Happiness and Your Financial Health
A while back, Josh sent me a note when I wrote about happiness and he asked if I could write something for his blog, I told him yes and then my life proceeded to get busy with work commitments, so this post is embarrassingly delayed. In my defense, I have written about my additional workload over on Young Adult Money and Sprout Wealth. But enough of my excuses, I feel bad that it has taken me so long to get back to him because I actually wanted to write what he asked me about writing which is one of my favorite topics, happiness.
A few years ago, I was working for a hedge fund and I was responsible for managing the sale of a piece of property the fund owned in California. So, I trekked out west for a week of meetings and the first one was with our land use attorney to find out what had been happening on the property. To say that he was quirky, was an understatement, but I got along with him and we became instant friends. During one of our conversations, he shared that I seemed as though I was really unhappy.
What?! How could he say something like that? He just met me, what did he know about my emotional state? After further conversation with this attorney, who also happens to be a life coach, I realized that he was right, and despite my joyful exterior, my internal mental state was not one of happiness.
The realization led me to the pursuit of this elusive emotion through books, videos, meditation, yoga, journaling or anything else I could try to get a handle on it. And after an exhaustive journey, I found my answer. There is an anonymous saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher will enter.” For me, that teacher was a book about Happiness written by a Buddhist monk. It not only “taught” me about happiness, but it changed my life.
Essentially what the book’s author stated was that when we think solely of ourselves, we make ourselves unhappy. And the only way to discover true and lasting happiness is to help other people without expecting anything in return. It is easier said that done because we typically do put expectations on other people. However, for the last five years, I have actively incorporated these practices into my daily life and consequently, the last five years have been the happiest of my life.
Josh has written a bunch about how to be a successful blogger, and a lot of what he has written is based on this philosophy. The bloggers that I enjoy and many others enjoy as well are supportive and encouraging without expecting anything in return. They comment on my site and don’t expect me to comment on theirs. They tweet my latest posts or they like my statuses on Facebook. And I know for a fact, that all of these successful bloggers are happiest when they are helping others. I know they are because I feel the same way. Hmmm…maybe there is some truth to what the monk is saying?
Why is finding happiness important at all? Because financial health is as much of an emotional journey as it is a financial one and when we are in a good place emotionally, we will be in a good place financially even if the numbers are not what society would tell us they should be to be happy. In fact a recent study claims that the happiest salary for people in the US is $75,000.
I work with clients on a daily basis to help them achieve their financial goals, and one of the main reasons for their success is that I help them not only financially but also emotionally. It doesn’t feel good to make tough choices and say no to going out with friends or buying clothes or some other temporary experience, so I help my clients work through these feelings of disappointment to stay focused on what is important which is their financial health.
I recently had a quarterly meeting with a client and her financial picture was a mess, and she knew it. When we talked through the reasons, it turned out she was unhappy with her life and trying to figure things out. Unfortunately, this unhappiness led to lots of unnecessary spending and less saving, but she recognized this misstep and she is moving forward working on both her financial and her mental health. And this client is not unique (at least not to me). I have witnessed a direct correlation between poor financial choices and unhappiness repeatedly.
If you are struggling with finding happiness, or even if you were like me and didn’t know you were unhappy, commit to your own pursuit of the emotion. Read what Josh is writing, watch some TED talks or read some books. It is a pursuit that will not only benefit you emotionally but financially.
What are your keys to happiness? Do you feel you do better financially when you are “together” emotionally?
About The Author
Shannon McLay is a financial planner who left a “traditional” financial services firm to start her own company, NextGen Financial, to help clients in their 20s and 30s get financially fit. Through her blog, Financially Blonde, her book, Train Your Way to Financial Fitness and her partnership with Money Saving Pro, Shannon is committed to making financial fitness fun, easy and accessible for others.