Money conversations

Letters from Mom: Financial Health is Only One Piece of the Puzzle

Today I’m starting a new series called Letters from Mom. At 10, there are only so many money lessons I can teach and that J can practice. However, there are things he’ll need to know later, and that’s what I want to focus on today.

Dear J,

I’m hoping that by the time you’re older, you’ll be very financially healthy.

The markers of financial health and success (in my opinion) are:

  • Managing your money well – what comes in and what goes out
  • Figuring out what’s important to you and spending wisely there
  • Saving, in general and for specific future needs and wants
  • Giving and being generous
  • Having what you need, being able to provide for yourself (and your family if you choose to have one) and being responsible

But financial health alone won’t give you the happy, fulfilling life I wish for you. There are several other areas that are important.

  • Relationships with family, friends, community and yourself
  • Physical health, including fitness, diet and self-care
  • Spiritual health, whatever you believe in
  • Personal development and continued growth
  • Career, meaningful work and contribution to society
  • Free time, the ability to relax and have fun and enjoy the present moment

Just as you take time each day, week, month and year to focus on your financial health, so too should you take time to focus on these other areas. Let’s take a look at each one.


We’re social animals. Having friends, family and community in our lives — people who are a positive influence on us and nourish our souls makes us better people.

Keep people close. Tell them how you feel and work through any issues you have. This includes your relationship with yourself. Don’t be afraid to talk to someone and open up when times get tough. Because they will get tough and having supportive relationships will make those times easier.

Physical health

When I was younger, I was known as the smart kid who got Bs in gym. I remember having to run the mile in middle school and it was SO terrible. Lungs burning, I was one of the last few kids to finish.

My family didn’t really exercise. When I went to college, my roommates would go to the gym, but I thought it was weird. Who does that?

Fast forward to a few years ago. Going through a divorce can be really hard, so I started to exercise a bit. Nothing crazy, just something. I set a goal of twice per week. I mostly made it, but last year the habit started to stick.

I started to like going to the gym. I look forward to it. Sometimes I don’t recognize myself.

This is good for two reasons. 1) You’re always changing. You can always reinvent yourself. You’re not fixed. And 2) Good health is important. I’ve seen so many family members with a plethora of health problems as they age. I, personally, want to delay that as much as possible. I want to enjoy old age with good health if possible and want to do everything in my power to try to make it so.

Make exercise, diet and self-care a habit.

Spiritual health

I believe that we’re all connected and there is something larger than ourselves at work. I want to encourage you to explore this area so that you can connect with something greater.

Personal development

For 12+ years starting at around age 5, you go to school to learn. But the learning shouldn’t stop after you finish school. Keep learning + growing, not because you have to, but because it will make you feel good.

One of the best ways to do this is to read some good books. I’ve talked about great financial books before, but there are some excellent personal development books out there. (A quick search for top personal development books gives good results.)

Jim Rohn said, “If you want to be healthy, study health… if you want to be wealthy, study wealth… if you want to be happy, study happiness.”

Pick an area in which you’d like to grow — something that’s meaningful to you — and commit to working on it.


Twenty years ago, I went to school for computer science. After graduating, I got a good job at a large, stable company. I was making great money, had fantastic benefits, a nice team and my own office. I was miserable.

I bounced around from job to job for many years, thinking that if I just switched locations or industries, I’d shake the nagging feeling that was always with me. But a different job never helped.

Right now I’m freelancing and it’s a MUCH better fit for me. I love the flexibility that this work provides me. I love doing a good job and providing value to my clients.

I’m sure what I’m doing now won’t be what I do forever, but my point is that life is a journey. Find something that you love to do or that you’re really good at or even that you’re just passionate about. Find a problem that people have that you can solve.

You don’t have to stay in one job forever, you don’t have to do something you hate and you don’t have to stay stuck.

You’re also allowed to reinvent yourself. Keep your skills up to date. Work on yourself and the work you do will follow.

Free time

Today you were home from school due to the weather. You read, watched a movie and took a nap. I envy the free time and freedom of youth.

It seems that when you get to be an adult, some of those freedoms go away. As an adult, you feel like you should be doing, creating, fixing, solving and working on that to-do list. (I still haven’t learned that that list never ends.)

Don’t forget to put it aside. Don’t forget to enjoy things along the way. Don’t forget to take time for yourself.

There’s so much more that I want to share with you, but I’ll wrap it up for today. Remember that financial health is important, yes, but so are these other areas of your life. Having a good balance among all of them will set you on the path to a happy, fulfilling life.

All my love,

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