5 Financial Wellness Tips to Help Weather the Winter

You can regain some control over today’s money pressures by exploring your employer's financial support options and benefits, making plans to save and taking other simple actions.

A woman wearing a Santa hat and wrapped in a Christmas blanket sits in front of a Christmas tree looking very relaxed.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

After a busy year, it may be tempting to kick off the shoes, settle down with a cup of warm cocoa and shift your focus to 2023, but that would be a missed opportunity to explore how to improve your financial health. Amid the holiday season and all the joy (and spending) it brings, this year we also have wild inflation and a volatile market — making it a true balancing act to try to make ends meet while keeping things merry and bright.

With all that in mind, this is an ideal time to organize your resources so you can be better prepared to navigate today’s challenging economic environment without sacrificing your financial future. Here are five simple steps you can take to both regain some control over today’s pocketbook pressure and keep building for a brighter tomorrow. 

How to improve your financial health starts here:

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1. Ask for Help.

Did you know that many employers offer access to financial education, advice and resources as a part of their benefits package? If not, you’re in good company: Our second annual State of the Workplace study (opens in new tab) showed that 47% of employees have either never thought to or are unsure if they are allowed to reach out to their employer for help.

We also found that 90% of employees and 96% of HR leaders are placing a priority on re-evaluating benefits packages this year, and an overwhelming 96% of HR leaders agree their company must do a better job with helping employees maximize the financial benefits offered to them.

In a way, this is great news: This is a moment where you have an opportunity to make your voice heard and where many employers are paying keen attention. Businesses are emphasizing holistic financial wellness practices going into 2023, such as financial wellness programs, caregiver benefits (including flexible work hours for employees who are caregivers), telehealth, mental health benefits and equity compensation (opens in new tab).

Take the time today to reach out to your workplace for help. Check out whether your company offers any additional financial benefits or support — you never know if you don’t ask.

2. Educate Yourself.

Before buying gifts for everyone on your list, give yourself the gift of information. The end of the year is a good time to build up your financial knowledge and skills, and revisit your financial plan — or make one, if you haven’t yet.

What is a financial plan? It can be as simple as creating a monthly budget or putting $10 a month into savings, or be as complex as working with a team of professionals on everything from wealth management to estate planning. If you’re not sure where to start, there are many online tools to help you figure out budgeting and savings goals.

Many workplaces also offer financial education resources on topics ranging from budgeting and investing basics to retirement planning and education costs, and some even offer access to financial advisers or coaches.

There may also be employee resource groups or additional trainings available around more specialized topics to help you build up greater confidence and skills to tackle your unique financial situation — such as racial justice, climate change, gender equality and more.

Another important topic is taxes, which are right around the corner. While your workplace likely cannot provide tax advice, they may be able to help connect you to information or more specialized financial professionals who can help.

3. Rock the Workplace.

Year-end is also typically the time when companies invite employees to make elections for their health care and other benefits for the coming year. If cost and affordability are top of mind for you this season, you’re not alone: Nearly two-thirds (60%) of employees in the State of the Workplace study (opens in new tab) told us they are paying much closer attention as they review their workplace financial benefits this year.

Open enrollment season is a chance to get better acquainted with your company’s full support system as well as the technology you’ll be using the rest of the year to navigate your benefits. Even if nothing has changed, take advantage of trainings, webinars and engagement drives your employer may offer. It can also help to sit down and assess how you used your benefits throughout 2022 and how your needs might be similar or different next year.

If you’ve already completed your enrollment or are on your partner’s benefits, don’t worry: Many employers today also offer other financial perks that you can access throughout the year, from classics like gym membership discounts and commuter benefits to full financial wellness suites and one-on-one financial coaching.

4. Plan to Save.

Saving can often be the first thing we let go of when money is tight, if we have any savings at all — according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) (opens in new tab), a typical working family doesn’t even have one month's worth of income saved outside of a retirement account.

While it may feel counterintuitive, do everything you can to avoid dipping into your savings to cover bills or expenses, and do your best to continue to add to your savings (even if it means cutting down on holiday spending). Start as small as you need to and figure out what works for your lifestyle — perhaps it’s just putting away $5 a month.

That said, fully funding your employer-sponsored retirement plan to earn any company match that’s offered is an effective and efficient way to invest in your financial future. Consider using the final months of 2022 to try to max out your retirement plan contributions: According to the IRS (opens in new tab), in 2022, you can save up to $20,500 through your 401(k) plan, with up to $6,500 in additional contributions for those age 50 and over, and up to $6,000 in an individual retirement account (IRA), plus $1,000 extra if you are 50 or over.

5. Be Your Own Best Friend.

Life happens, but there are always steps we can take to help get a better grasp of our financial affairs (rather than letting our financial affairs get us in their grasp). It can be tricky to find balance, but look at prioritizing your financial health today as a way to become your future self’s best friend.

Stay focused on what you need, reach out for help when you need it and use this time to get all your ducks in a row so you can set yourself up for greater financial health — in 2023 and beyond.

This article has been prepared for informational purposes only. The information and data in the article has been obtained from sources outside of Morgan Stanley. Morgan Stanley makes no representations or guarantees as to the accuracy or completeness of the information or data from sources outside of Morgan Stanley. It does not provide individually tailored investment advice and has been prepared without regard to the individual financial circumstances and objectives of persons who receive it. The strategies and/or investments discussed in this article may not be appropriate for all investors. Morgan Stanley recommends that investors independently evaluate particular investments and strategies, and encourages investors to seek the advice of a Financial Advisor. The appropriateness of a particular investment or strategy will depend on an investor’s individual circumstances and objectives.

Morgan Stanley at Work, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC, and its affiliates and employees do not provide legal or tax advice. You should always consult with and rely on your own legal and/or tax advisors.

Morgan Stanley at Work services are provided by Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC, member SIPC, and its affiliates, all wholly owned subsidiaries of Morgan Stanley.

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This article was written by and presents the views of our contributing adviser, not the Kiplinger editorial staff. You can check adviser records with the SEC (opens in new tab) or with FINRA (opens in new tab).

Aaron Harding, CFP®
Managing Director, Head of Financial Coaching, Morgan Stanley at Work

Aaron J. Harding is head of Financial Coaching for Morgan Stanley at Work (opens in new tab). In this role, he is responsible for developing and implementing human- and tech-powered financial coaching capabilities to support and improve the financial well-being of participants across the Morgan Stanley at Work ecosystem. Prior to joining Morgan Stanley, Aaron led PwC’s Financial Education and Wellness team, providing strategic leadership for the design, development and delivery of employee-focused financial well-being programs, including the assessments, digital tools and thought leadership to support them. Aaron earned his MBA cum laude from the F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business at Babson College where he was an Olin Fellow, and a B.A. cum laude in Psychology from the University of Massachusetts, Boston. CRC 4948393 09/2022