5 Key Steps to Financial Wellness

by Rebecca Lake |April 10, 2023

Everyone wants to be healthy — emotionally, mentally and physically — and feeling good about the choices you make can often play a big part.

That’s why, when it comes to managing your money, it helps to do it in a way that reflects who you are. "Your plan must be based on your values and vision," advises Adam D. Straseske, a chartered market technician and co-author of Home Run Financial Planning: Cover All Your Key Financial Bases and Align Your Finances with Your Goals and Values. "If it's not, you'll be taking action based upon others' definitions of wellness, and that's not authentic."

Positive financial planning can give you greater clarity and make it easier to reach financial goals. To get started, try these simple steps.

1. Get personal

Think about your money habits and beliefs, and evaluate your spending profile. Are the things you're doing with your money now in line with what you want to accomplish financially in the long-term? To find out, suggests personal finance expert Amanda Page, "Ask yourself, 'What does financial wellness mean to me?' Then take action:Free up a block of time, sit down with a pen and paper, and write out exactly what you want in your life as it relates to money. Let everything filter through, without stopping to second-guess yourself.

Once you define the dream it's much easier to think about your financial future because you’ll know what you value.

Your vision might include goals like this:

  1. Having six months' worth of expenses in an emergency fund
  2. Saving up for a down payment for a home
  3. Turning your side hustle into a business and quitting your job
  4. Paying down credit card debt and student loans.
  5. Setting up a dedicated savings fund so you can travel more often. 

"Once you define the dream, it's much easier to think about your financial future, because you'll know what you value," Page says. 

2. Take stock of where you are

Money is commonly a top stressor, but you can mitigate the pressure by changing the lens through which you view your finances, according to Page. For instance, "the pressure to pay off student loan debt can be reframed as a desire to pay it off," she says. "Once that desire is identified you can start to ask yourself questions about how you might approach paying it off."

The goal is to be curious about your finances without forcing things. "Look at it as an experiment," Page advises. "That way, there's no attachment to getting it done in a certain amount of time."

Another way to flip the script: Make a point of celebrating your accomplishments. Rather than focusing on how far you have to go, you’re taking pride in the progress you've already made.

A woman looking down at paperwork on table

3. Prioritize and pace yourself

The best way to tackle multiple money goals is to start with the ones that are most important and work at a pace you’re comfortable with. “Prioritizing the different steps of your financial wellness journey can help you make meaningful progress toward what you want to achieve,” Straseske says.

If you try to do much at once, adds Syble Solomon, a financial behaviorist and creator of Money Habitudes, you can throw your entire plan off-balance. When that happens, "it's time to reassess. "Think about how you can meet your financial needs today while still moving forward along the path of feeling good about — and in control of — your money, says Solomon.

A couple is shown a house by a realtor

You have to learn to train yourself to not listen to what everyone is saying or doing.

4. Tune out distractions

One of the best ways to practice financial wellness is to stay focused on your own personal finish line so that you’re not influenced by the crowd. "You have to learn to train yourself to not listen to what everyone is saying or doing," Straseske says.

Instead, commit to making financial decisions based on your needs, goals and objectives rather than measuring yourself against anyone else.

5. Aim for progress, not perfection

We want to feel good about our money and where we're going financially, which is why it’s crucial to remember that it's the doing that matters, even if it's not always 100% flawless. "An okay plan that's implemented is better than a great plan you never pursue," Straseske says.

Keep your goals reasonable and actionable, and above all, enjoy the process, he adds. "Financial wellness is a journey, not a destination."


— With additional reporting from Life and Money by Citi editors

Rebecca Lake

has been pursuing her own definition of financial wellness since 2014. Along the way, she's paid off debt and become a super saver. Her work has appeared online at U.S. News and World Report, CreditCards.com and Fox Business.

The content reflects the view of the author of the article and does not necessarily reflect the views of Citi or its employees, and we do not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information presented in the article.