Last year, I wrote that 2017 would be the Year of Financial Well-Being. The reason was simple. Across the U.S., Americans were experiencing financial insecurity and a growing awareness of just how great that insecurity was – for example, the now well-publicized inability among many Americans to cover even a $400 emergency. The level of financial stress was impacting all areas of their lives, including their productivity in the workplace.
Employers, in turn, were increasingly responding to this crisis by offering financial well-being programs designed to improve financial literacy and reduce financial stress among employees.
We continue to see, however, that simply making financial well-being programs available does not necessarily produce the desired result. Consider that in spite of employers’ ongoing investments in financial well-being, only 6% of employees “strongly agree” that their company does things to help them manage their finances more effectively. At Sum180, our view is that much of the results gap boils down to a fundamental disconnect between 1) knowing what to do; 2) understanding how to do it; and 3) actually doing it.
I’ve written before about this challenge from an emotional standpoint: When it comes to complex, emotionally-driven issues, such as money, simply teaching “financial literacy” is not enough to enable someone to improve their financial situation. If we want to design financial well-being solutions that that make a meaningful difference in people’s lives, we need to also draw on established principles of behavior change science.
But if we truly want to lower the bar to engagement, there is more work to do yet.
To give everyone the financial advice and tools they deserve – that will engage and empower them to improve their situation – we need to meet each individual where they are, and offer them the actionable advice they need, in the moment they need it.
To lower the barrier to action and change, we must offer financial solutions that are:
1. Mobile. Gone are the days when you paid bills or managed investments exclusively at your desk. Whether at work or on the weekends, you are always connected via multiple devices and constantly making decisions about your money, on the go. You need financial help that is as mobile as you are – that will be instantly available, when and where you need it.
2. Right-sized. In this era of information overload, it’s tremendously helpful to have a comprehensive financial plan – but many of us are more accustomed to processing and acting on information in much smaller bites. For you to be successful, the big-picture view of your financial situation needs to be complemented by precisely targeted, doable action steps.
3. Self-paced. Deep transformation is about more than one or two steps in the right direction – our goal is sustained, long-term engagement. When we support each client with the financial advice and tools they need so that they feel empowered at each step, they are excited look forward and ask: “What’s next?”
Much of the technology needed to build these solutions already exists. It is up to us to apply them in innovative ways to the challenges of the financial services market. This year, we at Sum180 are looking forward to putting new solutions in the hands of the people who need them most. Stay tuned!