Financial Advice from the Flight Attendant

I’m writing this post on a plane. Like many frequent fliers, I tend to tune out the rote safety briefing, but we have a charismatic flight attendant who actually managed to get my attention.

Though I’ve heard variations on this speech hundreds of times before, today it triggered one often overlooked part of people’s finances. I’ll call it the OXYGEN MASK value – the importance of putting your own oxygen mask before helping anyone else. This value is all about taking care of yourself to make sure you can be at your best to help others. Let’s be clear—- this is not about being selfish. This is about self-care.

Self care means put yourself first as a priority — so you can fulfill your various roles more completely and energetically: as parent, spouse, business owner, professional, friend, sister, brother, son, daughter…

How does self care manifest? That’s up to you. What is it you need at the very least to make sure you are fit to fulfill your other “duties?”

For me, it is working out at least three times a week. This is non-negotiable. I don’t feel guilty doing it—I know it is what I need at minimum to function. My kids know it (they’ve never known differently—Mommy goes to yoga or the gym; it is just a fact). I like setting this example for my children. My husband certainly knows it too (he’s been around me when it doesn’t happen!).

I also occasionally need alone time —- whether it is to get a massage, take a walk, or even just hang out at home or organize my office. I need to recharge by myself, and then I can join up with the family, my friends, or my business again. This means scheduling breaks in my work day, returning friends’ calls tomorrow instead of today, or trading off on parenting with my husband on the weekends.

The cost of taking care of yourself can be an easy excuse to forgo this care. You spend on kids’ activities, on school, on day care, on gifts for others. How can you spend on yourself? This is one of the most important things you can do —- even if it only a small amount.

Maybe it means you spend for a babysitter one day a week, you go to a pilates class twice a week, or you build in a spa spending number every other month. If your spending plan does not hold the intention to take care of you, I encourage you to analyze what is truly valuable to you. What can you let go of to ensure you are at your best for all the roles you live?

Please, secure your mask before helping others. Your whole family will be glad you did.

Kristin is a San Francisco Financial Planner who guest blogs regularly at Fatwallet. She often blogs about life and finances.

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