Financial Wellness

Why financial wellness matters

When employees are stressed, business suffers.
tightrope

Imagine two competitors, Acme and Zipco. Acme’s having trouble retaining employees, plus worker performance and morale are starting to slip. Managers are reporting that it’s hard to keep things on track.

Over at Zipco, things are running more smoothly. Turnover is down. Their time management software shows clock-ins happening on time, and a decrease in missed shifts. Managers are reporting good productivity and overall high morale.

So what’s the difference between Zipco and Acme? Since they’re in the same industry, and about the same size, most of the similarities you’d expect are indeed there: They pay roughly the same, and both companies offer a variety of benefits ranging from healthcare to commuter stipends. But Zipco’s leadership found research that alerted them to a growing trend. Intrigued, they spotted it within their own workforce: financial stress.

What does financial stress have to do with employee performance?

In PwC’s 2018 Special Report: Financial stress and the bottom line, over half of employees surveyed felt stressed about their personal finances — mostly because they couldn’t cover emergency expenses. Surveys from Bankrate and the Federal Reserve paint similar pictures. Among the 1,600 full-time employees in PwC’s study, half reported spending three or more hours each week dealing with personal finances at work, while 12 percent said they’ve missed work more than once to deal with money problems.

All this stress is bad for business. For an employer with 10,000 workers, PwC estimated the productivity cost of all this distraction to be as much as $3.3M per year — with an additional $166,000 for absenteeism. This is what’s happening to Acme’s business. Its workers are distracted at work and even missing shifts, all because they’re stressed about their finances.

Zipco moved faster than Acme. When company executives ran the numbers on financial stress, they took action. Now, employees are feeling less financially stressed, which contributes to them showing up for their shifts on time, doing better work, and even referring their friends for open positions.

Okay, so how do we reduce financial stress?

Zipco recognized the link between employee performance and financial stress, and knew they had to get out ahead of the problem. They discovered that the key to reducing financial stress is helping people build the habits that lead to financial wellness — but what are those habits?

The Financial Health Network (FHN, formerly CFSI) has done extensive research on this in an effort to determine what it means to be financially well. FHN found that financial wellness hinges on four factors: borrowing, spending, planning, and saving.

  • Borrowing: Having a manageable debt load and a prime credit score
  • Spending: Spending less than income, and paying bills on time
  • Planning: Having a financial plan and appropriate insurance
  • Saving:Being on track to meet long- and short-term financial goals

Financially well employees score well across all four factors. And, according to FHN’s data, higher financial wellness is highly correlated with lower financial stress.¹

Steps you can take to grow financial wellness

The take-home message here is that better financial wellness means lower financial stress, which is better for business. And the only sure way to achieve better financial wellness is by helping employees with all four financial health factors. So how does this happen in the real world?

This is the question Even is trying to answer with its product. Just over a year ago, we launched our platform to Walmart’s 1.5 million associates — 33 percent of whom are now using Even on a regular basis. Even’s platform consists of a set of features explicitly designed to help employees with borrowing, spending, planning, and saving. As employees started to share their feedback with us, it reinforced the fact that no single feature within our product — or any product — is a silver bullet when it comes to financial stress. What we heard was that each individual component of the platform played a unique role in reducing stress:

Borrowing

Being able to “borrow from yourself,” and only up to 50% of a paycheck once per pay period, lowers stress because it lets people cover their expenses. And, it does it in a way that ensures they don’t end up broke on payday because of a too-small paycheck. Stephen, a cashier at Walmart, told us Instapay let him cover the cost of a doctor’s visit and still have enough to pay for bills due after his paycheck arrived. He almost postponed this doctor’s visit until after payday, but the next available appointment was far away, which would have delayed his medical care even further. “My stress level is down a lot,” he said.

Spending

Getting an accurate, reliable number for how much is okay to spend lets people enjoy their time off without worrying they’ll run out of money for bills. An associate named Sarah told us she uses Even’s Okay to Spend feature to know when she can afford to take her family out to dinner: “It’s a big deal knowing the amount of your bills that are going to come out of your paycheck each month, because what if you want to do something fun with the family and you don’t know how much money you’re going to have left over? Knowing the exact amount you have available to spend each month is a bonus.”

Planning

When bills are automatically planned for, employees’ stress decreases because they’re sure their expenses are covered. Chelsea, a Walmart associate, puts it like this: “It’s almost like a sense of financial freedom because you don’t have to stress as much about, ‘Well how am I gonna pay this bill, or this bill is coming?’ and I don’t know if I’m going to have the money or not.”

Saving

Automatically saving a percentage of each paycheck to a separate account reduces stress by removing temptation. An associate named Tenecia told us she used to always withdraw money she’d saved from her savings account. Now that she’s using Even’s Automatic Savings feature, which keeps her savings in a separate account and allows her to hide her balance, she doesn’t have to rely as much on willpower to keep her savings saved. Here’s how she described it: “Normally when I try to save, if I see it, I’m going to go and pull it out. With Even, you just see the amount that you’re saving for that particular paycheck and it just automatically goes to that account. I don’t even see it, so, I’m happy about that.”

Although we created Zipco to illustrate a point, there are thousands of companies like them in the real world — companies like Walmart, who have acted on this research, and have implemented solutions that benefit employees and their business. To learn how your company can do the same, visit us at Even.com or send us an email: partners@even.com.

¹ U.S. Financial Health Pulse 2018 Baseline Results, Center for Financial Services Innovation, Page 55


Want to learn more? Download our newest e-book: A Guide to Financial Wellness: The Employer’s Handbook for Understanding On-Demand Pay and Financial Wellness Benefits.

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