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How Financial Wellness Is Connected to Everything Else

By Motley Fool Staff – Jul 24, 2017 at 5:55PM

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Your household fiscal health is just one piece in a much bigger puzzle, but it’s a piece that holistically interacts with all the other parts and should be treated that way.

Every year, professional-services giant PricewaterhouseCoopers conducts its Employee Financial Wellness survey to gauge how U.S. workers are doing with money. And in this segment from Motley Fool Answers, Alison Southwick and Robert Brokamp talk to guest Kent Allison, National Leader of PwC's Employee Financial Wellness Practice, as they consider the question of financial health through a wider lens, and where workers should start to improve.

A full transcript follows the video.

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This video was recorded on June 6, 2017.

Robert Brokamp: I will say one thing I noticed going through the report. It emphasizes the interrelatedness of all the financial issues, right? So if you're having money problems, it can lead to health problems. If you have health problems, it could lead to money problems. And all that could be exacerbated if you have too much debt or if your mortgage is underwater. It's all very interconnected, so if you're just trying to handle one aspect of a person's finances, it's probably not going to do the job.

Kent Allison: Yeah. The one thing we find is you want to really hit the nerve in terms of what's going to change things. You'd better start to, kind of, it's the age-old adage that you have to have a rainy day fund. If you don't have a rainy day fund, things fall apart very quickly. So if we were encouraging where people should focus and where companies should focus -- rather than just everything about the retirement planning, getting them into the retirement plan, and doing everything to try to resolve their financial issues through the retirement plan -- is to take a step back and say, "How do we solve some of these other issues?"

And you're seeing companies do this. Some are kind of having variable pay to kind of help people meet their expenses in the middle of the month. They have short-term loan capabilities that aren't necessarily through these payday-loan providers, but something the company may advance on their pay at the end of the month to kind of deal with an unexpected expense.

But the reality is they have to save more, and you have to get them where they have that as a focus and perhaps a vehicle outside of the retirement plan to kind of carve away some funds that are there only in the case of an emergency. Otherwise they'll continue to raid the retirement plans and continue to have the stress that we're seeing, because they're living paycheck-to-paycheck and are worried about that unexpected expense. So solve that problem, and you solve a lot of issues on the employer side, and you have people that are a little more comfortable heading toward that kind of financial wellness state.

Brokamp: So let's say someone listens to all this, loves everything they're hearing. What's the next step? Where do you recommend people should go? Is there a website they should visit? A book they should read? Someplace they can learn about increasing their own financial wellness in the workplace?

Allison: I would first see what you have available to you from your employer. See if it addresses the needs that you have. If not, maybe have a discussion with your employer about whether they have all the resources to address your particular needs. Companies offer a lot of benefits. The problem often is that the employee is disconnected from those benefits. They don't know what they are. They don't know what tools they have, what resources they have available.

If you look in the silos of the vendors that they have providing it, they have a retirement plan administrator who has tools and resources and education. They have a healthcare provider. They have an insurance provider, life insurance provider, and various voluntary benefits.

And I always use the example that since we don't sell anything, we're in between benefits communication and all the vendors they've chosen to transact. We try to connect the individual based on their particular needs to the solution that the company provides. So if somebody doesn't have a will, most of them don't know that the company may be offering low-cost legal that will help them get a will in place right away.

So the first step is to kind of see what you have and then how does it match up to your needs? If there's a void there, then talk to the employer. We had an employer where all the employees said they wanted pet insurance. So sure enough, they introduced pet insurance, and it became one of their No. 1 benefits in terms of --

Alison Southwick: Really?

Allison: Everybody was kind of waiting for it and they delivered on it, and ultimately they got what they wanted. So it's not always just status quo. If enough employees want something and that's more important than some of the other benefits they're providing, they may switch out a benefit to something that's more resourceful for you.

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