With the cost of living on the rise, and the level of debt in Australia being close to the highest in the world, it’s not hard to see why Australian households are increasingly feeling the pinch.
While many people think money worries are a personal issue, financial stress actually spans across many aspects of a person’s life, including their work. In fact, financial stress is fast becoming one of the biggest factors impacting a worker’s health and productivity.
The impact of financial stress at work
One in five Australian workers currently suffer from moderate to severe financial stress, while approximately 40 per cent of workers will experience financial stress during their working lives.i Over the past two years, employees who earned $50,000-$74,999 annually experienced the biggest increase in financial stress, with 26% of this cohort identifying as being financially stressed.i
Workers with money problems are twice as likely to be in poor health, take an additional 2.4 days off work per year due to illness, and spend almost an hour per week dealing with their finances at work.i In addition, these employees are less satisfied with their lives, are less productive at work and are more likely to underperform or be able to bring their best selves to work.
It’s clear that financial stress has a significant impact on workers’ health and performance. It can be a constant worry for these individuals, and at its worst crippling. But with a bit of teamwork, solid communication and a dash of discipline, you can get your finances under control.
As with other sources of stress, money problems can make people prone to withdrawing or lashing out at their loved ones. This in turn, detrimentally impacts family dynamics. While talking about money is never particularly easy, even when it’s with a partner or loved one, a good approach is to communicate openly and honestly. Perhaps it’s time to schedule a family meeting and talk about finances in a constructive, non-judgmental way, making sure everyone is aware of what the situation is, and ensure you all have the same expectations.
It can also be helpful to create parameters for conversations around money. One common ‘rule’ is agreeing to discuss big purchases (over a certain amount) with your partner, especially if these purchases will be made from a joint account.
You may also find it handy setting ‘free spending’ limits for each member of the family (taking the form of pocket money for kids) so everyone feels like they have both accountability and freedom. This is essentially a function of household budgeting.
Crunching the numbers
Once you’ve figured out how to communicate about finances, it’s time to look at the numbers themselves. If you haven’t already, draw up a household budget. Often people avoid these out of fear of appraising their expenditure or just because they see the task as too tedious. Luckily, there’s a plethora of online applications now which make the task simple such as MoneyBrilliant and Pocketbook.
Make sure you remember to revise your budget regularly. This means reviewing your discretionary spending every time your income or expenses change.
Look at your spending habits
In the age of direct debit, it’s easy to forget about certain things you’re paying for. If the money just leaves your account, especially if it’s not a large amount, it’s hard to believe it was even there in the first place. It won’t take long to review what you’re spending money on and where, and decide what’s really important.
Dial down your debt
With Australian household debt amongst the highest in the world, it may be time to look at how you can work towards reducing your debt. There are multiple ways you can do this and it will depend on your individual circumstances, but it’s worth doing your research. It’s important not to sweep it under the rug as working out a plan to reduce your debt could make a big difference not only to your bottom line but also to your wellbeing.
Make a plan
If you’re feeling financially stressed, the very first thing you should do is approach each financial ‘problem’ you encounter as something that can be solved. Once you’ve adopted this mindset, you are able to create an actionable plan that will help you overcome these problems.
Research shows that having well-defined financial goals, and creating a plan to achieve them, helps to significantly ease stress and gives greater peace of mind to those suffering from financial stress.ii Goals help lift people above the day-to-day expense cycle, makes them feel more in control of their expenses and gives them a longer-term view of their finances.
It’s important to remember that financial stress operates chemically the same way as other stressors. This means that in addition to the above tips, the usual tricks should also help in combating this stress. Make sure you’re exercising regularly, sleeping well, eating healthy, staying social, and taking time to be mindful. While these practices themselves won’t reduce your financial burden, they will leave you in the right mind frame to take appropriate steps.
i AMP. (2018). Financial Wellness in the Australian Workplace. Accessed online from https://corporate.amp.com.au/content/dam/corporate/newsroom/files/Fin%20Wellness%20report.PDF
ii AMP. (2019). Financial stress costing businesses billions. Accessed online from https://corporate.amp.com.au/newsroom/2019/january/financial-stress-costs-businesses-billions-in-lost-revenue
The information and any advice in this article does not take into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs and so you should consider its appropriateness having regard to these factors before acting on it. When considering whether to acquire a financial product, before making any decision, you should obtain the relevant product disclosure statement.