What is Money Health?


"There's no right or wrong time. Just start. Better now than later and better late than never."


-Simon Sinek


I am so stressed! I don't have money to pay the rent. It's 2004 and I'm swamped with my coursework. For the second time in my life, I just pulled two all-nighters in a row. I'm tired. I'm working fewer hours at my job because of my course load. My roommate just moved out so I'm trying to pay for a two-bedroom apartment working part-time.


I'm at the end of my rope.


I don't have the money to pay my bills. I'm playing the "float game," where I write a check and hope it doesn't get cashed until payday. I rely on credit cards, so of course, I'm not saving. I would be completely out of luck if I lost my job or had to further reduce my hours. I'm ashamed to talk about my money situation, and even if I wasn't, there's nobody to talk to. I'm barely treading water, so thinking about what I wanted out of life is completely out of the question. Even if I could use my money to support my values, I don't have any idea what those are.


I'm just trying to survive.


A decade and a half later I would find out that I had no Money Health. I had the money-version of a disease or a disorder. I fixed my Money Health, but it took time. It took patience. I know this is a cliche, but if I can do it, so can you.


money health

Health and Well-Being


Before we can talk about health and money, we should talk about what health and well-being mean.


When most of us think about health our automatic thought it to think about physical health. If we want or need help with some aspect of our physical health we go see a medical doctor. This could be for regular checkups, injuries, and illnesses. Physical health, among other things, means we are free some disease and illness, are physically fit, get enough sleep, and have a healthy diet.


physical health

The second realm of health is mental health. This area of wellness has historically been kind of a taboo subject. I do believe the stigma around mental health is (slowly) going away, though, and I think that will benefit all of us.


If we want or need help with some aspect of our mental health we go see a mental health professional, like a psychologist, marriage and family therapist, counselor, or psychiatrist. Together these professionals are sometimes called psychotherapists. If you have a disorder, you would go see a psychotherapist, of course, but they can do so much more for you than diagnose and treat a disorder. They help you sort through challenging times you are having, address emotional stress, help you untangle your thoughts, and more.


Having mental health means that we generally enjoy life, don't have disorders, feel safe, and can bounce back from life's difficulties.


mental health

Well-Being and Money


This brings us to wellness as it relates to money. Money is an interesting topic because money touches every area of our life. If we don't have financial wellness, it may impact other aspects of our health. For example, troubles with money can cause us to feel stress, lose sleep, feel depressed or anxious, get into fights, or make us feel unsafe.


Thinking about wellness and money can be confusing because there are a lot of terms floating around out there. You may hear it called financial well-being, financial wellness, or financial health. I call it Money Health.


financial health

Different Financial Wellness Ideas


You might be wondering what it means, regardless of what we call it. Thought-leader, and one of my mentors, Brad Klontz, says that financial health is having a balanced, comfortable, and conscious relationship with money that is both satisfying and not overly stressful. That's kind of a mouthful, so let's break that down.


The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) calls it financial well-being and has a clear definition. They break it down into a nicely defined grid. On one axis is the time period - the present and the future. On the other axis are two elements of financial well-being, security and freedom.


Having security in the present moment means having the day-to-day management of your finances in order. This is the blocking and tackling. You are paying your bills on time. You can meet your financial obligations.


Having security in the future means being able to handle setbacks or bumps in the road. You'll survive if you lose your job or have to experience a pay cut. You can handle unexpected expenses.


Having freedom in the present means you don't have to worry about whether or not there will be money in your account. You can make financial decisions that help you enjoy life without undue stress.


Having freedom in the future means you are saving for longer-term needs, like retirement (of course, I don't like to call it retirement).


This is a great way to think about financial well-being. Before we move on, I want to pause and talk about the difference between exterior finance and interior finance.


Exterior finance is the nuts and bolts of finance. It's the mechanics of money. Think of this as being the "spreadsheets and calculators" (to quote another mentor of mine, Carl Richards) side of money.


Interior finance is the softer side of money. This is where our feelings and emotions about money live. This is our financial behavior. This is our personal values and relationships. This is how to talk about money.


CFPB's definition is great, but only tackles the exterior side of money. I like to take it a few steps further.


exterior financial well being

Adding Awareness: Money Health