Culture and financial wellbeing: Toppling financial taboos through education and advice
It’s not always easy to talk about money. As Sarah Steel, director at Equiniti’s financial education partner, Better With Money, says: “Most financial subjects are taboo in this country”. From planning for the future to admitting we’re struggling with credit card debt, we often feel awkward opening up about our financial concerns. And, as a result, they can end up being ignored – sometimes until it’s too late.
“Figures indicate that most people who are in debt fail to do anything about it for two years,” explains Steel. “But that doesn’t stop them worrying about it, which means it has a negative effect on their wellbeing, as well as their finances.”
By offering financial advice and education, employers can play an important role in helping people face up to their money problems. Of course, this must be delivered via various channels in order to connect with as wide an audience as possible. In that respect, technology is key, ensuring accessibility and choice for all.
Here’s what we have learned about how to achieve all of this.
The post-Covid backdrop
Covid-19 has widened the divide between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’.
At one end of the scale, figures from the Financial Conduct Authority’s Financial Lives 2020 Survey show that the number of people with low financial resilience has risen – it went up by about a third to one in four adults between March and October last year.
On the flipside, however, many households now have more cash savings.
“The pandemic has affected most people financially in one of two ways,” says Steel. “For those who have been able to keep working, or at least earning the same salary, being unable to spend money on going out and not having to spend money on getting to work, means they might now be better off.
“Those who have been furloughed or have lost their jobs, on the other hand, are probably a lot worse off.”
Helping those who are struggling
For those who have lost out financially due to Covid-19, meeting everyday expenses and managing debt are likely to be popular topics.
Since restrictions were first introduced, there has been an increase of 700,000 people who are behind on their broadband bills since before the pandemic, according to The Money Charity’s The Money Statistics (2021) study.
But while people struggling to manage their day-to-day finances need help, they often feel embarrassed about admitting they have a problem – especially in the workplace.
For Steel, this makes online budgeting and debt management resources an ideal solution.
“In my opinion, one good thing about the pandemic is that it has pushed employee financial education and support online, making it more anonymous and more accessible,” she says.
Her recommendations for online content for people in this situation include information on the government benefits available, as well as details of the debt charities they can turn to for help.
“Employers need to make people aware of what’s out there,” explains Steel. “It’s also good to offer a range of different types of content, such as webinars, articles, blogs, and 1-2-1 ’financial friend’ sessions.”
Helping those with savings to spare
Not everyone’s finances have been adversely affected by the Covid-19 health crisis. Being unable to spend freely has left many households sitting on much larger savings pots, meaning they need more support to help them make the right decisions.
Here again, their choices may be influenced by financial taboos, such as fears around long-term investments, such as pension funds and stocks and shares.
So, education about the pros and cons of different products could prove a valuable resource.
At EQ, we also believe it’s important to make the solutions on offer convenient, easy to understand, and flexible enough to meet different people’s needs. Here again, via technology, this support and empowerment can be delivered in a way that supports the whole workforce; involving solutions incuding flexible ISAs and LISAs – helping a generation get on to the housing ladder following the end of the Stamp Duty holiday – through to access to community support services, including mental health charities, to discuss financial wellness concerns.
In short, toppling financial taboos has to begin and end with education and advice, and the digital means are already there to ensure accessibility to all.
The author is Andrew Woolnough, Director at EQ HR Solutions.
This article is provided by EQ HR Solutions.
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