The Financial Dimension of Wellness

Greetings Healthy Boilers,

Wellness, according to the National Wellness Institute (NWI), is an active process of becoming aware of and learning to make choices that lead toward a longer and more successful existence – in other words, toward a life worth living. There are many aspects of wellness, but during the month of October, we are focusing on the aspect of financial wellness. Before we discuss financial wellness, let’s take a broad look at the five pillars of Purdue’s Healthy Boiler Program:

  • Physical Health: Champions health education, preventive care and ongoing treatment programs to help individuals achieve lasting physical health and overall well-being.
  • Social Wellness: Promotes opportunities that bring people together to foster collaboration and share common goals, contributing to both individual and collective well-being.
  • Financial Wellness: Provides financial education and guidance programs that help ensure long-term financial well-being.
  • Behavioral Health: Advocates for integrated care programs that focus on behavioral health and community support.
  • Work-Life Integration: Offers family-friendly benefits and programs that meet 21st century work-life demands

Each pillar is distinct but they are all connected. It is easy to see how financial wellness can impact every portion of our lives. According to an American Psychological Association survey on stress, 72 percent of American adults are stressed about money at least some of the time and 26 percent are stressed about money most or all of the time. Here are a few examples of how financial issues can impact the various dimensions of wellness:

  • Physical –Among the people reporting high debt stress, 27 percent had ulcers or digestive-tract problems, compared with eight percent of those with low levels of debt stress.
  • Social –Almost a third of adults with partners (31 percent), report that money is a major source of conflict in their relationship with their partner.
  • Emotional –Researchers concluded that the likelihood of having a mental health problem is three times higher among people who have debt.

Brett Hines, a financial advisor with the Foundation for Financial Wellness, describes budgeting, debt elimination and emergency cash as foundational aspects of living financially well. However, he says it is also important to take a moment to consider your “why.” The alignment of your thoughts and behaviors around money can help you purposely and intentionally make decisions about your finances.

Budgeting

Don’t underestimate the usefulness of having a budget. A budget is an estimate of income and expenditure for a set period of time. The word budget sometimes seems controlling and no fun, but you can also think of it as a “spending plan.” Creating a budget/spending plan may seem like a daunting task, but consider trying online budgeting tools and expense-tracking apps. If you use credit cards – many credit cards now offer apps that include budgeting features to allow you to see your average monthly spending in categories like grocery, shopping and entertainment, transportation, restaurants and dining, home and utilities, travel, health, etc. Getting organized and becoming more aware of your financial situation takes time and effort, but it’s worthwhile. Understanding where all your money is going can help you identify where you might be able to save.

There are endless templates, apps, software programs, etc. for budgeting. Ultimately, the best one is the one you will actually use. Again, think of your budget more like a plan for your money. Dave Ramsey, personal money-management expert, says, “Tell every dollar where to go, rather than wondering where it went.” A budget doesn’t have to mean feeling deprived or uncomfortable. Allow your budget to be an empowering tool.

Fidelity, Purdue’s official provider of education, guidance and assistance related to retirement plan investments and decisions, also provides tools for building savings, budgeting – including a Budget Checkup tool.

Debt Elimination

The Foundation for Financial Wellness teaches two types of approaches to elimination debt:

1) Mathematical approach – Pay off your debt in order of highest interest rate (most expensive) to lowest, which will help you pay less in interest over time.

2) Behavioral approach – Pay off your debt in order of smallest balance to largest balance. This is emotional. The emotional brain gets the chemical release quickly by knocking out the smallest first, then builds momentum by rolling those payments into the next debt item, and so on.

See Fidelity’s “Which debt should I pay off first?” article for more information. The best approach is the one you complete!

Emergency Cash

If you do not currently have an emergency fund set up, you aren’t alone. According to money.com, 53 percent of Americans don’t have an emergency fund. No set amount is right for everyone’s emergency fund and the recommended amount could vary based on your income, lifestyle and expenses. Many financial resources recommend having an emergency fund that can cover 3 to 8 months of your basic expenses (like your mortgage or rent, car payment, utilities, food, etc.) Despite these recommendations, a new income analysis conducted by JPMorgan Chase concluded that two out of three Americans don’t even have 6 weeks’ worth of pay saved.

It is worth noting that we all have unique financial situations. Deciding between building your emergency fund and paying off debt can be complicated. You should evaluate all your debts and their interest rates to help you in this decision. Dave Ramsey suggests starting with $1,000 emergency fund, then paying off debt as aggressively as possible. Ultimately, you will have to decide what is best for you and what you’re comfortable with when it comes to saving vs. paying off debt. The more important thing is that you do SOMETHING and make a plan for your money.

If you’re going to save money, having a specific goal to work toward can be a huge help in maintaining your momentum. Think about what you want to accomplish with saving, both in the short- and long-term. For example, you may want to save money for a vacation in the next six months. Or you may be planning to buy a home in the next year and need to save for a down payment. Consider what you’d like to achieve with your money, and then break your goals down into specific, actionable steps. Set a timeline for achieving each goal and track your progress to stay motivated on your savings’ journey. Purdue health coaches – at the Center for Healthy Living on Purdue’s West Lafayette campus as well as on the Purdue Fort Wayne campus – are able to help assess where you are now in all dimensions of wellness and where you would like to be. Setting goals and checking in with a health coach about your financial health may be the accountability you need to find success in this area of wellness. Appointments are available via phone or in-person. Call 765-494-0111 to schedule with Cheryl Laszynski or Whitney Soto or 260-481-6651 to schedule with Lindsay Bloom. Health coaches can meet virtually with any benefits-eligible employee regardless of campus location.  

Be Kind. Be Well. Boiler Up!

Author: Megan Shidler, registered dietitian health coach, One to One Health

One to One Health operates the Center for Healthy Living on Purdue’s West Lafayette Campus

Sources:

Wellness and Well-Being-It’s All About Connection. (n.d.). Retrieved October 18, 2020, from https://www.asaging.org/blog/wellness-and-well-being-its-all-about-connection

Financial Wellbeing: No one is coming!: By Brent Hines. (2019, July 18). Retrieved October 18, 2020, from https://hrleadersatl.com/2019/07/financial-wellbeing-no-one-is-coming/

Hines, B. (2018). Out with the Budget; In with Alignment. Retrieved October 18, 2020, from https://members.nationalwellness.org/blogpost/1644820/310984/Out-with-the-Budget-In-with-Alignment

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