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Build financial resilience and reduce loneliness

18 July 2019

Chicken dinner with friends

Chicken is an inexpensive meat and remarkably versatile. One Tuesday night in 2015, a small group of friends sat down to a roasted chook and decided, following the ‘best night ever’, to repeat the get together every month.

Give or take a ring-in or two, the group of nine has now met 48 times for what’s been nicknamed Chicken Tuesday.

The gathering, which moves from home to home depending on who is up for hosting, fulfils any number of known and unknown objectives.

Chicken Tuesday provides an opportunity to catch up, chat, and host a chicken dinner. It provides an inexpensive night out once a month and a not too expensive evening for the host. The format flexes your dinner party brain by stipulating the use of one ingredient: deciding on how to use chicken has become more and more inventive. There have been pies, Southeast Asian and Japanese versions of chicken, curries, tajines, BBQ, variations of Yottam Ottolenghi, Jamie Oliver and Kylie Kwong recipes, cacciatores and even a la Kings.

Increasing social capital

Inexpensive social events like this are one way to increase your social capital, which is very important for reducing loneliness and, it has been shown, for increasing financial resilience.

The UK government has appointed a Minister for Loneliness whose job is to oversee policy and procedure dealing with the psychological, social and health effects of loneliness. (One UK study found that more than 200,000 elderly people had not had a single conversation with a friend or relative in a month.)

Being lonely or feeling lonely for an extended time is associated with heightened risks of high blood pressure, heart disease, chronic inflammation and even dementia. It strikes people regardless of age, gender or situation in life.

Brunch clubs, dinner clubs, book clubs, face-to-face get togethers combat loneliness. They also increase your ability to cope with financial shocks by providing you with social capital – connections into personal and public community which can offer support or opportunities.

Financial stress

In Australia in 2018 an estimated 2.1 million people experienced some form of financial stress, according to the Financial Resilience in Australia 2018 report. The 2018 number comes off the back of relatively good economic times.

What do we mean by ‘relatively good economic times’?

In 2015, economic growth was running at 2.7 per cent and the unemployment rate fell. In 2017-18, according to the latest National Accounts figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australia’s real GDP grew by 2.9%.

This year, growth is expected to cool to around 2-2.25 per cent, and the jobless rate just ticked higher.

The issue, for those who may be affected by this cooling in growth and jobs, is the ability to survive financial adversity – to have financial resilience.

Building financial resilience

Financial resilience is defined as “the ability to access and draw on internal capabilities and appropriate, acceptable and accessible external resources and supports in times of financial adversity”. The Financial Resilience report identifies four types of resources as being crucial to being able to bounce back from financial shocks:

1)      Economic resources: income; savings; debt management; capacity to raise $2,000 in an emergency; and ability to meet cost of living expenses.

2)      Financial products and services: access to, and demand for bank accounts; credit; and insurance.

3)      Financial knowledge and behaviour: knowledge of, and confidence using financial products and services; use and willingness to use financial advice; and proactive financial behaviours.

4)      Social capital: level of social connections; likelihood of getting financial support from social connections in times of crisis; and the need for and access to community and government support.

The importance of social support

The ability to get together with others and increase your social capital in ways that are not going to cost you a fortune are important aspects of coping with financial setbacks. Why? Because talking with others can alleviate stress, it can lead to opportunities and information exchange and it’s fun.

Chicken Tuesday, for example, inspired one member to re-evaluate her employment status and move back into fulltime employment; another member re-thought her health and wellness goals; another her relationship status; another her superannuation and where it would serve her best to have it. In fact, there have been all sorts of discussions around superannuation, leading two others to assess their funds and research making contributions and, in light of the changes to superannuation which came into being on July 1, assessing their life insurance and income protection needs. Not bad for a chicken dinner.