greater than X. Take time to reflect on what freedom from financial strain would look like to you. Will you be happier overall if you think about money less because your X is lower due to reduced work stress? Essentially, how X is acquired can change the value of X. Perhaps your most fulfilling interests require a greater financial investment, meaning your X should be higher to give yourself peace of mind. Take all of this into consideration when formulating X, so that you know how best to approach increasing your income.
Tips for increasing financial gain
If you need to increase your Y in order to attain your preferred X, then you will want to consider ways in which you can spend your time developing your professional skills. With the long-term in mind, what are your best avenues for increasing your income so that you can still achieve a balanced and fulfilled life in both the immediate and distant futures?
If you have many talents that can translate into a side-income, that’s a great place to start. Maybe now is the time to launch that business idea that you’ve been holding on to.
But an additional job may not be your only option for increased income. With a little bit of practice and research, you may be able to develop a way to present yourself to your employer to acquire a raise, or promotion. Analyze your immediate professional circumstances to see what lower hanging fruit is available to contribute to your path to X.
If you decide that a better option towards X is to develop a new income stream, you’re in luck. With the blossoming global gig economy that the internet has generated over the past two decades, many professionals and organizations are producing invaluable content and resources to assist in the development of skilled professionals, ready to bolster productivity/the economy. Contracts are consistently being posted on company sites, social media, and job boards. Also, certain skills and trades won’t require a degree, so expensive tuition doesn’t have to be a barrier.Online education and training resources are available for a wide variety of skills at little to no cost, making it easier than ever to try a new venture.
Once you find a new skill or trade that blends well with your vision of X, utilize free resources like Google and YouTube to learn more about how best to penetrate these newer positions/industries. Here are few more resources to aid in the development of professional skills:
- Saylor Academy – Saylor Academy is a nonprofit initiative that pffers free and open online courses to all who want to learn.
- Code Academy – online interactive platform that offers free coding classes in 12 different programming languages
- 50 Free Professional Resources (Career development, communications development, technology skills training, leadership training, analytical skills development)
- Udemy – A wide range of courses and certifications for both hobbyist and professional skills
- Coursera – Affordable online college courses OR certifications
Financial Pillar Two: Spending Money Wisely
We all have most likely come back from a shopping trip with a few extra items from time to time. Whether it was a last-second addition to your cart, or a “can’t miss” deal, the decisions don’t seem to have much consequence on our lives when viewed in a vacuum. However, if you start to look at money as a vessel for joy, you will more easily discern between the smaller and larger purchases that bring you the most joy vs. the ones that don’t.
You may be familiar with the simple economic model of ROI. ROI stands for Return On Investment. What it defines is the amount of money that is yielded, given a particular investment.
Example: Jackie from Jackie’s Jewelry purchased a $50 ad campaign through Google, that led to $1,000 in sales. Jackie’s ROI for that campaign was $20 per $1 spent.
Since we’re people and not just businesses, a better way to focus on our whole selves is to circle back to satisfaction.
You’re making a deal with your future self.. money you spend today being money that you’re taking from your future self, and thinking about whether or not your future self would consider that to be a good decision. Do you think your future self will be happy with that deal? This concept is called “time preference”. time preference – the current relative valuation placed on receiving a good at an earlier date compared with receiving it at a later date. Someone with a high time preference is focused substantially on their well-being in the present and the immediate future relative to the average person, while someone with low time preference places more emphasis than average on their well-being in the further future.
Financial Pillar Three: Saving Money
Life can be messy and full of surprises. Even the most responsible and frugal person can have a home, car, or medical emergency that could require a small or large amount of money to address. This makes saving money a requirement to live a life of financial freedom. While it may be liberating to not think about your finances, savings is one area that you will always appreciate giving attention to. Here’s are the basic steps to start saving:
- Track your spending (bills, groceries, gas, home maintenance, medical, etc.)
- Establish a reasonable budget
- Consider each expense’s immediate and long-term validity to cut down unneeded costs
- Set goals for your savings across these categories:
- Large purchases – Home, car, TV, business asset
- Investments – Smart investing can create avenues for passive income, which can save you hours of hard labor while potentially earning more money. Look into assets that are known to be a good store of value, and not a subject to government inflation, assets with limited supply – that fall into a category defined in austrian economics as “hard money” (ex: Bitcoin)
- Retirement – Knowing your budget and your ideal retirement age you can calculate how much you’ll need to save each year to hit your retirement goal.
- Emergencies – Replacing a tire is one thing, accounting for an unexpected layoff is another. Do what you can to mitigate the impact that life’s surprises can have on your wallet and, more importantly, your mental health and stability.
- Adapt your priorities as needed – Decide how best to invest your extra income, but be open to being flexible if the right opportunity arises.
- Learn which tools will support your saving goals – stocks, bonds, certificate of deposit, savings account, IRAs, etc.
Financial Pillar Four: Building Credit
Simply put, your credit score is a number (ranging from 300-850) that signifies your perceived ability to pay off borrowed money. Good credit (690 and above) allows you to more easily borrow money to make larger purchases. You will often also receive a better interest rate on loans the better your credit score is. Inversely, having a low credit score (300-629) will make it challenging to qualify for any loan amount, or even acquire a credit card.
Credit doesn’t have to be this mysterious cloud that looms over your financial wellness if you understand it. Five factors feed into your credit score:
- Payment history
- Length of credit history
- New credit
- Amounts owed
- Types of credit used
Even if you have poor credit, or no credit history whatsoever, you can find ways to build up your credit and take control of your financial standing. Take these steps to build up your credit, so that it doesn’t stand in the way of you making the necessary investments to live your best life:
- Pay bills on time – Certain bills will either build or drop your credit score depending on on-time payments. Showing that you can regularly make loan payments will improve your standing among lenders via an increased credit score. (Heavily weighted in your credit score)
- Keep credit utilization below 30% – Your credit card limit will be set primarily based on your income. However, this limit should be utilized judiciously if your goal is to build credit. Creditors will view consistent credit usage (and sustained unpaid credit amounts) as a red flag. This is why it is best to maintain a credit usage that is under 30% of your maximum. (Heavily weighted in your credit score)
- Try not to close out credit accounts – Credit card companies like to see as much stability as possible from cardholders. Closing out a credit account will appear erratic, and could hurt your credit score. Having a sustained credit history is also good for your credit (credit age), so don’t make a point of viewing lines of credit as temporary.
- Don’t open up multiple credit card accounts within 6 months – When you apply for a credit card account, it will generate a small, but temporary, dip in your credit score. Applying for two or more accounts within a short period of time (around 6 months) will cause a more drastic drop in your score. This kind of activity will trigger suspicion from lenders, and if one lender decides to decline your request, the rest may see that as a sign to do the same.
- Have multiple types of credit – This isn’t to say that you should just freely open up lines of credit. Rather, if you are able to healthily sustain a credit card (or two) and a traditional loan (for a car or home), it’s a great indication that you know how to manage your finances and pay back loans.
Financial Pillar Five: Investing for the Future
How do you start investing your money? Is it really right for everybody? Maintaining a healthy respect for investing your money is a must, but successfully investing money has never been easier. A quick google search on basic investment advice should be encouraging to those of you who are on the fence.
Technology has significantly shortened the distance between new and seasoned investors. Amateur investors can get started straight from an app, and with little to no maintenance, establish a respectable investment portfolio in no time. Here are 8 core pieces of advice for new investors:
- Bury your imposter syndrome and just start – The only way to increase your confidence in investing is by getting hands-on experience. It’s much easier than you think and once you get started, you’ll have greater context around what information will help you better maintain your investments and make smarter investments in the future.
- Invest responsibly – Even if you come across the safest investment opportunity, never investment more than you can afford to lose. Your investment money should always be separate from the money you pay your bills with.
- Focus on what you can control and nothing else – Investments can flop, it’s just the nature of taking a financial risk. If you go into an investment with a reasonable plan, stick with it. Media and other investors won’t always have your best interest in mind. What you can control is your risk, spending, time of investment, and taxes.
- Your savings rate is your safety net – Regardless of any goal you set, if you maintain an appropriate rate of saving each week/month/year, you’ll mitigate the risk and stress of investing. For this reason, it’s best to automate your savings from your investments. While you’ll want to stay somewhat involved in your investments, automation is a great way to reduce the overwhelm of investment management.
- Always tie a goal to each of your investments – You’ll have to accept that there may be nothing you can do to save a given investment, but you should never take an investment lightly by not tying it to a strategic goal.
- Look for hidden fees – From initial investment to full maturity, know any and all fees that are associated with a given investment. This could include minimum initial investment requirements, broker fees, management fees, expense ratios, and more.
- Find a trusted expert – Even the most confident of investors will still lean on the advice of a financial adviser, or stock broker. Simply put, it’s their full-time jobs to scour markets and analyze trends to find a bevy of promising investment options. Working through an adviser will come with an added cost, but it may be the quickest and easiest way to get started. Advisers will likely have multiple options to choose from depending on your ideal investment, ranging from safe to high-risk. There are also services like robo-advisors that can automatically manage your initial investment on your behalf for a reasonable fee. These methods can take the guess-work and stress out of investing, once you find the right service you can trust.
- Don’t forget about real-estate – Real-estate isn’t going anywhere, and it’s certainly not a back-burner option for obtaining financial security. From buying your own home and building up equity, to finding the right neighborhood on the rise, there’s a few different approaches to pursue as a real-estate investor. Property management is also a great way to accrue passive income.
Financial Wellness and the Kvell Wheel
While we all see money differently and have different needs, there’s no denying the connection between financial well-being and overall happiness. The best way to ensure that money isn’t defining your life, is to take control of your financial circumstances.
They likely won’t look the same as your neighbor, sibling, or boss, but your most optimal set of 5 financial pillars will be more than enough to support a lifestyle devoid of excess stress and filled with freedom and opportunity to explore, create, and be.
Stay well and kvell,
The Kvell Team
Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in this article should not be taken as financial advice.
We are not financial advisors, and our content is our opinion. In order to make the best financial decision that suits your own needs, you must conduct your own research and seek the advice of a licensed financial advisor if necessary. Know that all investments involve some form of risk and there is no guarantee that you will be successful in making, saving, or investing money; nor is there any guarantee that you won’t experience any loss when investing. Always remember to make smart decisions and do your own research!