The American Heart Association (AMA) has designated February as American Heart Month to raise awareness about heart disease. The AMA even has a special campaign for women, aptly named Go Red for Women, which kicked off on Feb. 4 with National Wear Red Day to encourage healthy eating and exercise to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Nearly everyone understands the importance of having an annual health and wellness check-up with your doctor. But when was the last time you had a financial wellness check-up to see if you are on track to achieve your financial goals?
A survey from the National Endowment for Financial Education, conducted by the Harris Poll during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, showed that 90% of Americans felt financial stress – and chronic stress is often a leading contributor to heart disease.
Heart disease is the number one cause of death for women. Nearly, one in every five female deaths in the U.S. is caused by a heart attack, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
My experience with heart disease was borne out of my mother’s shocking diagnosis after my father’s death from cancer. Mom spent two years caring for my father, and after his passing finally scheduled a routine doctor’s appointment that she had neglected. Her doctor recommended a heart stress test – and the next thing I knew Mom was having triple bypass surgery.
It caught our family off guard, but in hindsight we should have not been surprised. As primary caregivers, women often neglect their health to care and nurture others. But the good news is that heart disease is preventable. The AMA provides the following tips from Dr. Nieca Goldberg, medical director for the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health at NYU’s Langone Medical Center:
• Schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider to learn your personal risk for heart disease.
• Quit Smoking. Did you know that just one year after you quit, you will cut your risk of coronary heart disease by 50%?
• Start an exercise program. Just walking 30 minutes a day can lower your risk for heart attack and stroke.
• Modify your family’s diet, if needed.
The map below shows death rates from heart disease in women in the U.S. The concentration of the darker red, which indicates higher death rates, in the South is a call to action. We have to take better care of ourselves.
Just like it is important for women to care for themselves physically, they also need to manage their financial wellness to minimize the stress in their lives.
Financial wellness involves effective money management, including having an emergency fund and a realistic – and achievable – retirement savings plan. Women also should have access to information and tools necessary to make good financial decisions and build a plan for their future.
Effective money management begins with an assessment of your current financial situation by taking a realistic look at your spending habits, current assets and any debt owed. It’s helpful to have a budget and track spending patterns. One thing I find useful is to evaluate recurring expenses, including credit card charges, and see where you can eliminate duplications in your spending (Do you really need that extra entertainment streaming or magazine subscription?). Also, make sure you have enough money set aside in an emergency fund.
Once you have an understanding of your financial situation, you can develop a plan for your long-term goals, which includes an investment strategy, retirement savings and, finally, a way to give back through charitable giving. These steps to financial wellness can be overwhelming, but an experienced wealth management professional can help you each step of the way.
When my mom had her bypass surgery, one thing that eased her mind was knowing she had her financial affairs in order. My parents were methodical about their budget, savings, retirement plan and charitable giving – and that proved invaluable when my dad passed.
Through our Women | Wealth | Wellness focus, we strive to help women as they build, protect and distribute their wealth. I encourage you to take one step at a time when thinking about financial wellness and contact one of our team members at Argent Financial Group. We are ready to help you along the way.