Want to Become Financially Resilient? Hit the Financial Resources Gym

If Time Magazine had a word of the year, a good candidate in 2020 might be “resilience.”

This year has called upon many Americans to find the strength to bounce back from the health care effects of COVID-19 and the economic impact of job loss and financial duress, not to mention the emotional and mental toll of social distancing, isolation, and civil unrest. Many have. But among those that struggle to adapt, the toll can be high. According to Morneau Shepell’s Mental Health Index Report, people who report that they are undecided or feel that they are adapting poorly to changes in their personal, work, or financial lives have significantly lower mental health scores than those reporting adapting well.

What is the difference between those who adjust to adverse circumstances poorly vs. well? Psychology literature suggests that resilience is an intentional behavior that can be adopted and developed. In other words, rather than simply being a certain trait or characteristic that some people have and other don’t, resilience can be embraced — much like a healthy lifestyle of eating well and exercising.  

The healthy lifestyle analogy resonates with me. I started weightlifting more than two decades ago, and it was transformative. Not only does weightlifting make you stronger, but going to the gym several times a week creates discipline; watching the results and progress you make in lifting weights is emotionally rewarding and satisfying; and, perhaps most important of all, weightlifting is a commitment to health that permeates the rest of one’s lifestyle. Since I started weightlifting, I am inclined to spend more time on other physical activities such as kayaking, hiking, skiing, yoga, etc.

So what equipment do people need in order to adopt a lifestyle of financial resilience? This is the question EBRI explored as we redesigned the American Savings Education Council’s (ASEC’s) re-envisioned web site.

For those who are unfamiliar with ASEC, it is a program of EBRI that is dedicated to educating the public about all aspects of financial security. ASEC does so through a coalition of public- and private-sector partners that share ASEC’s mission of making saving and retirement planning a priority for all Americans. As we redesigned ASEC’s website, we realized that our partners are key; many of them have vast troves of financial wellness resources. By assembling them in one place — on ASEC’s website — we could create a financial resilience hub where people could find tools, information, education, and other resources that would help them achieve their goals, meet the financial needs of various life stages, and face the challenges of circumstances such as caregiving, disability, loss of partner/spouse, and supporting adult children or elders.

Given today’s environment, the website has an entire section devoted to COVID-19 resources such as coronavirus advice for consumers, information on why some communities of color have been hit so much harder by COVID-19, and how the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act works. Meanwhile, our “Traps & Pitfalls” section covers a broad range of threats to overall financial wellness beyond the pandemic, including coronavirus scams, phishing ploys, predatory lending, and telemarketing fraud.

ASEC‘s website is not the only way EBRI is seeking to address financial resilience. In its upcoming virtual meeting on October 14, ASEC is featuring a session called “Views from the Front: Insights on Guiding Employees Through the Turbulence of the Current Environment.” We’ll hear from those in the trenches — from workers who are struggling with emotional and financial challenges to the employers and financial advisers who are helping them navigate both the financial and the emotional toll the pandemic has taken.

I’m excited about the contribution that ASEC — through such initiatives as its redesigned website and October meeting — can make to the topic of resiliency. Another thing I’ve learned from working out with weights is that muscles have memory. In other words, even those of us who feel that COVID-19 has challenged our resiliency can gain that resiliency back by taking advantage of the proliferation of resiliency resources that are available on ASEC’s website and elsewhere.

About ebriorg
President and CEO, EBRI

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