Decreasing money stress

Let’s decrease your stress about money              

Shopping season can put on extra strain

November 21, 2014

It was Financial Planning Week in Canada this week, just as seasonal shopping starts to pick up big time. 

It is my hope that you can use some of the important research released this week by the FPSC (Financial Planning Standards Council of Canada), combined with the tips in this article, to significantly decrease your permanent stress about money, and also get through the holiday season unscathed. 

More on the research in a second, but first let me tell you about the best Christmas our family ever had. (We checked last weekend, and these concepts can apply equally well to Chanukah and all other seasonal celebrations that include gift giving.)

My brilliant wife told our (adult) kids last November that all gifts given must:

  1. be made yourself;
  2. be obtained free; or
  3. be recycled.

It was the most wonderful time unwrapping and being amazed at the inventiveness and originality. (Gratefully, no larceny involved.)

What did we love?  Several things.

Everyone had more fun than they could remember, relieved of the stress to spend more than they could afford and to find the “perfect” gift. 

It was hilarious, with free store samples, used books and lovingly hand-framed family photos being the order of the day.

And, most importantly, all of us connected in a way we never did when Christmas morning was all about commercialism and fancy, store-bought gifts.

So the money saving was just a bonus; the other benefits were the real deal.

Money stress and health

Financial Planning Week is part of Canada’s national Financial Literacy Month.  This is the perfect time for all of us to come out of the closet with our money secrets, and become healthier as a result.

The key findings of the FPSC study, http://bit.ly/1yQ7W6z, conducted by Leger, The Research Intelligence Group, found that Canadians are indeed stressed about their money, and they are not talking about it. Women are the most negatively affected by this stress, according to the survey.

The results showed that 51% of women are losing sleep over money issues, 30% suffer anxiety and 9% report experiencing “overwhelming stress.” Men’s figures were 40%, 17% and 3%, still alarming.

Cary List, CEO of the FPSC, suggests that the first giant step forward is talking about money issues, and not staying silent.

“Putting off difficult conversations about finances isn’t just a harmless form of procrastination; it can actually affect our mental and physical well-being and the quality of our lives.”

The 2014 study showed that more than three-quarters of us report financial regrets, but most of us don’t share these feelings or talk about them.  My distant training in psychology tells me that thinking you are the only person who is “inadequate” in some way eats at you.

On the other hand, sharing those feelings and finding out everyone else is in the same boat is cathartic (which means “good”.) So if you have someone you can share with, please do.

However, not all of us are comfortable talking to friends and family about money issues. Luckily, there are professionals to help.  Using a qualified and credentialed financial planner has been proven to relive that stress we talked about.

A three-year longitudinal study by the FPSC and the Financial Planning Foundation has shown that 85% of Canadians with comprehensive financial plans report higher levels of financial well-being, and 62% report a higher level of emotional well-being.

So, folks, let’s talk to each other or to our financial counsellors.  It helps. 

And please make yourself a restricted spending plan for the holidays and stick to it.  Avoid that January credit card hangover.

*     *     *

Dollars and Sense is meant as an introduction to this topic and should not in any way be construed as a replacement for personalized professional advice.

Please consult legal, tax and investment experts for advice on your unique situation.

-30-

David Christianson, BA, CFP, R.F.P., TEP, CIMis a financial planner and advisor with Christianson Wealth Advisors, a Vice President with National Bank Financial Wealth Management, and author of the book Managing the Bull, A No-Nonsense Guide to Personal Finance.