Financial Wellness: A Spiritual Condition
When it comes to financial well-being, many of us automatically think of budgets, reduction of debt, and savings goals. For some of us, these tangible aspects of dealing with money come easily, while for others the details can be daunting. There are many of us, too, who drift somewhere between the two approaches, easily engaging when there is a feeling of financial security, or avoiding the truth about our financial position when money is scarce. What causes us to engage or avoid our financial health? How can we cultivate a more balanced and healthy relationship with money?
I would like to suggest that the ways we engage our finances give us insight into our spiritual selves. On the surface, it might appear that the person who is diligent about tracking every dollar and focused on meeting the specific goals of a retirement plan enjoys a certain feeling of financial freedom, based on the idea of a secure future. Sometimes, however, the desire to invest one’s time and resources into financial planning is born out of fear of financial insecurity. In contrast, others seem to place all their trust in an ethereal “it will all work out” sort of plan, appearing as though they have no worry or concern at all about their financial future. In this cases, it is possible that a person struggles with a sense of self worth, not recognizing that financial health is a way we can show ourselves love and care.
During this Lenten season, I invite each of us to contemplate our relationship with money, considering our financial habits and where those habits might be in conflict with our spiritual values. Consider each of the following:
- When are my financial choices a reflection of how I feel about myself on a deep level? Do I honor myself in my financial matters?
- How do the perceptions of others affect my spending and saving patterns? Do I make decisions that go against my values because we I concerned about what others might think of me?
- In what ways might my savings habits actually be a manifestation of a fear of financial insecurity? How are my spending habits a different manifestation of the same fear?
- How do I feel about money in general? Are my emotions in alignment with my thoughts? Does my body give me any insight into how I feel about money?
- What value do I place on money in my life? When I think about my financial wellness, are my actions in alignment with my values?
- How does my relationship with money affect my personal relationships? Do I approach financial matters in a way that encourages and supports the way I relate to others?
I suggest that we all take some time to thoughtfully ask ourselves how our financial health impacts the other areas of our lives. When we are truthful with ourselves and with the God of our understanding, we are on the road to deepening our feelings of peace and serenity with our finances, our relationships, and with God.
Anna is a first-year student originally from Seattle, Washington, but has lived under the beautiful Carolina skies for the last fifteen years. She completed her undergraduate work in 2014 with a degree in Religious Studies and Philosophy. Prior to re-entering the academic world, she worked in Accounting and Finance for 17 years, most recently with a regional real estate company. She hopes to help others understand and navigate their personal finances in a way that empowers them to create and sustain a balanced approach toward financial health.
The School of Divinity is committed to financial well-being and forming ministers who engage finances responsibly. With support of a grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc.’s Theological School Initiative to Address Economic Issues Facing Future Ministers, we have created a program, Financial Well-Being for Pastoral Leaders, to create a culture that shapes the habits and skills of pastoral leaders by promoting financial well-being for themselves and the communities they serve. One of the foundational elements of our program is formation, which aims at enabling students to focus on building financial competency through annual assessment meetings with the Office of Financial Aid, workshops and seminars, peer mentors, and technological resources. Once a month, the Unfolding blog will feature posts from the student peer mentors. These are current students who have previous experience in the financial industry or who have made financial planning a significant part of their identity as a religious leader.