Blog: Mental Health Awareness Week 2024

It is no secret that money problems can impact mental health and personal wellbeing.

Whilst there is much research to back this theory up, the truth is most of us can think of a time in our lives when we had a financial struggle playing on our mind, whether it was simply the awkwardness of a declined card with a long queue behind you, or being kept up at night by much bigger concerns, such as mounting debt and growing bills.

Big or small, money impacts our mental wellbeing everyday.

Perhaps one of the clearest examples of just how entwined money and mental health is the recent phenomenon affecting many Millennials and Gen Zers - doom spending.

The evolution of retail therapy, and a much more worrying step up from both doom scrolling and ‘girl math’, doom spending is the idea that people, particularly younger people, are being tempted into spending excessive amounts on luxuries – whether it be a holiday or the latest technology or fashion – to help cope with (or drown out) the external stress of the world.

It can also help people to take back at least some aspect of control, particularly given the fact that key milestones, such as getting onto the property ladder, still feel so out of reach for so many younger people.

After all, what’s the point in saving if you can’t achieve any of your financial goals in a turbulent world, exacerbated by decisions made by older generations and politicians.

I myself splashed out on my some luxury items when I realised I would be unable to move for a while, so this is a reassuring dopamine hit than I can relate to.

And similar attitudes can frequently be seen in the pensions industry. How many of us have been told “Oh no, I don’t bother saving into a pension, I know they’ll keep pushing retirement age up and I’ll never see a penny”, or even more concerning: “What is the point in saving for a retirement I may not get if the world I am expecting to retire into isn’t there”.

This may sound dramatic, but it is a very common attitude, with many increasingly struggling to cope with the stress that economic volatility, geopolitical tensions, and climate concerns bring.

It is so important that the industry takes the time to empathise with members, and understand the different issues vying for their financial attention, and the impact this can have on their mental health.

Of course, doom spending is never going to solve the problem. If anything, avoiding saving for longer is only going to make the issue worse.

But this is definitely a case of easier said than done, and if we are struggling to engage younger people with the idea of saving for something as desirable as a house, then what hope do we have in the pensions space.

There are exciting innovations emerging in the industry, with sidecar savings vehicles, for instance, offering an opportunity to help people save for both their immediate financial goals, whilst also building up savings for retirement.

Partnering pensions with better communications and support can also help to make sure that people aren’t overwhelmed by the retirement challenges facing them, and the market support for this already exists.

Even the possibility of giving members control through proposals such as a pot for life model, whilst obviously some way off, could prove promising in helping to make saving into a pension more rewarding, especially from a mental health perspective, by giving savers more ownership over their pension savings.

So it might not be all doom and gloom after all.

If you or anyone else you know is struggling with mental health, there are always resources and help available. Find out more here.

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