One of the key tenets of Penny Brohn UK’s Bristol Whole Life Approach is to help people with cancer build resilience in all areas of their life. To “seize the opportunity to review how we live”, to quote Medical Director, Catherine Zollman.
The Financial Wellbeing book and podcasts were inspired by the work of the centre. At the heart is the idea that that financial planning is in theory very simple – you work out what you want from life, then spend your money on that.
Of course, working out what you want from life is actually very hard to do – no more so when one is trying to work out how to live with cancer. Building financial resilience is therefore a key part to improving ones financial wellbeing, and therefore also building overall resilience.
How can we improve our financial resilience?
There are five parts to improving our financial wellbeing:
- Creating a clear path to identifiable objectives
- Financial options
- Ability to cope with a financial shock
- Gaining control over daily finances
- Clarity and security for those we leave behind
If we were to choose one word to summarise these different aspects of financial wellbeing, it would be: engage.
Too often we ignore money, hoping that things will ‘sort themselves out’. This is the enemy of wellbeing. Engaging with money means understanding its importance in our lives (hint: it’s a lot less important than we often think!).
By engaging with our money, we start to understand what it enables us to do. For example, look at the bank statement, work out where the money goes. Make sure that your dependants also know the details of your financial affairs. Get control of the finances, and this act alone will increase your resilience.
A Few Practical Steps
Once you have begun to engage, there are a few specific things action to take. Some are obvious, such as getting your Will up to date (tip: if appointing a third party as executor, be wary of using an institution such as a bank. Always clarify fees beforehand, or you might leave an unpleasant problem behind). And it’s always best to use a solicitor to draw up a Will.
Reviewing investments is always a good idea. What level of risk do you feel comfortable with? What can you afford to lose (what we financial planners call ‘capacity for loss’)? What level of risk are your investments currently exposed to? Is this commensurate with the answers to the first two questions?
Just getting things in order can be of great help. Make sure all your loved ones know who your financial adviser is, if you have one. Even just compiling a list of policies, savings and pension plans can help reduce worries and thereby increase resilience.
Experiences Over Stuff
If we spend our money on buying stuff, the wellbeing we get tends to be relatively short lived. Once we have worn, read, listened to, looked at, eaten the thing that we have bought, the wellbeing we get from it diminishes rapidly.
In contrast, if we spend money on an experience, the wellbeing we get comes in the form of memories, which is much longer lasting.
Consequently, we can increase our financial wellbeing by spending money on experiences – and if those experiences are with our loved ones, or perhaps even a trip to see someone you haven’t seen for a long time, then the wellbeing increase is even greater.
Financial resilience comes from having control, by understanding money and what it can do. By engaging with our finances, we can get things in order, know how much we do (or don’t) have to spend on experiences.
Like all life-altering events, a diagnosis of cancer can provide the catalyst to take control – to seize the opportunity to engage with our finances, and thereby increase our resilience and our wellbeing.