A former executive coaching client of mine was crossing the threshold into retirement age having accumulated tremendous wealth in real estate. He said to me, “If you have your health and you are happy, then every day is your birthday. And if you aren’t healthy and happy, it doesn’t matter if it is your birthday.”
He had all the creature comforts a person could ask for, yet there were some problems he needed my help in confronting. As family business issues, they were both financial and emotional in nature, and until we resolved them together he was not going to be happy — even entering the ideal globetrotting financial retirement plan.
That’s a cycle with which we are all familiar. Our material world and our emotional lives each affect the other, sometimes in unforeseen ways. A classic example is when we plod along contentedly through life negotiating certain expenses, and then learn someone else has gotten some great deal. It can bring up questions of, “Why them and not me?” “Is there something wrong with me?” “What am I missing?” “I’m never wrong; what did that fool miss?!”
Poof. Our contentment evaporated for no particularly good reason!
A Healthy Balance
Given the infinite uncertainties as time unfolds with life on this planet, none of us can pin our happiness or our finances on perfect control. What we can do is make sound plans that have enough flexibility in them that they can absorb shocks to the system.
We can have a sound process that allows us to respect ourselves and our partners, which is deeply satisfying, healthy for us mentally, and produces sound outcomes financially.
Below are some principles to provide guidance in creating a healthy balance between mental and financial health, and perhaps provide the roadmap to happiness as a journey rather than a destination.
1. ‘Through Discipline Comes Freedom’ – Aristotle
Set a sensible financial routine and keep that routine. Some of us want to avoid “doing the math” of our finances at all costs, whereas others of us obsess and crunch the numbers too often. My personal cadence is a weekly review that takes me about 30 minutes on average, with a little extra time preparing for a monthly meeting with my partner. There have also been times earlier in my career when I set the routine to monthly.
Strike the balance that makes you confident that you know where your actual details are against your plan. It’s worth noting that in the volatility of 2022, honoring my rule to only check my numbers weekly has saved me from an unnecessary mental roller-coaster.
2. Healthy Food, Healthy Mood
The importance of investing the dollars and the time in preparing nourishing foods that really suit you cannot be overestimated. If “you are what you eat” and you don’t respect what you are feeding yourself, well, we’ve got trouble. C’mon, just eat your vegetables.
Not only do we feel better when we eat right, we then sleep better as well, forming an upward spiral in our productivity and happiness. To learn more about the kind of immune-supportive nutrition that keeps us away from copays at the doctor’s office and the pharmacy, have a look at this simple guidance from Dr. Martha Calihan of Five Stones Wellness.
3. Fitness Now Saves Us Money Later — And Prepares Us For Action
Just like dietary shortcuts, we pay for our stinginess with our fitness later in our health bills. If you have a morning routine of surfing a few particular websites and chopping up your inboxes, invest that time in yourself by doing it on a treadmill or a bike. If you have a daily conversation with your partner or a co-worker, do it on a walk.
Fitness practices now save time and financial expense later. It’s preventive medicine that gets your blood moving and improves mood both biologically as well as in the pride you feel by conducting yourself wisely. The kicker comes in those moments when you can say yes to covering the grandkids or accompany the family on a hike because you’re fit enough to do so.
4. Compare Notes
Whether it’s with a friend who budgets or a professional on the financial planner/wealth manager continuum, talking through your grasp on your numbers with another person beyond your partner or spouse is important. This is for two key reasons: The first is they will validate what you’re getting right. That feels fabulous.
The second is they will push back on anything where you’re off. That feels less fabulous but gives you the opportunity to self-correct (or get a second opinion) and take pride in your appropriate course of action. It’s mentally satisfying to do things the right way, and seeking checks and balances on yourself is a mature act that pays dividends emotionally as well as financially.
5. The Fun Budget
I am a big believer in setting a minimum budget for fun experiences. Most of the time we concentrate on reining in our spending, especially in this period of runaway inflation. But there is a key opportunity for investment in things that make you happy, and I’m not talking about another navy blue top to hang up with your other navy blue tops. I’m talking about a dinner out with a friend, or a round of mini-golf with a grandchild. Travel, to expand your horizons or be immersed again in places of nostalgic meaning to you.
Every household needs to budget differently, but there needs to be some fun budget that pays dividends in happiness, engagement, and lightening up. That is not a “waste” of money, and saving up a fun budget then feels good when it’s time to expend it on the fun.
6. The Benefits Of Benevolence
Whatever the context of your motivation, giving elevates your self-respect. It’s an investment in the well-being of other human beings which comes back to you in both a healthier community and the pride you take in behaving justly. For a deeper look at nuances of the benefits of benevolence, here’s a recent piece by Mary McCoy of Moneycrashers.
What Truly Makes You Happy?
The way to integrate your mental health and financial health is through a balanced understanding of what truly makes you happy.
Not every principle above will resonate with you, but I encourage you to select at least two or three that feel right and are worth exploring through real action.
We are constantly investing our attention, our time, and our dollars into something or other. An important move is to say no to the things on which we don’t want to spend our precious time and money. The opportunity is to do that consciously and deliberately so that we can feel vibrant and proud of our process and the things we give a yes. Then our outcomes consistently follow suit, financially and emotionally.
Check out the rest of our Retirement Lifestyle category, including these articles: