With January as Financial Wellness Month, financial expert Gregg Murset, who is CEO of BusyKid, recommends consumers make more specific goals and put it on their calendars to review their progress each month instead of making general resolutions like paying down debt or saving money for retirement. Here are his top five money changes to make in 2018:
Use plastic: Using a credit card for purchases makes it more easy to budget how much you spend on food, gas, entertainment and other items each month.
Invest: If you aren't investing, then you should by including individual stock, a stock mutual fund, 401(k) or IRA. Start off small.
Make more to save more: Try making coffee at home or take your lunch to work. The savings will add up.
Volunteer your time: If you can't afford to donate money to a local charity, volunteer instead.
Save for a big personal goal: Pick a goal or an experience that you want to accomplish this year. Write it down and hang a sign somewhere you will regularly see it so you will stick to the goal.
Most Americans are financially stressed, and money worries lead to workplace stress.
That strain prompted SunTrust Banks Inc., one of the largest employers in the Richmond area, to offer a financial wellness program a few years ago for its employees.
Met with success, the pilot program was rolled out this year at cost to SunTrust clients in central Virginia. A total of 60 companies have signed up, including five in the Richmond area, said Phillip Avant, SunTrust central Virginia market president.
Anne Lynam Goddard, president and CEO of ChildFund International, said employees find the information useful and valuable.
"Our employees are feeling a sense of empowerment over their future in finances," Goddard said.
The Henrico County-based nonprofit, whose mission is to help vulnerable children achieve their potential, began offering the bank's Momentum onUp program to employees this past July.
"The feedback from employees has been good," Goddard said. "Over time, we will see how many people stick with it. SunTrust has been a great partner, and we are happy to work with them on this."
Participants establish such goals as planning for retirement, building emergency funds and/or saving for a home or college. They learn through a combination of classroom sessions, live streaming, online portals and/or workbooks.
"Financial stress in America is real," said Avant, citing a recent study by the National Center for the Middle Market, a research center at Ohio State University about middle market companies.
The research, sponsored by SunTrust, found that 77 percent of middle market companies - those with annual revenue of $10 million to $1 billion - are concerned about the financial security of their employees.
"Seventy-five percent of Americans report experiencing financial stress, and financial issues are the No. 1 cause of workplace stress," Avant said. "The average employee spends 28 hours a month worrying about money."
About four years ago, the Atlanta-based bank surveyed its employees to see how they felt about their financial being and found that, even people in the banking industry, mirrored national financial stress levels.
"We needed to start at home," Avant said about the decision to help employees reduce financial stress and achieve greater financial well-being.
To date, about 15,000 SunTrust employees have participated, and 80 percent report feeling greater control over their finances, he said.
The bank matched up to $1,000 per employee for building emergency funds and participating in a 401(k) plan and/or a health savings account. It also gives eligible employees an extra day off to focus on personal finance.
"Not only did we see financial confidence of employees improve, but we also saw work performance improve," Avant said.
Nearly all participants, 99.5 percent, would recommend Momentum onUp to others, according to survey results. Participants who lived by budgets rose from 43 percent before they took the program to 87 percent afterward. And the percentage of people with an emergency savings account rose from 68 percent before to 98 percent after.
The results were so impressive that SunTrust purchased the intellectual properties for the program and now offers it to clients nationwide, Avant said. "The program can be used by organizations of all sizes to turn financial stress into financial confidence."
Other Richmond-area companies using the program are Luck Cos., Woodfin and Atlantic Constructors Inc.
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