Stand Up Paddling: Fun and Fitness on the Water

8-11_paddleboarding-imageWherever there’s a lake, ocean bay, or placid river, you’re likely to see people on stand up paddleboards (SUP). This fast growing sport let’s you cruise or even surf on the water while standing at your full height. It’s a great way to explore the natural world.

Paddle boarding offers a complete body workout that can help improve balance, core strength, cardio fitness, flexibility and overall body tone. The secret to learning is technique, not strength. With some basic gear and simple instructions, you can start enjoying this fun way to be on the water.

 

What You’ll Need:

The best way to get started is to take lessons and rent equipment from a SUP retailer or rental store. They’ll show you how to use the gear and make sure you have the right sized board and paddle, and they’ll make sure you know the essential skills for being safe on the water. If you don’t have a shop nearby, have an experienced friend take you out on the water or take advantage of the many online videos and SUP introduction tutorials. Be sure to start out on very calm water, on a day with little or no wind. As with any new sport, start out easy and take time to build up your skill and conditioning.

 

Paddle Board:

Many rental shops will provide you with a stable, larger beginner board for your first time on the water. Renting a board is a good way to learn the basics before buying your own. The size of the board is determined by your size, weight, and skill. Board shapes and sizes also vary by the kind of water you want to paddle on – from calm lakes to ocean surfing or river whitewater. High quality, inflatable paddle boards are also increasingly popular for people who don’t want to transport a board on roof racks.

 

The Paddle – Use Your Core:

Unlike canoe or kayak paddling, you paddle a SUP standing upright. To paddle efficiently, don’t rely on your arms. Instead, you’ll keep your arms straight and use your torso to do most of the work. Simply using your arms won’t provide much power and could be very tiring. With practice, you’ll discover it’s easy to paddle in a relatively straight line by alternating strokes and learning to use your core.

 

PFD (Personal Flotation Device):

Stand up paddle boards are classified as vessels by the U.S. Coast Guard, so you are required to always have a PFD with you, except for ocean surfing. Today, many SUP paddlers use a fanny pack or over-the-neck, inflatable style of PFD. The pack has a single-use Co2 cylinder that is inflated when needed by pulling a cord. If you prefer using a more traditional flotation vest, there are many adjustable vests that have no bulk at the sides to make paddling easy. Whichever style you choose, make sure it’s comfortable so that you will wear it!

 

SUP Clothing:

You’re going to get wet so wear a bathing suit, or quick drying shorts and t-shirt in mild conditions. Avoid cotton clothing because when wet, it can rob heat from your body. In cooler conditions, wear a wet suit rated for the water temperature you’ll be paddling in. Remember that weather conditions can change quickly even on a small pond, so dress in multiple layers. If you plan to be on the water much longer than thirty minutes, have a small water bottle or hydration system with you.

 

Leash:

Your SUP can also be an important flotation device and a leash will keep you tethered to it when you fall off. SUP leashes are designed for different water uses, so chose a leash that’s specific to flat water, rivers, or surf.

 

Sun Protection:

Water resistant sunscreen and sunglasses (polarized is best) with a lanyard should always be worn. Wear a hat with a visor and use lip balm with sunscreen, too. You may also consider a lightweight rash guard to minimize sun exposure.

 

What’s Next?

Once you’ve learned the basics, there are many ways to enjoy stand up paddling. If you’re ready to buy a paddle board, you’ll find SUPs designed specifically for all-around paddling, fishing, doing yoga, touring long distances, ocean surfing, and even racing. When buying a board, be sure to consider how to safely transport on your car or truck and where to store it when not in use. Your board and paddle are made for the water, but are more fragile if tossed around on land.

 

Start Paddling!

Cruising a lake, stream, marsh, or ocean bay offers you a way to be surrounded by nature and to enjoy a moment alone. But SUPs are also a great way to share the outdoors with friends and family members of all ages. No matter where you go paddling, you’ll discover it’s one of the most enjoyable ways to have fun, relax, and improve your health and strength.




Three Tips for Improving Employee Engagement

8-9-employee-engage-imageAccording to a recent Gallup poll, only 34% of the American workforce feel engaged in the workplace. The Engagement Institute estimates that disengaged employees can cost organizations between $450 and $550 billion every year. Fortunately, improving employee engagement doesn’t have to be an overwhelming challenge. Here are three essential tips to get you started, each of which can result in a more productive and engaged workforce.

 

1. Be an Example for Your Team

As a manager, CEO, or other person in a leadership position, few things can have quite as profound an impact on employee engagement as setting an example for the entire team. Successful leaders are those who are willing to get their hands dirty, asking as much of themselves as they do of their staff. They strive to make themselves available and create clear lines of communication throughout every level of the organization. Leaders are most respected when they work alongside and listen to their teams, rather than passing each week behind closed doors. Exemplifying the qualities you’re looking to get out of your staff will almost certainly cause a ripple effect.

Tip: Good health and fitness are often overlooked. But, according to the American Heart Association, employees feel it’s important for their managers to set a healthy example. Leaders who take care of themselves have more energy and help to encourage a healthier workforce, beneficial for employees and employers alike.

 

2. Offer a Comprehensive Benefits Package

Securing great talent and keeping your employees happy means offering something more than competing employers. One way to do so is to provide a comprehensive benefits package. Options for retirement, health, and vacation time can all go a long way with the modern professional. For some, benefits may even be higher on the list of importance than salary. MetLife’s annual benefit trends study found that 74% of employees say customized benefits are important when considering a job offer; and 72% state having individualized employee benefits would increase their loyalty to their current employer.

Tip: Disability insurance is an often undervalued add-on to a benefits package that can sway great talent in your direction, while also protecting your company’s investment. One in four of today’s 20 year-olds will become disabled before they retire, according to the U.S. Social Security Administration. An insured employee is protected from the risk of complete income loss, and often able to recover and return to work.

 

3. Encourage Autonomy

Some employees are happy to simply follow directions and a set schedule throughout the day—many even thrive off of this degree of structure. Others, however, prefer a more autonomous work environment, in which they’re given the space and flexibility they need to get the job done. Research shows that when employees are given the freedom associated with autonomy, job satisfaction increases, along with productivity. Some may wish to work from home on occasion, while others may find a flexible schedule allows them to be more efficient. By working with your employees and helping them settle into a groove that suits both their needs and those of the organization, you’ll effectively be creating a more engaged and committed team, increasing happiness and productivity, while decreasing turnover.

Tip: It is possible to offer too much autonomy. Success depends on an appropriate level of oversight; too little direction from management may be seen as disorganization, rather than freedom.

 

Great leaders want their teams to succeed. After all, success for employees means success for the employer. Making staff feel engaged and appreciated leads to greater productivity, satisfaction, and ultimately a more successful business.

 




The Paleo Diet: Feed Your Inner Caveman

8-7_Paleo-diet-imageLow carbohydrate diets are nothing new. The Atkins diet, the South Beach Diet, the Dukan diet, and many others have been popular, and controversial, for decades. Advocates and health experts have debated their benefits and risks from the beginning. And while it’s generally agreed that most of us would be well served to restrict the amount of carbs we consume, some people strive to eliminate them altogether.

The Paleo Diet

Until a few years ago, the Paleo diet was limited to a few dedicated followers. Recently, however, it has worked its way into the mainstream, as many people have experienced significant weight loss in relatively short periods of time. It’s built around the idea that eating like our Paleolithic forefathers is more appropriate for our genetics, and therefore healthier. You can essentially eat anything you want, as long as it was available to our caveman ancestors.

That means meats, fish, fruits, and vegetables are on the menu. Grains, refined sugar, processed foods, and legumes are not.

In practice, most of us don’t have time to pick wild berries, spear fish, or chase cage-free chickens around the neighborhood in hopes of collecting an egg for every meal. But Paleo dieters do focus on lean proteins, vitamins and minerals, and healthy fats to help reduce weight and build muscle. And though today’s options may not be exactly the same as what our ancestors consumed, they’re close enough.

 

Cut the carbs

The diet centers on drastically cutting carbohydrates, rather than strictly limiting food consumption. Paleo dieters don’t need to count calories. They generally eat until they’re full! Yet they still loose weight and build muscle. How? By eliminating grains and processed foods, which can turn into carbohydrates and, ultimately, become sugars. When our bodies have more sugar than they can burn, it turns to fat.

On the Paleo diet, our bodies have fewer carbs to burn, so all that stored-up fat finally has something to do, other than making it hard to button our jeans! It burns, through a process called ketosis, to provide energy.

There are carbs in vegetables and fruits, but at much lower levels than in grains. And fruits and veggies pack in a ton of nutrients along with the carbs.

 

What about dairy?

Humans are the only animals to consume dairy beyond infancy. A strict Paleo dieter would avoid it…after all, our caveman ancestors would not have had access to a fancy cheese plate or a Greek yogurt smoothie.

 

So what can and can’t I eat?

Yes

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Lean meats
  • Seafood
  • Nuts & seeds
  • Healthy oils and fats

 

No

  • Grains
  • Processed foods
  • Processed sugar
  • Legumes
  • Starches
  • Alcohol

 

What can go wrong?

Although approved foods are low in carbs and sugars, some are still high in calories. If your idea of a Paleo diet is a pound of cashews and two sweet potatoes for every meal, you’re not going to see the results you want. And you’re not going to feel great, either. The goal is to balance the proteins, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and oils.

In addition, there is a risk of not getting enough calcium and vitamin D, both of which are essential for bone development and strength. Supplements may be necessary. And those who stick to the diet for long periods face a potential increase in cholesterol, a known contributor to heart disease.

But if you’re looking to shed weight and build muscle, or just want to unleash your inner caveman, the Paleo diet may be worth considering. Just remember to consult with your physician or nutritionist before making any drastic changes to your diet.




Skin Cancer: Risk and Prevention

8-4-skin-cancer-image(1)For many of us, summertime means fun in the sun—family vacations, relaxing on the beach, exploring mountain trails, biking around the neighborhood. It’s a great time to be outside, get some exercise, and enjoy being with family and friends. But it’s important to remember the need to protect your skin from excessive sun exposure, regardless of your age, skin tone, or race.

 

The Dangers of UV Exposure

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the World Health Organization have both identified UV radiation as a proven human carcinogen. Exposure to these invisible rays is behind 80% of your skin’s aging.

UVA rays are much more prevalent than UVB, accounting for 95% of all UV radiation. And though less intense and unlikely to cause a sunburn, recent studies indicate these rays contribute directly to premature skin aging and wrinkling, and can start the development of cancer in the outer layer of skin. These are the tanning rays, whether from the sun or a tanning bed. They penetrate more deeply than their UVB counterparts, and play a larger role in skin aging.

UVB rays, though less prevalent, are the most common cause of sunburn and reddening of the visible skin layer, and play a larger role in the development of skin cancer. Though harmful year-round, UVB intensity increases from April to October, between 10 am to 4 pm, when so many of us are enjoying time outdoors.

UVA and UVB rays work together to cause damage to your skin, and can ultimately contribute to skin cancer.

 

What is Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer is defined as the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells which results in tumors.

About 95% of skin cancer patients have basal or squamous cell cancers, which are are less serious and more easily treated. These non-melanoma cancers can be caused by various amounts of sun exposure and are generally curable if caught early.

Melanoma, though far less common, is also far more dangerous and is responsible for 75% of skin-cancer-related deaths. Those diagnosed with Melanoma have developed abnormal pigment cells called melanocytes which, if left untreated or undetected, can spread the cancer to other organs.

 

How to Spot Melanoma. The ABCDE Rule:

  • Asymmetry—one half of the mole doesn’t match the other
  • Border—edges are uneven or irregular
  • Color—uneven patches of color
  • Diameter—significant changes in size
  • Evolving—any new spot or mole changes in size, shape, or color

If any of these characteristics become apparent, it’s best to consult with a physician as soon as possible.

 

Prevention

One sunburn every two years triples your risk of skin cancer. It is by far the most common form of cancer, but also the most preventable. Common sense and careful precautions can easily reduce or even eliminate serious risk:

  • Apply sunscreen with SPF of 30 or more for UVB protection and apply Zinc Oxide for UVA protection 20 minutes before sun exposure, and again every two hours
  • Wear clothing, cosmetic products, and contact lenses with UV protection
  • Wear sunglasses with total UV protection and hats to shade face and neck
  • Avoid direct sunlight as much as possible between peak UV hours (10 am–4 pm)
  • Avoid tanning beds (They emit as much as 12 times the amount of UVA rays as the sun!)
  • Know your skin! Perform exams to be aware of any new growths or changes in existing growths

 

 




Common Bone and Joint Injuries

bone injuries

Most people underestimate just how close to injury they can be at any given time. Some go to great lengths to eat healthy and exercise on a daily basis, only to slip and fall on their way home and end up out of work for weeks, or even months, as a result. Others regularly participate in contact or extreme sports while turning a blind eye to the chances of ending up in a cast of one form or another. For the modern professional, the risk of bone and joint injuries is something to keep in mind. A simple accident could mean an extensive period of lost work—a serious matter for those without means to cover the potential loss of income.

Not sure what to look out for? Here are just a few of the most common bone and joint injuries you’re likely to face, all of which can end up being far more than a simple inconvenience.


Strains and Sprains

Strains and sprains are among the most common injuries, and both can result from practically any form of activity. Sprains occur when ligaments are torn or overstretched and are extremely common in the wrists and ankles, as well as the knees. Strains, on the other hand, occur as a result of muscle or tendon fibers being torn or stretched too far. Both can vary from being mild and annoying, to severe and extremely painful, depending upon how badly torn the ligament or muscle fibers happen to be.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, sprains and strains account for approximately 41% of all workplace injuries. A bad wrist sprain, for example, can make typing all but impossible, affecting practically anyone who works in a professional office environment.


Fractures

Fractures range from hairline to compund, but any broken bone can mean a long recovery and significant time away from work. If enough outside force is placed on a bone, it will break in the same way that a plastic ruler will eventually succumb to the pressure and snap. Fractures come in a number of different varieties, ranging from a stable fracture in which the bones are barely out of place to a comminuted fracture, where the bone shatters into numerous pieces. While many circumstance can result in bone fracture, it’s typically a result of trauma associated with falling or some sort of impact. But overuse can also lead to bone damage, which is often seen in athletes in the form of stress fractures.

The number of people at risk for developing fractures is likely to double by 2030, making it a real problem that requires careful attention from today’s professionals.


Degenerative Conditions

No one ever plans on being diagnosed with a degenerative condition, but they often come on with no warning and can impact even the healthiest and most cautious among us. Conditions such as arthritis and osteoporosis (which causes 8.9 million fractures annually) can have dramatic effects on our bones and joints. And rheumatoid arthritis, a particularly disruptive disease, can lead to severe complications if not treated properly. Many degenerative conditions are genetic in nature and thus cannot always be prevented by good health practices. But regular visits to your doctor will ensure early detection, should you begin to notice symptoms of bone or joint discomfort.

Workers’ compensation policies often cover medical expenses and help replace lost income for those who experience injuries at the work-site or as a result of performing a work-related function. But office workers are more at risk during their personal time. An injury sustained at home or while enjoying the weekend can lead to weeks or even months of missed work and lost income. Are you protected?




Financial Freedom Through Frugality

financial freedom

Achieving Financial Freedom

Financial freedom is something everyone aspires towards. How they go about achieving it is another matter altogether. It’s true, frugal is the new cool in many circles, but spending less isn’t how most people are saving for retirement, early or otherwise.

“Financial freedom” doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing to everyone. For some, it refers to ditching debt. For others, it means not having to worry so much about money and their financial situation.

In this case, financial freedom means becoming unfettered from the shackles of finance. It’s about creating “a life that is better than your current one, which just happens to cost 50-75% less,” (Mr. Money Mustache).

According to an article in the New Yorker, Mr. Money Mustache’s goals are:

  1. “To make you rich so you can retire early”;
  2. “To make you happy so you can properly enjoy your early retirement”; and
  3. “To save the whole Human Race from destroying itself through overconsumption of its habitat.”

The Scold: Mr. Money Mustache’s retirement (sort of) plan

 

Life is Expensive. Or is It?

“Life is hard and expensive, so you should keep your nose to the grindstone, clip coupons, save hard for your kids’ college educations, then tuck any tiny slice of your salary that remains into a 401(k) plan. And pray that nothing goes wrong in the 40 years of career work that it will take to get yourself enough savings to enjoy a brief retirement,” (“Getting Rich: from Zero to Hero in One Blog Post”).

But that’s just a line, Mr. Money Mustache insists. “What happens when you can save more of your income? As it turns out, spending much less money than you bring in is the way to get rich. The ONLY way.”

How much could you possibly save? “Simply cutting cable TV, and a few lattes, would instantly boost their savings to 15 percent, allowing them to retire eight years earlier!! Are cable TV and Starbucks worth having two income earners each work an extra eight years for???,” (“The Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement”).

Here are two important takeaways from Mr. Mustache:

Cutting your spending rate is much more powerful than increasing your income.

“Earning more is great, and I highly recommend it. But by definition it is impossible to out-earn the habit of spending all your money,” (“Reader Case Study: Young Man Saved from Jeep Suicide”).

 

How Much Money Do We Need?

“According to a new survey from Charles Schwab, Americans say it takes an average of $2.4 million to be considered wealthy,” (“Here’s how much money Americans think is enough to live comfortably”). “As for how much it takes to be ‘financially comfortable,’ survey respondents say it’s an average of $1.1 million.”

Like the definition of financial freedom, the real secret behind Mr. Money Mustache’s (his real name is Peter Adeney) financial success is his own perception of wealth. He has what he needs. He doesn’t need to worry about money. By his own reckoning, he is a wealthy man.

And that sensibility is catching on in the form of “an anti-consumer, penny-pinching movement that’s finding favour with millennials,” (“Meet the Frugal Millennials Planning for Decades of Retirement”), and it inspired Stephanie Williams and Celestian Rince to adopt extreme frugality and thrift into their lives, all while meticulously recording their expenses, and lack thereof, on their personal finance blog, Incoming Assets.

“It costs the two of them less than $1,500 a month to live—and that number includes the $787 rent on their 400-square-foot apartment. Their combined income, meanwhile, is just under $90,000 a year. They save roughly 60 percent of it. When their investment income hits a point that it can pay the bills, they’ll bid their jobs as receptionist and administrative assistant adieu. Their savings amount to about $260,000.”

“Meet the Frugal Millennials Planning for Decades of Retirement”

Financial Freedom is Possible

Ultimately, Mustachianism, financial badassity, or whatever you want to call financial freedom, seems to be more attainable, more viable, when we look at concepts of spending, saving and wealth in a certain light.

“It seems as if thinking about the world through the lens of maximizing your independence by minimizing your overhead could, at best, transform your life, and at worst, result in your amassing thousands of dollars in savings,” (“Meet the Frugal Millennials Planning for Decades of Retirement”).




What Happens When Your Financial Advisor Retires?

financial advisor

Everyone eventually retires. And as there are many questions you should be asking your financial advisor about your own retirement planning, considering many of us will need financial advice long after we retire ourselves, there’s an important question to keep near the top of the list: What will happen to your account, to your retirement planning, when your financial advisor retires?

Financial Advisors: Do They Have a Succession Plan?

Planning for retirement is difficult. We spend years discussing our financial details with our advisor. We form a relationship. In many cases, it’s a bond built over decades. You have trusted and relied upon this person to guide your steps on the path to financial security, and you want to be sure your financial advisor has implemented a succession plan which considers your long-term needs as a client.

Your financial advisor is helping you plan for your future. It’s easy to assume they have their own exit strategy in place. They know the importance of planning ahead, right? Unfortunately, it seems some financial advisors and their businesses suffer the same fate as the cobbler’s children. Succession is a major issue in the investment industry today, for both its professionals and their investors.

Financial Advisors Want to Work Forever

A 2014 study entitled Key Trends in Wealth Management Business Practices interviewed almost 1,000 investment advisors in Canada and the United States. Sixty-one percent of the respondents were over 50 years of age. Reportedly 12 percent of the Canadian respondents indicated they would likely be retiring within five years. None of the respondents based in the US felt they would retire within five years. Not even those over 60.

“When asked about their plans for retiring, the sale of a practice ranked lowest on an investment advisor’s list of priorities (10 percent). Operating a business at a slower pace (31 percent), and living off accumulated assets (23 percent) ranked much higher. A shocking 38 percent of all respondents have no plans for retiring at all. Another 28 percent don’t plan to retire in the next 15 years,” (“Do Investment Advisors Need To Do a Better Job Planning Their Own Retirement?”).

Practice What You Preach

Increasingly, a good succession plan is a necessity for keeping existing clients and attracting new ones. “Advisors can’t change the inevitable,” says Tom Nally, president of TD Ameritrade Institutional (“The big benefit of having a succession plan”).

“They need to live by the practices they preach,” he added. “Clients want to work with someone doing the right things for their own legacy.”

Clients Need to Ask the Question

Despite these findings, many advisors do have the long game high in mind. Some feel the pressure needs to come from the clients themselves.

“Clients need to say, ‘My retirement is going to last 30 years. Where are you going to be?’,” states Paul Saganey, founder and president of Integrated Financial Partners (“What to Do When Your Financial Advisor Retires”, New York Times). Every one of Mr. Saganey’s advisor teams are required to have succession plans for both retirement and less predictable events, like dying or becoming disabled.

To help prepare for a new financial relationship, Rick Robertson, associate professor at Western University’s Ivey School of Business, recommends proactive measures. “It wouldn’t hurt to ask, even if the person doesn’t have much grey hair, do you have a succession plan? What would happen if something happened to you?” Mr. Robertson says (“Planning ahead: Someday, your financial advisor will retire, too”, The Globe and Mail).

What Can You Do?

  • Ask the question: Does your financial advisor have a plan for their retirement?
  • Ask if you can you meet their successor or the rest of the team.
  • Examine your finances and treat this is as an evaluation opportunity. Maybe it’s time to move on to a new advisor.



Getting Paid To Be Healthy

reward healthy behavior

Employer-sponsored benefits are increasingly prevalent, especially at larger organizations. According to MetLife’s 15th Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study, 49 percent of employees want well-being programs which offer more.

They want more than a company-paid gym membership or fitness bonus.

They want programs that reward healthy behavior.

The question is: Are they getting them?

 

Rewards Are On the Rise

Reportedly, yes. Forbes recently outlined five megatrends which could transform health care, including “rewarding better health outcomes and quality.

“Along with a growing number of companies, Casper is looking for ways to incentivize employees to exercise, and get enough rest. But rather than offering a traditional gym discount, Casper gives employees cash rewards for working out—wherever, and however, they please,” (“What if your employer paid you to exercise and sleep?”).

The Huffington Post notes that “incentives in health care is now squarely on the desk of the CFO,” (“Be Healthy and Be Rewarded”).

Being happier at work improves the bottom line. Programs that reward healthy behavior are about just that. “Helping people reset and come into work happier and healthier, which is better for the individual and creates a really great company culture for employers,” (“True Leadership Means Ensuring Your Team Is Healthy And Happy”).

 

Getting Paid to Exercise

Gary Erickson, co-owner of Clif Bar & Company, says they “have a program where if you work nine hours a day for nine days, then you get the tenth day—every other Friday—off. Or, you can work for eight-and-a-half hours and work out for 30 minutes,” (“Why one company pays employees to exercise 2.5 hours a week”).

“Nearly 80 percent of American adults don’t get the recommended amount of exercise each week (two and a half hours of moderate aerobic activity or one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous activity),” says Hootsuite’s Ryan Holmes.

“Given how critical fitness is to overall health, I think it’s worth taking a look at exercise in the one place where nearly all of us will spend a good chunk of our lives: the workplace,” (“Why it’s time we paid employees to exercise at work”).

Casper employees track their exercise and sleep with a fitness-reward app. “They use the app to ‘check in’ at their desired gym or fitness facility. (Location-based algorithms ensure you really are at SoulCycle, not on your couch),” (QZ.com).

The program maxes out its incentives at $190 per month ($130 for exercise, and $60 for sleep). This helps subsidize the gym membership and rewards healthy behavior.

 

Providers Rewarding Healthy Behavior

Employers are responding to their employees’ call for change in their wellness programs. And providers are following suit. The Aetna Healthy Actions program rewards employees and their families for adopting a healthier way of life.

In 2003, a company called IncentOne (acquired by Welltok), was one of the first organizations that “identified incentives in healthcare as a critical solution to driving cost savings and engagement,” (Be Healthy And Get Rewarded, Forbes). Now, Welltok is known for its health optimization platform, which makes healthcare more personal.

 

The Definition of Wellbeing

The definition of well-being has expanded”. It encompasses more than health. More than just exercising and eating fruits and vegetables.

Now, it’s also about financial health. It’s about the stress that comes with figuring out how to pay for childcare, your mortgage, or rent. As a result, a one-size-fits-all benefits approach doesn’t work anymore.

A more personalized benefits experience, and benefits which reward healthy behavior, helps get employees closer to that elusive concept of work-life balance.  It also encourages and facilitates healthier living.




Q&A Broke Millennial: Get Your Financial Life Together

 

Q&A Broke Millennial: Get Your Financial Life Together

Erin Lowry is a personal finance expert and the founder of Broke Millennial. She’s also the author of Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together.

Erin spends her days dispensing practical advice so millennials (like her) can navigate pesky (but important) money questions. She joins us now to answer some questions about how she got started, and what it was like getting her own financial life together at an early age.

Can you share what your transition from college to being on your own was like?

The transition ran the pendulum of exciting to stressful. I moved to New York City pretty quickly after graduating college, so I got thrust into handling my own affairs pretty quickly.

However, I was prepared for that because I went to college in America while my family lived in China, so I was used to having to navigate things for myself.

It’s important to remember that back in 2007, when I went to college, it wasn’t as easy to connect with people overseas. I couldn’t FaceTime my family. Skype was in its infancy and it would cost the GDP of a small country for me to be calling my parents on a regular basis.

I moved to New York City with one part-time job working in entertainment and just kept hustling and applying for absolutely anything else in order to pick up other work to make ends meet.

I ended up working as a barista and babysitter in addition to my main job. There were exhausting days and moments I cried, but overall, I loved making it on my own.

What could have made the transition a smoother and quicker one for you?

What could your parents, community, or educational organizations have provided, which could have helped establish your financial literacy early on, and helped to get your financial life together?

I wouldn’t change a single thing, partially because I’d been given a great financial education from my parents.

Had I not been given that advantage, it would’ve been a real struggle for me to handle money in those early years.

What are your tips for new graduates struggling to set a budget and live within their means after years of being supported by their parents?

Know your cash flow. How much money is coming in each month, and how much is going out.

Write out a list of all your expenses and evaluate where your money is going. Do you have places you can slash in order to reallocate those funds elsewhere?

You also need to be vigilant about ensuring other people don’t spend your money. Some peers will out earn you, so it’s important that you not try to constantly keep up if you don’t have the financial means. Be honest with your friends and loved ones.

When your peers ask you for advice, what is the one change you tell them is most important to make to get their financial life on track?

The first step is running your cash flow. You need to know how much money is coming in and how much is going out each month. Then you need to also face your debt numbers and create an actionable plan. Without knowing this information, it’s pretty impossible for you to have control over your financial life.




How Hobbies Are Healthy

hobbies are healthy

Success isn’t the source of happiness. Happiness is the source of success. That’s the gist of The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work, a book by Shawn Achor. Hobbies, he writes, “enhance our concentration, engagement, motivation, and sense of enjoyment.” Simply put, hobbies are healthy.

Time management and productivity are considered integral to an effective work day. It stands to reason that making smart use of our time outside of work contributes to a better work-life balance.

What Constitutes a Hobby?

“Smart use” isn’t so easy to qualify, either. Turning on the TV to binge on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime or whatever streaming service you prefer is fun, to be sure. It is an escape and can help us unwind. But when it comes to discussing how hobbies are healthy—how they can help us—media consumption doesn’t enter the mix.

A healthy hobby is something that challenges us. Hobbies can include activities such as coloring, cooking, baking, knitting, sports, writing. Music also makes us happy.

Whatever you choose, it should provide a “sense of mastery, you’re developing new skills, new thought processes, and really challenging yourself to learn something new and develop your skill set,” says Dr. Kevin Eschleman, an assistant psychology professor at San Francisco State University, who led a study on the correlation between hobbies and job performance (“5 Hobbies That Make People Better At Their Jobs”, Fast Company).

Hobbies Can Make You a Better Employee

According to a study (“Benefiting from creative activity: The positive relationships between creative activity, recovery experiences, and performance-related outcomes”), “people with creative hobbies outside of work feel more relaxed and in control in their off-hours, and are more likely to be helpful to coworkers and creative in their approach solving work problems than those without these hobbies,” (“13 hobbies that could make you a better employee”, Business Insider).

Further, a study by the Society of Behavioral Medicine—”Real-Time Associations Between Engaging in Leisure and Daily Health and Well-Being”—discovered that participants who engaged in hobbies were found to be happier, more capable of dealing with stress, and had lower heart rates.

How Can We Be Happy?

“Happiness makes us better at our jobs, makes us more productive, resilient, and less likely to burn out,” says Stewart Brown, founder and president of Genuine Health (“How hobbies can make us better in the workplace”, The Globe and Mail). “We’re more drawn to happy people – in both our personal and professional lives. You would obviously want to deal with someone who’s happy if given the choice. Ditto with companies – who doesn’t want to do business with a company that’s full of happy and helpful people?”

Mr. Brown boils it down to this: How can we be happy? To which, he adds:

How can we provide an environment where employees feel the same and are motivated to do great work? This is the big question that many HR departments face, and companies spend a lot of money coming up with initiatives to boost morale. But in reality, the solution can be so simple.

It’s my opinion that hobbies can help boost our day-to-day happiness and make us better at our job.

We don’t need research studies to tell us hobbies are a good thing. We’ve all had hobbies we love.

The take-away isn’t just that hobbies are healthy, they are necessary. We need something other than work to stimulate and satisfy us. We need multiple sources of happiness.

Hobbies have proven to make us happy, and happiness begets success, so why do we have so much trouble incorporating them into our lives?

Hobbies Are Healthy, but They Are Also Hard

“In general, Americans actually find free time more difficult to enjoy than work,” Mr. Achor says in The Happiness Advantage. There are too many “passive leisure” activities, he says, that are easier to fall into than, say, going for a bike ride or writing.

For the most part, our jobs require us to use our skills, engage our minds, and pursue our goals—all things that have been shown to contribute to happiness. Of course, leisure activities can do this too, but because they’re not required of us—because there is no “leisure boss” leaning over our shoulder on Sunday mornings telling us we’d better be at the art museum by 9 A.M. sharp—we often find it difficult to muster the energy necessary to kick-start them.

The Happiness Advantage

We need to make things easier. We need to create the habit. We need to embrace the idea that hobbies are healthy and build it into our daily DNA.

Schedule it into your day, and keep to the commitment. Instead of turning on the TV, pick up a book. The first step will always be difficult, but once you’ve taken it, the next ones will keep coming.