by Brad Knowles, Heritage Institutional
Let’s talk about wellness. There is financial wellness, physical wellness, emotional wellness, and probably a few other wellnesses that I need to learn more about. For years, we have heard people talk about corporate wellness programs: smoking cessation programs, weight loss programs, counting calories, and earning points for activities like walking or gym memberships. Some companies that have implemented these programs have seen significant decreases in employee absenteeism and health insurance premiums plus an increase in productivity.
Not too long ago my lovely wife said that she wanted to “clean up” her diet — to eat better and eat smarter. Like all good husbands, I volunteered to join her. She had spent a considerable amount of time researching exactly how to do this. We started our venture on the first of the month and planned to “eat clean” for 30 days without cheating. I will admit, I was shocked. The food was great. I had more energy than I could ever remember having ever. By the end of the 30 days, I lost two pant sizes. I felt like a new and improved me.
Today, we still eat pretty clean. We subscribe to the 80/20 rule. 80% of the time we eat clean, and 20% of the time we just eat whatever sounds or feels good. I will confess, I don’t always feel that great after I put away a mountain of fried food.
In the last few months, I have started to see articles and studies that are connecting financial wellness and nutrition. Financial wellness articles have regularly discussed the stress caused by financial hardship. Stress causes us to trade our normal healthy lifestyle behaviors for much less healthy behaviors. Stress can cause depression, inactivity, unhealthy food choices, binge eating and drinking, and many other things. I never considered the cause and effect relationship between financial stress and health, but it is real.
In a 2015 study conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA), they found that 72% of adults feel stress about money at least some of the time, and 22% experience extreme financial stress. When the stress is extreme, health suffers. Many respondents reported thinking about skipping or did skip doctor visit because of financial concerns.
Stress at home doesn’t stay at home. It invades every aspect of our lives like an unwanted house guest. It takes up mental and emotional space, it weighs a ton, and it grows like a weed. Many studies have reported that employees miss work due to financial stress. One study reported that 37% of employees in the study spent three hours or more thinking about their financial stress at work. When employees worry about their financial stresses at work, they lose focus and productivity decreases.
Fortunately, Heritage Institutional has a new found focus on Financial Wellness. We are currently researching effective ways to help employees decrease their financial stress. A recent study of HR professionals said that 81% offer retirement plan education to employees, however, most do not provide any financial literacy training. We believe a solid retirement plan plus financial literacy education for employees is not only the smart thing to do, but the right thing to do. Stay tuned.