Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last 34 days, you’re sure to have heard of the movement spreading across the globe dubbed Occupy Wall Street. While the people involved in this movement have yet to rally behind a single purpose, or for that matter have any answers, one thing I think everyone can agree on is the palpable sense of financial and economic frustration our nation is facing.
From Wall Street to your street, our nation is growing more and more negative about personal finances and the national economy. Today, 22% of adults are reporting that their personal financial situation is “poor” -- to contrast, during the official recession reports came in between 16%-19%. Optimism is waning; nearly half (48%) of adults say their financial situation is getting worse. And it’s easy to see why when you look at the trends. A recent article published in USA Today stated that in America, over the past 3 years, median household income fell nearly 10%. With a staggering 77% of people living paycheck to paycheck, millions of Americans are suffering restless nights as they struggle with unemployment, debt, inflation, healthcare costs and basic living expenses.
The September WBI report paints a picture of the current state of our nation—and we’re feeling low. Sadly Americans’ access to basic necessities dropped to it’s lowest point in four years with 20% of Americans reporting they don’t have enough money to buy food. Financial issues alone impact so many other areas of well-being – lack of money means more stress, less happiness, fewer healthy behaviors, skimping on healthcare, and likely discontent with work, which all results in reduced engagement and productivity.
For your organization, helping your people to reduce financial stress can have big rewards— increased engagement, reduced healthcare costs and increased productivity. So how do you help? While it may be tough to find the money to increase wages for your workforce or hire more people, there are steps that can be taken to help your people better manage their money. Getting your people the help they need may start with simply educating them!
At Healthways we recently partnered with Dave Ramsey and conducted a financial wellness pilot with more than 80 of our colleagues. In addition to a series of online lessons, there were also 8 weekly workshops. During the course of the program, participants learned about saving, how to work with family members for financial success, cash flow planning, dumping debt, credit, insurance, purchasing behaviors, investing, bargain hunting, strength utilization, real estate and mortgages, shopping, retirement planning, and more. The result? Our colleagues learned lessons in how to do more with less. Over 13 weeks, participants collectively reduced their consumer debt by more than $174K. Pretty impressive.
Remember, financial stress isn’t only an issue for low-income workers. It impacts people across all age and income demographics. How will you help your people help themselves?