When it comes to the state of financial wellness in the US, the numbers don’t lie: 49% of Americans reported feeling discouraged or pessimistic about their financial situations, and more than a third of US employees report that financial stress has plagued them at work. With all that stress comes some harrowing truths for employers: Employees lose on average 13 hours of productivity per month, and their employers an astounding $250 billion in profit a year, due to worrying about money.
Since work is where most of us go to make money, it makes sense that it’s also where we worry about our money. But when distractions and stressors add up to lost productivity or missed deadlines, they can spark a vicious cycle of financial concerns leading to poor performance reviews or missed growth opportunities.
Improving your relationship with your finances at work should be at the top of everyone’s to-do list. Below, we outline six steps to achieving your financial nirvana.
Assess your financial health
Just like you wouldn’t start a new workout routine without knowing your fitness goals, you shouldn’t address financial stress without knowing what you’re actually worried about. Is it concerns over retirement or that you aren’t budgeting correctly?
This 3-minute self-assessment is a great place to start. By identifying your pain points, you’ll be able to more concretely address what’s really coming up—and figure out how to use the resources you might already have at your disposal to do so.
Mirror, mirror, on the wall: 4 steps to financial self-assessment
Stop thinking about “wealth”
and start thinking about “financial wellness”
A recent study found that even millionaires worry about finances. Achieving financial nirvana means accepting that there is no magic number that will make your financial stress disappear. Instead, it means learning to “take advantage of your finances in a way that helps you live a life full of value,” says Vishal Jain, Prudential’s VP of Financial Wellness Strategy.
Shift your mindset from amassing wealth to achieving financial wellness by thinking holistically about your goals and taking steps to support them. Doing so can help you live your best life—one that’s free of financial stress and can benefit others.
Let's stop talking about 'wealth' and start talking about 'financial wellness'
Define your financial values and build goals around them
At the risk of getting personal: Do you know what matters most to you? Is it an emergency fund for your family, or a lifetime of giving back? A private villa in Tulum, or paying for your kids’ college?
Judging your self-worth based only on your net worth can lead to dissatisfaction, since you’ll likely never amass enough to truly feel good about yourself, according to Prudential’s Financial Wellness Advocate and certified financial therapist, Amanda Clayman. Ask yourself whether your job is providing the resources you need to achieve what you value, while supporting your micro-goals along the way.
Your salary does not define you: how to separate your net worth from your self-worth
When it comes to discussing money, remove the taboo
Money taboos are real: One study found that 61% of women would rather discuss details of their own death than talk about their finances. These taboos lead to a lack of financial literacy, major information asymmetry across gender and race lines, and wage suppression—particularly for women and minorities. Broadening the conversation is good for everyone, but it can be intimidating—especially at work.
Start small: Choose one aspect of your financial life that you want to get smarter about, find a coworker you’re comfortable with, and ask for their advice. Be honest about your insecurities and generous with whatever information you might have. Which brings us to…
Social taboos at root of women's low retirement savings, advisor says
Enlist your coworkers
Discussing salaries among peers and co-workers can help fight pay inequality, experts say, by helping you and your co-workers be in a better position for salary negotiations. Once you’ve found a group of coworkers with whom you feel comfortable expressing your concerns, go bigger: Create a monthly lunch date, or an after-work gathering, to compare notes on retirement accounts, ask for advice negotiating the maze of health care, or talk strategies for asking for a pay raise. After all, no one knows your work climate as intimately as your coworkers.
How to talk about money
Be courageous enough to ask for help
There are innumerable personal finance advisors, bloggers, and self-help books. The advice you get from your employer, however, is one of your best resources. Your employer knows your salary and what benefits you’re underutilizing.
Many businesses offer sessions with a financial counselor or have someone on staff to address confusion over benefits. If you’re not feeling supported, take initiative by campaigning for lunch and learn sessions or more transparency around wage increases. You’ll not only be increasing your own knowledge but making space for other coworkers to do the same.
How your employer is key to a financially healthy year. New job not required