Thursday, April 25, 2013

Health Care and Financial Wellness

How is your financial wellness? Are you living paycheck to paycheck as most Americans, or have you been fortunate as a steward of your resources to stash some cash for the rainy days? Do you have enough stored away for a few raindrops, or are you prepared like Noah to last through the flood and until the waters recede? That would be a very long time, and require a good portfolio of financial stability.

The evidence is piling up: Chronic stress is linked to chronic medical issues. More than 200 medical research studies have documented the connection between stress and costly mental and physical diseases, according to Lynn Gresham, former senior editor of Employee Benefit News. The growing awareness of the link between high stress and poor health is prompting employers to take a more holistic approach to employee wellness, addressing workers’ financial health as well as physical health. This is because a primary cause of employee stress is concern about personal finances.

Ms. Gresham writes that money, the economy, and jobs are the top three causes of stress for Americans, according to the American Psychological Association. Although economic signs are improving, the average employee is still struggling to meet financial obligations and make ends meet. A survey conducted for Allstate in February of this year shows:

• Four in 10 Americans still live paycheck to paycheck.
• 8% don’t have enough money for everyday essentials.
• Half describe their financial situation as “fair” or “poor.”
• 47% say they are not saving as much as they should be.

None of this is surprising, given Americans’ debt level, according to Lynn Gresham. The Federal Reserve reported in March that the average credit card debt is $7,122, and among households with other debt, it jumps to a distressing $15,266. The average mortgage debt is $149,667, and the average student loan debt is $32,559.

As stated in the PwC 2012 Employee Financial Wellness Survey, “Despite recent improvements in the economy, the hangover effect from the recession and slow economic growth continues to erode employees’ retirement confidence and overall financial wellness. Cash flow and debt management issues continue to top employees’ financial concerns.” And they don’t leave their problems at home; one-third of employees polled by PwC said they spend time at work thinking about or dealing with money issues.

In fact, 35% reported spending one to two hours per week distracted by personal finances, and 29% spent three to four hours per week. The result, of course, is lower productivity and a diminished work environment. Money worries also increase turnover. A report from Financial Literary partners estimated that 40% of turnover is due to financial stress as employees job-switch to earn more short-term income, according to the report.

According to Met Life, here are the factors influencing financial wellness:

--Personal characteristics: includes both personality factors and societal status (for example, age or
marital status).
--Financial literacy: working knowledge of financial concepts and tools to make the most
advantageous financial decisions.
--Financial behavior: refers to financial actions, for example, financial planning, saving and investment.
--Financial situation: refers to objective wealth, such as home ownership, salary, benefits and
accumulated wealth.
-- Financial stressors: financial events such as losing a home, personal bankruptcy or job loss.

According to the Foundation for Financial Wellness, here is why it matters: In today’s economy, as more and more people worry about their personal finances, organizations are seeing the degree to which employees who are “financially unwell” are negatively impacting the bottom line. Studies are showing that personal financial distress can result in lost productivity, absenteeism and even health issues. Conversely, employees who enjoy peace of mind regarding their personal finances are more inclined to be happy, productive associates who transfer the quality of their employment experience into everything they do.

Even in a good economy, individual financial wellness is important. For employers, the well-being of employees is a critical component to success. Today, the financial distress employees experience is yet one more way a bad economy impacts business. When workplace outcomes can be improved, everyone benefits. More information about financial wellness can be found at this website: http://www.foundationforfinancialwellness.org/ .

According to financial guru, Dave Ramsey, here is how both employers and employees benefit with a financial wellness plan at work:

Company Benefits:

• Increased participation in benefits programs
• Decreased loan and hardship requests from retirement plans
• Increased employee satisfaction and retention
• Decreased garnishments and payroll advancements

Team Member Benefits:

• Better income management
• Increased savings
• Reduced debt and stress
• Improved investing, retirement planning, and college savings
• Stronger marriages

Dave Ramsey’s website has a huge amount of resources about financial wellness: http://www.daveramsey.com/home/ .

Financial wellness is a critically important topic, and unfortunately most Americans are financially sick as they often don’t adopt steps to prevent problems related to their financial well being. Next to physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental health, financial health should be a top priority. Unfortunately, bad financial health leads to problems in these other areas over time. Do yourself a favor, and investigate ways to improve your financial wellness. Your family, and your wallet, will thank you.

Until next time.

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