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February 24, 2020

[Podcast] SE01E04: Ways for mamas to improve financial self care

What does your financial self care look like, as a mother? Today we dig into five different areas of financial self care that I think are important for you to consider. Not just the obvious things!

Transcript

Welcome back Mamas!  It’s good to have you here.  

In this episode, we’re going to go a bit deeper into financial self care specifically as a mum/mom/mother/mama.  Because as we all probably know, self-care can go to the wayside when you become a mum and when you begin focusing more on others, and if you’re not really careful, you’re self-care can go out the back window!  

I think that the same goes for financial self-care, except we have a few more and different needs as we become mothers.  So that’s what I want to talk about today. I wanted to get a gauge though – before I started recording this podcast – to what financial care means to mamas in my Facebook group – Creating Healthy Wealth in Motherhood.  So I put the question out this morning ‘what pops into your head when I talk about financial self-care?’  And they were all pretty sensible answers. Things like having a liveable budget, not too much deprivation I guess, but also enough to get the bills paid.  Having the debts paid, or at least being paid off.  There were a few comments on saving for the future, mindful spending, prioritising finances over your wants is quite important too.  Taking active responsibility especially if you’re in a relationship, for your finances not just passive.  And on that, if you’re in a relationship, having transparency between both of you across the finances.  And equal kind of decision making in the mix.  So, they all seem pretty sensible to me.  

So we seem to have matured on the ‘what is self-care’ question.  Because it used to be quite funny on Instagram and twitter – people would post about self-care, and that would really equal things like getting your nails done, or a massage, which is nice.  But now, I think we’re more understanding in terms of the body and mind in self-care, it’s not just getting your nails done and getting a massage. It’s having time just for you, it’s about exercising and taking care of your body, the ability to focus on what’s important to you.  Learning, eating nutritious food that is good for your body, having quiet time, maybe meditation. Keeping an eye on your body, monitoring body changes and getting help when you need it, those sorts of things.  

So you understand what self-care is to the body and mind, but what about your finances and why is that important to include in self-care anyway?  So I think it goes without saying that financial self-care is not having money for nails and massages, we’re well past that. It goes a little deeper.  Yes there is being across things and on top of things and paying off debt and saving. What I want to do is go one level deeper into the financial self-care areas, so we’re going to explore that.  

One thing I want to be really clear about is I don’t want you to feel bad when you’re listening to these suggestions, advice, topics.  Because we all do what’s best for us with the knowledge and experience we have at the time. If I’m mentioning things here and you think ‘I know, I’ve got to do that, I haven’t even thought of that’.  I don’t want you to start feeling that weight. I don’t want you to feel guilty, or negative or bad about your situation.  

All I’m trying to do here is plant the seeds, get that discussion going about where are we at with financial self-care now that we’re mums?  I’d like to raise the topics, raise the suggestion, and just put it out there.  The things that I’m going to talk about today, I’m not doing all of them and I have my reasons for that – and I’ll explain that actually and give you some examples.  It isn’t cut and dried, it isn’t black and white, it never is.  

But I want to put it out there because I feel like it’s important to remember that as mums things are a little different for us on the financial landscape.  We go on maternity leave, we work part time, we give more to others once we are mums. Our landscape has changed. We need a little bit more awareness, so that we can continue to make the decisions that are right for us in our lives.  I think I have four or five points to talk about here, so this actually might be a little longer podcast so you might be cool with that and you’re getting used of me and my accent.

The very first thing I want to talk about is being on top of things.  This had come up in the Facebook posts, having an awareness of what’s going on.  And this isn’t necessarily having yourself sorted, being totally financially sorted.  It’s just about being on top of stuff. Or at least having a healthy awareness, and we’ll go into that soon, of what’s coming in, what your incomes are, versus what’s going out.  Not turning a blind eye to anything. Being aware of debt levels, and the payoff forecast. Being aware of the different accounts you have and their interest rates. At a high level being aware of any money leaks, I do go into this in a blogpost, I talk about money leaks.  It’s one of my all-time popular blog posts so I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. Having a high level view of what your money leaks are doesn’t mean your on top of it, you just kind of know.  

You have this healthy awareness, and it doesn’t consume you.  You’re not feeling stressed about it all the time, and you’re not spending heaps of time tracking every cent, spending hours and hours pouring over your budget.  Feeling that weight of the world on your shoulders. You’ve got an aerial view of your financial landscape, what’s coming in and what’s going out. What’s growing, shrinking etc over time, a healthy awareness.  

When I first started Leveraged Mama blog, I discovered Dave Ramsey and his snowball debt payment method (which I’m still following by the way).  I went super hard in discovering exactly where everything was, exactly how much I owed, exactly what the interest rates were, exactly where every cent was, I knew everything.  I even tracked each fund that we were investing in.  

But you may have seen a post on Facebook from a year ago, I just said ‘I can’t keep talking about debt on my blog, I can’t keep focusing on it in my personal life because what you focus on you get more of and I don’t want more debt!’  

So I literally stopped, not only talking about debt at that point, but I stopped the hard out tracking. I still managed my budget well, but I wasn’t so consciously aware of when I was going to pay things off, when I was going to be debt free.  I actually even deleted three years of the end of my budget – my google sheets workbook. I deleted three years of my budget because I thought let’s just get through the next twelve months.  Let’s not worry about what’s after that as things might change and they have.  

I came from an almost obsessive awareness of my finances, which became a more healthy awareness – but without turning a blind eye. I knew what was going on and I knew I had my payments covered.  I was on top of stuff but I wasn’t obsessing about it. 

The weight really lifted after that.  I already knew what my money leaks were but I didn’t need to know what they were week to week.  I already knew where money was leaking – I didn’t need to keep a running commentary of that!  

So my thinking became a whole lot healthier around that.  When you think about your finances, and your level of awareness, how much do you understand, how much do you know, how much do you need to know? There is a balance there.  Really, does it give you the information you need to make better decisions?  How does it affect your stress levels? How does your knowledge affect your future finances?  Do you know that you need to earn more, work more, work longer? What is this knowledge giving you?  Is it giving you good information that you can work with and make better decisions with, or is it just stressing you out?  Do you know enough, do you know too much?  

These are questions that, from the aerial view, do you know enough to gain that peace of mind?  Peace of mind is really important because, self-care, body, mind, financial.  

Financial self care contributes to your mental health, of being a little bit less stressed and less freaked out by the state of things.  Are you getting peace of mind by what you know about your finances? If you’re not maybe you need to look further into it, or step away from it and reassess how you’re managing it.  

Anytime you start focusing on anything for instance, say you’re trying to lose weight and you begin tracking all of your food, and all of your exercise.  It’s good until it’s not. It’s good until you know “this is what I can eat and not put on weight”. It’s not good when you’re obsessing over it. That’s when your focus is gone.  It’s less of a gentle glow, more like a blasting laser! That’s an unhealthy awareness. So stepping back to a healthy awareness to give you peace of mind, that’s where I think we should be.  

Number two, the future.  The future has a plan.  Not only does your future have a plan, it has a healthy plan.  Things like paying off your debt, you know when that’s going to happen, saving towards your retirement, maybe paying off a home.  So you’ve thought about it, and what you’re doing right now, is moving you towards it, or at least not away from it.  

For example, my business. On the surface of it, we’ve sacrificed my income – I had a six figure, corporate IT role.  We’re sacrificing that in order for me to build my business. I still do contract work but only 10 hours a week at the most at the moment, so that I can still bring in a little bit of cash, still use the skills and experience I have built up in my career, but also build this business.  

On the surface of it, it might just look like loss of income, a career thrown away – so dramatic!  But the intention is to grow my business with leveraged and passive income streams and I believe that I’ll make that [lost] income back and even more. 

The focus here is on flexible income generation, so when you balance it out, loss of income versus what things could possibly look like for me in the future, that is still a healthy plan, regardless if I’m not earning what I used to earn for a few years.  There is a balance here, you need to look at ‘what is my future plan?’, ‘what am I doing towards it?’ and not only is it a lifestyle that you’re going to look forward to as you get older, remember you’re going to be older and you’re going to have changing needs.  

Is the lifestyle that you’re working towards, are you looking forward to it?  Is what you’re aiming towards, not just good for future-you, but what about now-you.  If you’re working so hard now to build a future that you are looking forward to, how is that going to affect you when you get there?  It’s not just “work so hard that you’re going to create this amazing future, but destroy yourself in the process”. Or conversely, live so much now that you’ve got nothing later.  There’s a balance there and you’ll reach the balance that is good for you.  

But the question here is, will you be in a really happy place, or in one piece at least, when you get to this future?  Not just ‘it’s good when I get there’, but I’m good when I get there.  

Having a healthy future plan is something we really need to reassess every now and then.  

It’s kind of like the yin and yang picture, you’ve got the black comma and the white comma wrapping around each other and they’re forming this perfect shape.  This is how I see future-you and now-you working together. You’re thinking about each other all the time, and making sure that you’re not taking too much from each other, but always working together to try and maintain that balance.  

So sometimes we do need to reassess this balance, and sometimes we need to lay off a bit.  Give now-self, today-self, a little bit of a break. Future-self is looked after for now, or, maybe now self needs to calm down and think about future self a little bit more.  Just that constant balance seeking arrangement. What you’re doing today, do you feel like that is creating the future that you’re looking for? Or are you really running yourself into the ground trying to create that? Then you may need to rebalance.  

Next up is, retirement savings equality.  This is a good one.  I have blogged about this, talked about this, presented about this to people in person.  It’s very important to me and it’s something I ponder over quite a lot.  But note, I have my own example here. This is precisely why I don’t want you to be like, ‘oh my god I’m not doing that or, should I be doing that?’  It’s food for thought, and you might have another way and that’s okay. This is not the bible, this is not ‘you must do things this way.’  

So retirement savings equality.  When you take maternity leave or work part time while your kids are young, as we mentioned before, you naturally put less away for retirement.  And it’s not just that percentage that you would have put away each pay of your income towards your retirement savings. But it is the lost employers contributions, and the interest that you would’ve been gaining over that time, and the compound interest, that you would have been building up each year that you have been saving that money.  Here’s the thing – women often live longer than men. It is a fact, it’s an actual fact. However, women naturally have less retirement savings overall because when we become mums and we take time off, we have those working breaks. So there is less retirement savings.  

This might be a trigger, so please be warned.  Let’s say your husband dies before you, your partner dies before you.  I know these are potential recourses so maybe there’s money left to you [or an insurance payout] so it all evens out alright?  But maybe not, maybe he [or she] leaves it all to the kids, who knows?  

Or maybe if you split, or you have already split from your partner.  Let’s say you cut a deal, that you get part of their retirement savings as part of a marriage annulment deal, I’m not quite sure what it’s called.  But maybe not.  

These are all things we might think to ourselves, that would never happen, I don’t want to think about that.  I don’t want you to worry about it, but just don’t turn a blind eye to it.

The option you have in terms of a self-care approach, how can you actually balance it out now instead of waiting for something to happen?  How can you balance it out now?  

Here’s one idea – maybe your partner transfers into your savings retirement every 3 to 6 months, so that what he or she is putting away for retirement also comes over into your account, so that you’re both growing your retirement savings at the same time while you’re off work or working part time.  

I don’t think there’s a benchmark of fairness here, and I’m definitely not saying that you’re getting a raw deal if you’re working part time, or off on maternity leave and not earning and not growing your retirement fund, it’s what works for you both.  

If you are in a relationship and your partner is still working and getting employment contributions etc., it could be a conversation you want to have with each other.  ‘What about my retirement savings, should we think about that?’  

Following my advice, we have been putting in the minimum to my Kiwisaver while I haven’t been working regularly, with the idea that once my business is pumping I will be ramping up those savings.  So I have a plan, it’s there, but I’m not necessarily following my advice here. But I do want to have a sizeable retirement fund, I don’t want it just to wizzle away, I want to focus on that.  

So what about yours?  What is your setup? When you were on maternity leave or if you are on maternity leave or working part time, how is your retirement fund going?  Is it something you could make some voluntary payments towards? Does it need a little bit more attention, does it exist? Of course it does.  

Number four.  Money for healthcare.  And this is a number of different types of health care not just going to the doctor when you’re unwell.  

Having adequate health insurance that may enable you to see a specialist, or instead of going through the public health system and having to wait a long time.  Having adequate health insurance so you’re not worried about who pays or how to pay for something if you need extra treatment for something.  

Having money for counselling and support services, which I think personally, in my humble opinion, we do not pay enough attention to.  In NZ specifically, I don’t know if it’s the same in the USA or Australia, having money for marriage counselling for example, or grief counselling or support counselling, or any kind of counselling, it seems like a decadence.  Who can afford that when you’re barely staying on top of your bills right? Your mortgage is eating up so much of your funds that how can you afford counselling? But that counselling is for your mental health and self-care. If you’re putting that off, what damage is that doing to you, to your relationship, to your emotional state?  If you need it, you should be able to access it.  

Often mental health gets the very last look in, and it’s really the foundation for everything.  You need your mental health in order to function and have a happy life. It may even just look like having money for a night in a hotel by yourself when you have just had a shocker of a week! Or maybe you do that regularly!  Maybe you do it once a month, this is what I want to do. It’s not because you don’t love your partner if you’re in a relationship, but sometimes you need time to yourself. Go and get room service, so good. Have a spa bath, wonderful.  Just having some quiet time – having money to be able to do that, and be able to pay attention to your mental health. Or even a girls weekend, so you can feel a little bit more human, not just like you’re always serving other people. Having some fun, that is money for mental health care.  

And finally, we’re on the home stretch here, number five is having a buffer for you.  

On the top level, this looks like money for skin care, proper skincare right, not the supermarket stuff.  Proper hair care, supplements you may need. A gym pass. All the surface level stuff, there’s a bit of a buffer there so you can get the things you need that will make a difference in your life in terms of caring for yourself.  

On a deeper level, an F.U. (‘fuc* you’) fund.  An F.U. fund is more commonly known as a fund that you can use when you need to get the heck out of something, when you need to move on fast from a situation.  That could be a job, that you are not having a great time in, it could be a relationship, it could be just some kind of life situation. You need to move house, etc.  An FU fund is where you can just go ‘I’m done’ and you’ve got enough money to cover your expenses, you’re not going to be homeless. You’ve got that buffer so that you can do the right thing for yourself.  

That can also help to protect your mental health, perhaps physical health by enabling you to do what you need to do for yourself, instead of continuing in a situation that isn’t good for you.  So you can step in and change things before it goes to shizz basically. Having that buffer to do what you need to do to ensure yourself care continues, and you do the right thing for yourself.  I think this is essential.  

It comes in different forms though.  An ideal FU fund would be liquid money in the bank – a fund that you can access quickly without having to sell something.  Or you can just get to it when you need it. This is just the ideal scenario for that type of fund.  

You may have it in another form – you may have it in the form of a credit card that hasn’t been used, or some other way for you to access funds when you need it if you need to move on from a situation really quickly, or ease a situation.  

And that F.U. fund, we’re talking about relationships and having to leave relationships, maybe you don’t want to leave that relationship but maybe you just need some time away from each other.  Maybe you need to send your partner away for a month on their own holiday for everyone’s mental health! Maybe you need to take the kids or yourself. It’s coming back to doing what you need to do for your self care in whatever form that takes, and being able to do it before things get any worse.  

Do you have an F.U. fund?

I’m just going to recap what we’ve been over.  

  • Number one we talked about staying on top of things.  
  • Number two, having a healthy future plan, one that balances out with you now. 
  • Retirement savings equality.  
  • Money for healthcare of different kinds and;
  • A buffer for you – that FU fund.  

Did any of these kind of trigger you and did you think ‘oh that’s just decadence’ or did you have any feelings about any of them?  

The only thing I want to say finally is that if you don’t feel deserving of any of these things, if you don’t feel you deserve retirement savings equality, or you don’t feel like you deserve the knowledge of what’s going on in your finances, or money for good skin care.  Then I think there is some mindset work for you to do because you do deserve it.  You’re a human being and you deserve love and support and attention and everything that goes with it.  

Financial self-care is one of those things that you deserve.  

What it looks like to you exactly is entirely up to you.  Everybody’s financial self-care looks different at different times of their lives.

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