I work in Financial Sickness. That’s right, Financial Sickness. Seeing Financial Wellness everywhere, it hit me: When someone is sick, they need to get a virus or bacteria out of their system. The wellness part comes later.
In America, we’re in the midst of a Financial Sickness epidemic. It’s tempting to think this is the result of the Covid pandemic, but in reality, we’ve been sick for a long time.
There are ways to solve this problem and help the individuals, families, and communities who are struggling. You can tune in to Dave Ramsey’s daily show to witness people overcoming this sickness. Dave helps people get to the root of the problem. He doesn’t bother with surface level symptoms.
One of my favorite quotes is from Thoreau: “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.”
Dave and I (that’s right, I’m telling you I do similar work to Dave Ramsey) are striking at the root of Financial Sickness. You know who isn’t? Those who have simply taken the words “Financial” and “Wellness”, and slapped them onto the same vapid and useless financial “education” seminars that haven’t ever helped anyone.
If you’re paying attention, the same phenomenon is taking place with Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) investing and it’s called “Green Washing.” In this case, instead of truly doing good in the environment, addressing social concerns, and providing thoughtful corporate governance, many companies are simply throwing a label on the same things they’re already selling. It’s gross.
My favorite is when banks talk about Financial Wellness because it seems almost contradictory. There’s a great scene in the movie The Social Network where the Mark Zuckerburg character gets fed up during a deposition and says to his accusers, “If you were the inventors of Facebook, you would have invented Facebook.” To banks, and many other big financial companies I say this: If you were capable of helping people to become financially successful, then you would have been helping people become financially successful.
Too harsh? Try this one on:
You know how drug dealers will hook new customers by giving them small amounts of drugs for free the first time? Once that new client is hooked and addicted, what if the drug dealer then opened a rehab clinic to help that customer get clean? How is that scenario different from a bank giving credit cards to people, getting them in debt, then offering them “financial wellness” to help them out? I think it’s essentially the same thing.
Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of people out there doing good work in personal finance and helping people to become financially successful. My point is simply this: there are a lot of pretenders as well.
Not sure if what you’re getting is solid financial wellness programming or just the same old blah with a fancy name? Dig into it a little deeper. What information is being presented and is it addressing the Financial Sickness epidemic?
- If it’s talking about the importance of budgeting, but not providing the tools to actually budget, it’s falling short.
- If it’s talking about the value of living debt free, but not talking about how to actually make that happen, it’s falling short.
- If all it is talking about is risk tolerance, asset allocation, mutual fund choices, and contribution options, it’s falling egregiously short
All that stuff is important, but it’s not financial wellness. It’s financial information. And financial information is free on the internet. People are drowning in information. Not sure if your employees are struggling? Check out the metrics of your 401(k). Are people contributing the proper amount to stop working at “normal” retirement age?
When you’re sick, what do you do? You stop doing things. You stop going to work. You stop staying up late. You stop eating crappy food. You stop drinking and doing things which are bad for you. You stop engaging in the behaviors that may have gotten you sick in the first place.
Then what do you do? You start doing healthy things. You start sleeping more. You start eating healthier foods. You start drinking more water. You take medicine.
There’s a cure for financial sickness. But like losing weight, getting in shape, and being physically healthy, it doesn’t come in a pill. It requires consistent effort. It won’t be easy. And you know that, because nothing worthwhile ever is.
The medicine that cures financial sickness isn’t dissimilar. It’s being courageous enough to recognize there’s a problem. It’s being courageous enough to stop engaging in damaging behaviors like overspending and rolling over credit card balances from month to month. And it’s being courageous enough to start engaging in healthy behaviors like monitoring cash flow, budgeting, and putting a plan together to eliminate debt.
I want everyone to enjoy financial prosperity. But that will never happen until you first achieve financial security. That should be the stated purpose of Financial Wellness.
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