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Financial Planning Week: why financial fitness is crucial to physical and mental fitness

By Mark Hussein, CEO at HSBC Life (UK)

This week sees the launch of Financial Planning Week, the annual campaign organised by the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment (CISI), which aims to empower consumers in making financial decisions by seeing a financial planner for a free session during October.

These planning sessions enable people to experience first-hand the life-changing guidance offered by the financial planning profession which is a bold claim, but one that can be backed up with research. Carrying out long-term financial planning can also have a beneficial impact on people’s levels of mental wellbeing and physical fitness.

Of course, financial planning should be for life, not just a week; and financial planning does not automatically lead to wealth or guarantee physical and mental fitness. However, HSBC Life’s +Factor Study shows it most certainly can help.

We surveyed over 3,000 UK adults to understand the relationship between our physical health, mental wellbeing, and financial fitness; the findings are part of a global survey of over 10,000 people which also included Hong Kong, mainland China and Singapore.

The study not only highlighted a strong correlation between these three factors; and observed that when one aspect of wellbeing improves, the other dimensions improve as well; it also demonstrated how financial planning helps our general wellbeing.

It shows that making small changes in long-term financial planning can have a positive impact on our mental and physical health. For example, nearly three-quarters of those who review their financial plans at least once a year have average or above average mental health – while half of those who do not review their financial plan claimed they have below average mental health. Similar results were found for those who have healthcare protection and those who have comprehensive retirement plans.

In my view the best endorsement was among those who take financial advice: 74% of respondents, report average or above average mental health, whilst more than two out of five (42%) who do not take financial advice have below average mental health.

It’s not just about financial planning

Unfortunately, financial planning can’t bring physical fitness on its own, but it can boost our mental health, which in turn can help to improve lifestyle and subsequent physical fitness.

Our research suggests the pandemic has changed our lifestyle and behaviours, but there are glimmers of positivity in the dark.

Covid-19 was reported as the top driver of stress, which is unsurprising given the uncertainty during that time, and many people told us that economic effects were a cause of financial concern. However, nearly a quarter of those interviewed said that Covid-19 has made them save money and improve their financial planning to ensure sufficient funds for the future, which is good news.

Our +Factor study found a majority (83%) of people who rate themselves as physically fit had average or above average mental health, and over a third (37%) scored highly for financial fitness. But among those who rated themselves as physically unfit, less than half had average or above average mental health and only a fifth scored very fit on their finances.

It’s a similar story for those with above average mental health – 53% of respondents say they are physically fit and 47% scored highly for financial fitness. But among those with poor mental health just 9% said they were physically fit and only 12% were rated as financially fit.

How to be physically, mentally, and financially fitter

More than two-thirds (68%) of those we surveyed said they believe it is becoming more important to pass on healthy habits than to pass on wealth. All age groups agreed with the view, but those aged 25 to 34 were particularly supportive with 76% backing the idea.

When it comes to advising their younger selves there was strong agreement among those surveyed that increased exercise, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and saving were important. Even those who are physically fit now believe they should have exercised more when they were younger.

Starting young and inheriting good habits appear to the best way to be more physically, mentally, and financially fit. And perhaps the past 18 months has helped too with nearly a quarter (24%) saying they have changed their financial behaviours as a result.

It seems apt to me that Financial Planning Week falls the day after World Mental Health Day. I firmly believe that financial matters can impact our mental wellness. I will most definitely take our +Factor research insights on board and moving forward will continue to apply these learnings to our business, as well as making every effort to look at my own health and wellbeing with a more holistic lens.

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