Self-care focuses on self-awareness and self-preservation to better oneself, and many people are committed to self-care in all of its capacities. This can include taking a mental health day, adding meditation to your daily routine, or spending time budgeting for a financial goal.
The latter suggestion is one major tenant of the financial self-care movement, which focuses on taking control of your economic well-being and thoughtfully making choices that will support financially healthy habits in the long run.
We surveyed nearly 1,000 people about their financial self-care routines to establish why the practice is just as important as standard self-care. Read on to uncover the top tips from people who practice strong financial self-care and their advice on jump-starting your money goals.
Financial Self-Care: Defined
Financial self-care embodies a proactive spirit, someone who is willing to metaphorically roll up their sleeves and get into the nitty-gritty of their finances. It can be scary to come to terms with financial concerns, but knowledge can empower someone to make significant adjustments to save money. For an average of 2.6 hours each month, our survey pool committed time to financial self-care, such as budgeting, paying bills, reviewing expenses, and organizing finances.
Intentionally thinking about your finances can allow you to get the upper hand on controlling debt or spending. Women were slightly more likely than men to practice financial self-care, indicating women may have strong money sense and budgeting prowess.
When considering generational differences, we found that younger Americans were less likely to include financial self-care in their routines. Millennials were the least likely to say they practice financial self-care (49%), compared to Gen Xers (52%) and baby boomers (63%). However, when looking at specific behaviors, millennials were 10% more likely than baby boomers to set goals for spending habits and were the most likely to write down financial goals.
How to Achieve Financial Zen
Financial concerns can be a major trigger for stress and anxiety, as many feel the burden, shame, and stigma associated with money struggles: 54% of respondents felt stressed about their financial futures. Feelings of economic insecurity can overwhelm someone, and practicing little to no self-care can exacerbate this issue.
To determine the best tips and advice from our least financially stressed survey participants, we asked about the specific methods they subscribe to. Topping the list was paying bills early or on time (93%), reflecting on purchases before making them (93%), and evaluating checking account balances and movements (92%).
Paying bills on time is an expectation but remains a constant struggle for many Americans who can't afford a $400 emergency. However, maintaining oversight of your banking statements and thinking twice before making purchases can be worked into your regular schedule seamlessly and immediately.
Economic Gains From Financial Self-Care
Most noteworthy, people who practiced the best financial self-care put away the most in their savings account: Each month, people who considered their finances the most thoughtfully saved $368 more than those with the least amount of financial self-care. Picking up financial self-care tips can help you set aside money, so make sure you're taking full advantage of your savings, such as putting those funds in a high-yield savings account.
We found that people who practiced the most financial self-care had the least amount of personal debt, the highest average credit score, and were the least stressed about their finances. Often, when it comes to money, information is the best tool in your kit. Knowing the best practices to manage debt and other financial concerns can mean the difference between being financially stagnant and overcoming your biggest money-based pain points.
Credit scores are one of the major tenets of financial health, and respondents who practiced financial self-care had a nearly 50-point advantage over those who didn't prioritize their finances. Ranging from 300 to 850 on the FICO credit scoring system, those three digits affect someone's likelihood of buying a car, getting a mortgage, or qualifying for a loan. The average FICO credit score among Americans recently hit 704, an all-time high and certainly qualifying as a "good" rating.
It's important to start small and build your way to financial independence. Rushing too quickly into major life changes can lead to burnout or mistakes. Just one hour per month can help bring $104 more into your savings. That's less than 20 minutes per week. Your financial future is worth the time.
Improvements Thanks to Self-Care
If you give a man a fish, he eats for a day, but if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime. Loans can help us during hard times, but financial self-care helps us stay on top of our finances: People who practiced financial self-care the most took out $3,000 less in loans over the past five years than those who practiced the least financial planning.
Overall financial well-being appears to be aided by intentional budgeting and focusing on the financial future. People with strong financial health and self-care were twice as likely to take a vacation and to have a positive outlook on life. In fact, financial self-care practitioners were more satisfied with every aspect we surveyed, from romance to personal growth.
Financial Goals, Imagined and Executed
Most of us have a mixture of short- and long-term financial goals, such as saving up for a big purchase or establishing financial independence through debt elimination. Regardless of the reasons, having a plan can mean the difference between success and falling short of these goals. Those surveyed who noted specific plans to move closer toward their goals were most likely to support debt repayment (80%), retirement planning (79%), and education savings for their children (79%). The rising costs of secondary education are surpassing what parents can save, making it imperative to establish a college savings account for the future, such as a 529 plan.
Overall, most people we talked to had a desire to achieve two financial benchmarks: saving more (favored by 58% of respondents) and spending less (48%). Conversely, 52% of those who practiced financial self-care the most had retirement planning goals, compared to only 24% of those who practiced self-care the least.
Looking Toward the New Year
Earlier, we learned that millennials were the least likely to practice financial self-care. However, they were quite likely to make financial resolutions or goals. With 32% of Americans entering 2019 with a New Year's resolution, it's key that we establish positive habits that promote those resolutions, not inhibit their success with poor practices.
The consequences of not maintaining strong financial health can be seen over time, especially for those who don't stick to savings plans. The people we talked to who didn't fulfill their resolutions accumulated $14,000 more in debt and put nearly $660 less toward their savings compared to people who followed through on their goals.
In terms of success rate, automatic payments were used by 59% of respondents and considered to be a top tactic, with 85% of respondents reporting satisfaction with the results. Automatic payments have revolutionized bill pay by allowing withdrawals to approved merchants on a set calendar, giving consumers an easier, painless way to track spending and pay bills on time.
Financial Self-Care and Its Many Forms
Taking care of yourself is important. All aspects of our health should be supported, from physical to mental well-being and everything in between. Similarly, financial self-care gives people a focused and driven understanding of their economic outlook and status.
Dozens of programs are designed to tackle financial planning, and each tool will vary in usefulness depending on your specific financial situation. Cash flow options, such as credit lines and loans, could very well be the answer to your financial woes. Head over to OnlineLoans.com to uncover the best debt consolidation solutions and read through our extensive debt minimization resource library.
Methodology and Limitations
We used Amazon Mechanical Turk to survey a total of 996 respondents about their extent of practicing financial self-care and their financial health. To be included in our data, respondents were required to complete the entire survey and pass an attention-check question in the middle of each survey. Participants who failed to do either of these were excluded from the study.
Of all respondents, 51% were women, 49% were men, and less than 1% identified with a nonbinary gender. Forty-six percent of respondents were millennials (born 1981 to 1997); 36% were from Generation X (born 1965 to 1980); and 18% were baby boomers (born 1946 to 1964). Generation Z (born 1998 to 2017), the silent generation (born 1928 to 1945), and the greatest generation (born 1927 or earlier) were excluded from the study. The average age of respondents was 40 with a standard deviation of 12 years. The data has a 5% margin of error for millennials and Generation X and a 7% margin of error for baby boomers.
To group respondents into four groups by the extent that they practiced financial self-care, we asked respondents the extent they did the following financial activities on a five-point scale:
- Budget for the week
- Budget for the month
- Reflect on potential purchases before buying to make sure they're financially healthy
- Organize finances, so information is easily accessible
- Review spending and transactions
- Review savings account
- Review checking account
- Review credit card balances
- Make financial goals for improving financial health
- Make financial goals to attain things in the future (e.g., retirement, house purchase, car purchase)
- Save money each month
- Review credit score
- Outline plans on how to meet financial goals
- Plan for retirement/manage retirement funds
- Pay bills early or on time
- Coupon or using money-saving apps
- Manage investments
- Manage debt
- Manage personal loans
- Set up reminders or write on a calendar when payments are due
- Meet/talk with a financial adviser
- Reflect on financial health and how to improve it
We then totaled each respondent's score, and respondents could have a minimum score of 0 and a maximum score of 88. We assigned the average score (61.25) a z-score of 0. Respondents in the bottom quarter of the normalized data were considered to "practice financial self-care the least"; respondents between the bottom quarter and 50th percentile of the normalized data were considered to "slightly practice financial self-care"; respondents between the 50th percentile and 75th percentile of the normalized data were considered to "moderately practice financial self-care"; and respondents in the top quarter of the normalized data were considered to "practice financial self-care the most."
The data we are presenting relies on self report. There are many issues with self reported data. These issues include, but are not limited to: selective memory, telescoping, attribution, and exaggeration. However, In finding averages of quantitative values, we removed outliers so that data were not exaggerated.
Fair Use Statement
Sometimes, all we need is a helping hand to assist us in overcoming financial concerns. Reach out to your friends and loved ones and share the results of this survey. When setting those New Year's resolutions, remember these findings and set those goals with purpose. Be sure to cite us by name when mentioning these results and share for noncommercial purposes only.