We spend years in the formal education system learning about how to get a job and a career and earn money, but very little of that, if any, is spent learning how to manage that money to reach lifestyle goals.
Money and the problems associated with personal finance are a source of a lot of anxiety and strife. This can have a huge impact on personal happiness and our organization’s culture. The main culprit, most of us learn about managing our personal finances through trial and error. So how can we help our team with something so personal and difficult to talk about?
My guest, Michelle Boss, is a personal finance coach and a certified financial educational instructor. In this episode, Michelle shares a little bit about how to create a personal finance program for your team as an employee benefit.
In this episode we talk about:
- The visible and not so visible impact of financial stress
- Some of the elements of a financial literacy program
- The broad steps to developing and implementing a program
- Companies Pay Workers to Get Savvier With Money
- Why financial literacy education may help employees be more productive
- Is 2017 the Year of Employee Financial Wellness Programs?
- Financial Education Empowers Employees to be More Productive
About my Guest, Michelle Boss:
Jason Clause: Welcome to the Jason Clause Show. I’m Jason Clause, your host, and today we’re talking about, as always, good ideas for busy managers.
Welcome everybody to the show. My name’s Jason Clause. I’m your host. This is the Jason Clause Show. It’s a podcast dedicated to helping the Bay Area busy manager find and share really good ideas. My experience is that the best managers out there, they’re always on the lookout for great ways to motivate their team, to inspire people, to be more productive with fewer resources, and that’s what this podcast is about. It’s about finding those ideas and sharing them with a growing community of Bay Area managers.
We have an awesome episode for you today. I have a friend, Michelle Boss. She’s a personal finance coach and a certified financial educational instructor, and she’s stopping by to talk a little bit about how to create a personal finance program for your team as an employee benefit. It just seems to me like a great way to help differentiate yourself and to help your team address something that is kind of underserved. And we’re going to get into it right after this.
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All right, everybody.
Welcome back from the break. Like I said, we’ve got an awesome episode today. My friend, Michelle Boss — who just has the coolest last name, and when I say it, I want to say it like Bous, Michelle Bous — Michelle, welcome to the show. Thank you for joining.
Michelle Boss: Thank you, Jason. Thank you so much for having me today.
Jason Clause: Yeah. We met at a Pleasanton … No, no, a Livermore Chamber of Commerce event. And the thing that I really like about you and that I’m really grateful for, I’m always asking for people for feedback on the podcast and what they think of it, what they like about it, what they don’t like about it. You’re one of the few that actually took that to heart and took the time to really send me some real quality feedback, and I’m really grateful for that. Thank you.
Michelle Boss: Of course. What I remember most about you is your work with comedy and that you’re also a standup comedian. I love to laugh, so that really stuck with me.
Jason Clause: I wish I got to do that more. I’ve got little kids and they laugh at anything, so I get my fix that way these days. But maybe one day I can get back up there and perform a little bit. In the meantime, the podcast is going to have to do. Why don’t you spend a little bit of time introducing yourself to everybody? How’d you get into this?
Michelle Boss: Great, thank you.
Jason Clause: I’m going to give you the floor. You have a few minutes, so have at it.
Michelle Boss: All right, my story. I am a mom as well, a mom of four, and have been here in the Livermore area for about a year. I came from a corporate background, so right now I am a personal finance coach and educator. This is my fourth career and I have background in management, HR, sales, teaching, owning businesses, a lot of different stuff that brought me here today. And what I found out on my journey when I decided to help people with money as a coach is that we all have a money story and we have different things and experiences in our life that affect that story.
What I ran across was a lot people, not just friends and family, but once I started getting certified to teach personal finance, there’s a lot of people that learn about money and money management through trial and error. This stuff is not often taught in school and that’s my why. I want to help people so they’re not struggling, so they’re not worried, so they’re not anxious with their money but they’re actually thriving. And so one of the ways I do that is what we’re going to be talking about today and I’m real excited to share about some of the education that I offer as an educator and finance coach.
Jason Clause: Yeah, I think that’s awesome. I think just to echo what you’re saying, I learned how to balance my checkbook in a home economics class in high school, and that was the extent of my personal financial training. That was it. I got a four-year degree from a university; never touched on it, never talked about it. I learned a great deal about how to make money and about how to deliver the skill that I picked up. There wasn’t anyone kind of raising their hand saying you know, there’s a lot to this and you can make some smart moves if you plan ahead and kind of think about things.
So I was really excited to meet you and hear about it because I think there’s a huge opportunity here particularly because … And by the way, thank you for the articles that you sent me. There’s a number of articles that Michelle sent over. I’m going to include those in the show notes. Quick reads all of them, but I think it does a great job of lending more detail to kind of the scope of kind of what the challenge is for everybody’s employees. The number that you gave me, it’s a quarter of the … In any business, a quarter of your employees are under a not-insignificant amount of stress as it relates to their finances. And I think that’s a really high number, particularly because everything seems to be so good right now. Right?
Michelle Boss: That’s right. Yep. We are spend … Well, we spend 16 years in the public education system learning about how to get a job and a career and earn money, and very little of that if any is spent on how to learn how to manage that money to reach lifestyle goals. And specifically to your podcast audience, as managers, yeah, you’ve got to be aware that maybe up to a quarter percent of your team members are sitting at their desks preoccupied with what’s going on at home with their finances. So whether that’s managing their credit, or figuring out how to pay their bills, or something good like buying a home; a very big life event that is distracting and they very could well be spending work time thinking about and dealing with those personal finance issues.
Jason Clause: Right. And think about the impact that has on an employee or on a team member just throughout the day. Right? What kind of an attitude does that person have and how might it be manifesting itself? It might be that somebody … Sometimes people aren’t grumpy, they’re just hungry. Right? And sometimes people aren’t mean, they’re just really stressed. Right? And there’s [inaudible 00:08:33] there.
The other thing, too, that I’m thinking about, I spend an awful lot of time through my church. I’m in a marriage group and one of the things that we talk about in our group is that finances are a core root cause of strife in that relationship. And so I would bet maybe there’s more than that 25 percent because people are raising their hand and identifying, I’m dissatisfied with my life right now because I’m arguing with my wife and I’m arguing about finances. And so maybe that 25 percent number’s even higher. Right? So my point being that we’re going to be talking in a little bit about how … Some strategies for maybe putting together some sort of wellness program, or financial wellness program for your team. It could have an impact that goes well beyond even what we’re talking about here because money really does make the world go around and kind of sits as a root cause for a lot of problems that people have, maybe even beyond the numbers that were in that article. Would you agree with that?
Michelle Boss: Absolutely, absolutely. A healthier, more adjusted employee is going to be more stable; someone who’s happy in their relationship and not stressed outside of the workplace because they have those personal finance skills to cope with different situations that come up. They’re going to be happier, they’re going to be more loyal, they’re going to be in the workplace more often, more productive. Yeah, absolutely.
Jason Clause: And then it’s not like it’s just something that as leaders we’d be doing as a nice thing for our employees, right? There’s actually some real tangible benefits as the team leader or as the business owner for doing something like this. Right?
Michelle Boss: Well especially in today’s job market, very low unemployment rate, this idea is newer and trending but it’s something that employers are using to differentiate themselves as an employer. From a recruiting aspect it can be great, so offer a 401(k) and health benefits; those are pretty standard with a lot of jobs. And so this is just one more aspect of a wellness program that can attract employees and make you a very competitive employer out there in the job market.
Jason Clause: Yeah. And you kind of talk about … So, let’s just say that someone is listening to this and says you know, I think this is making good sense. How would I go about doing this? Can you kind of share some pro tips for how you might address this?
Michelle Boss: Absolutely. So if this is something that you’d like to offer your employees and incorporate into an existing or even a new wellness program, there are some core things that you want to start with. So [inaudible 00:11:43] very well versed in their finances and they might need and they might need more advanced topics. But education is an ongoing and life long experience. Your financial decisions and situation as you move through your various stages of life are going to change. So it’s not like you can go to one class and then all of a sudden you’re prepared to buy a house or you’re all queued up to start planning for retirement; that doesn’t mean that you’re ready or you have a great exit strategy when it comes time for retirement. So there’s a different level of topics and complexities that you can get into no matter where you’re at on the spectrum.
Jason Clause: Right.
Michelle Boss: Then there’s going to be other people that fully acknowledge hey, I have never gotten any financial education. I have struggled with budgeting, for example, my entire life and I could really use help with this. And maybe a one-on-one coaching session or a webinar format or a classroom format might work best for that person; getting online and looking for information and self-teaching how to do a budget doesn’t work for everybody.
And a huge part of money and our relationship with money is behavioral, right? So some people do just need help with the behavioral aspect of identifying what’s going on, and then some coaching or counseling on how to change those behaviors. And then, accountability; a follow up piece to make sure that they are actually doing what they want to do to see the changes that they want to see. So, does that help answer your question?
Jason Clause: Yeah, it really does. [crosstalk 00:14:00] Yeah, that’s great. Yeah.
Michelle Boss: Financial education is applicable to all different levels of income and financial knowledge. People are on all aspects of the spectrum. So once you have a good idea of where your team is at, the next step as far as how to go about implementing this would be to design a program, and you want to make sure that you have a variety of different learning formats. I touched on this before; there’s different learners, there’s people who are going to feel very open about asking for help with their finances; there’s going to be some people that are more private or there might be even shame associated with asking for help with their finances.
Jason Clause: Absolutely.
Michelle Boss: And so having a variety of formats to help your team get the information that they want and are hungry for in a variety of ways. So I’ve listed out a few of those on the slides that … Online classes, webinars, live coaching, classes, workbooks are all a great method to reach your team.
Jason Clause: Perfect.
Michelle Boss: And then as you’re implementing these different varieties of learning formats, you want to make sure that you are measuring. You want to have some form of measurement in place to determine if your program is effective. So yep, a before measurement and an after measurement to really demonstrate the results of the program.
For example, credit. You’d want to take a snapshot of where your team members are and who’s participating in the credit class before, and then six months after, where is their credit score and behavior’s at over time to see what kind of improvement. Another example would be 401(k) participation. If you offer this as a benefit but you don’t see a high enrollment, why? It’s free money for people so you may want to have a class where you try and affect the enrollment. So that may look like a before measure of how many team members are participating, and then have maybe a lunch-and-learn with one-on-one coaching sessions to help enroll people, and then a measurement of after to see how many team members are now enrolled. So those are very concrete examples of how you can measure the effectiveness of the wellness initiative for financial education. And of course, the most effective-
Jason Clause: Let me stop you. It seems like with the assessment piece, also thinking through that some sort of an incentive program in your example with the credit class. What’s the incentive to report after the fact? Maybe a little contest or something like that. It doesn’t have to be like a huge thing, but maybe it’s just like a leader board; just something that comes to mind.
Michelle Boss: Absolutely. Absolutely. Also maybe offering or hosting lunch. If it’s a lunch-and-learn free food always brings employees. Or if you have some sort of … Well, there’s different incentives. I’ll just give an example from an employer I was at. They actually gave a credit towards, it was like a little bonus towards our time off for getting into those classes, too.
Jason Clause: Oh, that’s a neat little nugget. I love that.
Michelle Boss: Yeah. Get one-on-one counseling. One-on-one counseling, so it was-
Jason Clause: So if you did that, you could get a little extra time for the family, right? I love that. That’s a great incentive.
Michelle Boss: Yeah, well, it’s like time to go enjoy your … Yeah, enjoy your time with the family or whatever you want to do. Maybe it’s going out and getting to …
Jason Clause: Yeah, not work. Right? Something other than work.
Michelle Boss: Not work. Exactly. Nothing’s coming to mind.
Jason Clause: Great, okay. And then I think you kind of touched on it a little bit, but this idea that because you’ve got … The disposition of the team, people are going to be in different places, having a variety of topics is important, too. Right?
Michelle Boss: Exactly. Having a variety of topics and also providing that education over a longer period of time; continuing to offer the topics, what might be applicable right now for someone might not be applicable in another six months to a year, and repeating the information annually. So that’s where videos come in or webinars that are recorded that employees can go back and revisit and refresh their memories. Or new employees that come onboard within that year have access to that training; a really good way to maximize the value of that investment in the training.
Jason Clause: Yeah. You had said in the opening when we were talking that these things can take a long time before you start to see the super success. A lot of this is an uphill slog for awhile and then you’re compounding kicks in and you start, you have less debt and so on and so forth. So if this is something that an organization is thinking about implementing as a benefit, it needs to be something thought of for the long haul, not something that can be one and done. Right?
Michelle Boss: Absolutely. Although yes, it’s interesting and nice to come up with one or two lunch-and-learns, a series is going to be much more effective and adding in the long-term monitoring and coaching to really measure those results is going to be the most effective and valuable for the organization.
And don’t get me wrong, something like a credit score can be affected pretty quickly and even over six months; that example you can measure before and after and see a pretty big difference. But if you are helping younger employees, Millennials who are balancing paying off their school loan debt, maybe they’re trying to save for a home and there’s a lot of preparation that goes into getting ready to buy a home. Right? So that might be a very intensive one, to your process, to get things in order, and make sure that you’re doing all those good behaviors over a long time to get to where you want to be.
Jason Clause: You what I’ve heard, the way I’ve heard this process described in the past? It’s like when I was a kid riding my bike up a hill, the trip up the hill was just hard; just switching back and forth, and standing up, and trying to get up to the top of the hill. But then once I crested the hill, it got really, really easy on the way down and was a lot of fun on the way down. You know? And that just really resonated with me and I bring it up because I think that’s an important piece of any kind of program, is to be making sure that the team’s expectations are calibrated correctly.
Michelle Boss: That’s a great analogy, right. With any program there’s going to be work and effort up front, and you will reap the benefit down the road.
Jason Clause: Because you’re going to have people that are dropping off, and like you know what, this just doesn’t work. And they’re right, it doesn’t because they dropped out.
Michelle Boss: Right.
Jason Clause: But those are the same team members that are going to be at the water cooler with the guys that are slogging it out, and I think that’s something as leaders that needs to be … You need to be thinking about that. Maybe it’s something to talk about in one-on-ones or something like that.
Michelle Boss: Great point.
Jason Clause: Michelle, as you’ve laid this out what I’m seeing is that yes, there’s a programming component to this and there’s a thought that goes into this, but this is the kind of thing that needs to kind of sort of weave its way into … It’s not just a benefit, right? This is a lifestyle kind of thing and it needs to be, this needs to be something that we’re talking about with our team members on a regular basis. Where are you at and how are things going? Right? You’re working so hard to make a buck; are you doing everything that you can to maximize that?
Michelle Boss: Absolutely.
Jason Clause: Tough topic to do, right, but something to think about.
Michelle Boss: Absolutely. Ingraining something like this into the culture or whatever the wellness approach is, it’s important to show your team members that you care about them. And you see oftentimes, we spend more time in our workplace than we do at home with our family, so yeah, really helping employees to be happy and healthy at home is … Shows that you care but it’s also an important part of employee wellness.
Jason Clause: Absolutely. Well, good. Let’s say that we’re listening to this and we’re convinced this is something that we need to get into. What are some first steps that someone could take to get the ball rolling with something like this?
Michelle Boss: So if you … Depending on the size of your company and what you have in place already, if you feel like you need additional assistance outside of your internal HR team or benefits team, you can start with your local bank or credit union. There’s a lot of financial education resources there, often free.
Jason Clause: That’s a great tip.
Michelle Boss: Yeah. I didn’t list them here on the Getting Started page because there’s so many out there, but financial literacy and education is a very big initiative for banks. And although it’s not their full time business, they might have a lot of resources for an employer. It’s a good place to start. The links here on the Getting Started pages are some different organizations that also list resources. The FDIC actually has a self-guided, it’s like a go-to ready-go solution for online learning.
Jason Clause: Great.
Michelle Boss: Yeah, that’s something that could be implemented for free pretty easily. EVERFI is also a company that has a lot of resources, and it’s a good place to start if you want more help with looking at the bigger picture and coming up with a comprehensive program. Of course, I could also help with something like that as far as the whole assessment, design, implementation, delivery of live classes, ongoing monitoring and coaching sort of thing; a more comprehensive solution.
Jason Clause: Those are all great resources. We’ll include all of that in the show notes. We’ll also make sure to include a link to your website, The Money Boss, which is just such a cool title. I love the name [inaudible 00:26:30].
Michelle Boss: Thank you.
Jason Clause: For folks that are looking for extra help, this is what you do, so how might they get in contact with you? And you actually were kind enough to put together an offer. You want to share that with us?
Michelle Boss: Absolutely. So with the podcast you will include my website which has all of the ways to contact me. But I’d also like to extend to all of your podcast listeners an invitation for a free lunch-and-learn. So I can come into your job site or workplace and give a presentation, 45 minutes or so; it can even be multiple if you have a lot of employees or different lunch shifts and we can make it worth everyone’s while by bringing in some food or goodies. And not only can we pick a topic that people can get a lot out of and find really useful, one of the things I like to do is have a little activity or game where employees get to choose the topics of interest that they would most like to see in their workplace. So it’s very engaging, it gets their feedback, and it’s a really great way to initially survey interest and what potential topics might be the most helpful or popular with you team. That’s helpful.
Jason Clause: Perfect, perfect. And we’ll include a link to that as well, so be sure to check the show notes out to connect with Michelle and check out the resources that she’s included for us. Man, this went really quick. Thank you for sharing all of this with us, Michelle. I can see this being a really powerful thing to share with our team mates, particularly those of us that struggle with it. Right?
Michelle Boss: Absolutely. And like you said, part of the culture and just making sure that we are showing our teams that we care and we want to help improve their wellness.
Jason Clause: Great. Well, thanks again for making the time for us. I really appreciate it.
Michelle Boss: It’s been my pleasure. Thanks so much for having me today.
Jason Clause: I’d like to thank Michelle for stopping by. I thought this was a really great conversation. Like I said, we’re going to include everything about the conversation and all the articles that we referenced in the show notes. If this is something that you think you’d like to get into and you want to talk to Michelle, I’d encourage you to take advantage of that offer she put together for us. Don’t know what I’m going to be talking about next time. Probably we’re going get back into cyber security. I know that we started there and then I kind of got sidetracked just because I met so many interesting people and I just wanted to get them on. Until next time, I hope my good friend, Jesus, blesses you with peace in your heart, wisdom in your spirit, and a whole lot of laughter in your belly. Take care now.