Financial wellness? What’s all the fuss about?

Let’s start with the 1950s. I have this idyllic image:  strong family values, loyal employees, job security, less crime and terror, cute homogenous neighborhoods, retire at 65 with plenty to live on…..you know the whole baseball and apple pie thing. My name is David Stedman, CEO of BrightDime, and that’s the image I grew up with in North Carolina. The reality was that prejudice, terror, sadness and hate were just as prevalent back then. It’s just that today we’re all aware of it; technology has made these realities difficult to ignore.  Advances in communication update us every minute on something terrible happening in the world.

The big difference between the 1950s and today is the economic makeup of our country. Capitalism, grit and ingenuity made America strong but, as capitalistic societies mature, a few get super rich while most of the middle class drops to lower class and gradually lose that 1950s economic lifestyle that seemed so ideal. Being financially savvy in the ‘50s was not a necessity. Most people were able pay their bills and put food on their table while also saving for retirement through pensions.  Today retiring is no longer an option for many. Both parents work just to pay the bills. Living paycheck-to-paycheck becomes the standard not the exception.

Share of Total US Income by Percentile

Americans live in fear that they will never be able to retire, will have to declare bankruptcy or will not be able to feed their children.  Combining easy access to debt with increasing income inequality results in a big financial problem. In today’s world, being financially savvy is necessary to survive.  Having debt and nothing saved for retirement has become standard.

US Household Debt to GDP

Credit cards, student loans, complex spending patterns, excessive consumption temptations have resulted in people needing to be more aware of their financial situation and plan better for the future while, at the same time, fending off the vultures trying to sell them products and services they don’t need.  Financial wellness has become the solution to this mounting problem.

Financial wellness is understanding of your financial situation and choosing a path free of worry that leads to financial independence for a lifetime. It is a lifelong journey, but much like your physical wellness, you need a game plan. Companies like BrightDime offer people technology that builds awareness of their personal financial situation while also offering coaching 365 days a year. People need a coach to turn to when making decisions without the fear of being sold something.  Financial wellness programs are one reason why I believe that today’s society bests the 1950s.  Technology makes us smarter and more aware while also enabling us to communicate better.  Financial wellness is not just a buzzword. By embracing this concept, people can be more confident in living a long, happy life.

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