Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day….
On 20th July 1957, the Prime Minister Harold Macmillan said in a speech “most of our people have never had it so good”. Rationing post WW2 was over, and this optimism continued through the swinging sixties until we reached the somewhat darker days in the 1970’s. The 3-day week was here, and various industrial strikes affected the financial wellbeing of the nation for much of the decade, and changed us forever as we emerged into the 1980’s. During those more abundant years the Yuppies were created and there was more of a support structure for people provided by the state and employers. State pensions, final salary pensions, the welfare state and even the NHS seemed to work better in those days.
There were no credit cards, people saved up for the things they wanted and there were around 300,000 life company reps (the Man from the Pru) out and about in society, persuading people to save money and insure themselves. The high street banks even set up camp in our schools and encouraged our kids to save some of their pocket money every week.
However, nothing stays the same and over time a number of these support mechanisms have fallen away. Many final salary schemes have either been closed to new members or to all members in recent years, state pensions are moving further into the future and the ‘Man from the Pru’ has disappeared. You often even have to fight to get an appointment with your NHS GP now!
Nowadays, most young people enter the adult world with little or no hope of ever buying their own home. Some end up with enormous student debt, high intertest credit cards and large overdrafts. Not to mention the intensive and intrusive social media marketing messages which have created a ‘have now pay later’ culture. If you want something now, you can simply swipe your amazon app and it arrives on the same day! There is too much temptation with easy payment options for people to buy things they don’t need, with money they don’t have, trying to keep up with people that don’t care.
So where do employers fit in with all this?
The support structures of the past (giving a man a fish..) have dropped away and have been replaced by the requirement of individuals to take personal responsibility. In order to do so, employees need to learn to fish for themselves and this is where employers can really help their employees, and at the same time help themselves.
Employers are responsible not to finance the support structures of the past, but to provide the tools and resources required to enable their employees to take personal responsibility themselves – to allow them to make informed decisions about their financial lives.
Many employers now also see the commercial benefit of arming their employees with the tools, education and confidence to take personal responsibility for their own financial wellbeing. Not only is it great for employees to find out the best ways to optimise and maximise their compensation and benefits, but it’s great for an employer too.
Financial wellbeing interventions increase employee engagement, they can reduce stress, increase happiness and if employees are empowered to take personal responsibility with their own financial lives, this can only have a positive knock on effect to their day to day working lives. Employers may also see their other wellbeing endeavours strengthen as it is often difficult for employees to have good physical and emotional wellbeing without good financial wellbeing. Employees will take their new found knowledge, increased confidence and financial knowhow into their future wherever they work, because it will have empowered them to take more personal responsibility.
……teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
Each month I run a webinar called “How to create an effective workplace financial wellbeing strategy”, designed to help employers kick start a financial wellbeing plan even when there is little or no time, tight budget and lack of resources.