Women looking to improve their health and happiness may want to review their portfolio before revving up the treadmill. A new study commissioned by financial security company Northwestern Mutual, in partnership with LLuminari, a national network of evidence-based health experts, indicates that women who actively take control of their finances are healthier and happier than those who donÂ™t.
Women who are proactive in managing their finances are significantly more likely to report that they are in excellent to very good health, happy, hopeful, optimistic, confident, cheerful and upbeat. They also are less likely to say theyÂ™re worried, regretful, conflicted, disappointed and depressed.
Being financially secure isnÂ™t only about how much you earn and creating wealth. ItÂ™s about what you do with what you have. As the survey indicates, taking steps to control your finances can have great implications for your physical and emotional well-being, said Meridee Maynard, senior vice president, Northwestern Mutual. The first step both women and men can take is to work with a financial professional to identify your goals and build an appropriate personal balance sheet that addresses your risk, investment and spending needs.
In conjunction with the study, Northwestern Mutual and LLuminari have launched a website Â“ www.sevenfinancialhabits.com Â“ where individuals can learn more about the steps they can take to improve their physical and fiscal health. It includes the Healthy Habits Quiz, where individuals can determine how well they are currently doing when it comes to exercising healthy financial habits.
The financial challenge for women
According to the study, nearly three-quarters of women place a high importance on financial security, compared to 62% of men, which leads to some significant differences in perspective. The findings show that about half of women who are actively managing their finances are likely to report far too much stress to somewhat too much stress versus more than three-quarters of women who donÂ™t take a proactive approach. But overall, women still report higher levels of stress and symptoms than their male counterparts. Moreover, only 14% of women report feeling financially prepared, and are less satisfied than men with the progress theyÂ™re making toward meeting their financial goals.
There are a number of long-standing financial realities that women continue to face, all of which contribute to these financial insecurities, said Maynard. For example, women earn lower salaries on average, leave the workforce for longer amounts of time and live longer than men, meaning they have to save more for retirement.
Empowerment: what healthy women know
The Northwestern Mutual/LLuminari findings come as more Americans Â“ women and men Â“ struggle with the personal and stressful consequences of a general economic slowdown in the United States.
We know that stress is becoming a major health problem in this country and that money matters are a leading cause of stress for three-quarters of Americans1, said psychiatrist Janet Taylor, an M.D. and member of the LLuminari network. WhatÂ™s encouraging, however, is that the survey identified the specific financial habits of both women and men who feel the most financially secure and the least stressed Â“ habits that can make a real difference between having feelings of despair or health and happiness, even during times of economic downturn.
The seven financial habits through which healthy women have taken control of their finances include:
1. Have a financial plan
2. Have short-term and long-term financial goals
3. Take active steps to achieve your financial goals
4. Take steps to protect your family from financial misfortune
5. Pay off credit cards every month and have good credit standing
6. Spend within your budgets
7. Work with a financial professional.
Anyone can apply any of these behaviors to their lifestyles, no matter what shape theyÂ™re in Â“ physically, financially or otherwise, said Taylor. You can choose to take small steps or you can choose to take big ones Â“what is key is that you choose to do something and take control.
About the study
The Northwestern Mutual/LLuminari study included 2,400 individuals who were surveyed online in January 2008. Working with LLuminariÂ™s experts, Northwestern Mutual developed a questionnaire that focused on understanding the link between financial and physical health, if any. Respondents were between the ages of 25 and 69, balanced by gender. All participants have household incomes of $50,000 or more.
For more information, go to www.sevenfinancialhabits.com.
About Northwestern Mutual
The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, Milwaukee, WI (Northwestern Mutual)Â has been helping policyowners and clients achieve financial security for more than 150 years. The company is an industry leader, with over $1 trillion of life insurance protection in force, maintains the highest available ratings for insurance financial strength from all four major rating agencies: Standard & Poor’s, Fitch Ratings, A. M. Best and MoodyÂ™s.
For 25 years, a FORTUNE magazine survey has named Northwestern Mutual AmericaÂ™s Most Admired company in the life/health insurance industry. Further information on Northwestern Mutual, its subsidiaries and affiliates can be found at: www.nmfn.com.
LLuminari Inc. is a prestigious network of the best-known evidence-based health experts who believe that communicating about health is as important as practicing medicine. Each expert is recognized as a leading healthcare practitioner in his/her own specialty; collectively they are a powerful group who literally address health & wellness holistically across specialties.Â Our experts are not only leaders in their fields but are also prominent in the media, and therefore well known and trusted by millions of viewers. With so much health and wellness misinformation on the Web today, ourÂ group ofÂ leading medical professionals has come together through Be-Well.com to support and guide healthy conversation.Â They are committing their time and expertise to BeWell.com because they believe people need a safe, evidence-based, communal place to share concerns, receive guidance, and participate in healthy debates that explore more than one side of an issue.
1 Stress in America, study by the American Psychological Association, October 2007
For Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company
Kerstin Parkel, 718-875-2121
Jean Towell, 1-800-323-7033