The Well-Being Journal

New Report Based on Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index Data Provides Insight into Americans’ Financial Well-Being

Madison Agee

An often overlooked determinant of overall health, medical costs, and performance and productivity, financial well-being is of considerable strategic importance to healthcare providers, payers and plans, as well as other population health stakeholders. With the release of a new report from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index®, these stakeholders can gain new insights into the state of Americans’ financial well-being.Gallup-Healthways_State_of_American_Well-Being_2014_Financial_Rankings_vFINAL1-1

The report, “State of American Well-Being: 2014 Financial Well-Being Rankings”, provides a snapshot of financial well-being in the United States, revealing that fewer than two out of five Americans (39 percent) are thriving in financial well-being. Thriving in financial well-being does not necessarily mean that people feel like they’re earning enough money, but rather how well they feel they’re managing their economic life to reduce stress and increase security.

Those people thriving in financial well-being are less likely than those suffering or struggling to be depressed, be obese or have high blood pressure. They’re also more likely to engage in healthy behaviors such as eating fresh produce, exercising and not smoking. 

The report also provides a ranking of all 50 states based on this element. Hawaii ranks highest for financial well-being, followed by Alaska, North Dakota, Wyoming and South Dakota. Most of these states are also in the top five rankings for overall well-being, with the exception of North Dakota, which ranked 23rd in 2014 for overall well-being.

Financial well-being is lowest in Mississippi, which ranked 50th in the country. The South dominates the list of ten states with the lowest financial well-being, with Tennessee, Georgia, Louisiana and Kentucky rounding out the lowest five states.

You can read more about the rankings here and download a copy of the report here.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index uses a holistic definition of well-being and self-reported data from individuals across the globe to create a unique view of societies’ progress on the elements that matter most to well-being: purpose, social, financial, community and physical. It is the most proven, mature and comprehensive measure of well-being in populations. Previous Gallup and Healthways research shows that high well-being closely relates to key health outcomes such as lower rates of healthcare utilization, lower workplace absenteeism and better workplace performance, change in obesity status and new onset disease burden.

To discover where other states — including yours — fall within the rankings, download a copy of the report today. You can also subscribe to content from the Well-Being Index; by subscribing, we’ll let you know when we release new reports and insights from the Well-Being Index.

Topics: Financial Well-Being Well-Being Well-Being Index State Rankings

Are Your Employees Hung Over from the Holidays?

Madison Agee

We’re not talking about the kind of hangover you get from one too many eggnogs, or even a food hangover from too many cookies. We mean a spending hangover. We’ve all been there—opening January’s credit card statement to see just how much damage we did to our wallets during the holidays. Even the most budget-conscious among us may have been a little too generous in December, which means January came as a rude awakening.

Unfortunately, the distraction of financial stress isn’t unique to the holidays. According to a 2014 survey by PwC, nearly a quarter of employees say their finances are a distraction while at work. This is especially a concern for millennials, 35 percent of whom are diverting their on-the-job attention to managing issues related to personal finance. Research conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management confirms that financial stress is a concern for many HR professionals—61 percent say it’s having “some impact” on work performance, while another 22 percent concede it’s a “large impact.”

The PwC research went a step further and quantified how much productive time organizations are losing to their employees’ financial worries. Nearly one in four employees (39 percent) are spending three or more hours per week thinking about or managing their personal finances. In 2012, MetLife found that another 22 percent have admitted to taking unexpected time off to deal with a financial issue.

And it’s not just reductions to on-the-job productivity that could be negatively influencing your bottom line. As we’ve discussed here before, financial stress can lead to serious health and well-being risks, such as cardiovascular disease, depression and substance abuse. These risks can then translate into a number of unwelcome outcomes for both employee and employer, such as higher healthcare costs and increased absenteeism.

The good news is that many employers are realizing the negative impact their employees’ finances are having on their bottom line and addressing this through financial wellness programs. MetLife revealed that 40 percent of employers are offering some sort of financial education program to their workers, although the makeup of these programs can vary considerably. Having an annual visit from the 401(k) representative may be a good start to managing employees’ financial stress, but this may not be the most important way you can help your workers.

It’s important to remember that financial well-being is part of a larger well-being context, interrelated to your employees’ sense of purpose, physical health, social relationships and community connections. Addressing all of these elements together can bolster the overall success of efforts aimed at helping your employees avoid spending hangovers and other sources of financial stress in the future.

To learn more about financial well-being, its impact in the workplace and holistic methods for addressing it, listen to a recording of our webinar, “Healthcare's Quiet Emergency: The Impact of Employee Financial Well-Being on Health, Productivity and Your Bottom Line.”

Topics: Financial Well-Being Workplace Well-Being

The Quiet Emergency of Financial Well-Being

Madison Agee

Have you ever stressed about your finances? Have you worried that there’s not enough money in the bank to pay bills? Or felt like you didn’t have an idea how to pay for your child’s college education? Or simply couldn’t figure out how to retire comfortably?

If so, you’re definitely not alone. According to data from Gallup, 43 percent of American workers, if they lost their job, couldn’t go more than one month without experiencing significant financial hardship. More than a quarter (28 percent) don’t feel they currently have enough money to live comfortably. Nearly one in four (39 percent) say saving for the future just isn’t a realistic goal for them.

People at all income levels are struggling financially, with wide-ranging impact. They may not be sleeping at night, exercising or eating right, or quitting smoking even though they know they should. They may be delaying necessary medical treatment, as 30 percent of Americans have done, according to Gallup.

As a result, low financial well-being can all negatively affect the four other elements of well-being: purpose, social, community and physical. Individuals with low financial well-being are at greater risk for cardiovascular disease, depression and substance abuse, and have a lower sense of self-worth. They’re likely to restrict activity with friends and family, and reduce their involvement in their communities. In fact, this epidemic of financial distress has been dubbed the “Quiet Emergency in Healthcare” by Forbes.

The impact of poor financial well-being isn’t just limited to individuals. Employers can see higher rates of absenteeism, less on-the-job productivity, and increased health costs from their employees who are struggling financially. Low financial well-being can also impede adoption of employee wellness programs. For example, someone who is living under a mountain of credit card debt probably isn’t making losing weight a top priority. Yet, less than half of large U.S. companies have, or plan on having, a financial wellness strategy in place over the next two years and only 22 percent offer any education around debt management and budgeting to their employees. Poor financial well-being can drive up healthcare usage, creating additional costs for health plans and health systems as well.

At Healthways’ 2014 Well-Being Summit, Andres Gutierrez from the Dave Ramsey organization spoke on the issue of low financial well-being and what can be done to address it. He asserted that one reason for this crisis is ignorance – people simply don’t know enough about personal finance. This isn’t necessarily their fault; the financial services industry refuses to use “straight talk” and real language to better explain its products and services. Little wonder, then, that people make bad decisions when it comes to their money, according to Gutierrez – decisions that become increasingly worse the more trouble they’re facing (e.g., taking out payday and title loans).

So how can individuals improve their financial well-being? The Ramsey approach stresses behavior change over “head knowledge,” guiding people to adjust the way they think about and interact with their money. Using the Seven Baby Steps, complemented by a powerful combination of plain-language education and inspiration, individuals can follow a proven path to taking control of their finances. At the Summit, Gutierrez noted that if people’s financial houses are in order, then it becomes much easier for them to then focus on other aspects of their own well-being.

To learn more, read about the Ramsey approach in action in the workplace – outstanding results achieved in just 90 days.

Topics: Financial Well-Being Well-Being Summit

Is Improving Your Financial Well-Being on Your List of New Year's Resolutions?

Sandy Cummings

blog SAD JAN 2012Sometimes you read something and think, "Yep, that about says it." Check out this article from TheStreet -- not a place where you'll usually catch me hanging out for a good read, but the title, "2014: The Year of Change," drew me in. Here's a little sample to pique your interest:

I don't know what it is, but something about the new year makes us want to reflect on our own imperfections. It makes us think. It forces us face to face with our regrets. It also makes us consider what we can do to make this year better than the last.

"We as humans love fresh beginnings and we get a new chance every January 1st," says Shannon Ryan, a certified financial planner who has worked with individuals and businesses for the last 20 years.

And there's nothing wrong with new year's resolutions, right? In theory, choosing to make one positive change each year could only be a good thing. Think about it. This year could be the year you start exercising. Next year you could focus on nutrition. The year after that could be the year when you finally stop overspending, once and for all.

Then, boom, you've evolved from an exercise-hating spendthrift to a CrossFit enthusiast who saves 90 percent of their income. And you did it all over the span of just a few years, right?

Wrong.

...

In order to move beyond resolutions, you have to make a lifestyle change. And that's exactly why people compare their financial challenges with their relationship with food. The similarities are striking. After all, it's easy to start a new diet on a Monday (don't all diets start on Monday?) and do awesome until about Thursday night when your husband breaks out a giant block of cheese at 10:00 p.m. (story of my life). Then, all of a sudden it's Friday and you're scarfing down nachos at Applebee's while secretly hating yourself. Oh, but you're totally going to restart the whole thing on Monday, right?

The article goes on to share Ryan's tips for getting your financial house in order, which I'm guessing is on the resolutions list for many of us.

Why is it so hard to make lifestyle changes that ultimately improve our overall well-being? Sometimes we just need a little help making the small steps that lead to big change. Healthways is working with the Dave Ramsey organization to make achieving financial well-being a little easier for everyone. It doesn't have to start on January 1 -- you can start any time. Stay tuned -- we'll be sharing more in the coming months.

 

Topics: Healthy Living Financial Well-Being Well-Being Links of the Week In the News Lifestyle Change New Years Resolution