ICFE eNEWS #15-03 - Jan 12th 2015

Personal Health and Finance Quiz Can Guide New Year’s Resolutions

By Dr. Barbara O’Neill, Extension Specialist in Financial Resource Management, Rutgers University

Each year, almost half of Americans develop New Year’s resolutions to improve different aspects of their lives. Often these resolutions involve health and personal finances. Specific examples include saving money, reducing debt, losing weight, quitting smoking, and increased physical activity.

According to a University of Scranton study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, the top five New Year’s resolutions for 2014 were: 1. lose weight, 2. get organized, 3. spend less, save more, 4. enjoy life to the fullest, and 5. stay fit and healthy. Three of these top five resolutions (#1, #3, and #5) directly involve health and personal finances while the other two (#2 and #4) are indirectly related (e.g., organized people are likely to keep their finances on track and healthy and financially secure people are able to live life to the fullest).

To help Americans develop health and financial New Year’s resolutions, Rutgers Cooperative Extension has a free online self-assessment tool called the Personal Health and Finance Quiz. The quiz is available online at no charge and is believed to be among the first surveys for public use to simultaneously query users about their daily health and personal finance practices. Some examples of daily behaviors include eating breakfast, getting at least 7 hours of sleep per night, avoiding sugar-sweetened beverages, following a budget, owing less than 20% of monthly take-home pay on consumer debt payments, and maintaining an adequate emergency fund.

The Personal Health and Finance Quiz is part of Small Steps to Health and Wealth™ (SSHW) a national Cooperative Extension program developed in 2004 at Rutgers to motivate Americans to take action to simultaneously improve their health and personal finances. SSHW was built around a framework of 25 research-based behavior change strategies and has won several national awards for its creativity and impact. Additional information about SSHW and its behavior change strategies.

People who complete the Personal Health and Finance Quiz indicate one of four frequencies for their performance of ten daily health behaviors and ten daily financial behaviors. The responses are Never, Sometimes, Usually, and Always. Upon completion of the quiz, they receive a score for each section of the quiz (i.e., a Health Score and a Finance Score), a Total Score, and links to additional online resources for improved health and financial management.

Providing quiz users with personalized feedback on their daily health and financial practices was an important reason for developing the quiz, notes Dr. Barbara O’Neill, Extension Specialist in Financial Resource Management for Rutgers Cooperative Extension. “Of course, quiz scores are only as accurate as information provided by users,” she notes. “Otherwise, people are just fooling themselves and are not receiving an honest assessment of the activities they are doing well and where they can improve.”

The Personal Health and Finance Quiz has two additional purposes beyond providing feedback to individual users. The second is to collect research data about the daily health and financial practices of Americans to inform future Cooperative Extension educational programs and the third is to use quiz scores to evaluate the impact of SSHW learning activities. “The quiz can be taken as a pre-test before people attend a SSHW program and as a post-test several months later to determine if they changed their health and financial practices after learning new information,” notes O’Neill.

The Personal Health and Finance Quiz is Rutgers Cooperative Extension’s sixth online self-assessment tool. The previous five online quizzes include the Financial Fitness Quiz, Identity Theft Risk Assessment Quiz, Investment Risk Tolerance Quiz, Personal Resiliency Resources Assessment Quiz, and Wise Credit Management Quiz. Several of these quizzes have collected data about Americans’ financial practices for over a decade. Together, they have been taken collectively by more than a quarter of a million people with over 200,000 having taken the investment risk tolerance quiz alone. “It is one of the largest data bases every developed for personal finance research,” notes O’Neill.

Doing even just a few of the twenty recommended daily practices on the Personal Health and Finance Quiz is a great way to get started on the path to better health and improved financial security. “The more quiz activities that are performed by quiz takers, the better,” notes Dr. O’Neill. “A high quiz score means that you are doing many of the daily activities that health and financial experts recommend to improve health and build wealth, which increases your likelihood of success. Low scoring items can become actionable resolutions for the New Year”

Written by: Dr. Barbara O’Neill, Extension Specialist in Financial Resource Management
Rutgers Cooperative Extension, New Brunswick, NJ

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Paul S. Richard
President - Executive Director
Institute of Consumer Financial Education (ICFE)

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