Buzzwords, popular phrases with little meaning, creep into virtually all education-speak. You can hear current buzzwords like within four walls, competency-based education, UDL (universal design for learning), MOOC, blended learning, and flipped classroom spattered throughout the educational environment. The problem with buzzwords is that the once popular and fresh phrases soon become overused and lose their power. 

For some educational institutions, financial wellness has become such a buzzword. The problem is that financial wellness, though shown to be excellent for both schools and students, is not easily defined. 

What Financial Wellness Isn’t

Before we define what financial wellness is, let’s state what it isn’t. 

  • It is not just a buzzword. In the APA State of Our Nation1 survey released in November 2017, 62% of American adults stated that money concerns were their most common stressor. Educational institutions that offer true financial wellness programs do so to change the lives of their students. 
  • It is not just classes on building credit, student loans, or debt management. American students have had access to financial education for decades, yet according to the 2016 College Students and Personal Finance Study2, 43% of college students do not track their spending and 58% save no money on a monthly basis.  
  • It is not being wealthy, because wealth does not equate to happiness or well-being. In his book, “Your Money: The Missing Manual,” author JD Roth states, “If you have clothes to wear, food to eat, and a roof over your head, increased disposable income has just a small influence on your sense of well-being.” 

The Right Definition

Capturing a complete definition of financial wellness is tricky because it means different things to different people. At its most basic level, financial wellness is a holistic approach to counter financial illness.
This holistic approach includes a combination of factors such as:

  • Satisfaction with current finances
  • Increasing positive financial behaviors like saving, reducing debt, and budgeting
  • Financial knowledge that helps to change behavior
  • Reducing financial stress (The National Student Wellness Study3 has found that 70% of college students worry about finances.) 
  • Creation of a financial plan in order to reach desired financial goals

One Size Does Not Fit All

One reason that financial wellness is so difficult to define is that what it means depends on who is defining it. An educational organization that provides financial wellness may include any number of goals, which can include stress reduction, money management, savings, establishing credit, and/or student loan repayment. These goals are met through a variety of online and in-person programs meant to shape student’s thoughts and habits about money-related issues.

Similarly, each individual’s approach to finance will differ in terms of goals, background, knowledge-level, and behavioral challenges. Each will also respond differently to different stimuli and incentives to participate.

So, much like physical wellness, while the basic core competencies of financial wellness are the same across the board, the precise goals and components will differ from school to school and student to student.  

iGrad believes that financial wellness is an ongoing, evolving, and personal concept based not only on financial literacy but also on the successful implementation of these sound financial principles now and in the building of a sustainable financial future. Ultimately, we define financial wellness as having the knowledge, ability, and desire to make intelligent financial decisions, as well as having the capacity to live a happy life within one’s means.

 

To see how the iGrad Platform improves Financial Wellness for college students, check out our demo video here.

 

1 Stress in America: The State of Our Nation

2 2016 College Students and Personal Finance Study

3 National Student Financial Wellness Study: Key Findings Report