Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 5 June 2020

Find a safe place to discuss your money worries during the pandemic

A group of trusted friends you can discuss your health and wealth concerns with will help you survive this crisis

Illustration by Gary Clement
Illustration by Gary Clement

A community of practice is a group of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do, and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.

With this thought in mind, this week we have seen a surge in mental health events across the globe, all with the hope of inspiring us to make a mind-shift towards positivity and new possibilities.

Many of us have questions such as will there be enough? What if the emergency fund runs out? What if I'm fired?

Nima Abu Wardeh

Virtual events around the theme of collective mental well-being, created to benefit the World Health Organisation's Covid-19 Response Fund, caught my attention in particular. The Fund collects donations to support WHO's work tracking coronavirus, as it looks to understand the spread of the virus and research the development of a vaccine.

This is a standard pandemic warfare response and resource allocation.

Back in March, the WHO put out a paper titled "Mental health and psychological considerations during the Covid-19 outbreak". It was a series of guidelines to follow in order not to make things worse. Mental health problems, stigma, fear and more, such as how to acknowledge what children are going through were covered. It was put together by the organisation's department of mental health and substance abuse. They knew that the following would happen: Covid19 is playing havoc with our mental state and aside from not catching the virus, money is our biggest worry.

Many of us have questions such as will there be enough? What if the emergency fund runs out? What if I'm fired? Questions like these keep people up at night, and niggle away at them during their waking hours.

At the start of all this, the money worries facing many were the kind of thing that happened to other people. But it's kicking in on a different level now. Every day there's another message from someone open to relocating because a spouse has lost their job.

Even someone I know, who is not only set to inherit a fortune but also has a secure job with an online company that is benefiting hugely from lockdown, is increasingly concerned about their finances. This family is thinking of taking up offers of reduced school fees, even though they can currently afford to pay in full.

Like many, this family is concerned about the "what's next" phase. Will the wife still be able to earn? She is self-employed and relies on families having a healthy disposable income after spending on life's basics to afford her expertise. What if the husband loses his job?

For others, the consideration is whether they should sell any assets they have to get their hands on cash now, or try to ride this out.

Simple financial survival is the biggest issue for the majority living in the UAE, if we are to extrapolate the findings of a YouGov survey carried out in early April.

It showed that 64 per cent of those polled in the country were concerned about losing their jobs or pay cuts. I'm sure that figure has gone up since then.

A sense of financial well-being is crucial for our overall well-being. Money and health issues are interlinked – a problem with one can trigger a problem with the other. So, this is the time to get your house in order. Let's call it the "mental money" phase. Start by acknowledging both the state of your mental health and your finances.

Talking about the financial realities and concerns you face is key. These are times of heightened vulnerability. Bereavement, sudden and ongoing financial concern, plus the social and psychological effects of not having the office, or your friends or extended family on hand, is taking its toll on many. Acknowledging how you feel is also important.

My suggestion is to create a "mental money" community of practice. This can be a group of trusted friends who come together to discuss concerns around money and mental health. This then creates a safe place to delve, discuss, dissect and devise plans of action to get through the crisis.

It's free. It's kind. It's sharing. And it's very, very needed.

Nima Abu Wardeh is a broadcast journalist, columnist, blogger and founder of S.H.E. Strategy. Share her journey on finding-nima.com

Updated: May 21, 2020 12:22 PM

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