Take control of your financial wellness | | – Berkshire Eagle

Human beings are complicated machines. To function at our best, we rely on dozens of interconnected systems that manage everything from the physical functions within our body to our interactions with the world outside it. Trouble in one aspect of our health can have repercussions across the whole network.

Some of these connections — between the lungs and the heart, for example, or muscles and the nervous system — have been known for centuries. In recent decades, however, health experts have broadened their focus to consider things like nutrition, exercise and mental health as important factors in our overall well-being.

Wellness, in its modern sense, seeks to address all of these factors. It expands the concept of health to include not only our physical body, but also our emotions, our relationships and our environment.

But what about our money?

There are, after all, few things that occupy more of our thoughts and time than finances. In the American Psychological Association’s 2020 Stress in America Survey, 64% of adults reported that money was a significant source of stress in their lives. Concerns over money — where it comes from, where it goes, when to spend and when to save — color our relationships with loved ones and influence our decisions on everything from diet and exercise to major medical procedures.

“When we think of the word wellness, we often associate it with physical health,” wrote Matthew R. Freitag, Vice President of Financial Wellness at Lee Bank. “In addition to wellness in the traditional sense, it is equally important to periodically assess your financial wellness.”

Freitag and the Lee Bank team take a holistic approach to financial advising: considering the many bits and pieces that make up their customers’ finances — how they interact with each other, and how they affect the customer’s ability to address their own needs and goals — and building a strategy to address each concern with the goal of building up the customer’s overall financial health.

Building a diagnosis

Just as physical wellness can’t be reduced down to a single number, financial wellness isn’t measured solely in dollar amounts. When working with new customers, Freitag conducts a comprehensive exam of their finances, looking at income, investments, spending habits and long-term plans.

“By undergoing a financial wellness check-up, we can develop a financial profile and address common financial ailments that you may be facing,” he wrote. “For example: Are you saving enough for retirement? Are you spending more than you are taking in from your job? Are you investing appropriately given your long-term goals and risk tolerance? Addressing these common financial themes today can set you up for future prosperity.”

A key component of Lee Bank’s financial wellness services is the understanding that there is no universal prescription for financial health. Every customer comes in with their own experiences, concerns and desires regarding money, and every customer will need an individualized plan to address their unique circumstances.

“Customers’ financial wellness questions are often unique and specific. Some questions may be answered through one conversation, while others may involve a more comprehensive approach that involves the modeling of various scenarios using advanced financial planning software,” Freitag wrote.

With the help of powerful modeling programs, Freitag can explore the potential outcomes of different strategies, and adapt the client’s financial plan as their life circumstances change. “Once a customer’s profile is created within the software, we can continuously monitor and update it,” he wrote. “If a significant life event impacts their financial lives, we can update their analysis and reevaluate their plan. Additionally, we can build in hypothetical situations that may occur in the future and see how these situations would impact their overall financial wellness.”

Getting started

To many, the idea of healthy, stable finances can seem like an impossible dream. But Freitag insists that financial wellness is a valuable goal for everyone, regardless of their current financial situation.

“Financial wellness is for everyone, no matter your age or current financial standing,” he wrote. “Whether you are 23 and just entering the workforce with questions on what the right 401K mix is for you; or you’re 55 and beginning to ask: ‘When can I comfortably retire?’. We can help you answer those questions and set you up for continued financial stability.”

Lee Bank’s services are designed to work for customers across the spectrum of financial knowledge and experience. “The service is free to customers of Lee Bank and covers topics ranging from retirement planning, cash flow management, financial education, and debt management,” Freitag wrote.

For those feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of facing their money worries head-on, simply sitting down with an expert to assess their situation can be a way to ease into bigger changes. “Taking a financial wellness inventory is a great first step,” Freitag wrote. “This includes identifying and understanding their own income, expenses, and assets. Once we have that financial inventory, we can begin to create the financial profile and discuss specific goals and concerns. We can then make recommendations to improve their overall financial wellness. Identifying financial assets and liabilities is a step in the right direction.”

Personal interaction is Lee Bank’s most powerful tool when it comes to setting clients up for better financial health. “When people think of banks, the first things that come to mind are conventional banking products and services- personal and business accounts and lending options, safe deposit boxes, notary services, and digital banking technology,” Freitag wrote. “At Lee Bank, we are striving to take the conversation one step further by focusing on the overall financial wellness of our customers. By setting specific financial goals and creating individualized wellness programs, we set our customers up for future financial freedom.”

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