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We often think of wellness as what we’re putting into our bodies and how we’re caring for our mental health. But wellness is now a concept that applies to many other areas of our lives—including financial habits. Finances are a source of stress for many. In a recent survey by Varo Money of more than 1,000 U.S. adults, 30 percent said they’re “constantly” stressed about their finances (PRWeb, 2018).

To get a better sense of people’s attitudes, I did an informal survey and asked several individuals (male, female, 27-50 years old) “What does financial wellness mean to you?” Here are some of the answers:

  • “Financial wellness means not having to think about managing my money or worrying if I have enough. Specifically, it means setting up my life (and expectations) so that my family and I live within our means. It also means paying ourselves last so that all money for my kids’ education, retirement, etc. comes out first so we don’t miss it.” -Ben, 38 years old
  • “Bills paid on time, ability to enjoy what one has rather than worry about getting more, ability to spend money happily, without guilt.” -Jen, 48 years old
  • “Financial wellness means having the resources to cover expenses, make purchases that are important to me and my lifestyle, while still putting some away for savings. As long as my savings is growing, I feel confident in making purchases and don’t have to skip out on events or activities that would limit my ability to save what I have planned.” -Evan, 30 years old
  • “Financial wellness is that sweet spot in which you don’t have too much, and you don’t have too little. By not having too much, you are able to truly appreciate that which you can afford. By not having too little, you don’t need to stress about bills or expenses. It creates a healthy mindset in which finances are not on the forefront.” -Katherine, 42 years old

When looking through common themes of this primary research and overlaying that on Gartner survey data regarding cultural attitudes towards finances, it becomes clear that control and comfort are the two critical elements to achieve financial wellness.

Control

Financial wellness starts with individuals feeling that their financial options are personalized and custom for them. Financial services have historically offered a single path to reach financial security. Something along the lines of “If you follow our plan, you win. If you don’t, you fail.” Recently, Chase took a patronizing tone about millennial spending habits and received significant backlash for it. The reality is that individuals can have their daily latte AND be fiscally responsible.

A great example of this contemporary approach is Financial Gym. They describe themselves as “Meet Your New BFF (Best. Financial. Friend.) Your personal financial trainer–looking to put you in control of your finances, one step at a time.” They focus on education and judgment-free advice in order to offer information to facilitate smart financial decisions. Their Instagram account visually communicates a conversational, contemporary, and judgment-free tone that appeals to people that want to be conscious of their finances without having it dominate their life.

We spoke to Dennis Paul, the VP of Community Affairs at Elevations Credit Union in Boulder, CO to get an idea of how brands think about this concept. He said “We seek to do business with an educated consumer…Members rely on us as a resource for unbiased financial information, allowing them to be well-informed and better suited to navigate the financial services landscape.” Consumers want to be armed with the necessary information to make financial decisions independently.

Comfort

People want to feel “comfortable” when it comes to finances, describing comfort as having two components: “freedom from worry” and “flexibility to do what one wants or needs.” (Gartner, 2019) It’s also being content with what you have and not being caught up in a cycle of always wanting more money.

Our research partner, Gartner, tracks changing values through its annual Consumer Values and Lifestyle Survey. This survey tracks and ranks 93 values across all consumer groups. “Comfort” (which is measured by people responding to the statement “I need to be comfortable and content with life.”) has been a top-15 value over the last 8 years. This tells us that it’s a mindset that leads to a higher quality of life.

When it comes to finances, we don’t need more messages about luxury and exclusivity: we need paired-down messaging that focuses on control and comfort.

John Franklin

John Franklin

John helps brands to better articulate who they are and their purpose through our customer insights and category design work. Before Room 214, he spent five years running marketing and partnerships for eCommerce businesses. He has an MBA from Georgetown University, loves riding bikes, backcountry skiing and gets fired up about baking bread.
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