If you were given a day off work to sit down with all of those financial questions and to-do lists you’ve been putting off, would you take it? This week’s New York Times Money section features a bank that offers its employees a day off to take care of their “financial wellness.” The perk is meant to address an uncomfortable truth: even people who work in finance don’t have their finances under control.
There are all sorts of reasons for why this happens. The puzzle pieces that make up our financial lives are especially confusing in this country. We can’t rely fully on either Social Security or Medicare for retirement and pensions have been replaced by a hodge-podge of IRA’s, 401k’s, 403b’s and other mysterious accounts, each of which comes with its own set of rules and choices. Aside from that, we are asked to keep up with health insurance options, dental insurance options, health savings accounts, college savings plans, student loan applications and repayment plans, home and auto financing, estate planning options, dueling credit cards, and a bewildering array of insurance products that are either absolutely necessary or a complete waste of money, depending on whom you ask. It’s no wonder that employees come to work stressed.
The best solution, of course, would be one that addresses some of the sources of this stress. But as our health care battle rages on and consumer protections lose their popularity in Congress, we are all looking for ways to better cope with present circumstances. Most employers are not giving you a day off to work on your finances, though a few will offer some sort of financial coaching or counseling. But you can create this day for yourself—and you should.
Bracket off a day in the future to really tackle the financial options open to you. Setting an appointment with a financial coach advisor (a fiduciary, of course) is great. But if you prefer to go it alone, give yourself a few weeks to a month in advance to start noting down any financial topics you want to address. This list can include anything from “figure out if I should switch the credit card balance to another card?” and “finally cancel that cable subscription” to “set up auto-deposit to the savings account” or “get that paperwork from human resources that explains my dental plan.” If you have a financial partner, make sure to include him or her in the process. Both partners should be building the list of topics, and some of those topics will include issues the two of probably need to discuss but haven’t. Don’t be surprised if you end up with a longer list than you imagined.
On your actual financial health day, take it easy and take your time. Put other work and chores aside. Relax while you sit on hold with the HR Department/cable provider/retirement account administrator… you get the picture. The bureaucracy is part of the process. And treat yourself as gently as if you are taking a sick day. Whether you are in a period of financial struggle or success, our financial lives are stressful. A wellness day can make an enormous difference.