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Is “Financial Health” The Next Big Wellness Trend?

Vanessa Golembewski

Financial wellness is a watery term. For some, it’s about homeownership. For others, it’s about paying rent on time. For plenty, it’s about budgeting for a daily oat-milk latte. We all arrive at adulthood with different levels of privilege, different cumulative debts, and different spending habits — and for all of us, monetary stability is personal.

That’s why we partnered with Prudential Financial, a company that's as devoted to promoting your financial wellness as you are, to explore the ways women are managing their well-being in 2019. Is it about paying off debt? Investing in a home? Putting money aside for an emergency? We vowed to find out — so we reached out to five different women and asked them how they define financial wellness, and whether or not they believe they’ve achieved it. Ahead, see if their definitions align with yours.

Elizabeth, 38
San Francisco, CA
Public Relations
“For years, my definition of financial stability was about not living paycheck to paycheck. And that's a low bar. Only recently, as I've grown professionally, have I been able to actually save. I always laughed at the idea that financial experts suggest a cash stash equal to six months of living expenses. What millennial can do that? I've never been a careless spender and, in fact, did not get a credit card until my late 20s, because I already was staring into the yawning abyss of student loans and didn't want more debt to my name. Luckily, I’ve been able to pay down my student loans dramatically in the last five years, and it's the first time since graduating from grad school that I have been able to take a deep breath. 

“Now, I'm trying to plan for the future with a better savings account, a strong 401(k), and the like. Currently, financial wellness, for me, means having a decent savings account and planning ahead for retirement. As a woman and a child of immigrants, it is the cultural expectation that I will care for my parents as they age. As of the last five years, I feel confident in my ability to bear that responsibility.”

Cynia, 28
Bronx, New York

“To me, financial wellness is about having a healthy relationship with money. The wealth gap that exists in America is absurd for people of color. It feels like I have a long life of playing catch-up ahead of me. I am Black and a woman, so my identity plays into my earning capabilities. My parents will never pay for my wedding, buy me a car, or give me a down payment for a house, so everything is on my back alone. 

“That said, I make six figures now, and the best financial advice I have ever received is to pay yourself first (in the same way you might prioritize a bill). I live by this. Every month, without fail, I set aside money for my savings. And it’s made all the difference for me.” 

Maggie, 34
Video Production
Milwaukee, WI
“Being financially well, for me, means that I know I can pay all of my bills, I have a couple months of savings in the bank, and I have some ‘fun’ money put aside. It means I don't have to check my account balance before going out, because I am confident that I have the money I need to live the life I want. I don't want to count each dollar or be so careful about my spending that I don’t get to actually enjoy it. 
“I think financial wellness is about facing your finances and knowing the truth about how much debt you have, what you're spending, etc. I don't think I really achieved financial wellness until I had a full-time, salaried job. Before, as a bartender, I couldn't rely on consistent money, but now I have a standard paycheck (for the time being). 
“Growing up, I don't think I had great patterns modeled for me, financially. When I went to college, my parents encouraged me to take out the max amount of loans so I could focus on my studies and not have to work. Looking back, I’m not sure that was the right decision. At the same time, my parents and I do share a belief in treating yourself. No, that does not mean taking a spa day whenever you want — it's about getting an ice cream cone or going to a movie without overthinking it. They definitely taught me that money is a way to buy small forms of happiness, even if they’re just tiny pleasures.”

Cara, 45
Brand Manager
New York, NY
“I’ve never felt completely financially ‘well,’ even though if one were to take a look at my numbers, they'd probably say I am. I grew up in an immigrant family and then spent 10 years as a freelancer, never knowing if I was going to make enough money. I'm always worried about going completely broke if I'm not ultra-vigilant about my spending and saving habits. I only just bought a studio apartment after renting for 25 years. I’ve never owned a car or raised kids. I ride a bike to work.
“I always admire people who go big and spend loads of money on something they just really want, without thinking too hard about it. That seems like financial wellness to me. Even if I never spend carelessly, it's nice to work towards a version of spending where I feel comfortable purchasing things that I really do want.” 

Whitney, 33
Business Operations
Los Angeles, CA
“My definition of financial stability is the ability to pay rent while maintaining a modest emergency savings fund. I was lucky enough to come out of college debt-free, but it wasn’t until I was 25 or so that I stopped feeling like I had to worry about whether or not I would make rent.
“Growing up, I had this idea that owning a home was the only way to be financially well, but I now think that homeownership is more of a personal value. It’s not at the core of financial wellness for everyone — and right now, it’s not particularly important to me. Instead, I want to be able to do the things that are currently important to me, like travel and experiences.
“As women, the financial advice we often get is centered around savings (i.e., don't buy coffee), rather than smart investing. I didn't feel financially well until this year, largely because I learned how to invest and plan ahead for the first time. I got a financial planner who helped me map out my investment strategy, so now I can feel more confident in both spending and saving. This is something I would suggest to everyone, as it truly makes a difference in the long run.”

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