Opinion

America’s bad case of financial flu

I just received an unexpected bill I didn’t quite budget for. And each time I look at my bank account balances, I cringe a little. It seems my savings are slowly dwindling away.

The other day I had to call in sick with a stomach bug. But maybe I was just suffering from a case of the financial flu.

It’s apparently rather contagious.

Americans are so stressed about money, it’s making us sick. Almost half of the people surveyed in Metlife’s ninth annual employee benefits trends report they're “very concerned about having enough money to make ends meet.”

That really takes a toll, and not just on wallets. Not surprisingly, employees who say they aren't in control of their finances, or who live paycheck to paycheck, are more likely to report poor health than the financially stable ones.

Plus, this problem is hurting employers. Up to 60 percent of employers say "financial illness” plays a role in employee absenteeism.

Here’s what we know: The recession was bad. Money worries remain a prime cause of stress. Stress makes us depressed and unhealthy. And all that makes a difference to employees and to employers.

So the solution seems pretty easy—employers can probably help. And they should, says Matt Kelley, who owns Momentum: Personal Finance, in Durango, Colo.

Ah, yes, there’s that employee wellness again. Kelley wrote in The Durango Herald last week that “taking a holistic approach to employee wellness can improve retention, productivity and loyalty.”

And financial education is one of those important approaches.

Employers should start with basic budgeting, expense forecasting and long-term goals, Kelley says. Sure, they might be simple, but it shouldn’t be assumed everyone understands—or does—them.

Heck, I work for a business media company and I haven’t had a talk with anyone about this.

Financial wellness is yet another important piece of the workplace wellness program. But unfortunately, most employees are too short-changed on it.

About the Author
Kathryn Mayer

Kathryn Mayer

Kathryn Mayer is Managing Editor for Benefits Selling magazine. She can be reached at kmayer@sbmedia.com

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