Financial wellness can be defined in a number of ways, but it is essentially about proactively managing your finances. And how you use your money will determine the level of financial security you can achieve. Some basic steps needed to achieve economic health include:
Don’t overspend – Living within your means is the first rule of financial wellness.
Be prepared for an emergency – Have money set aside in case of a personal crisis, which can be anything from a major car repair to job loss.
Have a plan for a secure future – Develop a retirement strategy, and set aside funds to ensure you have enough money when the time comes to stop working.
Education will help you to achieve financial wellness, too. The more you know, the better equipped you are to properly set up a household budget, shop for your first home, develop strategies to save for college, and create a retirement plan.
Promoting personal financial wellness
So, what really is involved in achieving financial wellness? There are lessons you can learn on your own that will give you better control of your finances and reduce stress about spending, such as:
Personal and household budgeting – Managing personal finances starts with tracking your income and spending. A good budget reveals how much you can dedicate to retirement savings or debt reduction and where you might be overspending.
Building credit – Understanding how to build credit can give you a tremendous advantage when it’s time to buy a car or a house, or even apply for a job. Developing good financial habits such as paying bills promptly or maintaining a healthy credit utilization ratio will help you sustain a healthy credit score.
Managing debt – Anyone can become sick, unemployed, or encounter a personal crisis resulting in hard-to-manage debt. There are proven strategies that can help you manage your debt and even live debt-free.
Setting financial goals – Planning for a healthy financial future is an important component of financial wellness. Achieving financial security takes time and requires a strategy that maps to your financial situation. As your finances change, you will need to adjust your goals.
Creating an emergency savings plan – Emergencies happen and they can be expensive. With a little planning, anyone can set aside enough money to cover most disasters and benefit from the sense of security that having an emergency fund brings.
Managing student loan debt – Students are graduating from college with record-setting student loan debt. The average college student has more than $35,000 in student loan debt. There are strategies to make it easier to manage and even reduce your student loans, freeing up money you can use for other things.
Regional financial wellness programs
If you are anxious about money or feel that your finances control your life, then consider getting help. Here are just some of the financial wellness programs available to Alameda County residents:
Alameda County Employees – There are a number of financial education programs available to county employees, including a financial fitness program sponsored by 1st United Credit Union. The program includes financial counseling for Credit Union members and educational resources, even for teens.
Alameda County Employees’ Retirement Association (ACERA) – ACERA maintains financial wellness programs for retirees, as well as health insurance counseling and advocacy, elder financial abuse prevention, and more.
1st United Credit Union – Promoting financial wellness is part of 1st United Credit Union’s commitment. The Credit Union offers free financial counseling to its members, including debt management, webinars, online tools, and more.
SparkPoint Centers – The United Way of the Bay Area sponsors SparkPoint Centers around the Bay Area to help low-income families achieve financial goals with credit counseling and repair, career development and job placement, and financial training and education services.
Financial Wellness at Work – Many employers offer financial wellness programs as well. By promoting financial wellness in the workplace, companies are making an implicit pact with their workers that they are building wealth together, which is one way to build worker loyalty. Companies also benefit from greater productivity because financial wellness programs help reduce personal financial stress, which distracts many employees during work hours.
These are just some of the financial resources available to Alameda County residents. If you want to start improving your financial health, there is no better place to start than your local credit union. As a member of 1st United, you have access to a wide range of services and tools to help you manage your money. You can start on the path to financial wellness today with the help of the Balance Financial Fitness program. Contact 1st United to learn more about debt management and financial counseling services.