Financial wellness is increasingly included in employee benefits programs
A survey commissioned by Financial Planning Standards Council (FPSC) earlier this year shows that Canadians are suffering emotional stress related to their financial situation, and nearly half – 48 per cent – say they have lost sleep because they are worried about money.
The FPSC Financial Stress survey, which was conducted by Leger and included more than 1,100 Canadians from across the country (outside of Quebec), found that four in 10 ranked money as their greatest stress, and more than half – 51 per cent – are embarrassed about a lack of control over their financial situation. The survey was a follow-up to a similar FPSC study in 2014, which saw similar results.
“That emotional stress is bad for Canadians’ physical and mental health,” says Dr. Moira Somers, a clinical neuropsychologist specializing in mental and financial well-being.
Having too little money is the biggest financial stressor, which is perhaps why so many younger Canadians say they feel embarrassed about a lack of control over their finances. Millennials (age 18 to 34) are most likely to feel the strain: 52 per cent say they feel the pressure to keep up with their friends’ or colleagues’ financial status.
“People tend to compare themselves to their peers, or to a lifestyle channel on TV, and feel that they are not doing well,” says Dr. Somers. “But the outward signs of wealth are not an accurate indicator of actual wealth.”
She advises her clients to keep focused on their own situation and not worry about how other people appear to be living.
“I tell them to figure out how to get control of their own finances and to work on establishing their financial well-being,” she adds. “Money is inextricably interwoven into all aspects of our lives, and managing it effectively is a modern survival skill.”
Dr. Somers says worry about finances tends to use up a great deal of brainpower looking for solutions, and prolonged stress can be exhausting and even cause temporary reductions in IQ and problem-solving abilities.
She suggests people educate themselves about money and talk openly and honestly with their families about their financial concerns. But it’s not something people have to do on their own. “There are financial experts in the community whose job it is to help people solve their financial problems and meet their financial goals,” Dr. Somers says.
“Speaking to a Certified Financial Planner professional is a good way to develop clarity about the contributors to your financial stress. Once realistic plans are in place to address real or imagined shortfalls both for now and the future, stress tends to settle quickly,” she adds.
Dr. Somers says an increasing number of companies are realizing the importance to their staff of financial literacy and, as a result, are including financial wellness in employee benefits programs.
“There’s evidence that those initiatives pay back the companies sixfold in terms of reduced turnover and reduced absenteeism as people become less stressed and more in control of finances and have a sense they know how to manage more effectively. They become healthier overall,” she says.
To view more articles related to this story visit globeandmail.com