We all know that in order to stay healthy we need to eat well, exercise and rest. But how often do we consider our financial health and the role it plays in our overall wellbeing?
In her new book, Financial Wellness And How To Find It, everywomanAmbassador Mel Eusebe argues that the way we think about money has a lot to do with the way we think about ourselves, and the stories we believe about what we deserve. So often, she says, we choose to bury our heads in the sand when it comes to taking positive action over our finances.
Financial wellness doesn’t mean having a portfolio of stocks and shares, logging everything we spend in a spreadsheet, or being debt free — it’s about understanding your emotions around money, knowing who you can turn to for support, and being aware of your subconscious beliefs about self-worth.
We spoke with the founder of Money Moves about her strategies for financial wellness, and the number one rule she swears will have the biggest positive impact on women’s lives and wellbeing.
In your book Financial Wellbeing, you put forward this concept that our present-day attitudes towards money are a lot to do with our individual childhoods and upbringing. How did you hit on that idea?
I have this community [of women called] Money Moves — women from the ages of 23 to 52, mothers, rural, urban, just all kinds of women in terms of their personal circumstances. But from how they manage their money, you can see what kinds of households they lived in. In terms of, how our mothers worked, how they treated money in their lives, and being exposed to budgets in the household. There is a whole idea of money that you just carry with you, because that’s what you grew up with. And there’s nothing in place in our school curriculums to challenge that. I’m not saying that everything we learned from our parents is bad; it’s more we have to challenge it just a little bit. Say, ‘Do I want to keep this? Does this serve me still, or is this something that I should have left in the past?’
WHAT SINGLE THING HAS HAD THE BIGGEST POSITIVE INFLUENCE ON YOUR OWN FINANCIAL WELLBEING?
Talking about it. Because [when you talk about it] you realise you’re not alone and you’re not a jerk. I graduated from school and I worked in a [bank] branch, counting the money every single day, and I was still not very good with money. I used to be the executive producer of the Women World Festival, and we had an economic empowerment day, and there was this woman who was a wealth manager at one of the biggest banks in the world, and she said to this room of women, ‘I didn’t pay off my credit card debt until the age of 42’. I was like ‘Really? Shut up! I am you and you are me!’ She broke it open, then all of a sudden all these women came forward and were able to say, ‘I’m really scared for the future. How can I buy a house in London?’
WHAT DOES ‘NOT BEING GOOD WITH MONEY’ LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?
Not being comfortable with it; not knowing where to get the answers. When I talk about financial wellness, I’m not speaking about wealth, having a lot of money. I’m saying that you know what you make. You know what you spend in terms of you how much it takes for you to live on this planet on a monthly basis. And you know where your money is going and what your time and your value and your worth is in monetary terms.
IT CAN BE REALLY TRICKY TALKING TO PEOPLE ABOUT MONEY FOR ALL SORTS OF REASONS. WHAT’S YOUR ADVICE AROUND THAT?
Create safe spaces. Women are very good at creating safe spaces for when we are vulnerable. [Going back to the bible] women had these red tents where they’d go when they had their periods or were birthing their babies, and we would surround them with love. Money, it does make us vulnerable — that’s why I’m encouraging us to make those safe spaces while we open up this space a bit more. Pay grades and pay scales are all over the place. And the fact that some people are getting paid more for doing the same work as you — that does foster an atmosphere of comparison and negativity and jealousy. So you create a safe space for those kinds of conversations, particularly for your partner and your friends — you should be able to talk about it with your friends.
ANY ADVICE ON HOW TO EMBARK ON MONEY CONVERSATIONS WITH FRIENDS, IF IT’S NOT SOMETHING YOU’VE DONE BEFORE. HOW DO YOU KNOW WHO TO INVITE INTO YOUR ‘SAFE SPACE’?
I didn’t always talk about money with my friends, but there are some friends that are just more money-minded. I have a friend who lived her best life — this woman was always travelling. But she was also mindful of her money, you can kind of tell [through] little habits, like looking at the menu and not just kind of randomly choosing. She was just a bit more money conscious, and that’s why it’s really easy for me to pick up the phone and talk to her. And now we have deeper conversations about daily expenditure all the time that I don’t think I have with any of my other friends. And then there are some friends that I have in regards to salary and goals. And others I can go to even if it’s to share my own indecision, or confusion, or ignorance.
WHAT ARE YOUR TIPS FOR GETTING A PAY RISE?
There’s a lot of prep that goes on, and it’s a long cycle. You have to look at when your company typically sets their budget, and work backwards from there — you can’t just kind of go in there and expect something next month; that almost never happens unless you’re being underpaid already and they have to fix it quick. You also have to do the research: What’s the market rate for your services? It also depends on whether you work for a small firm or big firm, and who else in the org is doing the same things that you do, and what they’re making. I’m a big fan of calling the agencies and asking if they can tell you what you would command on the market. All that is research that you’ll have to do before you even walk into the room. And then you should also look at the worst-case scenario — they have no loot. Compensation is not just money — it’s flexible working, health plans, gym memberships, holiday, leave of absence. You want to be able to investigate the possibilities that would work for you. When you do have the conversation, practise over and over again, 10/15 times with a colleague at work. And justify it based on the business need and the business future, rather than wanting to buy a house or something like that. Don’t leave with a ‘no’; leave with a plan for the future on how you get a ‘yes’ in 6 months.
SHOULD WE HAVE SPECIFIC FINANCIAL OR SAVINGS GOALS WE’RE WORKING TOWARDS?
Yes, I think you should make them specific. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be something like going back to school or starting your own business or school fees; a specific goal could be freedom or safety or peace of mind. We are living under such stress right now with the residues of a global pandemic, where a lot of our workforce were working from home, or not working at all. And so a goal could be to survive that kind of issue — six months or a year of savings, so that if this stuff happens again, I’m not caught on the back foot like last time.
IS FINANCIAL WELLNESS A PART OF D&I? OR SHOULD IT BE?
The elements of financial wellness definitely are a part of D&I. We treat it as that at the company I work for. We include mental health and wellness as part of our D&I offering that we help clients with. I was really surprised… I thought my book would be more for the individual, which it is, but corporates love it…there is more and more in-work poverty. People make money and they get their monthly pay cheque but there are a lot of external commitments, for whatever reason. It could be care for others, it could be anything. And people are really stressed. And more and more workforces are saying that they’re taking part responsibility for the amount of stress workers are feeling and so yeah, financial wellness is actually blowing up in the corporate places. I have more corporate bookings than I have personal bookings. And organisations are really taking responsibility, booking sessions, and saving budget. So it is part of D&I – again, there are some systemic structures in place that are separating people’s money from their labour and it’s disproportionately affecting underrepresented people, whether it be black people, whether it be women, and wealth and the economy. You can tell it’s disparate – if there was a better relationship with our money and with the value that we put into the world, and if there was more recognition in terms of that innate value that we do bring then I would say that we wouldn’t be in the place we’re in now.
ARE THERE ANY ‘SHOULDS’ WHEN IT COMES TO MONEY?
The freedom goal that we just talked about. Just having that money in the pot. Start with a thousand [pounds]. Then let’s go to a month, a three-month, a six-month buffer. You want to be able to have that accessible finance. It’s dependent on your job and your insurances in terms of the amount you need, but I would say start with £1,000 so that you feel safe at night. So that when the potholes come in your journey, it’s not going to thoroughly derail you and send you into a spinner.
Melanie Eusebe is an everywomanAmbassador, founder of the Money Moves financial empowerment programme, and the author of Financial Wellness & How To Find It.