Since I stopped being an adviser two years ago, I have focused most of my energy on understanding and communicating the key aspects of financial wellbeing. In recognition of the stress and anxiety experienced by many of their workers in relation to money, more and more employers are including finances as part of their overall staff wellbeing programme.
This year, I have had the privilege of giving financial wellbeing presentations and masterclasses to employees all over the UK. My talks are based on numerous real-life stories, as well as psychological and behavioural finance academic research.
One of the key elements of financial wellbeing is understanding what a client’s desired lifestyle looks like and the role money plays in it. Another is understanding their spending and whether that is in line with their ideal lifestyle and what makes them happy.
Other elements include being prepared for financial shocks, having a long-term plan and making sure affairs are well organised in the event of the subject’s demise.
But what is most interesting about developing such expertise and awareness is the effect on my own happiness and wellbeing.
I have always thought I was reasonably good at managing my own finances but I had failed to acknowledge deep seated anxiety I had about money, which stemmed from my poor childhood. I have a much greater awareness of how my daily actions, thoughts and responses to money affect my general mental and physical health.
Some of these insights intuitively make sense, while others are less obvious. But it is daily habits andbehaviours which are the key to greater happiness.
I have much greater self-control over what I spend my money on. I feel no envy for others with more wealth than me. I spend more on things I value and less on things not in line with those values.
I spend less on possessions and much more on other people and charity. I rarely use contactless payment and, as such, have halved my discretionary spending. I have a greater sense of the impact of my daily financial decisions on my future self, and am motivated to avoid retiring (in the conventional sense) as long as possible.
But at the heart of it, I am much more relaxed about who I am, my place in the world and the role of money.
We all have a different idea of what a “good” life is. The more clarity people have on what makes them fulfilled, and understanding of which financial behaviours are in line with their values and ideals, the happier they will be. But what I have learned most from meeting people is that few have really taken the time to think about what their ideal lifestyle looks like.
Far too many seem to be drifting along, working and spending, without a clear idea of whether their daily financial habits and actions are in line with their values and principles. Lifestyle financial planners can help people live a full life free of worry, anxiety and complexity. Get that right and the money bit will be easier.
Jason Butler is a financial wellbeing expert and former financial adviser. His new book, Squeezing the Orange: Simple Ways to Live a Full Life, is on sale now