In times of uncertainty, the economy takes on a greater role in our lives. A situation that in moments of difficulty generates restlessness, stress and that, therefore, affects our well-being. How to avoid this type of situation? There is no magic formula, but the closest thing is to learn to take care of our financial health.
The Cercle d'Economia was the scene of the session organized by BBVA and La Vanguardia in which this issue was addressed. Peio Belausteguigoitia, Country Manager of BBVA in Spain; Laura Rojas-Marcos, a doctor in forensic and health psychology, and Joan Roca, chef at El Celler de Can Roca, shared their points of view, experiences and knowledge about financial health with the on-site and virtual attendees. Enric Sierra, deputy director of La Vanguardia, was in charge of moderating the debate.
Belausteguigoitia began by defining what we are talking about when we talk about financial health, and assured that it is the way "in which we manage the economy to be prepared for unforeseen events and plan for the future." The Country Manager of BBVA in Spain referred to four basic elements that are involved in this process: "The day-to-day economy, generating savings habits, being responsible for the debt that one is managing and that we must make it sustainable and, finally, plan in time”.
From another perspective, for Rojas-Marcos there is no doubt that our financial situation "affects our health." The psychologist herself explained that financial concerns are the second leading cause of stress, according to the American Academy of Psychiatry. Rojas-Marcos considers that "to take care of ourselves and others it is important to learn to manage our finances because that will give us autonomy and knowledge about what we can do, as well as elements to be able to plan our future."
In short, ensuring our financial health "is a way of taking care of our emotional health and our relationships, which is one of the most frequent reasons for conflict in the family environment and in couples, both to stay together and when it comes to separate”, says the psychologist. Having financial education "is going to save us a lot of trouble and we are going to better face difficulties," concluded the expert.
For his part, Roca recalled that his sector comes "from a particularly delicate situation that has forced us to put our creativity at the service of business management." The pandemic and the restriction measures limited the viability of restaurant businesses, among others. In such circumstances, Roca stressed "the importance of having the support of a bank with a specialized team."
A determining element in the business success of the Rocas lies precisely in the fact that "we are three brothers who have worked together for many years, we have clear objectives and a lot of confidence". Another important aspect is hidden in the very nature of the business. According to Joan Roca, "a haute cuisine restaurant is a magnet for talent and there are many young people from all over the world who want to come and work with us".
The chef highlighted that the company he has created together with his brothers "is committed to innovation, creativity and making the people who come to our restaurant happy with very high expectations." An exercise that requires great effort and there is no doubt that "the fact of being three also helps us." Just as the prudence instilled in them by their father and the daring that his mother transmits to them also contributes.
How can we face this concatenation of crises that we have experienced lately? For the Country Manager of BBVA in Spain, the current situation, with soaring prices, poses a great challenge and we do not have a perspective on the time it will take to control it.
A positive aspect is the savings that were generated during the pandemic, which went from 8% of GDP to 11.5%,” revealed Belausteguigoitia. A part of this saving was generated during the three months of confinement and also later when the restrictions stopped consumption. However, she considers that there is another part "that is related to a personal decision in the face of the uncertainty that was being experienced, and that is good news because it means that people take action and want to be prepared for what the future may bring." .
There is no single way to deal with uncertainty, everyone has their own response that also "depends on the origin and intensity," according to RojasMarcos. However, the psychologist stated that living with very high levels of anxiety "often leads us to become paralyzed and unable to make decisions." The cause of this reaction is that "a tsunami invades us, an emotion called fear, which appears when we feel that we may lose something or someone that is important to us."
Our finances are a source of stress when uncertainty appears. Older people or those with more knowledge “can better deal with these kinds of situations,” she clarified. All in all, this expert believes that there is a way to prepare to face delicate moments and manage them with solvency and criteria. The first step “is to get to know each other, to find out what our strengths are, also our limitations, and to know who you can trust,” she said. In the same way, "self-confidence is fundamental and the way to achieve it is by putting ourselves to the test, learning to take risks with a cool head and a warm heart, as my grandmother used to say."
In this process, Rojas-Marcos highlighted the importance of "knowing what your priorities are and also the difference between our desires and our needs", which are two concepts that are very often confused.
In business projects it is crucial to establish priorities, which, at times, may seem contradictory. This is the case of a gastronomic restaurant like El Celler de Can Roca, where they work to meet the wishes of customers, but also "being aware as chefs of the need that accompanies moments of crisis and of that new look that exists about our diet. The cook recognized that "there are many households that have great difficulties making ends meet and it is in these circumstances that it is most important to plan the weekly food purchase well."
Roca recalled that "cooking is economy, science, culture and, above all, identity and, therefore, cooking at home again is something that we should all do." The chef highlighted that cooking generates "a feeling of relaxation and allows us to care for and transmit love to the people we live with."
The chef appealed to recover the knowledge of our mothers and grandmothers "which was based first on knowing how to buy, on knowing what is produced in the environment of our city and at what time of the year". Information that would even improve the health of the planet by avoiding buying products when they are already out of season here. Roca defended that "we have to put an end to food waste and encourage reuse". 30% of the food produced in the world “ends up in the trash while there are people who are starving”.
When asked about the level of financial knowledge of the Spanish, Belausteguigoitia referred to a study that ensures that "36% of the population says they do not have basic notions of economics and, instead, ensures that they want to acquire them". The Country Manager of BBVA in Spain expressed his conviction that "there is still a long way to go" and alluded to the cases of the United Kingdom and the United States, where financial knowledge is part of the academic curriculum as "something that could happen one day in Spain".
Until that moment arrives, Belausteguigoitia highlighted the BBVA app, which he described as "the best in the world" in its category, as a tool that promotes knowledge and good financial habits. "Beyond the day-to-day operational functionalities, our application allows the client, for example, to build budgets for certain categories of expenses," argued the manager. “We have hundreds of thousands of monthly users of these types of services, which shows that there is a demand from customers,” she concluded.
Roca defended technology as an essential tool for running a business and validated the usefulness of the BBVA app. The cook explained that this application "gives you solutions, both from the business and domestic spheres." Among its virtues, he highlighted that it is very effective, useful and easy to use ”.
Regarding training, the chef encouraged that "cooking be taught to young people in ESO, since they would learn about processes that are science, but they would also get to know the products, their seasons and their properties better." For Joan Roca, if you cook "it also improves your financial health".
For his part, Rojas-Marcos considered that "we are fine, but we must be humble and recognize that there is much to improve and we should consider some changes." The psychologist, who was trained in New York, explained that in the schools of that city "from a very early age they begin to teach you how to manage your payments and you begin to hear about loans, because many young people must apply for a loan to study ”.
This type of training is very useful for "learning to manage our impulses and our expectations, thereby developing tolerance for frustration." Rojas-Marcos stressed that "we must learn to contain ourselves and understand that sometimes we have no choice but to do things, even if we are afraid." After all, the key is to commit ourselves, since "in this way we will make better decisions and our physical and mental health will improve," said the expert.
In this sense, Belausteguigoitia stressed that "technology is an easy way for young people to access financial knowledge." The BBVA Country Manager explained that "through the app we have more than 40 million interactions per month and among young people the ratio is much higher." In the case of companies, this type of technological solutions "are very useful, especially for SMEs, as is the advice of account managers".