How are you?

I asked my brother Paul this last week, and he quoted an article from Jamie Goode that had that question as the title. The short answer is “I’m good thanks” but the real answer is usually “I don’t know for sure.”

As Goode points out “It’s hard to do a really honest, accurate self-inventory, and there are some places inside I’d rather not look…I’m not arguing here in favour of needless introspection…Sometimes, though, some soul maintenance is helpful. It’s good to know yourself.”


How are you about money?

Most of us tend to give a short-but-inaccurate answer, but the longer answer might be better.

According to Investopedia, “Financial health is a term used to describe the state of one’s personal financial situation…including the amount of savings you have, how much you are setting away for retirement and how much of your income you are spending on fixed or non-discretionary expenses.”

If you stick to the basics, you should be okay. In fact, it often pays to keep it simple.


But what about our financial souls?

Our financial souls also need nourishing from time to time. My research shows that accomplished women always include some soul in their financial plans and decisions. Here are some of the more soulful pieces of financial advice that I have heard over the years:

1. Develop a financial philosophy

“Know who you are, what you value and figure your own way out. What and whom do you admire? This isn’t about money or budgets or business plans. This is a different level of soul-searching – you must seek inside yourself to establish your own guiding principles. And then ask yourself whether your decisions are aligned with your values. Make personal and financial choices on that basis.” CEO, New York City

2. Define your self-worth

“Too often when we look at our personal balance sheet we include our house but it gives us a false sense of our own net worth. Confronting this is important: differentiating between our net worth and our self-worth. I realized that my self-worth was in part defined by this artificial net worth. So, I sold my house. Breaking this link has allowed me to better identify what constitutes real value.” Board Member, Johannesburg

3. Decide on your life objectives

“Money is an enabler – the actual amount doesn’t matter. People live very different lives on the same income so it is most important that you determine how you want to live.” Author, London

4. Invest in causes that matter to you

“It is important to invest in causes that we value. There is so much impact investing going on in the world which has both the social impact to make the world a better place as well as sustainable financial returns.” CFO, Istanbul

5. Keep your financial autonomy

“A high quality of life can become a trap given how pleasant life is: some women can decide to lose their financial autonomy to benefit more from this type of environment. I have observed that the women who keep their jobs don’t lose their confidence and their self-esteem. Continuing a professional activity seems to be the key to success. Keep your financial autonomy.” University Professor, Singapore

6. Never let money limit you

“It is most important to be guided by your own inner belief. If you believe strongly enough, it will work out. If you lose that focus, you won’t take risks anymore and you’ll become something else entirely… someone without freedom.” Entrepreneur, Stockholm

7. Stay in balance

“I am an advocate of the idea of living wisely using the principles of balance, whether it be about keeping fit, eating well, or not working too much. This balance should also apply to the financial elements of your life.” General Manager, Zurich


In my email exchange with my brother, I said ‘how I am’ depends on how I am treating myself on my basic needs; sleep, proper food and exercise. If I can manage those things I’m normally able to answer, “I am good, thanks” and have it be true. And Paul replied: “regarding basic needs I feel very happy when I’m having grilled hammour (grouper), frites, and a glass of Sauvignon over Financial Times Weekend edition!”

Ah, the simple things in life. Maybe being in great financial shape is about being able to afford the things that matter to you most.

When we talk about our financial health, let’s not forget to nourish the soul.

Barbara Stewart, CFA is one of the world’s leading researchers on women and finance, focusing on real life financial behaviours and providing global insights into how smart women think and communicate. Barbara is an advocate for women, for diversity, and for financial education. In addition to her Rich Thinking® research, Barbara uses her proprietary research skills to work as an Executive Interviewer on a project basis for global financial institutions seeking to gain a deeper understanding of their key stakeholders, both women and men. Barbara is a frequent interview guest on TV, radio and print, both financial and general interest. She is a contributor to the CFA Institute’s Enterprising Investor website. For more information about Barbara’s research, please see