Finances play a huge role in people’s lives, from where they live to how they spend their spare time, including their broader wellbeing. Ryan Porter, the Director and Senior Adviser at MLC Advice Caringbah, is someone who knows this well. Ryan has worked with people just starting in the workforce or looking to retire for almost ten years, supporting them to reach their personal financial goals.“Finance is a big part of everyone’s lives. The thing that I normally talk about is that it has an impact everywhere, even when things don’t have a dollar amount linked to them,” said Ryan.
Sharing skills and teaching financial literacy is something that he is passionate about. The impacts of financial stresses can have far-reaching consequences for people’s mental health.
“Mental wellbeing is impacted significantly by finances because it can be someone’s number one stress in their lives. Through education, planning and strategies around your finances, hopefully you can improve the mental well-being side of your life, [like] feeling in control, goals and the things that you can work towards and achieve, which will make you happier and feel better.”
Through his work, Ryan sees a range of people with a range of different needs. Often, they are thinking of retirement, trying to manage personal debt or making sure that they are doing everything they can with their money. However, being more financially aware and responsible is something that anyone can, and should, do. There are some things that anyone can do to better understand their financial situation, even though it might feel overwhelming.
“The first thing is to take stock of where you are at. If you don’t know where the starting point is, it is very difficult to make some changes…From a finance point of view, it is in two areas. One is from an income or budget perspective, looking at what your expenses are on a month-to-month basis, then checking that against your income to see if you have any money left over that you can start using for different targets or goals. The second part is trying to work out: what debts do I have? What are the interest rates? What does it cost me? How much do I have in super? What are my assets and what are my debts? So then, I have a clear picture of where I am at [and] can start thinking about where I want to go and from there make some changes.”
Ideally, those changes are what can lead to people achieving the financial goals they set for themselves, and meet their immediate and longer-term needs.
“You can start thinking about, or getting help with, what strategies or actions you should be taking for that to happen…It sounds simple but it’s not that easy to pull a lot together to make it happen and then stick to it when everyone gets busy and they’re time poor and have got family and personal commitments.”
Personal commitments can play a significant part in people’s financial obligations. For Ryan, it is important to start planning when we know that things are coming up, like Christmas, start saving as early as possible and make considered choices about how we spend money.
“What you don’t want to happen, which normally does happen to a lot of people, is it is easy to put their hands in the air [and think] “it’s Christmas time, I will just do what I need to do.” Normally what that means is I will spend on my credit card throughout this period of time and I will worry about things next year,” said Ryan.
“Being a bit more thoughtful about the events that are coming up, the presents that need to be bought, and really trying to get value for money is important…a significant portion of gifts purchased gets turned into trash or get used for a week and they are done. From a family perspective, the Kris Kringle option is quite smart. Or in an office environment, where there is quite a few people, join together, work on a set dollar amount and buy one person a present. Everyone can still be part of the giving season but economically it is a little bit better.”
“Four weeks out, six weeks out, ten weeks out, if you can, try to start putting a little bit of money aside each week in preparation for that time of the year. That is probably the biggest and smartest way that might allow you to avoid having to use a credit card and starting the following year on the back foot or in a negative tone [by] having debt.”
“If you do look at the events, you can start trying to allocate a proportion of money for each one, rather than just leaving it open because that normally leads to overspending…try and allocate a budget for each [event] and stick to it. If you’ve done your forward planning and save a little bit of money, you might come out of that time of the year sticking to budget and not having a credit card debt, which will lead to a much better first week in January.”
These simple, though not necessarily easy, steps for Christmas specifically but also for one’s life more generally goes hand-in-hand with improved wellbeing across all aspects of life.
“If you can set a good foundation which, in its simplest form, is knowing where you are financially, having some goals or targets to work towards and then having plans for those things, you can really help your mental wellbeing,” said Ryan.
“Everyone is in different circumstances, everyone is in a different starting position. If you can try and get that financial foundation in place, have some targets to work towards and have a little bit of a plan to achieve it, I think you can significantly improve the well-being of yourself and then also those closer to you, because those money stresses and dramas won’t be a big part of your life.”
You can set up a time to speak with Ryan about your personal circumstances or for financial advice by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about Ryan, you can visit his LinkedIn page here https://au.linkedin.com/in/ryan-porter-b4a93327
By Tasnim Hossain