It's no secret that financial education goes a long way to helping people prepare for their future, but it turns out that some financial literacy can also improve a person's physical health as well as their financial health.
One study found the heart-attack rate of people who reported high levels of debt-related stress is double that of those who reported low levels of debt stress, according to the American Psychological Association.
Rates for all kinds of physical health problems are much higher for people who don't have a handle on their finances, the study found.
"It's key for people to realize that money is not a stand-alone issue," says Amy D'Aprix, a retirement-transition expert for the Bank of Montreal and a lifestyle consultant who helps people see the link between financial wealth and personal health.
"Money is part of our lives, so we have to recognize the connection between money and (health)," she adds.
When she conducts workshops with clients, the No. 1 issue she talks about is how to sustain meaning in your life as you approach retirement.
"We know that depression and anxiety rates often go up in retirement, particularly for men," D'Aprix says.
One-third of older adults who drink abusively, for example, didn't start that habit until after retiring.
"The financial aspect is only one aspect of preparing for retirement," she says. "Retirement isn't all about the money. There is a life stage that people aren't ready for."
Staying in control of your finances reduces stress. When they get out of hand, it can have dramatic implications for your personal health and overall wellbeing.
"That relationship between stress and our health is really key," D'Aprix says.
Joe Marino, regional director of trust and wealth planning for BMO Harris Private Banking, sees clients all the time who aren't aware of the connection between their different investments and their overall health and wellness.
While most Canadians have a firm grasp on basic investments such as RRSPs, TFSAs and the Canada Pension Plan, they don't always see it in the context of the bigger picture of a person's entire life - from financial wealth to personal health.
"The big gap is how those (investments) fit together," Marino says. "It's not just about the value of your nest egg, it's what you do with your nest egg."
BMO conducted a recent survey that found about 70 per cent of people wanted a Finance 101 lesson because they lacked the knowledge on how all of their investments fit together, along with the impact that can have on a person's outlook.
One couple Marino recently saw had spent their entire lives building up a business, accumulating wealth, paying off debts and saving for retirement. When they finally sold their business, they weren't prepared to actually start using that wealth.
"The stress that came for them was that they were at that stage of life where they couldn't quite turn off the work switch yet," Marino says. "They spent their lifetime acquiring, growing, preserving and protecting their assets and now suddenly they've sold (their business) and they had to learn how to spend rationally - and to do it guilt free."
They were actually stressed out by shifting gears from saving to spending.
"You can be as educated as you want, but I think people just underestimate the emotional complexity of their assets," he says.
Hitting your financial targets is one thing, but looking at it in the context of how those targets impact your life is important, especially when nearing retirement .
The pressures change over time. When you're young, the priorities are often paying down debt and accumulating wealth, but then suddenly you're faced with what to do with your life once you retire , he says.
According to MetLife's 10th annual study of employee-benefits trends, consumers who attend financial education training programs are 25 per cent more likely to feel in control of their finances compared with those with no financial education or training.
Another one of Marino's clients had a strong financial portfolio , but upon retirement found he wasn't prepared to make decisions about whether to sell his house and how to turn his assets into cash flow for retirement.
"There's not as many resources to figure out how to alter your lifestyle," Marino says.
Everybody's outlook is different, which is why it's always smart to start by contacting a professional adviser to address the finances. Then it's up to you to manage the rest of your life, including your health.
Just don't overlook the fact that financial wealth and personal health are interconnected - at every stage of your life.
"Your possessions are emotional and so is your wealth," Marino says.
Money and stress
- Twenty-seven per cent of people reporting high levels of debt-related stress had ulcers or digestive tract problems, compared with eight per cent with low-debt stress
- Forty-four per cent with high-debt stress had headaches , compared with four per cent with low-debt stress
- Twenty-three per cent with high-debt stress felt they were suffering from depression, compared with four per cent with low-debt stress
- The heart attack rate of those with high-debt stress was double that of those with low-debt stress
- Sixty-five per cent more people with high-debt stress suffered from muscle tension or lower-back pain
- Source: American Psychological Association
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