It is a common misconception that wealthy people don’t worry about money.
In reality, it seems the wealthy often share the same anxieties as those with less money.
And when it comes to financial wellness, more money does not necessarily mean healthy finances.
The National Financial Educators Council (NFEC) defines financial wellness as “possessing the skills and knowledge on financial matters to confidently take effective action that best fulfills an individual’s personal, family and global community goals.”
It’s a bit of a mouthful, but it boils down to a few key words:
- Effective action
Nowhere does the definition mention how much money a person needs to be financially “well.”
That’s because financial wellness is not about wealth.
If it were, we wouldn’t have so many examples of lottery jackpot winners going broke.
Financial wellness involves having the skills to manage money.
This can include basic tasks like how to budget and manage online bank accounts.
Or it can be more complex, like investing in the stock and bond markets.
Financial skills must be learned by rich and poor alike if they hope to maintain and grow their savings.
Often, the wealthy lack these skills since they feel budgeting is unnecessary.
Knowledge is one of the most important factors in financial wellness. It supports all the other components.
Without knowledge, skills are useless.
This is why financial education is growing in popularity and priority across the nation.
One survey by Prudential in 2018 showed that up to 83% of employers were offering financial wellness education, up 20% from two years before.1
As a person gains wealth, they do not gain the knowledge of how to keep it unless they pursue that information.
Many wealthy people feel they can simply outrun the need to know how to save money if they earn enough of it.
Managing money confidently is the biggest challenge for most Americans. 67% of employees surveyed by PWC in 2019 reported feeling stressed about their finances.2
Stress is caused by a lack of confidence. And it doesn’t matter how much money a person has – financial stress still haunts them.
Half of millionaires with less than $5 million fear losing it all if they make one bad move.3
Young Millennial millionaires are especially susceptible to low confidence, 48% saying they feel pressure to “keep up with the Joneses.”3
In order to become a millionaire at such a young age, they likely have had great success in their careers, but they still lack the confidence to correctly manage their money.
This can lead to things like overspending on items to impress friends.
Action and effective action are different things.
Taking action is step one, but effective action is key to financial wellness. 60% of affluent investors admitted to making financial mistakes in 2017.4 Meaning more than 6 in 10 wealthy investors made ineffective or outright bad financial decisions.
Money does not make people immune to these bad choices.
The “keeping up with the Joneses” scenario again rears its head here, wherein peer pressure from watching social media posts or comparing salaries can lead to bad financial choices, even for the wealthy.
The mistakes they admitted to included not saving enough and paying too much for luxury items.4
The piece that ties it all together is goals.
This is why financial wellness looks different for everyone and why millionaires aren’t necessarily the epitome of that wellness.
34% of employees surveyed by PWC reported their number one goal of financial wellness was not to feel stressed.2
It is the stress that goes along with money, no matter how much, that matters most to people.
And the wealthy are not immune to that stress.
52% of Millennial millionaires and 49% of Gen X millionaires fear losing their wealth.3
Financial goals rarely involve particular dollar amounts.
More than half of millionaires feel they cannot stop working without sacrificing their family’s lifestyle, though most would prefer to.
They have goals such as traveling and spending time with family, but their lack of financial wellness forces them to keep pursuing wealth.
As the NFEC said, financial wellness is having the knowledge and skills to take effective action to reach an individual’s goals.
That goal could be a comfortable retirement, paying for a child’s college education, or taking a vacation.
The goal may even be to become a millionaire, but it will be harder to reach that goal without the skills and knowledge.
As we’ve seen, the possession of money does not, in itself, indicate financial wellness.
The most obvious example, besides the lottery winners already mentioned, is children who grow up wealthy.
Some data indicate that kids that grow up wealthy may be at a significant disadvantage when it comes to “skills, knowledge, discipline, and emotional intelligence to attain long-term financial stability.”5
This is why two out of three millionaires are concerned about their children not understanding the value of money.
Having wealth and being financially well are not the same things.
Though people with more than a million dollars may seem to be financially “set,” they suffer from the same anxieties and worries about money as many others.
They may see the solution to this stress as making more and more money when in actuality the better way to reduce stress is to gain the knowledge and skills to feel confident in financial decisions.
Wealth does not lead to financial wellness, but financial wellness can help lead to wealth.
1 - https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20180507005182/en/Financial-wellness-program-popularity-rises-among-employers-up-63-percentage-points-in-two-years
3 - http://view.ceros.com/ubs/investor-watch-treadmill/
4 - https://www.thestreet.com/personal-finance/youll-never-be-rich-enough-to-stop-worrying-14479709
5 - https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-human-side-finance/201807/the-common-misconceptions-about-wealthy-upbringing