Archive for the ‘Financial Wellness’ Category

fruitWhat is the cost of eating healthy? A couple of studies looked at answering this question and found that it depends. It depends on your income, if you can cook, and how you measure your food.

The first study was conducted by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). They found based on weight and serving size, fruits, veggies, low-fat milk and grains cost less than foods that were high in fat and sugar as well as fish, chicken and meat. Their message was that eating healthy costs less than eating junk foods.

A conflicting study by researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle found the opposite. However, they took another approach to analyzing the data by studying the cost of food in relation to its nutritional content. They found that foods that were higher in essential nutrients coast more per calorie than foods poor in nutrient content.

Even though these studies do not agree when it comes to cost of food there are some things they do agree on. They agree that people who know how to cook are able to eat healthier without blowing the budget. For many, cooking healthy is a new skill and many would have to change the way they view food. They could also make their dollar stretch further if they opted for more nutritious options over foods high in sugar and fat.

Here are some tips on how to eat healthy on a budget:

  • Take a cooking class and add a few more healthy recipes to your list
  • Visit a nutritionist, naturopath or dietician for advice on healthy and affordable eating
  • Do some shopping at farmers markets. They often cost less than supermarkets
  • Shop on a full stomach and you are less likely to fill your cart with junk food
  • Plan your meals. The more you plan the easier it is to eat healthy and stay on a budget



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If good health is not motivation enough to get you exercising, perhaps more money in your pocket will get you to the gym more often.  A recent study on The Effect of Exercise on Earnings was recently published in the Journal of Labor Research and found that workers who exercise regularly earned 9% higher salaries than those that did not exercise.  The study used a method called propensity score matching to determine if employees who earned more were people who always led healthy lives and were good at their jobs or specifically made a point to exercise on a regular basis.  They also found that people who did not display healthy behavior in the past performed better at work and were rewarded by their employers when they started working out on a regular basis.  Perhaps these findings coupled with prior research connecting job satisfaction and exercise can convince employers to embrace corporate wellness in their environment.  Whether it is a formal corporate wellness program, an on-site gym, sponsored gym memberships, or company sports team support these programs may have a positive impact on the financial health of the company by attracting and retaining employees while lowering health insurance costs.

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When involved in making hiring decisions most hiring managers look at skills, education and experience.  The interview is also a key consideration when deciding to hire or not to hire.  However, I did not realize that a larger waistline may prevent someone from getting a job despite their qualifications.  I recently, read about a study published in the International Journal of Obesity where images of potential candidates were rated more poorly when they were obese than after weight loss surgery though they had the same skills and experience.  In the study, the hiring panel rated the candidates on salary, potential advancement, and likelihood of being hired.  What was found was overweight and obese had less chance of being hired.  Even if they were hired they had lower salaries and limited career advancement.

In another study researchers at George Washington University found that overweight women workers earned 15% less than women at a healthy weight.  This equates to about $5,826.  For overweight men the difference was $4,772 less than men at a healthy weight.  In addition to this difference in pay, researchers also found the average annual cost of being obese was $4,879 for women and $2,646 for men.  This figure includes indirect cost such as lost productivity and direct cost such as medical care.  Not only does being obese affect your health but it seems like it could impact personal finance.

It is unfortunate that this type of bias exists but there is a growing body of research that indicates there are stigmas around those that are overweight and obese.  However, is this bias illegal?  Currently, there are six cities and only one state (Michigan) that have specific laws protecting workers from discrimination based on weight.

As much as we want to think that hiring practices are done without bias it seem from this study that is not necessarily true.  If you are/were overweight would this impact your decision to lose weight?

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I previously wrote an article about the benefits of integrating financial wellness as part of your comprehensive corporate wellness program (http://wp.me/p1jVmD-7R).  Recently, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) published the results of a survey on financial education initiatives in the workplace which supports my thoughts that financial wellness contributes to better overall wellness of employees.    If my first article did not convince you of the benefits of financial education for employees maybe SHRMs results will do the trick.

One of the key results that stood out to me from the survey is that 83% of HR professional indicated that personal financial challenges had a large or some impact on employees work performance.  When asked what aspects of overall employee work performance are most negatively affected when employees face personal financial challenges, 47% said the ability to focus on work and 46% said employee stress increases.

So, what kind of personal financial challenges are most affecting employees?  The number one issue is overall lack of monetary funds.  That is followed by medical expenses, saving for retirement, and credit card debt.  To help try to help combat rising medical costs we have implemented a workplace wellness program.  To learn more about the ROI of workplace wellness programs review this article (http://wp.me/p1jVmD-1B).  Another strategy we have used is an integrative medicine offering (http://wp.me/p1jVmD-6r) in addition to traditional western medicine.  Additionally, we have our 401k provider come in periodically to advise employees on investment and retirement planning.  One thing to keep in mind when considering offerings to help overcome some of these challenges is that different generations reported different personal financial challenges.

With today’s economy and financial stresses it is unfortunate that organizations have decreased its offering of financial education to employees over the past two years.  In 2009, 64% reported they offered financial education to their employees.  This dropped to 52% in 2011.  There are two main reasons why organizations do not provide this service to employees, cost (25%) and lack of interest among employees (23%).  Finally, 15% said there was a lack of support by leaders in the organization.  Perhaps sharing the benefits of financial wellness with employees and their leaders will encourage more interest in support for and participation in financial education.

For those that do offer financial education, it comes in various forms.  A majority are done via an employee assistance program (EAP) that offers financial counseling and other resources.  Next in popularity is education limited to use of employer-provided benefits like 401k advisement and FSA information.  A minority provide education limited to financial decisions related to retirement, topics beyond employer-provided benefits and retirement like budgeting, debt reduction, home ownership etc.  We offer EAP services as well as resources through our work-life program.  As shared above, our 401K provider consults one-on-one periodically on site.

We are in the process of looking to offer additional classes as we understand the benefits of our employees being financially well and the impact to the business.  With this information are  you ready to provide your employees with the resources they need for a lifetime of finanical well-being?

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In today’s economy, financial stresses are having more of an impact on employee’s productivity and health.  Unfortunately, when financial health is suffering most people hesitate to seek help.  Many times the stresses from a shaky financial situation lead to a negative impact on one’s physical health.  Common ailments include depression, headaches, insomnia, digestive problems, high blood pressure, and appetite disorders.

Realizing this is becoming more a factor in the well-being of employees, we are taking a proactive stance to help relieve financial stresses.  Through our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) we offer consultation and counseling for individuals that are feeling the pressures of finances.  This year we added the Work-life Program through our EAP.  The Work-life Program is a web-based research and referral service that provides support on several different areas to include finances.  The site offers tools such as articles, financial calculators, legal forms, on-line courses, and seminars.   (more…)

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