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Finding health and financial balance

Waistlines and Wallets: How Your Health Affects Your Financial Wellness

Improving Your Health Can Improve Your Financial Decision-Making

Do you spend hundreds of dollars per month eating at restaurants? Do listless mornings make you unproductive at work? Unhealthy habits can put your financial well-being at risk, and those risks may not be as obvious as a doctor bill or a costly trip to the ER. Your financial wellness, or the ability to govern your finances, also depends on a disciplined, motivated and healthy physical routine.

Your physical and financial well-being add up when you have good nutrition, proper rest and adequate exercise. In fact, one study from Washington University in St. Louis showed that individuals who regularly save and contribute to their nest egg are also more likely to adopt healthier choices after receiving results of a health exam. It goes to show that good decisions regarding health are often linked to positive decisions regarding finances as well.

Discipline and self-control are key to balancing your health and finances, but when things don’t add up, much could be at risk. Here are some examples of how you can take control of your health and finances—and how employers can use the benefits of health programs in the workplace.

Eating Well for Financial Wellness

Eating too many restaurant meals leads to higher levels of obesity, increased body fat and a higher BMI. Additionally, eating out can also cost almost double the price when compared to eating at home. This can wreak havoc on both your body and your wallet.

The common factor between good eating habits and good financial health is self-control. According to Rutgers University, weight-loss and wealth are connected. Those who proactively manage their weight are more likely to develop a “prevention mindset” in which they think about how decisions right now will affect them in the future. That means they are less likely to make impulse buys (or eat that extra piece of cake).

So, what can you do? Try planning your meals ahead of trips to the grocery store, and plan when you will be eating out. If the ingredients for a fresh meal are sitting at home waiting for you, you will be less likely to stop at a restaurant for dinner.

And just how much can you save? Rutgers estimates that saving $3 per day on junk food can yield $1,092 in annual savings, and substituting pasta or beans for meat 2-3 times per week can yield $780 in annual savings.

Good nutrition will also help you look and feel better. You’ll have more energy to work hard and play hard, and that can benefit your financial wellness in the long term.

Exercise Helps You and Your Wallet Stay Fit

Are you being outperformed by coworkers who make the time for daily runs or cycling classes? Do they have the energy to work late when up against deadlines while you struggle to stay awake?

Most people with families and careers find it hard to fit in a daily workout, but skipping this healthy habit can cost you much more in the long run. Regular exercise gives your brain more energy to work and boosts cognitive performance, which can improve productivity and financial wellness. One Cleveland State University researcher found that regular, daily exercise can actually increase your pay by 6 to 10%.

Try incorporating 2-½ hours of exercise per week to see meaningful results in both your waistline and energy levels. Fitting in exercise does not have to mean joining an expensive gym. You can try biking or walking to work. Consider working out with a friend to stay motivated. Use the weekends to explore your city on foot or take a hike through a local park.

Long-term financial health requires discipline and planning, just like a long-term exercise plan. Start slowly and build up. Make plans and stick to them. You will be rewarded with more energy and a trimmer waistline.

Can you Sleep Your Troubles Away?

You say you’re getting four to five hours of sleep a night, so you’re “OK.” Think again. That lack of sleep still means your decision-making is not as clear as it should be. In fact, it can be detrimental to your efficiency, memory and even your intellectual development.

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Chief Talent Scientist at ManpowerGroup, tells the Harvard Business Review, “…Sleep gives your brain time to get rid of metabolic waste, including proteins that can build up and form plaque between your brain cells. Over the short term, poor sleep has been associated with a lower IQ, and over the long term it has been associated with Alzheimer’s disease.”

A few more hours of sleep on a regular basis can put you back on track. Think of it as good sleep hygiene.

  • Turn electronics off or keep them out of your bedroom.
  • Avoid screen-time 30 minutes before bed.
  • Take a power nap when you can.
  • Invest in room-darkening shades.

It sounds simple; however, despite most American adults reporting they would like to get more sleep, many are not willing to make these small adjustments to ensure they tackle every day well-rested.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

There are two types of stress: positive and negative. While positive stress helps you stay focused and on-task, negative stress leaves you feeling overwhelmed and disengaged. It can also lead to burnout. Stressed-out workers miss work more often, and the toll stress takes on your immune system leads to even more missed days.

In addition to missed work days and disengaged employees, many experiencing stress turn to retail therapy as a temporary stress reliever. Unfortunately, like stress-eating, stress-shopping can result in more problems once the initial buying high goes away. You’ll rack up bills, and you may feel some buyer’s remorse.

De-stressing your life can initially appear to be a lot of hard work, but the payoff is worth it for your mental health and your financial well-being. Develop your own healthy stress coping mechanisms, like reading a book, or going on a run with a friend. Incorporating some of the other healthy habits in to your coping routines can have huge impacts on reducing negative stress in your life.

  • Plan and cook a healthy meal with your loved ones.
  • Spend a family day in the park.
  • Turn off your cell phone or work email for a few hours.

Disconnecting from work stress and reconnecting with nature and your family will help you better create work-life balance and result in less overall stress. When you reconnect, your work time will be more focused and productive.

Depression Takes a Toll

The unfortunate reality that is depression reaches levels that impact every aspect of the sufferer’s life. People who struggle with debt are eight times more likely to report dealing with sadness and depression. People who struggle with depression are also more likely to face dire financial consequences as a result of overspending.

Sometimes the overspending is a coping mechanism, just like those coping with stress; other times, overspending is a result of not having access to proper health care through insurance plans that cover mental health issues. Before the Affordable Care Act, many patients were left to struggle, and those struggles often resulted in negative financial outcomes.

While seeking medical attention is certainly necessary to help alleviate depression, addressing the sources of depression is also necessary. Make a plan to pay off debt and stick to it. When you build in delay tactics, like leaving your credit card at home when you go out, you avoid impulse purchases. By doing this, you’ll avoid the guilt and sadness that accompany impulse shopping. Celebrate when you reach goals in paying down debt, and track your progress. Your physical wellness and financial wellness are directly related, and as you approach balance in one, the other will start to move in that direction as well.

How Employers Can Implement This Balance

The connection between your health and finances has large implications at work. Many employers find that implementing a health and wellness program for their employees is also good for business. Not only are workers who exercise during work hours more productive, but they are also less susceptible to bugs and viruses in the workplace.

A Prudential survey of 2,000 employees in various industries found that users of both health and financial wellness programs in the workplace reported lower levels of stress compared to non-users. These programs target nutrition, exercise, budgeting, investing, debt management and more. Financial wellness programs are equally important as health, since 30% of workers report being distracted by their finances at work.

Whether there are incentives for employees or not, there are several ways to implement these programs, from simple measures to larger ones:

  • Standing desks
  • Nursing rooms
  • Onsite gym memberships or team exercises
  • Health foods and snacks in the cafeteria
  • Smoking cessation programs
  • Health screenings and flu shots
  • Mental health counseling
  • Retirement planning tools
  • Long-term care insurance
  • Low interest loans
  • Financial education classes

Employer or employee—taking advantage of health and financial wellness programs can prevent the cycle of stress between one’s waistline and wallet.


[Editor’s Note: To learn more about this and related topics, you may want to attend the following webinar series: Personal Finance & Investing Fundamentals 1.0. This is an updated version of an article originally posted on March 8, 2018.]

©All Rights Reserved. October, 2020.  DailyDACTM, LLC d/b/a/ Financial PoiseTM

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About Mercedes Holmen

Mercedes is a business owner and Executive Consultant with Rodan + Fields. In addition, she works in the field of behavior analysis for children with autism and their families, specializing in preschool aged children. She also has her Masters in Science from University of California at Davis.

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