What is “Financial Wellness”, and how has the definition changed over time? In the 80s it was stock picking and stockbrokers, bond yields were high and the hairstyles were higher (thanks to Aqua Net). As Gordon Gecko so famously stated in the 1987 film Wall Street, “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good”. By the 90s the changing landscape was welcoming the tech giants with open arms, and IPOs were all the rage, but then Y2K turned out to be the beginning of a more introspective time for those looking to grow their wealth. Sure there were recessions in-between, but the principles of money management seemed unmoved during this time. Financial wellness was defined by unprecedented growth and risk-taking.
And then it happened… suddenly after what had been the longest period of growth in American history, the one-two punch of the bursting dot-com bubble coupled with the devastation of the September 11th attacks brought the roaring growth of the 90s to a halt.
While the recession of the early 2000s was short-lived, it’s more brutal sibling was just around the corner. In what has been deemed the Great Recession, the 18-month period from December 2007 – June 2009, wiped out American (and even global) wealth. This created a lost decade that has had lasting implications on how people think about money today. Job security, workplace benefits, emergency savings, and debt management were no longer the boring ideals of the Greatest and Silent Generations but now were en vogue amongst the younger generations. This seismic shift in how a generation can change from a focus on maximizing growth to preserving and protecting assets is a testament to the timelessness of financial fundamentals.
While it is not to say that growth doesn’t excite people in this generation, financial wellness is now more than a discussion of what stocks to buy, or how to beat the market. Television shows such as Mad Money, Shark Tank, and Fast Money still have a captive audience, but now the Dave Ramseys and Suze Ormans of the world are taking market share with their message focused around personal finance, particularly around maintaining discipline with your money and staying out of debt.
At My Financial Coach, we think it is important to look at all avenues of an individual’s financial needs. Online Financial wellness calculators, self-help guides, and tools are an important part of the process, but when absent of key features such as having access to a live professional, assistance with tools, and actionable steps to take, it becomes easier for consumers to become disengaged or even distrustful of such services. In the end, financial wellness focuses on one’s internal relationship with money and how healthy they are with their behaviors. This landscape of financial planning and financial wellness programs is vast, some programs may provide comprehensive advice with access to a dedicated planner, while others are driven primarily by online tools and an 800-number.
To help navigate this crowded landscape, we have created a Consumer’s Guide below to help you shop for financial wellness programs!
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Andrew J. Crosby, CFP®, ChFC®, RICP®
Lead Financial Coach
Financial education should be taught in schools, then again most teachers don’t have the proper experience. When financial illiteracy ends in bankruptcy or consumer proposal, that’s usually the only time that people wake up and start to learn.