Have a Financial Health Day…at Work

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.

Update: A quick follow-up to my last post, in which I told the tale of buying an expensive bike and feeling that I received sub-optimal service. I asked for input from the GRS audience as to what my next step should be. The overwhelming response was that I either received fine service or that it was my own fault for buying a demo bike. I sent the article to the bike shop owner, pointing out that most of you agreed with him — darn you all! We've since had a pleasant exchange of emails, and I've enjoyed the heck out of the bike.
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Deborah M
Deborah M
10 years ago

Generosity of spirit in evidence. Ride on!

DJ Wetzel
DJ Wetzel
10 years ago

What a great idea! I work in Financial Aid at a university and we already host a “financial aid health” day for our students, but I think a similar program for employees would be well received. Thanks for the idea.

ilya
ilya
10 years ago

At my work about once a year one of the senior faculty members will come in and basically teach a class on personal finance/investment. We are an engineering lab, and so the talks are geared in such a way that make more sense to other engineers (analogies to communication routing protocols etc…) and though I have not had a chance to attend one yet (missed the first one) I hear that they are really something to make a point to go to.

Frank
Frank
10 years ago

You write “we created a Financial Health Day checklist.”

Any chance of seeing that checklist?

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

High schools should do this as part of the curriculum for graduating seniors! It would fit beautifully in the post-finals/pre-graduation time period.

DreamChaser57
DreamChaser57
10 years ago

What a dynamic work environment – I love when employers realize that you cannot always compartmentalize your life. If someone has money woes that has a tendency to consume them. Worksite counseling and this idea promotes a emotionally healthy worforce. I agree with commenter #5 – this type of idea should be integrated into a high school curriculum. I remember when I was in grammar school, we had a Life Skills workbook – the material covered how to write a check, colorfast clothes, bills, grocery budgeting etc, and I went to a public school.

Caroline
Caroline
10 years ago

A few years ago, I attended a lecture given by a human resources consultant. He was hired by a factory for adjusting a productivity problem. He discovered that the problem of productivity was caused by the high level of stress experienced by employees. And this stress was primarily caused by bad financial habits. Then they received classes to learn the basics of personal finance and productivity of the plant has improved since then! I believe that teaching personal finance is definitely appropriate in the workplace.

Nicole
Nicole
10 years ago

High school financial literacy sounds great, but hasn’t been shown to have particularly large effects on actual literacy or outcomes. http://ideas.repec.org/p/nbr/nberwo/6085.html

It could be that states just aren’t doing it right.

Budgeting in the Fun Stuff
Budgeting in the Fun Stuff
10 years ago

I’d love to see that Financial Health Checklist too.

I work for a company would never consider giving employees this kind of day (the day the McAffee glitch took down all our comps, we were told to stay at our desks for the rest of the afternoon…5 hours for no reason at all…they even knew that the techs wouldn’t be by until after 6pm), but I think it is a great idea!

Does the Motley Fool have any openings in Houston? 🙂

Kate
Kate
10 years ago

I would love to have somethign like this at work!

Actually, our HR department does run a Retirement Planning course, but it is specifically onyl geared to those over 55. Us young oens aren’t allowed in, even if we would like to get a head start on planning this stuff.

Stephan
Stephan
10 years ago

great idea, as this targets those already in the workforce who do not know all the opportunities available to them. however, this shouldnt be the only place where these types of things are taught. As part of my job I currently go into local area high schools and teach kids how to use credit responsibly. I think it is the young adults who shoud be taught these important life skills before they end up in the red down the line.
Preferred Financial Services

Kathy F
Kathy F
10 years ago

My federal agency that I work for offers a free 2-3 day course on Retirement Planning and financial management. They encourage everyone to take it well before retirement and then again just before they retire. Our federal retirement plan has three parts, federal pension, Social Security and Thrift Savings Plan (govt version of 401(k)). So there are lots of options and choices to be made at retirement time, especially if you have a spouse. The also talk about estate planning, tax issues, updating beneficiary forms (you fill out a bunch of those when start working and then tend to forget… Read more »

Erin
Erin
10 years ago

I absolutely love this idea and would love to see more companies initiate more in the way of financial literacy. Many of us agree that kids should be taught this as well, but financial literacy begins at home. I would hope that if employees are given some financial help and guidance, that it could translate into conversations with their own children as well.

Nicole
Nicole
10 years ago

Looks like employer based programs have pretty good success rates:
http://ideas.repec.org/p/nbr/nberwo/5667.html

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
10 years ago

My company does things like this occasionally. I remember one on personal finance/investing, one on being environmentally friendly, one on health and fitness. No one ever goes to them (including me, I don’t go either). Hundreds of people work in this building and when these things are in session, you’ll walk past the area where it’s being held and three people will be there. I imagine the motley fool has a higher percentage of employees interested in personal finance than most other places (including here), so maybe it works better for you. Frankly, I don’t know what I’d expect to… Read more »

Chett
Chett
10 years ago

For the skeptics or people who don’t feel like there will be a large turnout, follow this rule: Feed them and they will come. If you give away free food, people will show up, act interested and maybe learn something. When I’m in the groc store I see people grazing the free food samples acting interested in some product they will never buy, just because their getting a free sample. It’s not the genuine interest in the format of the gathering, it’s the food that brings them. They just need a little nudge.

chacha1
chacha1
10 years ago

I expect that – unfortunately – many workplaces would be like Tyler K’s. I had to bully my own staffers to sign up for the 401(k) plan when I was managing an office! They paid so little attention to the administrator’s brochure that they didn’t realize they would not receive matching or profit sharing unless they were signed up for, and contributing to, the plan. My current employer has brought in various benefits programs which have been relatively well-attended. The employer also allows use of company time & resources to do things like set up 401(k) and HSA contributions, communicate… Read more »

Robert Brokamp
Robert Brokamp
10 years ago
I think concerns that employees wouldn’t take advantage of a few classes are valid. To counter that here at the Fool, we made sure it was an EVENT — decorations, goofy emails, and, as mentioned in the article, food and prizes. It also helps to get the support and participation of influential people in the company.

And if that doesn’t work, there’s always the Personal Finance Club. It’s often the best meeting I attend all month.

Tyrone Matheson
Tyrone Matheson
10 years ago

I believe that a lot of independents such as myself have to make our services readily available to the general public, corporataions and so forth. We need more people that have a genuine passion on helping people become financially healthy while providing unbiased financial advice.

Schools will only be able to do so much, it all needs to start in the home and if the tools aren’t available in the home than an investment should be made to hire an outside source to help.

ElysianConfusion
ElysianConfusion
10 years ago

I want that checklist too!

Lisa W
Lisa W
10 years ago

My company would definitely do something like this. I am on the Health and Wellness Committee and we have a Health Fair every year. We usually get about 50% participation too. And throughout the year we offer a variety of wellness classes (yoga, Zumba, self-defense). If possible, I would appreciate seeing that checklist as well. I’d love to incorporate this idea into my workplace.

Diana
Diana
10 years ago

After starting my new job I was pleasantly surprised that they offer Financial Peace University for free to the employees. I didn’t personally take them up on the offer because I have read many of Dave Ramsey’s books and almost know his baby steps by heart. Another interesting thing I learned was that my employer keeps 6 months of expenditures in the bank.

juno
juno
10 years ago

“No one ever goes to them (including me, I don’t go either)… Frankly, I don’t know what I’d expect to learn at one of these things that I haven’t already learned online, and so it seems largely like a waste of time to me, personally.”

This comment is not only illogical, it’s also arrogant.

david/yourfinances101
david/yourfinances101
10 years ago

Company time to take care of personal business?

I’d say there’s enough of this going on right now without a supervisor’s permission, I doubt anyone would knowingly sign off on it at smaller companies.

But I think its a great concept

Patrick
Patrick
10 years ago

Cool concept. Especially considering April’s post on Money and Stress that was posted today. Either way, sometimes it is nice to just sit down and take care of business. When my Mom would take a day off like this, it was called a ‘Personal Health Day’.
It was just good for her personal health.

…checklist?

Robert Brokamp
Robert Brokamp
10 years ago

To folks who have requested the checklist: It was very customized for our company’s Financial Health Day, tying in our benefits, and suggestions for who to talk to in the company or among the invited experts to get help.

However, I’m creating a PDF that will explain how we planned the day, and will include a more general checklist. When it’s available, we’ll post it here at GRS.

Scott Smith
Scott Smith
8 years ago
Reply to  Robert Brokamp

Did you ever create and post that PDF? I’m putting together a financial health fair for my company and would love to see your document. Thanks for some great ideas.

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