For the longest time, my concept of health singularly focused on one number: my weight. It didn’t matter how much junk food I was eating, how little I was working out, or what it took to get there, I really only cared about The Almighty Scale. As a result, I spent most of my adolescence trying (and failing) to stay thin, dieting in harsh cycles to get back to my goal weight, then inevitably watching the number creep back up as my iron self control began to wane.
It wasn’t until I was older that I discovered the refreshing Health at Every Size movement, whose goal is to “support people in adopting health habits for the sake of health and well-being (rather than weight control).” What an amazing concept! What if instead of putting all our energy into one number, we actually cultivated healthy habits for the sake of feeling good, for loving our bodies, and for feeling stronger?
Now, what if we took this same concept and applied it to our finances? What if instead of a singular pursuit of a dollar amount or a percentage rate of return, we made positive, incremental changes to the way we approach money, just for the sake of our financial health? In the same way that Health at Every Size encourages healthy behaviors for the body you’re in, I believe we should focus on Wealth at Every Size—encouraging financial education and healthy money habits at every level of income.
The Association for Size Diversity and Health lays out principles for Health at Every Size. So what might the principles for Wealth at Every Size look like? I propose the following:
- Inclusivity of purpose. Accept and respect that different people have different strengths, passions, and career aspirations. The singular pursuit of wealth shouldn’t be glorified over these other lifestyles and priorities.
- Wealth enhancement. Support policies that equalize access to financial education, financial advice, and investment opportunities. Wealth enhancement should not only focus on financial or economic needs, but also social, spiritual, emotional, and other needs–a sense of wealth and feeling of abundance, rather than a specific dollar amount.
- Respectful care. Acknowledge that status and privilege can play a major role in determining financial outcomes. Seek out financial professionals that provide information and services from an understanding that socioeconomic status, race, gender, sexual orientation and other identities impact our relationship with money.
- Spend for well being. Spend money on the items that allow you to invest in yourself or truly bring you long-lasting joy, not simply to keep up with appearances or fit in with a societal mold.
- Life-Enhancing financial planning. Support financial planning that prioritizes your goals and interests, in order to promote a better quality of life.
The bottom line is this: financial health looks different for different people, and trying to maintain a singular focus on being rich or making money can be a damaging exercise. Rather, we would do well to seek out financial education, tailor our financial habits to where we’re at, and make decisions that are consistent with our goals and passions. It is my hope that by allowing ourselves the latitude to make steady, incremental progress on our financial goals rather than chasing an unrealistic ideal, we might cultivate a sense of “wealth” at every income level.