Financial wellbeing is an important dimension of our overall wellbeing. In this interview with Lora Fickett, CPA, we explore how financial wellbeing causes stress for employees and the role employers can play in supporting employee wellbeing from the financial perspective.
Interview with Lora Fickett
Mari Ryan: Welcome to the Workplace Wellbeing Essentials Series. I’m Mari Ryan, I’m the CEO and founder of Advancing Wellness. It’s my pleasure to welcome you today to this expert interview where we explore topics related to employee wellbeing. My guest today is Lora Fickett. For years, Lora has worked with corporations to coach employees to reduce their financial stress, making them more productive at work, increasing retention, thus decreasing turnover rates and allowing employees to be happier, healthier, and more loyal. Lora is a certified public accountant, she earned an MBA from Assumption College, and she is a certified financial stress reduction coach. One of Lora’s superpowers is that she competed as a professional archer. Welcome, Lora, it’s a delight to have you here with us today.
Lora Fickett: Thank you so much for inviting me. I’m excited.
Mari Ryan: Let’s start out our conversation by talking about financial wellbeing. What does this mean, and how can we think about this from the employee’s perspective?
Lora Fickett: Employees go to work for compensation, and they go to work so they can have a rewarding career, and if they’re not managing their finances well and they find themselves in a financially stressful situation, then money becomes an issue. It impacts their relationships, not only at home, but also in the workplace. If they have financial stress on their mind, they may not be as focused on the work that they’re doing in the workplace, and they may actually start looking for a higher-paying job if they don’t feel like they’re being compensated fairly enough to meet their obligations financially at home.
Mari Ryan: How does financial stress manifest, and talk a little bit about how it impacts an individual’s life.
Lora Fickett: Financial stress; everyone has financial stress and it often manifests when your income is not meeting the expenses that you’ve accumulated, whether it’s your home, or your children’s expenses or obligations, car payments, student loans, those types of things. Those things payments build up and when you get to the point where you’re just barely getting by and you’re living paycheck to paycheck, that’s where you see some major financial stress in the workplace. When that starts to manifest, it impacts employee performance, like I said, they may look elsewhere and it may increase turnover rates, because often times when people leave jobs, it’s not only that they’re unhappy, it’s because they want to increase their financial wellbeing, and leaving to another position usually means an increase in salary. However, even if they do that with the habits and behaviors that they have on spending money, they’re going to find themselves in the same boat at the next place, too.
Mari Ryan: That was exactly -- it’s like you were reading my mind -- that was exactly the thought I had is changing jobs isn’t necessarily the answer.
Lora Fickett: No, it’s definitely not the answer. What they really need to do is change their habits and behaviors. If you are the person who is spending all of your income, it doesn’t matter what your income is, it could be $100,000 per year, it could be $500,000 a year, just different sized numbers, but if that’s your habit, it doesn’t matter what the number is.
Mari Ryan: Exactly. From an employer’s perspective, why should employers care about an employee’s financial stress?
Lora Fickett: Employers invest a lot of money in employees. They invest money in training them adequately and the employee has built relationships with people, not only in the workplace, but also clients. They have a lot invested into that employee. If the employee is unhappy, and through no means of the employer’s doing, just because they’re under financial stress, and the employer can alleviate some of that stress, then the retention rate will increase, and they won’t have to worry about that person looking for another job to increase their financial wellbeing.
Mari Ryan: What can an employer do to support an employee, support their workforce, around financial wellbeing?
Lora Fickett: That’s usually where I come in, Mari, because I can help employers educate their employees on managing their finances better and increasing their financial wellbeing, not only with education, but with coaching. Education without implementation is useless. We’ve all been to seminars, we get all pumped up, and then two weeks later we’re doing the same, but if you educate the employees on managing their finances better, and you offer coaching to implement those changes in their day-to-day lives, then for those employees, the financial stress will fade away, and they will be more productive, and they won’t be looking for that increase income in a job change.
Mari Ryan: It’s really encouraging to hear that this is the approach you take, because in many wellbeing and wellness programs that are done in the workplace, we really view a couple of different kinds and obviously, awareness and education is one element of that. The awareness and education, as you said, is not sufficient if there is not some element that is going to help foster new habits and that behavior change.
Lora Fickett: Absolutely. We all read books and we retain, maybe, ten percent of what we read, and we don’t implement things, and we hear good ideas, and we’re in the information age – information is coming at us at the speed of light – and we don’t often implement that. We need a coach or a mentor to help us implement those changes for them to take effect in our day-to-days lives.
Mari Ryan: Right. It’s great to hear that behavior change element, how to build the habits – whether it’s building a budget, or managing down your debt, any of those kinds of things that really takes some focus and concentration to build some good, healthy habits.
Lora Fickett: Yes, a lot of times when somebody is addressing their financial issues, even if it’s not the outcome that they desired -- say they have $100,000 in student loans, you can’t wipe that away overnight – but just addressing the issue decreases the stress, because you have a plan and you can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Mari Ryan: That’s good to hear. I think the reason we’re hearing more about this, and I’m curious about your opinion on this, the reason we’re hearing more about this now in the workplace, and there’s much more about financial stress is to one of the pieces you mentioned of the increasing amounts of college debt and the difficulty people are having getting out from under that college debt, to the extent that they’re not able to save for retirement or they have underfunded retirement, so you get folks who are older and who don’t have enough money saved for retirement. Are there other reasons perhaps, or at least some of the reasons that we’re hearing much more about this right now?
Lora Fickett: I feel that the increase in financial stress in the workplace is due to multiple reasons. One, like you mentioned, is retirement. A long time ago there used to be pensions and people didn’t have to worry about their retirement as much. It seems like everyone is behind on their retirement savings if they do the calculations, and that can be stressful. Also, there’s not as much [indecipherable - 0:08:28.2] in the workplace. Employers can fire at will, hire at will, and employees can also leave at will. You don’t see as many employees staying for ten, twenty, thirty years in the workplace. In addition, the employees that are in the workplace are looking for more flexibility and they are looking for more work-life balance. All those things combined add to the financial stress of the employee because they are all related to money – pretty much everything we do relates to money. I think that’s why we’re seeing more of it, because of the instability of the retirement, the increase in the student loan repayments, that’s a huge burden, and people looking for more work-life balance. They want to be happier.
Mari Ryan: It’s so interesting, because financial wellbeing is one of the core elements of the way we define wellbeing. It’s one of those five pillars, if you will, and it’s interesting to be able to see that employers have for decades, generations, looked after the wellbeing of their workforce through financial means.
Lora Fickett: Absolutely. One example I give employers is if you have an employee that can’t manage their finances well, and you give them a $5,000 bonus, and they use it to pay off credit card debt that they’ve had from the past, it’s not as enjoyable for them. They’re happy about the bonus, but they didn’t get as much enjoyment out of the financial bonus that you gave them. However, if you have an employee that has been taught to manage their finances well, they get the $5,000 bonus, and they can spend it on a vacation, or going out to dinner, or find more enjoyment in it, that’s a happier employee.
Mari Ryan: That’s a great way to think about it. Excellent. Is there anything else you want to add in terms of the impact that financial wellbeing has on an individual, or on the workplace – anything you’d like to add?
Lora Fickett: I am a fan of non-procrastination, and I do find that people often procrastinate on their financial problems, and they hope they are going to go away, but they don’t. The sooner you seek help, there’s no sense in trying to reinvent the wheel. If you can find help, and find a coach that will give you some shortcuts that will get you where you need to go, why not? I recommend that everyone at least contact me for a free consultation, check it out, and see if it’s right for them.
Mari Ryan: That’s great, and speaking of which, how can folks in our audience be able to contact you if they’d like to follow up?
Lora Fickett: The best way is through my website, www.lorafickett.com. You go on there and you can read about some of the services, some testimonials, and contact me right through that website; all my information is on there.
Mari Ryan: Excellent, thank you so much for your insights with regard to this important aspect of wellbeing, and for your time today. Thanks for being here, Lora.
Lora Fickett: You’re welcome.
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