Money

How Do You Fare? Calculate your Financial Wellbeing Score

Just coping, doing great, or getting by?

By Bryna Howes

Money

Just coping, doing great, or getting by?

By Bryna Howes

You’ve probably taken many a quiz in your lifetime — from school exams to Myers-Briggs tests to a classic Buzzfeed gem that determines what type of sandwich you are. All are important in their own ways.

With that said, there’s only one score we want to know right now. It’s our Financial Wellbeing Score.

You see, there are many states of financial wellbeing. And naturally, you’ll cycle through each of them as your circumstances change and your priorities shift. But despite that fact, it’s important to work out where you sit, today. Only then can you take the necessary steps to optimise your financial wellbeing.

Here’s a look at four fictional women, all at different stages on their wellbeing journey. We’ll take a look at where they’re at and the budgeting and saving advice that suits their stage. Then it’s up to you to work out who you are.

Lauren is Having Trouble

Everything was going fine with Lauren, until she went through a bad breakup. (Raise your hand if you’ve been there.) Lauren had to move out of the apartment she shared with her partner and she had to buy some new, basic furniture items.

Unfortunately, this resulted in Lauren ending up with $5,000 in credit card debt.

Now, Lauren is having trouble meeting the minimum repayment amount each month. Because she doesn’t want to compound the problem, she decides to speak to a financial counsellor. They can help Lauren look at the big picture and talk her through her next steps.

One of these steps might be to roll the debt over to a no- or low-interest loan. A financial counsellor can likely help Lauren find the right loan for her. Once that’s in place, it’ll be up to Lauren to ensure she meets the regular minimum payments on that loan.

The best way for Lauren to ensure she can meet these payments is to set up a budget. There are various types of budgets – the 50/20/30 is one – but they all have the same basic premise.

That is, figure out how much you need to get by, allocate a certain amount to debt repayments and savings, and maybe have a little fun on the side. If Lauren were to set up a general budget, for example, she’d allocate 20 percent of her salary to meeting those repayments and setting up a savings account.

Mia is Just Coping

Mia is starting to get the hang of this “adulting” thing. She’s earning a decent salary and she has enough money to hang out with friends on the weekend and buy herself something nice whenever ASOS holds a sale. Don’t judge, but yeah, she has a shoe habit.

The problem is that Mia is also at that age where all her friends are getting married. Which means every few months, she has to buy/rent a new dress or go in on a group gift. And sometimes, just sometimes, that is a little financially difficult for Mia.

So, Mia decides to make a change. First on her agenda: bill reminders. This helps her remember when her Spotify subscription (among others) is around the bend, which in turn, helps her set aside the appropriate funds and stay within a budget.

The next thing Mia does is set up an emergency fund. She wants to put away 3 months’ worth of emergency savings, ultimately. She earns $75,000 a year, which means she takes home around $4,800 a month. That means saving $15,000 in an emergency fund.

While that amount seems scary, she figures she just has to get started.

She opens up a separate savings account. Then, she looks at her current spending habits. She calls up each bill provider and arranges new, better deals on all her bills. By the time she’s tweaked her spending, she figures she can put away almost 15 percent of her salary.

Her final step? She sets up an automated transfer that takes place the day after every monthly payday. This way, that 15 percent amount is automatically moved into her savings before she has a chance to blow it – and her savings plan is on its way!

Nicole is Getting By

Nicole is finally feeling pretty financially secure. She has had her ups-and-downs, as we all do, but she’s on the right path now. She has been able to build herself a tidy little emergency fund, spends less than she earns, and she and her husband even takes a holiday here and there, although their vacationing has slowed down now they have kids.

Of course, Nicole’s work isn’t done.

Nicole has decided to get on the automation train. Although she’s been growing her emergency fund, she tends to add random amounts at random times. So, her first course of action is to set up an automatic transfer that moves a consistent amount to her fund.

The next step is to automate their bills and credit card payments.

Nicole and her husband have a joint bank account. On their respective pay days, they each deposit a pre-determined amount into the account. The amount covers their mortgage payments, the average amount for their bills, plus a little on top as a buffer.

So, to get started, Nicole writes a list of all their bills. Then, she logs in to the account she has with each provider and enters their direct debit details. She even tweaks some of the payment options to make life easier. For example, she sets up bill smoothing on their electricity and gas bills so that an equal amount is taken out each month.

The last step is to talk to her credit card provider. With them, she sets up a free service that ensures her payment is made on time. Essentially, she provides them with the details of the joint bank account, and the credit card provider automatically deducts the minimum monthly payment plus any amount due, on a certain day each month. Although Nicole has always been good about getting the bills paid, this gives her some breathing room.

Steph is Doing Great

Steph is what you might call #goals. She started saving when she was young, which means she was able to get into the property market in her thirties. Steph has a steady job, an emergency fund, a diversified investment portfolio, and all the trappings of a steady life. Oh, and Steph and her husband paid off their mortgage in 12 years. Props to Steph.

But she’s not one to rest on her laurels. She’s thinking about her future.

So, Steph sets up a chat with a financial planner. She’s been making pre-tax super contributions. Not only has it reduced her tax liability over the years, but Steph always considered it a different form of emergency fund.

Now, though, Steph wants to level up. She chats with the planner about starting a self-managed super fund (SMSF). This is a private superannuation fund that Steph can manage herself, although it’ll be regulated by the Australian Tax Office and must be audited annually by an approved SMSF auditor. But Steph will have control over all the investment decisions, which means she can finally invest in the tech stocks she’s been eyeing.

Steph also chats with the planner about a thought she and her husband have been pondering: buying an investment property. They have saved enough money on the side for a deposit and think they can leverage the equity in their existing property.

Steph has always made it a priority to make the most of her financial assets and has had a list of money goals to check off since she was in her twenties. She sees the next 20 (or so) years before retirement as just another part of the adventure.

Are you who you thought you were?

Much like itself, your money journey will have its ups and downs, its swings and roundabouts. While you can’t always account for the hiccups, you can try and be prepared when they arrive by staying on top of your financial wellbeing.

The CBA Financial Wellbeing (FWB) Score is a method of assessing your financial wellbeing. By answering a few questions (based on the Scales research method), you can receive your score and tips tailored to your result. If there’s one thing in life worth knowing, it’s where you’re at, financially, and what you can do next.