When you hear the words, “financial health” used in a sentence, does it make you feel just a tad queasy? Does your stomach do a tiny flip-flop and make you want to think more pleasant thoughts? If so, you’re not alone. Most people would rather have a molar extracted than think about their financial situation.

FINANCIAL STRESS

Most of us stress about money to a certain extent, depending on where we fall on the socioeconomic scale. Some of us may worry about big expenses such as the next family vacation you dream of taking, how we will pay for our kids’ college educations or if we are saving enough money for retirement.

Things get even more stressful when your financial uncertainties include wondering how you will be able to pay the rent, feed your family or pay for daycare, while praying that your car doesn't break down again, so you can keep getting back and fourth to work. Financial stress of this magnitude is a soul crusher. When you don't know how your basic survival needs will be met, it's difficult to think about anything else. When your back is to the wall and you don't have enough income to meet your expenses, you can feel trapped and hopelessness.

MOVE THE NEEDLE ON POVERTY

Olmsted County, in conjunction with several other organizations within the community, is working to address the needs of those impacted by financial stress and/or poverty within Olmsted County. According to Heidi Welsch, the director of Family Support & Assistance at Olmsted County, “Eighty percent of people on public assistance are working.” Olmsted County wants to move the needle on poverty, and Welsch adds that, “We need living wage jobs and affordable housing in Olmsted County, and to do that we need to fill in the gaps and get upstream of the problem.” 

Jennifer Woodford, executive director at Channel One Regional Food Bank, says, “Most of our clients are employed.” Woodford adds there are three key pieces that need to work in unison to keep the working poor afloat: housing, childcare and transportation. As soon as one or more of these components falters—the car breaks down, for example—the entire situation can implode. If someone cannot get to work, they can’t pay to fix the car or afford their basic needs, and it becomes a vicious cycle. While much of the economy has recovered, people who live in poverty take two to three years longer to recover, because they typically have fewer resources.

FINANCIAL EDUCATION AND TAX ASSISTANCE 

Berni Johnson-Clark, education manager at FamilyMeans Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS), says, “Our financial health is intertwined with our spending and saving habits. Just like physical health is a combination of fitness and food intake, our finances must combine a realistic balance of spending and saving.” Johnson-Clark adds that, “Financial security is a part of our well-being.” As such, FamilyMeans offers education to clients, on-site as well as online, focusing on financial education, budget, credit counseling and debt management. 

As we all know, filing taxes can be overwhelming. To ease the pressures associated with filing, the Rochester Public Library is offering in-person assistance for anyone earning less than $62,000 last year. Staff will be available every Wednesday from 5-8 p.m. through the end of tax season, to help answer tax questions and file taxes online using myfreetaxes.com. The United Way of Olmsted County in partnership with AARP offers tax preparation assistance with an IRS certified tax professional through April 18, 2016. For sites and phone numbers see uwolmsted.org/taxhelp.

Financial stress can creep into every area of your life, impacting your emotional and physical health. If you are struggling financially, there are numerous resources within the community, like Olmsted County, FamilyMeans (familymeans.org) and Channel One, along with several other organizations positioned to help ease the burden of financial stress. 

Cindy Mennenga, owner of Straight-Talk Wellness, is a health coach and freelance writer based in Rochester.

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