Peace of mind – the most valuable commodity of all
By David Penney
There is now barely a day in the calendar that hasn’t been earmarked to celebrate or remember one cause or another.
Some are of the more frivolous variety (who didn’t enjoy International Bagpipe Day at the beginning of March) while some are clearly much more meaningful.
One of the more important of these events, the significance of which has grown in recent years, is Stress Awareness Month, which has been held throughout April for the past 30 years.
Unfortunately the challenges that we all face in our everyday lives has created something of a modern stress epidemic, one that has been amplified and exacerbated by the Covid crisis of the last two years.
According to the Mental Health Foundation, three quarters of people have felt so stressed at some point over the past 12 months that they have felt like they are unable to cope.
According to the same research, four out of five women admitted to feeling stress compared to three out of five men although that could have more to do about how comfortable people are about admitting to feeling stressed than suggesting that one gender is more predisposed to feeling stressed than another.
As the research clearly shows however, very few people are immune to stress. It is far from being fun but it is normal and what is important is that we continue to build awareness and understanding at a societal level so that we all do what we can to support ourselves and the people around us.
The causes of stress are myriad and can range from personal relationships to challenges around parenting, too heavy a workload to setting unachievable standards – and everything in between.
But every survey and every piece of research that has ever been done on this issue consistently comes to the same conclusion – the biggest cause of stress in our lives is money.
Money is what makes the world go round but it is also the thing that can bring your world grinding to a halt – whatever end of the wealth spectrum you may inhabit.
There may be a world of difference between those worrying about where the next meal is coming from and those who have seen the value of their investment portfolio fall, but both are feeling individual stress, even if their worst-case scenarios vary considerably.
What unifies both is that they are each searching for reassurance – they are both looking for somebody or something that is going to enable them to look to the future with confidence and believe that everything is going to be ok.
A hugely important first step in tackling this stress before it even occurs is financial education – the provision of which remains somewhere between patchy and woeful when it comes to appearing on the school curriculum.
Understanding basic financial principles and establishing good financial habits such as budgeting and saving from an early age can literally be life-changing and can go a long way to helping to alleviate money worries in later life.
Taking financial advice and creating a plan that provides a pathway for achieving our financial goals is also hugely important but not necessarily in a material way.
Research has found that while people seek out financial advice for practical reasons, what they are actually valuing more than anything else is the emotional reassurance that the advice process gives them.
The reality is that having that reassurance and confidence that there is a plan in place that will provide the security they are looking for is actually more important than more material considerations such as being demonstrably wealthier.
Helping people protect and grow their wealth is central to the service that we provide our clients but the true value we provide is how this process makes people feel.
As much as anything else, we are very much in the peace of mind industry.
The truth is that we are never going to eradicate stress – it is a natural, and sometimes important, part of the human psyche.
But we can talk about it more, better understand its impact and potential seriousness and encourage and support those who are feeling stress, whether it is about money or anything else, to take the steps that are going to provide them with the peace of mind that all of us are searching for in our lives.
And for those on the look-out for some fresh stress-relieving strategies, you might also want to consider the opportunities around International Pillow Fight Day on April 2nd.