What would a flourishing life look like? If we had all the money in the world, what would we be doing with our lives? For too long we have focused on financial, social and intellectual capital in society as the measure of success, but really, is that all to life?
What the data is telling us
Research has shown that Money is the source of anxiety and stress for many. Money creates its own emotional challenges eg: guilt when impulse spending happens, the fear that leads to an avoidance of money, hopelessness in one’s financial situation in some cases. A Blackrock survey in 2019 states, “More than half (53 per cent) of Singaporeans cited money as the top source of stress, and this concern is particularly key among millennials (63 per cent).”
We need to first begin by understanding the gap in the current financial education landscape. We see that despite best efforts to provide greater technical education about money, the effectiveness of such programs is still in question. Why then is money still such a heavy stress factor? Why are people unable to apply the lessons of financial literacy? Why then do we insist on using the same old approaches in addressing financial illiteracy?
Shifting away from old narratives
Daniel Goldman defines Emotional intelligence as, “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.”
The OCED defines Financial literacy as, “the knowledge and understanding of financial concepts and risks, as well as the skills and attitudes to apply such knowledge and understanding in order to make effective decisions across a range of financial contexts, to improve the financial well-being of individuals and society, and to enable participation in economic life.”
Our work at PlayMoolah has shown us that it’s the combination of building the Financial-Emotional resilience muscle that will enable us to practice sustained behavioral change. We define Financial Resilience as the ability to adapt, change, modify positive emotions, daily practices and actions in our financial decisions. Imagine yourself at the gym, training this muscle, recognizing that you have the ability, strength to transform your situation where money intersects the many areas of life, relationships, vocational choices and even our future self.
Futurist Suhail Inayatullah explains, “The fourth layer of analysis is at the level of metaphor or myth. These are the deep stories, the collective archetypes, the unconscious, of often emotive, dimensions of the problem or the paradox (seeing population as non-statistical, as community, or seeing people as creative resources, eg). This level provides a gut/emotional level experience to the worldview under inquiry. The language used is less specific, more concerned with evoking visual images, with touching the heart instead of reading the head. This is the root level of questioning, however, questioning itself finds its limits since the frame of questioning must enter other frameworks of understanding — the mythical, for example.”
What is the significance of this? In order to change behaviors and sustained behavioral patterns over time, we need to tackle the myth and metaphor layers to challenge negative money narratives or emotions to re-write them to positive ones. We too need to understand the role of emotional regulation and virtues in action where financial decisions are concerned.
A New Vision of Wealth — The 8 Forms of Capital
Once we’ve managed to restructure our money narratives, only then can we begin the process of formulating more authentic narratives — namely, recognizing the 8 forms of capital.
Permaculture has shown us when we use the 8 forms of capital as a broader, integrated and strength based approach of wealth, we come closer to a holistic flourishing life.
We know that in today’s society, the accumulation of financial, social and intellectual capital have been given pride of place as “the measures of success.” Consciously or unconsciously, these dominant societal narratives along with the inherited money narratives from our families (stories we inherit from the previous generation) largely shape the way we relate to money in the present.
In order to begin living the flourishing life, we must begin to re-examine our definition of wealth.
Our solution to transform negative money narrative is the development of a personalised money journey through an interactive online platform for a flourishing life of wealth and wellbeing.
We do that through:
The Path Forward
Our goal is to equip young people, families, educators and communities with the foundation skills in managing their emotions and this includes the following: emotional literacy, flexible thinking, self-compassion, tolerating discomfort associated with delay gratification, making sound decision making based on intention rather than emotions and values identification. At the same time, equip our young people with the habits of mind, mental models to develop skills to practice self control, practical strategies to make good decisions and have productive money conversations.
These are skills that one can learn and master so that when unexpected challenges arise, they will have the financial-emotional resilience to keep moving towards their goals. With stronger financial-emotional resilience we can live emotionally sober, free and dignified lives that we are called to live. To put money in its place and really start living the best and flourishing life!
For the full version of our paper on Financial-Emotional Resilience, head over to our Home Page and download the full guide.
Recently, I got the opportunity to attend The STEP Youth Regional Affairs Dialogue 2021 which was organised by Nanyang Technological University. The purpose of it was to serve as a platform for university students in Asia to strengthen their leadership skills and deepen their understanding of geopolitics. It was held from 3rd to 9th of January 2021 at the NTU campus.
I got to learn more about what the other companies were doing and I found it really interesting as I felt that we were all serving a shared purpose for the common good - to help the community in various ways. It has helped me broaden my perspective on our society, especially when Ms Debbie Fordyce spoke about how she believes that transient workers deserve respect for their contributions and sufficient income to support themselves and their family. It struck me that there are people who come from less privileged backgrounds who get treated differently just because of what they do. I feel that this is a result of a strong stigma that transient workers are seen as people who are “lower’, which is unfair because they are also human, and everyone deserves to be treated equally. It has also come to my realisation that our society can be a bit toxic sometimes, as we tend to classify people and treat them based on what we think of them to be. Transient workers are just one of the examples.
From left to right: Ms Debbie Fordyce, Mr Edward Booty, Professor May O. Lwin , Dr Melvin Chen, Ms Audrey Tan
Another common example would be regarding stereotyping educational institutions in Singapore, such as people who go to Junior College are smart and people who go to ITE are not as academically gifted. In my opinion, it puts a label on us and makes us feel like we are only able to study at certain educational institutions only if we are smart enough. It really limits us and we start to have this fixed mindset and I feel like that’s what causes most youth to have poor or lack of self-esteem. As a result, it affects our performance and mental health.
Statistics have also shown that “More than half (53 per cent) of Singaporeans cited money as the top source of stress, and this concern is particularly key among millennials (63 per cent).” Thus, not only do young people struggle with mental health issues, money is one of the root causes of their problems as it affects them in their day to day lives. On top of that, the number of youths struggling with mental health issues are on the rise and it is something that needs attention. In addition, Audrey shared that the pandemic has escalated the challenges around money anxieties, affecting our mental health and we can respond in positive ways to begin these uncomfortable conversations in a productive way.
As youths, we struggle to talk about our mental health issues as it is a very sensitive topic. Some of us might want help, but are not sure how we should seek help or fear being judged if we do. On the other hand, some may feel that they do not require help as it is pointless.
Audrey’s sharing about PlayMoolah and the work we do.
Money at times helps us cope as it allows us to buy materialistic items to make us feel better. As a youth myself, there have been times where I find myself spending money unnecessarily on clothes or food. However, it is only a short term solution to make me feel better. Thus, the longer we do not address the internal issues we are facing, the harder it will be to face it, especially for youths. It is important that we help our youths and instil financial-emotional resilience in them so that they will be able to live a flourishing life. Therefore, as youths will be the leaders of our future generation, we should do something for one another.
After reflecting on my experience, I could see the bigger picture. At PlayMoolah, our aim is to create a positive impact by strengthening financial-emotional resilience to improve the quality of our lives.
For example, we are running a program called “Honesty Circles”, the aim of which is to help participants have an honest conversation about money in a deep and vulnerable way. It is also beneficial for participants as it helps them uncover hidden, negative and limiting beliefs around themselves and money. At the end of the programme, they will be able to develop healthier money narratives.
All in all, I am very grateful to be given this opportunity to attend the STEP Youth Regional Affairs Dialogue 2021. It has inspired and motivated me to do what I’m currently doing at PlayMoolah as I feel like it’s for a greater purpose.