Get fit for work…and play (a JYM membership can help)

Over the course of the last several years, employers have begun to take a more active interest in their employees’ physical fitness. You hear more and more about companies, such as Chesapeake, that will even go as far as giving financial incentives for living healthy lifestyles. Companies will offer seminars or host lunch-and-learns about how to become more healthy. They may even pay for or subsidize gym memberships. Companies are doing this because they realized that their employees were getting increasingly unhealthy, which was leading to loss of productivity due to sick days taken and to increases in insurance premiums for the companies. However, the physical health of their employees is not the only health in which companies may want to take an interest.

According to USA Today, the number one cause of stress in the workplace is personal finances. In fact, a study conducted by Virginia Tech found that the average worker spends 21 hours per month handling personal financial issues while on the job. As the recent economic situation unfolds around the globe, the stress levels of employees is likely to be increasing as well. Employers may see a mutual benefit to initiating some sort of financial wellness program, the way some companies have done with physical wellness. In fact, some local companies have done just that and provide great examples for others.

This week is Jumpstart Your Money Week (JYM week). The Oklahoma Jumpstart Coalition is a group of organizations from around the state that are committed to increasing the opportunities for financial education within our communities. Some local employers shared their experiences at the kick-off event this morning in Oklahoma City.

In an internal survey conducted by OPUBCO, they found that 61 percent of their employees reported that finances were a major source of stress in their lives. Recognizing a need held by their employees, OPUBCO implemented a volunteer financial education program. They even made it available to the spouses and dependent children, over age 16, of employees. OPUBCO pays 50 percent of the cost of the 12 lesson course. Since they implemented the program in 2006, 90 people have graduated from the training series. Recently, 74 of those graduates responded to a survey and reported a combined financial impact of $342,623, roughly made up of $200,000 of debt being paid off and $150,000 of savings. Employees that went through the program also report being less stressed about their finances.

The Sheet Metal Workers Local 124 of Oklahoma City implemented a mandatory financial literacy program as part of their apprentice program. They went further to look out for the financial health of their members by requiring financial credit counseling before a member can make a hardship withdrawal from their 401k. Not only does the member have to go through this counseling, but the member’s spouse as well. The Union set all of this up through Consumer Credit Counseling of Central Oklahoma.

Both of these programs take different approaches to addressing the issue of financial stability for employees. However, both show that it is an area where companies can help their employees and the company’s bottom line, like they discovered over the last decades about physical health incentives.

If you are interested in setting up such a program, join the JYM (Jumpstart Your Money). The Oklahoma Jumpstart Coalition, on whose board I serve as a member, has several members who can help you design and implement a financial education program for your employees or who can help you convince your employer that it is in their best interest to start a program for their workers. The fee to join the Jumpstart Coalition is only $10…what a bargain. For information, visit


Oklahoma Policy Insititute (OK Policy) advances equitable and fiscally responsible policies that expand opportunity for all Oklahomans through non-partisan research, analysis, and advocacy.

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