This is the weekly Amplify newsletter, where you can be inspired and challenged by the voices, opinions and insights of women at The Globe and Mail.
Sierra Bein is a content editor and the editor of Globe Climate at The Globe and Mail.
These days, it seems like everyone is worried about money. And it’s no wonder: we are dealing with sky-high inflation and interest rates, unaffordable housing, a looming recession and major sticker shock at the grocery store.
Those are all real reasons to stress about the balance in our bank accounts. But there’s also another kind of financial anxiety: the idea of financial stress as an emotional state that’s not linked to a level of income.
The first time I brought up my finances in a therapy session, it was a passing reference. I casually included it in a list of things on my mind that week.
I have never had any trouble talking my financial adviser’s ear off, but I didn’t think money was something you spoke to a therapist about. Then, it started to get harder to ignore as part of my weekly mental load.
I began to realize that I was overthinking my spending. I had a freezer full of discounted food, just in case … of what, I’m not sure. I was beating myself up for almost any purchase I didn’t deem necessary to my survival. Basically, I became that Marge Simpson meme where she justifies her spending because it’ll “be good for the economy.”
I was not speaking kindly to myself when it came to matters of money.
Turns out financial therapy is a growing field. Good thing, because according to FP Canada’s 2022 Financial Stress Index, 38 per cent of Canadians say money is their biggest concern. One in three say financial stress is leading to anxiety, depression or other mental health issues. Nearly half of the respondents said they were losing sleep over their finances, and the majority of them were women.
In the same way we can bring learned habits to our relationships, the way we think about money can, unsurprisingly, be connected to what we saw growing up.
How your parents talked about money or how much you overheard about their money problems might affect the way you think about spending today.
In a Leger survey conducted on behalf of Mydoh, 68 per cent of parents reported that they wished their own parents taught them more about managing finances.
“Money carries a lot of stress for Canadians – women and people of colour particularly – and from the survey, we’re seeing that stressors can be passed down through the generations; sometimes unintentionally,” Sammer Haq, head of data and analytics at Mydoh, said in a statement.
And for women with young children, financial strain can distract from parenting, leading to self-blame and contributing to mental health problems.
I’m lucky that my parents worked to fight generational feelings of scarcity, which can be passed down after immigrating or growing up low-income. They committed to making themselves financially literate so that they could teach us more than they knew. My dad has even taught his mother about investing.
The best thing I’ve done to help myself chill out more is set up automatic payments from my paycheque to my TFSA. It might seem like an obvious step to take, but it’s a priority I remind myself of on days I feel like I’m not doing enough.
Also, beyond hunting for sales and price matching, the art of couponing helps me feel like I’m being more pro-active in cutting costs – something I learned from my mom. Whatever is on sale or in season, I buy in bulk, and learn to make recipes out of that item. (I also love making this clean-out-the-fridge quiche, using up food I might otherwise have thrown out.)
These are all positive actions to take, along with learning about financial literacy, as Globe personal finance reporter Erica Alini explained in an earlier Amplify. But I’ve also come to understand that for women to break out of a toxic mentality related to money, financial literacy is not enough. For starters, we all need to take a close look at making financial services accessible and closing the gender wage gap.
In the meantime, I’ve started to remind myself of something: we don’t become better out of shame, but rather out of love. If I want to change the way I speak to myself, or the way my imaginary daughter might speak to herself, about money, I’ll need to start by being a little kinder.
What else we’re thinking about:
It’s a new year so the new me is thinking about hobbies – more specifically, about picking up new ones. When I was younger, there were so many activities that filled my time, purely for enjoyment. Lately, I’ve convinced myself that the only hobbies I need are essentially just things I have to do anyway: I do love to cook, organize and take care of plants. Well, now I want real hobbies. Unrelated-to-income hobbies. I’m-not-very-good-at-this hobbies. To pay homage to my grandmother, who forced such activities upon my grandfather in their retirement, I’m starting with one of her favourites: macrame.
Introducing Marianne, a new weekly comic exclusive to Amplify:
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