As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic we find ourselves spending most—if not all—of our waking hours at home. Like me, many of you have been working remotely for months! We've lost our happy hours, networking and work connections, gym buddies, and the human interaction we crave (and need!). I'm convinced the only winner is Brownie, my 13-year old Korean Jindo, who is spoiled rotten by the yummy food scraps and the daily walks.
It can be hard to talk about, but mental health experts have been warning that an important consequence of pandemic life is an increase in substance abuse, anxiety, and depression. Earlier this year, the University of Utah found that sales of alcohol in the U.S. increased by 55% over the same period in 2019. Around the same time, analytics firm Headset reported that U.S. marijuana sales spiked dramatically in March, showing the highest growth rate in more than a year.
Life might feel like it’s on pause, but your financial health isn’t. Your future depends on good health, for you and the people you love and care for. What good is wealth without health? They are intertwined. Staying healthy means you can both keep accumulating wealth and enjoy it.
How you approach your finances mentally is a key part of your ability to master them. It’s something we've always emphasized at UWM and something you can work on even while following stay‑at‑home orders. The truth is that our money mismanagement is often deeply rooted in our upbringing. As adults, we have the ability to change this. Right now compulsive shoppers might find it hard not to spend and run up credit card debt, even when the checking account is empty. Other people might hoard money or lecture others about overspending. At both extremes, they may unaware or in denial about what they're doing, and these actions might be rationalized at this time by changing needs.
To combat these destructive behaviors, why not adopt money mindfulness? This concept is based on the principle that the path to happiness is not about getting what we want but wanting what we have.
Money mindfulness stresses being aware of money without being obsessed with it. It includes a deliberate intention to use money effectively to enhance your own life and the lives of family, loved ones, and the broader community. Adopting this mindset can be part of a journey to a rich emotional, intellectual, and spiritual life. Yes, there is a spiritual aspect to money mindfulness! It teaches us that the "winners" in life are not those end up with the most "stuff". Real winners know when to say, "Enough." They're able to quit while they're ahead, and—just as important—they stay healthy so they can enjoy the fruits of their labor with their loved ones.
In pandemic times, our need for others has increased even as our access is limited. In dealing with this, older, retired married couples might have an advantage. Studies have found that, among married couples in the U.S., older retired couples are the happiest, possibly because they tend to be focused on supporting one another. Midlife couples raising kids and dealing with demanding careers tend to enjoy less time together (even when staying at home) and disagree more often. Single, divorced, and widowed individuals may be more isolated than before. Are you willing to be vulnerable and reach out? Are you willing to ask your spouse, partner, or friend for support? Now is a good time to practice. You don’t have to wait for old age to have a stronger relationship with your partner, brother, son, friend, or neighbor.
As the entire country grapples with the emotional challenges of stay-at-home orders, I encourage you to develop your own money mindfulness. Your financial future is at stake. You and your family will be glad you did.
And while we're at it, let’s add one more retirement goal to your list: Healthy and rocking @85!