Mental health and money are inextricably connected. Not only does your money contribute to mental and emotional stressors, but mental illness can lead to financial downfall, if you don’t take proper precautions.
According to a 2017 study, people who suffer from mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety are 25% less likely to have savings for retirement. If you don’t care for your mental health, your livelihood and finances are on the line.
The first step: make a plan for saving
At MAG, we are avid supporters of developing an emergency fund, regardless of how much you are able to contribute to it. It is important to have some cash to fall back on when the unexpected occurs.
How much you are able to save on a regular basis will depend on your individual lifestyle. The $20 Emergency Fund has you saving $20/week and is a great, minimal method of saving.
For some of us, though, $20/week may take too much of our funds for necessities. If you’re a broke student like me, you might want to consider other methods such as rounding up your savings or getting some help from robo-advisers. Regardless of how much you are setting aside in your mental health savings, you should be using a high interest savings account to ensure your money is easily accessible and has an opportunity to grow.
Your Mental Health Emergency Fund is personal
Everyone has different means of coping and managing money. So when you bring these two things together, it is clear that your mental health emergency fund must be personalized.
Your base amount for your mental health fund should be based on the expected costs of the following things for yourself in particular:
2 therapy sessions
When you’re in a rut, working things through with a professional is ideal. Therapy is not cheap, but if you can afford it, it is absolutely worth it to go.
And if you can’t afford to see a therapist on a semi-regular basis, it is worth it to at least save up for when you’re experiencing any form of mental health emergency.
As a solid base, you should have enough for 2 therapy sessions in your mental health fund. Most therapists charger $80-$200 per session. I would recommend researching offices in your area and comparing their rates to decide which is most doable for you.
In an ideal world, you will have had a chance to see if any local therapists suit you and your needs, but in a pinch any professional help is good regardless of if you have worked with them before.
2 months of prescription medication
Taking your prescribed medication is SUCH an important part of mental health care for many people. And if you can’t afford your monthly refill, your mental health will inevitably worsen.
From personal experience, I can attest that even just one missed dose of anti-depressants can lead to a pretty bad day mood-wise. If you don’t have the cash on hand for your prescription, your mental health could be in danger.
The cost of your medication will of course depend on what it is and if you have any insurance coverage. Be sure to calculate the cost of at least 2 months worth of your prescription to have saved in your mental health fund.For anyone building their mental health emergency fund that does NOT use prescription medication, it is still a good idea to keep some extra cash in there for medication, just in case. You truly never know when/if medication will be right for your mental health needs, so it is good to be prepared.
Time off work
For me personally, this is the most substantial part of my mental health fund, because it is what helps me the most when I am feeling stressed and run down.
No one should constantly be working (despite what your brain might tell you) and being able to afford time off work is a huge privilege. My goal for my mental health fund is to have enough support to miss 3 days of work. Depending on the severity of the situation, usually two days of recuperation and one day of getting myself out of the house to do something I enjoy is enough to give my mind a break and reflect on what I am going through.Consider your work/life balance when deciding your initial goal for this part of your savings.
It is important to think rationally about the time you need off for yourself typically, the time you can realistically take off, and how much of your paycheck you usually spend on the essentials that this fund will help provide you with.
Things that make you feel good
Yes, you really should save money to let yourself do fun things! One of the best things you can do for your mental health is to simply do things you enjoy. Of course, sometimes this comes at a cost in one way or another. But this is why your mental health fund exists.
If your budget becomes a little too tight the same month you’re having a stress-induced meltdown, you’ll be glad to have the extra padding for fun stuff that your mental health fund can give you. Personally, taking myself on a movie date or going to get a new tattoo are a couple of ways I like to treat myself when I am struggling.
You should still be cautious of your spending during times like these to avoid falling into an unending spiral of retail therapy!
Your mental health matters (and your money can support it)
There have been times when my mental health has suffered and made my finances suffer even more. It is so easy to lose money over unexpected mental health expenses, or lose your sanity because you’re unprepared for those situations.This is why a mental health emergency fund is essential.
If you tailor your savings, from method to amount, to suit your needs and lifestyle, you can have a nice cash cushion to support you when you need it most.
*Interest is calculated daily on the total closing balance and paid monthly. Rates are per annum and subject to change without notice.
How to Save a Mental Health Fund• Money After Graduation is written by Emily Norton for www.moneyaftergraduation.com