Have you considered integrating a discussion of health behaviors into your financial education or counseling program? Perhaps you have, but don’t know how to get started. Here are ten steps that financial practitioners can take to help their clients understand health and financial relationships and make positive behavior changes.

  • Review the SSHW Web Site—Dozens of educational materials about relationships between health and personal finances can be found at the SSHW public website (https://njaes.rutgers.edu/sshw/) and the internal website for educators (https://njaes.rutgers.edu/sshw/internal/).

  • Take the Personal Health and Finance Quiz—The 20-question quiz provides insights into personal health and financial behaviors and can be useful as a program participant handout. A “paper and pencil” version is available for downloading and printing at https://njaes.rutgers.edu/money/assessment-tools/personal-health-and-finance-quiz.pdf.

  • Read Health and Personal Finance Research—Understanding the implications of research studies can increase your knowledge and confidence to integrate health and personal finance topics. A list of published articles using data collected from the Personal Health and Finance Quiz can be found in the “Research” section of the SSHW public website (https://njaes.rutgers.edu/sshw/).

  • Use SSHW Posters—Four colorful posters that illustrate relationships between health and personal finances (e.g., the high cost of smoking, junk food, and eating out) can be downloaded from the “Posters” section of the SSHW public website (https://njaes.rutgers.edu/sshw/).

  • Sponsor a SSHW Challenge—Practitioners can organize a challenge in their practice setting (e.g., at a military installation or within a county) and provide prizes as an incentive for participation. A form for participants to track ten daily health and financial practices on a weekly basis is available at https://www.slideshare.net/BarbaraONeill/sshw-challenge-tracking-formnew-logo.

  • Take the SSHW Training Course—A 140-slide Power Point presentation for a comprehensive training that includes research summaries, resource materials, and an overview of the 25 SSHW behavior change strategies is available at https://njaes.rutgers.edu/sshw/internal/docs/small-steps-to-health-and-wealth-training-u-mo.pdf.

  • Sponsor a Workplace Wellness Program—Many employers are interested in both the physical and financial health of their employees from a “bottom line” perspective. Worksite newsletters for each SSHW behavior change strategy are available at https://njaes.rutgers.edu/sshw/.

  • Send Motivational Messages—Hundreds of motivational messages from past SSHW challenges are archived online at https://njaes.rutgers.edu/sshw/. These messages can be sent to learners via e-mail or texting or tweaked for social media use as tweets.

  • Share a Video—The SSHW website (https://njaes.rutgers.edu/sshw/) includes a series of videos about SSHW behavior change strategies that were recorded by the University of Arkansas. It also includes a series of nine short animated videos that work well for presentations and online links.

  • Use Interactive Learning Activities—Several activities are available on the SSHW internal website (https://njaes.rutgers.edu/sshw/internal/) including a SSHW Bingo game, Coat of Arms activity, PowerPoint Jeopardy! style game, pre- and post-test, and wellness wheel activity.

AFCPE members are encouraged to use SSHW program materials to stimulate discussions of health and personal finance behavior relationships. A good way to start conversations with clients about personal health habits in a non-threatening way is to turn questions into statements such as “Tell me what you do to take care of your health.”  The answer could hold clues to clients’ level of conscientiousness that can inform the content and duration of interventions to change behavior.


Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D, CFP®, CRPC®, AFC, CHC, CFEd, CFCS, is a Distinguished Professor in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, Rutgers University, and is Rutgers Cooperative Extension’s Extension Specialist in Financial Resource Management.

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