Katherine Cecala, president, Junior Achievement of Arizona.

January is Financial Wellness Month and it’s the perfect time for individuals to take control of their monetary health by developing sound fiscal habits.

Junior Achievement of Arizona (JAAZ) improves students’ quality of life through teaching the building blocks of entrepreneurship, work readiness and financial literacy. The organization, which was founded in 1957, achieves this goal through programs including JA BizTown, JA Finance Park and in-class programs.

“These skills are the building blocks of everything in life,” JAAZ President Katherine Cecala said. “It gives individuals tools that lead to the financial stability they need to lead a good life.”

From starting businesses and creating jobs to spending money to keep the economy moving forward, individual financial wellness is critical to the success of the economy.

Junior Achievement reports that those who complete its financial literacy programs are not only better equipped to reach financial stability but are also 143 percent more likely to start a business, 30 percent more likely to attain a Bachelor’s degree and 67 percent more likely to obtain an advanced degree.

“When individuals are financially stable they contribute to the economy,” Cecala said. “When you have a healthy economy you have a healthy community.”

While many adults pride themselves on their budgeting abilities, statistics show that 60 percent of 18 to 34 year-olds do not keep a budget. Understanding income versus expenses and determining fixed-cost items such as mortgages and car payments versus discretionary items such as entertainment and shopping help lead to financially sound decision-making.

“When we teach students, it’s an eye-opening experience for them to see and understand the true cost of everyday items,” Cecala said. “Many don’t know they have to pay for utilities like the internet.”

Whether it’s building up savings or honing transferable life and work skills, ensuring a reliable support system is available to help weather storms is also vital to achieving financial wellness.

“The success of our economy depends on people being prepared.” Cecala said.

-Written by Alexie Chavez, marketing coordinator for the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce.

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