Like any kind of wellness, financial wellness takes consistent practice. But nowadays, finding the time can feel like a bigger challenge than ever. That’s because all of our lives are hugely in flux right now: A lot of people are still easing back into the swing of ~life in public.~ Many of us are juggling new remote work or starting different careers entirely, but many more are still facing their old offices on the verge of burnout.
This is even more true for women, whose jobs and mental health were so disproportionately impacted by the pandemic that people called it a “She-cession.” 5.1 million American mothers dropped out of the paid workforce when schools closed, and many remain out of work today. In January 2020, women made up the majority of the workforce; a year later, only 56% of women were working for pay — the lowest number since 1986.
And according to a March 2021 Gallup survey, not only have working women struggled emotionally over the past few years at a higher rate than men, but they’re also far more likely than men to report that their lives have been disrupted “a great deal,” particularly if they have children. Women were already expected to juggle a career and the second shift, but the pandemic has shown just how dangerous that inequality is. In such extreme circumstances, it’s easy to miss the forest for the trees when it comes to your money and your plans for it. Here’s what you need to know to keep work burnout from sabotaging your finances, too.
Burnout is costing women money
One of the biggest contributors to this burnout gap: money. (Shocker, we know.) Money is women’s #1 source of stress. That’s actually true for everyone, not just women, but it’s true for women to a greater degree — and the pandemic has deepened that divide, too. One survey found that women are far more likely to feel anxious about their money than men, worrying over debt, money management, low financial literacy — and, you know, not having enough money in general.
All that paints a grim picture: Work-related stress is costing women wealth — a lot more than it’s costing men. (In fact, a 2016 study estimated that number could be as much as $500,000 for women who take just a few years away from the workforce.)
But knowing is half the battle (and taking action around money is a major driver of our confidence in our futures). Recognizing whether you’re falling into any of the following financial patterns, and trying a few of these strategies to combat them, could help you reclaim your peace of mind — at least when it comes to money.
4 ways burnout can hurt your bottom line
(And what to do about it.)
1. You can’t bring yourself to open your banking app
The problem: When your job is dominating your emotional bandwidth, it’s only natural to want to avoid our biggest sources of stress — AKA money — and pretend that our bank accounts and savings goals will magically pick up the slack in the meantime. But alas, your money isn’t like that cactus you bought last month — it definitely doesn’t thrive on neglect.
The solution: Be brave. There’s no such thing as a “see no evil, spend no evil” strategy when it comes to your financial well-being — tragic, but true. Staying on top of what you have — your bank accounts, your investments, your money goals — might be uncomfortable right now, but keeping yourself in the dark will only add to your overall stress levels. Knowing where you are financially, having a plan for where your money is going, and getting into a financial wellness routine could give you that sense of control you might not be feeling elsewhere.
2. You’re too tired to think about what you’re buying
The problem: Who among us hasn’t paid a ridiculous surcharge for a minimal convenience? Especially on those days when we just can’t even? If your free time and energy are important to you, modern tools like delivery fees and premium services might be great outsourcing tools to help you match your spending to your core values. But if those extra expenses are only meant to be lifesavers in dire emotional straits, they can add up quickly.
The solution: Build a burnout budget and give up the guilt. The reality is that you’re probably gonna open that delivery app more than usual right now, whether you planned to or not. But guess what? That’s fine. We at Ellevest are big believers in just buying the damned avocado toast. The trick is to give yourself space (and permission) to be a little messy. Find all those silly little ways your money isn’t serving you right now — excessive delivery fees you might consolidate into regular memberships, open-ended grocery runs featuring aspirational produce that spoils before you can get motivated to cook it — and add them up. Track how much you spend on them each month, on average. Then, if you can, give them their own line item in your budget — and then trust your plan to help you indulge without feeling guilty. (See also: intentional spending, below.)
3. You find yourself rolling the dice without a plan
The problem: When the future is uncertain, the quick highs that come from large purchases and big changes can feel good — really good. (See: the decision to get bangs after a breakup.) Far better than playing it safe to achieve some far-off goal, at least. Coping can be a good thing, but making big life decisions while you’re in the throes of a challenging time can get expensive. You might end up selling an investment before you’d originally intended, or rushing to buy a house or a car even though rates feel too high, or quitting your job in a blaze of glory without a financial safety net.
The solution: Put up some guardrails. Remember those blow-up bumpers they put in the gutters to make bowling easier at the birthday parties you went to as a kid? You can apply that same concept to your budget by making money decisions intentionally, according to your core values. (Pssst: We even have a free email course for Ellevest members on how to do it.) It can take some time to get the hang of it, but once you do, being mindful about your spending and your big decisions can make big moments like quitting a horrible job feel even more incredible.
4. You pass the bill onto Future You
The problem: If burnout has you throwing out all the rules and plans you made way back when, you’re probably betting that, someday, you’ll be in a better place to honor them. Right? It’s one thing if 401(k) contributions are automatically deducted from your paycheck, but when you’re really going through it, and you have to schedule IRA contributions manually, it can be hard to convince yourself to put a percentage aside for retirement. Plus, debt like student loans and credit cards accumulate interest quickly, even when you’re paying your monthly minimums — so skipping even a few months of your repayment plan can cost you a lot down the road. You don’t want to be hurting from your mid-burnout decisions for longer than your actual burnout.
The solution: Turn your finances into a routine. Self-care has never been about instant gratification — it’s literally about taking care of yourself, even when what you need to do takes a little more effort than what you want to do. Even when you’re exhausted, you still talk yourself into washing your face before bed, because a zit will make you even crankier in the morning. Create a financial hygiene habit to match that 12-step bedtime skincare routine. Instead of thinking of Future You as a rich stranger who can handle what you can’t, start visualizing them as your reward for getting through this — it’ll give you structure now and a soft landing later.
Making the symptoms manageable
The truth is, most people facing burnout can’t just quit their jobs. (That’s part of the problem!) Mental health is a complicated, lifelong journey. Whether you’re in full-on burnout mode or you’re just starting to feel its effects, you might be looking at a long road before you can actually do something about it.
But you’re not alone. And you can do right by yourself in small ways, even while you’re just trying to get through the day. For now, focus on finding just enough energy to put some damage-control defenses in place. (If you’re reading this post, you’re already on the right track!) Make a money date or two with yourself, the way you would a doctor’s appointment or a night out with a friend, to get the full picture of what your money is doing. Learning, planning, and actively participating in your own financial life (which doesn’t stop) are some of the best ways to find confidence — and maybe even a little relief.
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