How's Your Health? (Body, Mind and Bank Account)

It started innocently enough when our daughter and eight week old granddaughter were visiting for the weekend.  The week before, their whole household had been sick with the flu.  When I say it started innocently enough, I mean the virus.  Who knew this flu strain was so robust it could live a full week on surfaces and travel with people?  It hit my husband first, then me, then our youngest daughter.    

I’m sure it’s safe to say that we’ve all suffered our fair share of flu and colds in our lives.  Often we’re sick enough to need a couple of days home from our regular work or school schedule to recover and stop the further spread of germs to our daily contacts.   But in my case, I was down for a week.  Hard hit on Monday morning and by Wednesday, I still wasn’t feeling much better.  My attempt to come to work on Thursday was thwarted by my doctor’s instructions to go home, rest and let my body get better.  I wasn’t doing myself OR anyone I came in contact with any favour.

So, home I went but I was a little antsy because although I wasn’t feeling well, I knew there was going to be a lot of work to catch up on once I got back to the office.  And then it occurred to me, I am very fortunate to work for one of the many employers in the Alberta Capital Region that provides benefits so that when I am sick, my financial health will not be compromised.

This is not the case for everyone.  In our province, it is not legislated that employers provide sick pay benefits (although many do, there are some that do not).  So what happens when a person who may already be in a vulnerable financial position has to take a day off without pay to recover from their own illness or care for a sick child?  Obviously, in most cases, it could contribute to increased financial hardship and unnecessary stress to a family.  Of course, it may also mean that a child is sent to school sick or the adult goes to work sick.  Hardly seems fair to anyone. 

There are already too many people struggling to provide for their families - many of them working very hard but still living paycheque to paycheque.  Add a bout of the flu or more serious illness and many are pushed from just barely making ends meet to not being able to pay for basic necessities – like food and shelter.  Of course there are the temporary measures that can be used to help a family in need – like accessing a local food bank.  However, this type of help is short-term and not a sustainable resolution to relieving financial burdens. 

An important part of a family’s health and well-being is a healthy financial situation so that minor set backs, like a day off work for illness, doesn’t have devastating effects.  United Way works collaboratively with community professionals in ongoing initiatives that address the root causes of issues – helping to provide long-term solutions.  One of the solutions is to support organizations that offer financial literacy and asset building education to low and middle income families.  This helps them to make the most of limited resources and is an essential component to poverty reduction.  Not to mention this type of initiative has provided some significant results for many families – helping them to build up personal assets, buy their own home and set aside retirement and emergency savings.

Thanks to your support, our community is more aware of the importance of financial literacy and asset building.  And, with continued support more families will be feeling much better about their personal financial situations and a day off to recover from illness won’t take long to recover from financially. 

Are you prepared with a financial plan if your earnings were to be compromised?  Please share your advice and opinions with us!

To learn more about managing your finances effectively, we have provided a few contacts from the Financial Plus Collaborative, a group of more than 40 organizations providing financial literacy awareness and education in Edmonton and Area. In most cases, these organizations provide low-cost or free workshops, education and information sessions.

Heather Morrison - Chair of Financial Plus Collaborative, City of Edmonton 780.944.5457

Centre for Family Literacy  780.421.7323

Edmonton Mennonite Center for Newcomers 780.428.5062

Elizabeth Fry Society 780.421.1175

Candora Society 780.474.5011

DECSA  780.471.9632

The Family Wealth Academy, Kids Make Cents  780.686.6823

Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women  780.479.8195 -  Workshops on preparing for home ownership


Nancy Critchley is Director, Communications for United Way of the Alberta Capital Region.  She is also a wife, mother and proud grandma of two.