Four elements define personal financial well-being

You probably have a few goals in mind when it comes to thinking about your financial life. You might think about taking more control over bills, or getting to a specific point like paying off a credit card, or making an important purchase. We want to help people improve their financial lives, so we want to help them set goals that can make a real difference, and work toward them. That’s why we talked to consumers across the country, to hear what they had to say about financial well-being and what it means to them.

You can see what we learned in our report on financial well-being.

Savings and income are part of financial well-being, but we learned that they’re not always the most important part. Instead, when people talked about their own financial well-being, four main elements came to light.

Feeling in control

People who have high levels of financial well-being feel in control of their day-to-day and month-to-month finances. They cover their expenses and pay their bills on time, and generally they do not worry about having enough money to get by. This is not just about having money, they told us, it’s about managing it. Think of this as having financial security, in the present.

Capacity to absorb a financial shock

Whether they get in a car accident or are temporarily laid off from a job, these consumers have a safety net such as savings, insurance, or family to help stop a shock from turning into a longer-lasting setback. One way to describe this is feeling financial security, for the future.

On track to meet goals

Consumers with a higher sense of financial well-being tell us they are on track to meet their financial goals. Whether or not they have a formal financial plan, they are setting goals that are important to them, and working toward those goals. Think of this as moving toward financial freedom, for the future.

Flexibility to make choices

These consumers have the financial freedom to make the choices that allow them to enjoy life, whatever that means to them. Whether that is taking a family vacation, going out to eat, or working less to spend more time with family, these consumers have the financial flexibility to do what they value and what makes them happy. This can be described as having financial freedom, in the present.

Applying this framework to your own financial life might help you feel more satisfied with the decisions you make too. When you face a financial choice or task, consider how your actions might affect financial security and financial freedom, today and in the future. To learn more about how consumers described financial well-being in their own words, check out the full report.

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