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American workers perceive their physical health to be better than their financial health, according to a new study.
The research from the Principal Financial Well-Being Index shows more than half of employees rate themselves as physically fit, compared with just 31 percent who believe they are financially healthy.
Many workers are starting to recognize the link between physical and financial wellness, the study found, with 84 percent of surveyed employees viewing physical health as an investment in their financial future.
In addition, nearly 70 percent believe it is important to remain physically healthy in order to avoid major health expenditures later in life. Just 1 percent of workers think remaining physically healthy is not at all important for avoiding major health costs in the future.
Luke Vandermillen, vice president of retirement and investor services for The Principal, said employees shouldn't separate health from wealth.
"Good physical health is a growing priority as Americans recognize there is a real financial payoff," Vandermillen said. "You really can’t separate health from wealth. By staying well and spending less on health care, workers are able to save and invest more for their financial future."
The research reveals Americans are evaluating the health of their personal finances with the same rigor as they do their physical health. Among the ways employees have given themselves a financial checkup are monitoring spending levels, creating a budget, re-evaluating their investments, reviewing their insurance policies and creating a financial strategy.
In addition, two-thirds of workers have an emergency fund they can access in the event of a job loss or other unanticipated major expense, up from 61 percent in 2009.
"The economic uncertainty of the past few years has taught Americans that they need to adopt a more hands-on, pre-emptive approach to their personal finances, and a financial checkup is a great tool to do just that," said Vandermillen. "We’re especially encouraged by the number of workers who have emergency funds, a positive — and hopefully permanent — change in behavior resulting from the financial crisis."
Despite some proactive steps in the right direction, employees report a number of barriers that are holding them back from feeling financially sound, such as not saving enough, having too much debt and not starting retirement savings early in their careers.
The Principal Financial Well-Being Index, which surveys American workers at growing businesses with 10 to 1,000 workers, is released quarterly by the Principal Financial Group.