Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP®
Extension Specialist in Financial Resource Management
Rutgers Cooperative Extension
The Cooperative Extension System hosted a Small Steps to Health and Wealth™ Twitter chat in 2014 focused on tips for improving health and personal finances. Read an archive of the chat. The chat had a series of questions for participants to respond to in short tweets of 140 characters or less. Below is a summary of some of the key ideas and behavior change strategies that were provided during the Twitter chat discussion:
- Health and wealth are connected. When people have control of their personal finances, they experience less stress (and vice versa). Both health and finances have long-term effects on a person’s life.
- Health maintenance requires organization and discipline just as paying bills, managing debt, and saving.
- Financial distress has been linked in research to physical stress symptoms and decreased job productivity and a 2005 Harvard study estimated that more than 45% of bankruptcies were related to medical issues.
- Things that people can do every day to improve their health include: packing a lunch instead of eating out (to control portion sizes and sauces as well as to save money); drinking more water; taking a walk (indoors or outdoors) with coworkers during lunch break; and doing specific exercises if you work at a desk (see http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/exercise-at-your-desk for some examples). Other ideas shared were literally taking small steps by using stairs, instead of an elevator, whenever you can and reading daily inspirational quotes for good mental health.
- Things that people can do every day to improve their personal finances include: save receipts for tax deductions and warranties on major purchases; check bank accounts online between statements; track spending in a notebook or with phone apps; and set up phone alerts to remember to pay bills on time. Other ideas shared were writing down expenses; saving a dollar a day plus spare change to accumulate about $50 per month; buying one less soda, coffee, latte, snack, or lottery ticket; using cash instead of debit/credit cards to control spending; and learning new information about personal finance topics.
- Twitter chat users recommended the following personal finance information resources:
- MoneyWi$e (University of Kentucky)
- Investing For Your Future (eXtension)
- MyMoney.Gov (federal government agencies)
- America Saves
- Ballpark Estimate retirement savings calculator
- Financial literacy was defined by one chat participant as “keeping yourself smart and wise about financial decisions.” Another definition, from the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, is “the ability to use knowledge and skills to manage one’s financial resources effectively.”
- Tips for achieving better health and greater wealth included “save, save, save”; make retirement plans; always have an emergency fund; adopt healthier habits now to save a lot of money later; and don’t sacrifice health for wealth.
The #SSHWchat Twitter chat was part of Small Steps to Health and Wealth™ (SSHW) a national Cooperative Extension program developed to motivate Americans to take action to simultaneously improve their health and personal finances. SSHW was built around a framework of 25 research-based behavior change strategies.