By JEANNIE WILEY WOLF - While most people think of them as separate goals, they are in fact closely related, said Amy Carles, OSU Extension financial education program coordinator who teaches "Small Steps to Health and Wealth," a financial education program of Hancock County Saves. - "The nice thing is there's lots of ways that you are actually able to take a look at both of those together and take small steps toward achieving your goals," she said.

By JEANNIE WILEY WOLF - While most people think of them as separate goals, they are in fact closely related, said Amy Carles, OSU Extension financial education program coordinator who teaches "Small Steps to Health and Wealth," a financial education program of Hancock County Saves. - "The nice thing is there's lots of ways that you are actually able to take a look at both of those together and take small steps toward achieving your goals," she said.

The five-week course will discuss the similarities of both health and finances and provide strategies for improving those areas. Sessions will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Mondays from Jan. 20 through Feb. 17 at the Hancock County Agricultural Service Center, 7858 County Road 140. The free course is open to residents of Hancock County.

The program was created by Barbara O'Neill, a professor at the Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. It has been offered in other parts of the country and a pilot program was held in Findlay in the fall with a grant from Handbags That Help women's giving circle.

"There were seven in the first class and it was good to have a small class the first time because then you got to have a lot more interaction," said Carles.

"Everybody learned a lot of different things because everybody comes to the table with different information of the things that they know. The diversity in the group was fantastic," she said. "We had folks that were struggling with poverty. We had folks that are business folks. We had a Ph.D. student ... and they all just worked together and helped one another with the goals that they had."

"We teach 25 different (strategies) so then you can pick whatever works best for you," Carles said. "We really only recommend picking three or four, like picking one a week as we go through in the five-week series."

Taking small steps is stressed so individuals don't feel overwhelmed, said Carles.

"You may decide, I need to lose 50 pounds. But if I say 50 pounds, it's one of those things people say, that can't happen," she said. "But if you break it down and you take small steps in a positive direction ... you are making a difference."

She said individuals should remember that their health or financial problems didn't happen overnight, so it takes time for results.

"It was small increments that got you there, and then one day you woke up and went, wow there's a problem. Small increments can take you back to where you need to be," she said.

Individuals are encouraged to break their goals into parts and move in that direction, she said.

"If you are doing something as simple as cutting out a soda a day, whether it's a diet soda and the chemicals are bothering your body, or it's the sugar that's a health problem for you, and you're cutting that out, that's a positive step in the right direction for your health," Carles said.

"Moneywise, if you consider what that's costing you as you buy it, whenever you run in and buy one on the way to work every day or you run down the hall to pick something out of the vending machine every day; whenever you look at that over time, which is something we do in class, you can look at these things differently," she said. "It is a way of not only reminding you of some of these things, but letting you see it in a different light so that you've got a better understanding."

One of the strategies is looking at your childhood baggage, she noted, such as bad habits that were developed as a child.

"And it's not just childhood baggage, it's all the things that are taught to you and you've learned and you believe because your health and your personal finances, all of that is very emotional," she said. "So we also try to make sure that this is a safe environment for people to be able to share openly. The people that are here are all here for the same reasons."

Carles said the timing for a new session is good since January is the time people are making their New Year's resolutions.

Everyone takes a pre-test at the beginning of the course and a post-test at the end to see what they've learned. Follow-ups are also done one, three and six months after the course to see how individuals did on the goals they set. Participants who complete the course and return the follow-up surveys will be entered into a drawing for prizes valued at more than $500 for health and wealth goals.

Carles said the course is good for anybody who is not where they'd like to be health-wise and/or financially.

"Anyone who is struggling with one or both of these, it's going to give them information," she said. "It's also important to understand that it's never too late to start, and it's never too early to start. You just need to start. If you do little things, it will help tremendously."

Class size is limited. For more information or to register, call 419-422-3851 or email Carles at carles.6@osu.edu. Registration is also available online at www.hancocksaves.org.

Wolf: 419-427-8419 Send an e-mail to Jeannie Wolf

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