This is a guest post from Robert Brokamp of The Motley Fool. Robert is a Certified Financial Planner and the adviser for The Motley Fool’s Rule Your Retirement service. He contributes one new article to Get Rich Slowly every two weeks.
Once a month, a small group of folks at The Motley Fool gather to discuss money-saving ideas and exchange tips and tricks. Last fall, we members of the Personal Finance Club (as we boringly call ourselves) were discussing a New York Times article by Ron Lieber about the benefits of taking a “financial health day” — staying home from work or away from family in order to get important stuff done. Last November, I wrote about my experience spending three days alone in a hotel with my to-do piles.
The Motley Fool has an annual health fair, during which employees are poked, weighed, tested, and otherwise encouraged to eat better and move more. The PF Club thought, if the company is willing to sponsor a health fair, perhaps an in-house financial health day would be possible. We pitched it to some higher-ups, and — lo and beheld — they fell for it. The event took place last Friday, and was a big success.
Our financial health day had several key components:
- Classes. Fools attended presentations on estate planning, budgeting, insurance planning, home buying, saving for college, managing financial paperwork, negotiating for lower bills, the company’s 401(k), and how to be a cheapskate. Some classes were taught by fellow Fools, others were taught by experts we invited for the day, including local radio show host and estate planner Wayne Zell and several financial planners from the Garrett Planning Network.
- Experts. When the experts weren’t teaching classes, they sat at tables in the office rotunda (which we called the “dough-tunda” for the day), answering employees’ individual questions. The human resources team performed benefits audits to ensure employees were taking full advantage of what’s offered. Several benefits providers, including our 401(k) administrator (BB&T), also set up booths and answered questions.
- Suggestions. To give folks ideas about what to work on, we created a Financial Health Day checklist.
- Spouses/partners/paramours. We encouraged employees to invite those with whom they’re mingling their money. All other mingling wasn’t any of our business.
- Time. Employees used company time to take care of personal business. The list of tackled tasks includes employees who consolidated retirement accounts, completed advance medical directives, and used the company shredder to destroy old account statements.
- Bribes. While we’re pretty sure our colleagues would’ve taken full advantage of the day anyhow, we set up free food near the “dough-tunda” (bagels in the morning, tacos for lunch) to encourage people to swing by. We also gave out tickets to employees who attended classes, asked experts questions, and accomplished financial tasks. The tickets could then be used in raffles for various prizes, ranging from a whoopee cushion to three hours with a personal organization expert. It didn’t cost too much, and lent some festivity to a day of not-always-thrilling tasks.
Would your boss do this?
I can hear many of you saying, “That’s just swell for you, but this would never happen at my office.” (Yes, my ears are that good.) Well, I concede that a company like The Motley Fool is more disposed to doing this type of thing than most others. And you certainly know more about your workplace than I do. (My ears aren’t that good.) But I will offer these thoughts:
- It likely won’t hurt to ask, especially if you can get some colleagues on board beforehand. If anyone in your company needs more information or convincing, feel free to suggest they e-mail me.
- If you can’t have a full-fledged financial health day in your office, perhaps you can start your own Personal Finance Club (and come up with a better name). A few years ago, we published an article by Motley Fool reader Glen Kenney, who — along with several colleagues — formed a group to learn about retirement planning. They met regularly, and invited experts to speak to the group.
- You likely have colleagues with little-known financial talents, which could be incorporated into your event or club. The cheapskate class was taught by an editor who also has a couponing blog. Our chief financial officer taught a class on negotiating with cable, credit card, and wireless service companies to get more for less (explaining how he got a soccer package and a few movie channels for virtually nothing from his cable service provider).
If all else fails, you can still have your own financial health day, keeping in mind how much employment-related benefits play a part in our financial well-being.