My Two Cents on Comfort: an Essay Response to CNBC

Matt Beyer
5 min readAug 26, 2023

Introduction

When Americans (especially the more vulnerable populations) pay out the nose for the cost of living, it’s only inevitable that their mental, physical, and emotional health also pay a heavy, even fatal price.

According to an article written in Health.com, “Research has shown that people who experience stress from financial issues are 20 times more likely to attempt suicide than those who do not experience this type of stress”. The article also lists the major factors that may exacerbate suicidal tendencies, namely, homelessness, unemployment, and the brutal pairing of debt and low income (Zapata & Morell, 2023).

It’s very clear that issues surrounding financial well-being are prominent, contemporary talking points, and that the concept of “living comfortably” is increasingly being seen as a luxury, rather than a reasonably-attainable goal.

So let’s address the big question at hand: what can we do to combat these stressful financial situations?

Routes to Remedies

Financial Institutions

When it comes to the topic at hand, the good news is that, as CNBC briefly touches on, there are methods to improve one’s financial well-being.

In the aforementioned article in Health.com, solutions (or, at the least, remedies) for improving one’s financial situations(s) include mental health and/or financial counseling, establishing a budget, and reiterating the emergency (911) and suicide (988) hotline numbers.

Often times, pathways to financial literacy can be found within financial institutions themselves — banks and credit unions. For example, my credit union, Summit, currently offers free webinars hosted by their financial advisors. These advisors discuss a multitude of personal finance topics like budgeting, estate planning, and parent-to-child finance fundamentals. In addition, the credit union provides an assortment of finance tools (e.g. worksheet templates and calculators), and holds in-person, finance-related events, where questions can be readily answered by trained specialists.

If you’d like to get the full scope of all that Summit Credit Union has to offer, you can go to their website — the link is provided below, and no, I am unfortunately not being paid to say this.

Social/Political Action

In addition to the aforementioned avenues, additional aid for those suffering from financial hardship(s) can come in the form of social/political action, which can provide more narrowly-focused solutions for certain affected populations, especially those more susceptible to financial stress.

According to a 2022 research paper published for the National Library of Medicine,

“The 45–64 age group had the highest rate of JFH [job loss, financial strain, and/or loss of housing](22.0% for males and 15.1% for females) as a suicide precipitant…Researchers have called for targeted suicide prevention interventions for unemployed people and those who are in the process of losing their homes [Fowler et al., 2015; Haw et al., 2015]. However, these interventions should be at both systemic (e.g., generous unemployment and health insurance, housing assistance, low interest loans for small businesses; increased availability and affordability of treatment for mental health and substance use problems) and individual (e.g., mental health and substance use treatment to help improve coping skills for alleviating family conflicts and better manage other negative life events) levels” (Choi et al., 2022).

What’s important to note here is that these policies not only pertain to those directly affected by financial stress, but those affected by proximity, thus bolstering the idea that financial stress does not occur in strictly isolated events.

Educational Institutions (My Own Two-Cents)

While on the topic of policy, I’d like to address my own beliefs on a proposal for a healthier, financially-wary society. In my honest opinion, if we’re to nip financial insecurity and/or financial illiteracy in the bud, in tandem with the integration and expansion of financial literacy tools into workplaces and/or via financial institutions, we need to place a heavy emphasis on educating the younger generations as well, and we can start by mandating (or at the very least, strongly encouraging) some kind of personal finance/financial literacy course(s) into high school and/or collegiate core curricula.

In my junior year of high school, I took an elective course called “Money and Banking”. In that class, I learned about emergency funds, compound interest, stock diversification, and a variety of other finance-related topics; it was easily one of the most influential and applicable courses I’ve ever taken. What’s more is that, unlike other core curriculum — which, at worst, has very limited future utilization in the future, depending on the strengths/aspirations of each student — financial literacy education has universal application; every single person will perform some kind of financial transaction throughout their lifetimes, often on a day to day basis.

But as Reading Rainbow’s LeVar Burton would say, “you don’t have to take my word for it”.

Researchers of the following 2015 article — coincidentally, another publication for the National Library of Medicine — provide us a plethora of evidence supporting this type of integration:

“It is worth highlighting our conclusion that financial literacy can be particularly important for the young…Their lack of clear understanding regarding basic financial concepts is therefore likely to undermine efforts to establish themselves as well-functioning adults (Lusardi, Mitchell, and Curto, 2010)…In view of the findings, two initiatives seem particularly well-suited to improve financial literacy. These are financial education in school, and in the workplace…recent work of Brown, Collins, Schmeiser and Urban (2014) examines the effectiveness of state mandated financial education for high-school students. The study shows that if a rigorous financial education program is carefully implemented, it can improve the credit scores and lower the probability of credit delinquency for young adults…Curing and preventing financial illiteracy is not costless, but investing in financial literacy is likely to bring high payoffs (Behrman, Mitchell, Soo, and Bravo 2012; Hastings, Mitchell, and Chyn, 2011; and Michaud, Lusardi, and Mitchell, 2013). Moreover, our work demonstrates that financial literacy can benefit not only the economically vulnerable in society, but also the population at large” (Mitchell & Lusardi, 2015).

Need I say more?

Conclusion

As evidenced by the preceding research and the very real experiences of countless individuals, education (especially, though not exclusively, early on)— in conjunction with political/social action — plays a key role in tackling issues pertaining to personal finance. Furthermore, the exploration and expansion of financial literacy comes with undeniable, positive outcomes across numerous demographics and levels of society — whether these benefits are material, emotional, or mental in nature.

In other words, the public deserves an education on, well, education.

And who knows? With time and effort, maybe there’ll finally come a day when we no longer tremble at the thought of tackling those gosh-darn taxes.

Other References

--

--