The State of Wellbeing in America and Michigan: What Makes Us Happy?

Wellbeing, according to Merriam-Webster, is the “state of being happy, healthy, or prosperous.” In dissecting that definition, you might conclude that happiness equates to mental or social wellbeing, healthiness connotes physical wellbeing, and prosperity indicates financial wellbeing. But that’s not the whole story, according to the Gallup organization and Sharecare, which started a wellbeing index in 2008 that includes five important benchmarks:

  • Purpose (Career):liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals
  • Social:having supportive relationships and love in your life
  • Financial:managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security
  • Community:liking where you live, feeling safe, and having pride in your community; and
  • Physical:having good health and enough energy to get things done daily.

In 2010, authors Tom Rath and Jim Harter incorporated the index into a best-selling book, called “Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements.” Rath and Harter suggested that most people try to improve their overall wellbeing by treating individual elements: For example, “I would be happier if I got in shape,” (physical wellbeing) or, “I would be happier if I had a high-paying job,” (purpose or career wellbeing). However, they theorized that the elements of wellbeing are interdependent, and that while a majority of people are doing well in at least one area, very few are thriving in all five.

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Rath and Harter’s book resonated with me because of its holistic view – a philosophy I have long subscribed to when working with AMDG Financial’s clients on their financial wellbeing. Although many people would like to achieve wealth and financial security in their lifetimes, I know that money alone may not necessarily bring good health, strong supportive relationships, a fulfilling career or community pride, unless we take them into consideration together.

Last week, I ran across the most recent Gallup/Sharecare report, the 2017 State Well-Being Rankings, which showed that overall, America’s wellbeing score declined in 2017 to 61.5 (compared to 62.1 in 2016). Among the 50 states, South Dakota had the highest wellbeing score (64.10), while West Virginia had the lowest (58.80). Michigan placed in the 4th quintile at 32nd place, with an overall score of 61.3. However, unlike 21 other states, Michigan’s score actually improved last year – from 39th place in 2016. We were in the 3rd quintile for purpose, social and community wellbeing, and in the 4thquintile for physical wellbeing, and I was pleased to see our financial rank just squeak into the 2nd quintile with a score of 19.

A second report published by Gallup and Sharecare drilled further into the topic, by comparing the wellbeing of 186 communities – including Ann Arbor and Flint. Interestingly, Ann Arbor ranked high – 12th out of 186, with a score of 64.4 – while Flint ranked low – 177th, with a score of 59.5. So even with Michigan’s middle-of-the-road score nationally, it’s clear some communities in our state are able to score higher, while others are struggling at the local level to improve their wellbeing (Flint’s water crisis notwithstanding).

Both of the Gallup/Sharecare studies offer solutions at a national and community level, but to me, real improvement in wellbeing starts with us personally. In an upcoming blog, I’ll share my own wellbeing journey with you. In the meantime, however, I’d like to challenge you to think about your wellbeing now, and what you want it to look like in the future. Are you happy in your career? How is your health? Your social relationships? What’s your financial situation and what are your goals? Are you proud to live in your community?

Often, when clients come to visit me for the first time, we spend a lot of time talking about both their life and financial goals. Then, we follow a defined process that helps our clients prioritize the best way to achieve success. Examining all facets of your personal wellbeing can help you crystallize your goals and decide how best to focus on your finances.

Even though we know money can’t buy happiness, we also know your finances play a key role in helping you achieve overall wellbeing. If you’d like to explore how AMDG Financial can help you on the journey, please contact us to schedule a complimentary, no-obligation appointment.

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