In this episode, we were honored to welcome as our guest Anita Ward, an applied anthropologist and Chief Development Officer of Salary Finance. Our conversation with Anita was about so much more than the financial wellness benefits that Salary Finance brings to their employer partners. We talked about Salary Finance’s social purpose and how their work is bringing financial literacy and financial dignity to millions of people.
“At work, poverty is a dirty little secret in America.”
Anita started by graciously sharing her emotional story of growing up without a home address. She got her first taste of financial empowerment from her first job at a McDonald’s in Las Vegas at just fifteen years old. Watching her parents struggle to find their financial footing, Anita knows firsthand the insecurity and taboo that surrounds families who experience financial hardship. Yet so many Americans live paycheck to paycheck–and 25% of them are making over $160,000 per year.
Financial dignity and financial literacy are basic human rights. We as a country—and definitely we as employers—need to provide people with that dignity… We’re all facing financial stress and we should all have the dignity to find that path [forward] and be willing to authentically share that path.
How Salary Finance helps employees journey toward financial dignity
Today, Anita and the team at Salary Finance are partnering with employers to help create inclusive programs that drive cultural change and bring employees along the spectrum toward financial dignity. To her, having financial dignity means employees have the agency to understand their finances and make smart financial decisions. Salary Finance provides tools and interventions that include financial coaching, tech-enabled financial tools, and salary-linked loans that can help individuals rebuild their credit. And they partner with employers for free.
“It’s one thing to educate people and provide financial literacy, but it’s an entirely different thing and much more impactful when you can remove the barriers to lending and saving.”
The cost of financial stress
According to their 2020 study, even before the coronavirus pandemic 42% of employees said that they were stressed because of their financial situation. 79% of employees say their stress level has worsened since the pandemic began. 42% of them don’t have savings to handle an unexpected expense, and 21% of employees borrowed from their retirement savings in 2020. This doesn’t put employees in a position to be financial resilient when unexpected expenses or a loss of income happens.
While Anita subscribes to the late Tony Hsieh’s belief that there are certain things we should do even without a measurable ROI, the cost of financial stress and the ROI on mitigating that stress for corporate employers is crystal clear.
Financially stressed employees lose an average of 3 hours a week on the job worrying about money. They have an increase in sick days. They are 9 times more likely to produce lower quality work and they’re 10x more likely not to be able to finish their daily tasks. They’re 7.7x more likely to have difficulty getting along with colleagues. They’re also 2x more likely to be looking for a new job and they’re 7x more likely to be depressed.
A closer look at Salary Finance’s program
The journey starts with an interactive Financial Fitness Score. The assessment helps employees know where they stand on the spectrum from struggling to prospering. They have access to financial coaches, educational curriculum, as well as tools to build savings.
Employees also have the opportunity to borrow against their salary with attractive interest rates (from 5.9% up to to 19.9% annual percentage rate) that often aren’t available to borrowers with subprime credit. By taking loan payments directly from the employee’s paycheck, Salary Finance mitigates their risk, allowing them to be much more inclusive in their lending. As a bonus, Salary Finance reports these regular payments to the credit bureaus, which helps the borrower improve their credit score.
In a Harvard study on the efficacy of Salary Finance’s program, they found that employers experienced a 28% boost in retention and 11% growth to the bottom line as employees became both more productive and more loyal to the company.
Listen to the full episode to hear more from Anita on the societal implications of their work.
During the show, Anita recommended a new book by Raj Sisodia called The Healing Organization. Anita resonates with his thesis that business is about alleviating suffering and elevating joy. After experiencing her own “sacred moment” in the face of a health complication that threatened her life, Anita became determined to make a difference in some of the ways that Raj discusses in his book.
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