Financial Health: Binging versus Grazing

‘Tis the Season to Eat, Shop, and be Merry, and social media is full of advice on how to control your retail urges, contain your appetite, and connect with your emotions so that your bank account, waistline, and mental health remain balanced as another year comes to an end.  The commonality that pundits and amateurs alike agree on is that people should avoid “binging.”


Binging, while traditionally associated with extreme eating, can equally apply to shopping without control, exercising in fits and spurts, or indulging in almost any activity to excess.  The causes of binge behavior can fall into three categories: psychological, chemical, and sociocultural. [1] One way to counter binging is to exercise moderation, or as PayActiv likes to say, by sensibly grazing.


With eating, we are familiar with the idea that to maintain consistent energy levels, eating small healthy meals throughout the day keeps metabolism in check, staves off hunger, and controls blood sugar, as long as caloric intake is regulated.  Likewise, one who follows an individualized exercise plan has a greater chance of meeting long-term goals than one who exercises furiously before the holiday parties with no intent of returning to the gym until another social event is on the horizon.  Even with work, chances are working feverishly for 72 hours before a deadline isn’t going to produce a better outcome than a consistent approach where one meets milestones over time.


Speaking of work, if we have banished binging behavior in so many aspects of day-to-day life, ever wonder why our paychecks don’t follow suit?  We work every day, incrementally earning our bread in a steady and sustained manner.  Yet, we have to wait for our earnings.  Most often, employees are paid after as many days as legally possible in a system that has no ascertainable benefit to the worker.  For millions of working Americans, this system is fraught with danger because many are unbanked, living paycheck to paycheck, (or both) and experiencing an increasingly prevalent drain on their health because of financial stress.


Recently, 75% of survey participants named money as their number one source of stress. The data finds stressed workers are less productive, more likely to visit a doctor, miss work more often, and are more susceptible to on the job accidents.  From a medical perspective, “when you’re under stress, your body experiences immediate short-term effects, such as the release of cortisol, memory and concentration suppression, increased heart rate and blood pressure, faster breathing and a reduction in metabolism. In the long-term, stress is known to increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, digestive problems and sexual dysfunction. It can lead to unhealthy weight loss or gain, skin problems, sleep issues, increased pain and the exacerbation of chronic diseases like diabetes.”[2] As if these effects weren’t bad enough, paycheck-to-paycheck workers also pay a high price if they are blindsided monetarily.  Should any unforeseen financial emergency occur between paydays, they are susceptible to incurring overdraft and late fees, and for those without bank accounts: increased debt from predatory lending.

What if this binge like payout could be smoothened out?  A more reasonable alternative is to allow access to the precise amount of funds a worker might need at precisely the time they need it.  It’s customization of currency and eventually workers can be paid the way almost everything else functions today – in real time.  With controls built in place to avoid any incurrence of debt, you control your money as if you control your calories, your exercise regimen, or even your work schedule.  By altering the timing of pay, you alleviate the propensity to binge and customize the appeal to graze in your favor.


It goes without saying that controlling your diet, balancing your work with play and regularly exercising all lead to better health.  We also know financial stress has dire consequences on your health.  Until now, it hasn’t occurred to employers nationwide that other than medical insurance, they could offer a financial wellness benefit that can also substantially improve their employees’ wellbeing, especially for millions of workers who are living paycheck to paycheck.


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