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A Personal Financial Crisis May Affect Your Health

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As evidenced in the stock market crash of 1929, a financial crisis can evoke a lot of ledge-jumping. The detrimental effects of having the financial “alligators” snapping at your heels are seen both in the acute fall from wealth and the chronic oppression of poverty. A financial crisis may also happen to those between the two extremes--people who are working hard and making a good wage, but lack perspective, discipline, and organization in managing their money. The seductive lure of credit cards and “no money down” purchases of cars, holidays and furniture also lays a trap for the unwary. The ease of refinancing one’s home in recent markets also provided cash that was temptingly squandered.

image of a financial crisis

Recently, in survey after survey, people say that they are either financially distressed, or already in a financial crisis, and dissatisfied with their personal finances. Close to 25% of working adults are seriously financially distressed or already experience a financial crisis. This amounts to about 30 million workers in America. 

In some cases, a financial crisis develops from a poor relationship, where excess spending is thought to “buy” improved self esteem, whether for oneself or one’s spouse or kids. People experiencing a financial crisis  are often living paycheck-by-paycheck with no money for extras. They struggle with money and debt and fret over bills. They worry there will not be enough money to live on once they retire. Perhaps most worrisome is that many do not even have hope that they might one day be able to catch up financially.

The difference between spending 5 percent more than you earn and spending 5 percent less than you earn separates living comfortable from a financial crisis. Money that is wasted on frivolous purchases could often be enough to finance stress reduction measures such as vacations, treats, or part-time help around the home. Without making time and priority for financial stress reduction, burnout is the likely result. In health, this burnout can be disastrous or even fatal; at work it can lead to an even worse financial crisis, and, ultimately, ruin.

A likely consequence of experiencing a financial crisis is a negative impact to one's health as a result of all the mental stress that is also experienced. Disagreements with friends, family members and co-workers, a restricted social life, and reduced job productivity are all possible when in the middle of a financial crisis. Often distress over health care costs and medical bills can further unveil or aggravate a depressive or anxiety disorder, which can affect:

  • coping skills
  • attention and concentration ability to the point of decreased job attendance
  • reduced workplace performance and hamper job retention for employers. 

It should also be no surprise that anyone in a financial crisis spends time at their place of employment worrying about personal finances and dealing with financial issues instead of working and that this behavior interferes with their work. Obvious ways in which a personal financial crisis can negatively impact productivity is:

  • talking with co-workers about personal financial problems
  • communicating with creditors about past due payments
  • paying personal bills
  • balancing a checkbook
  • talking to a lender about a debt consolidation loan

This can also easily turn into a nasty negative cycle of being unable to carry out normal responsibilities, having to cut back on a normal workload, and not being able to accomplish as much as usual. This cycle further interrupts employee performance, workplace attendance and poses greater financial burdens which only increases stress and financial pressures. In the worst case, a personal financial crisis may lead to losing one's job and takes the financial crisis from the frying pan to the fire, so to speak!

When I see a patient with chest or stomach pains, headache, depression, or other signs of stress related conditions, I always ask how things are going financially. Very often the rest of the medical history will be negative, but the health crisis will be caused by too much month left at the end of the money.

In a case like this, a good financial planner can often help more than a doctor.

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