Why financial resilience is not an end goal

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I've been described many times by people who know me well as resilient. I expect it's meant as a compliment and of course I accept it as that. After all, the definition of resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. Toughness is another way of describing resilience or the ability to successfully rise from the ashes and come back stronger than ever.

I see resilience as a gritty thing. It's a teeth clenched, steely determined, finger-tip gripping, push through to the end kind of word. And it's what many of us aspire to – it's what we want for our lives, our finances, our children. The ability to bounce back, to be resilient.

Personally, I don't ever want resilience to be my end game.

Sure, I'm incredibly happy to have the qualities of resilience but I don't want to simply be recovering from aftershocks in life. Instead, I think resilience needs to be something we pass through or perhaps have in our toolkit on our way to the end game of wellness.

After all, if I asked you, when it comes to your health, do you want to be resilient or do you want to have wellness, I'm sure you'd say both. But we don't aim for resilience. Instead we aim for wellness. Resilience is something we draw upon when we're going through illness or suffering but it's not somewhere we want to live. Rather, wellness or the healthy balance of mind, body and spirit that results in an overall feeling of wellbeing is probably most of our goal. To live in harmony, to be vibrant and able to live our lives fully and completely. To be strong, fit, flexible and dynamic.

When it comes to our finances and our businesses we're often told to be resilient. Which is a good thing because we want to be able to weather storms. But is simply weathering storms truly living?


Instead I believe when it comes to our finances, our businesses (let's be honest, all of our lives) that we should be aiming for wellness. To not simply grit our teeth and bear our financial situation or wait for Prince Charming, a fairy godmother or a fantasy lottery ticket to come rescue us but instead to become the author of our own financial story. A story we're actually excited about. One that not only protects us but allows us to live out our goals and aspirations. The same goes for our businesses. To not simply resolve to sit down and look at our numbers like we're ingesting brussels sprouts, but rather to embrace all parts of business ownership with the understanding that when we do, we'll not only weather the storms but we'll also be able to enjoy the sunshine.

While I've always been an advocate of financial wellness, up to now it's been something I've thought was an obvious thing to aim for purely based on gut. But I was pleasantly surprised to see this is one of the findings from research conducted in Britain recently. At the Good Shepherd Microfinance Resilient Women Summit a couple of weeks ago, Professor Elaine Kempson, an emeritus professor at the University of Bristol, presented her research which concluded that policy should concentrate on financial resilience as well as the end goal of financial wellness. Her research found that women's financial education and financial capability programs particularly needed to have financial wellbeing as their primary goal.

Dr Kempson's research showed these programs particularly need to focus on modifying behaviour, not simply imparting knowledge and developing skills which will only have a very limited effect on the financial wellbeing of adults. Of course, she also highlighted we need to recognise that lower incomes and other environmental factors can have a much bigger effect. Women can't achieve financial wellbeing against the odds, however capable they are.

Interestingly, her research also discovered that budgets don't work,  which she intends to explore further. I think this is an obvious finding. After all, we know that diets don't work long term. Instead, we need to discover great life-long habits and a better relationship with food. So why would we think it's any different with our finances? When something is restricted we immediately want more of it, so it makes sense that the same is true of budgets and money. Watching our spending comes under financial resilience and understanding where we should be spending our money certainly falls under that too. But becoming a conscious consumer who lives according to their values, goals and healthy money messages falls firmly under financial wellness.

As another year comes to a close I think it's a great message to carry into the new year. Yes, financial resilience is important. We need to have a certain measure of toughness, grit, gumption and the ability to push through. But we don't want to sit down and dwell among resilience but rather head towards the far sunnier shores of financial, business and, let's face it, whole-of-life wellness. Now that seems like a 2017 New Year's resolution worth aiming for.

Melissa Browne is CEO of accounting firm A&TA and author of Fabulous But Broke.