Balancing Your Checkbook in the Electronic Age: Why Helping Your Employees with Basic Financial Wellness Pays Off
Many CEOs and senior managers vividly remember the days when balancing your checkbook was a prerequisite for financial stability. Without the commitment to writing every transaction down in the register and doing the addition and subtraction, you would very likely bounce a check or two. I was not as dedicated in my younger years to this skill as I should have been, and I paid the price in the form of multiple overdraft fees.
In the age of the debit card and online banking, balancing your checkbook is not an outdated skill.
Even if you never write another check, you still need to track your debit and cash purchases. The problem is that far too many of your employees rely on the balance shown on their bank's or credit union's phone app or online account. Consequently, all it takes is one merchant to delay its debit card processing for your employee to end up overdrawn, incurring a penalty he or she cannot likely afford.
While debit card purchases typically process through your checking account immediately (or by the end of the day if swiped using a credit card network), there are still merchants that might take several days to batch and submit transactions. If you have forgotten about that small purchase (and how quickly we forget!), it might lead to a big financial headache.
If you employ Millennials, it is likely they never learned to balance a checkbook. Only five US states currently require any kind of personal finance course to graduate from high school, and more than half of all parents admit to never speaking with their children about personal finances. Consequently, most of your employees have had to learn to manage their personal finances on their own. If they were lucky, they had an older sibling or a friend who was good with their money and showed them the ropes.
Otherwise, who teaches them the fundamentals of personal finance now that they live independently? Google and YouTube can be great teachers, but only if the employee knows the right keywords to use in their search. Some personal finance gurus charge an arm and a leg for their “universities,” workshops and tools.
Additionally, for any generation that is not willing to carry a paper checkbook register, how will they know which app or online service to use?
Employers typically play an authority figure role in the lives of employees. Such credibility, when used properly, can provide employees with important guidance and help in their lives outside of work. For a variety of reasons, many employers are afraid to damage that credibility, so they never use it. I would invite you to consider it as part of your toolbox for strengthening and supporting your employees. A financially sound employee is a more stable employee. Conversely, a financially insecure or overspending employee is always chasing a bigger paycheck, leading to higher turnover rates.
So, if you would like to use your credibility with employees to help them stabilize and grow their household finances, what are your options? Here are a few to consider:
You can take the do-it-yourself approach and provide help to your employees in one-on-one or group settings. You might take advantage of a company intranet or employee newsletter. You might choose to send out a monthly employee email with life tips, including personal finance recommendations. Obviously, this requires a lot of time and effort on your part, as well as a long-term commitment.
You might rely on your company’s EAP that lists “Financial Counseling” as an option. Such services typically offer anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes of free financial counseling for employees before they are referred to fee-for-service agencies. It should be no surprise that most employees that take advantage of these services have already encountered severe financial challenges or that 30 to 60 minutes of one-on-one counseling are rarely sufficient to resolve difficult financial issues. EAPs can provide some important services, but they remain a “passive” assistance option employees must first decide to seek out.
You can take advantage of the many services that free programs like Money Fit have to offer. Money Fit does not limit its free counseling to 30 or even 60 minutes. Money Fit offers budget, credit, debt and student loan counseling in the amount your employees might need, and all at no cost. To be sure, there are highly intensive services such as debt management (payment consolidation) that involve regulated fees, but employees receive a significant discount if they choose this option. Additionally, such services, like EAPs, remain a passive option. To be proactive, employers can take advantage of Money Fit’s free Lunch ‘n’ Learn service. Whether in person or provided remotely, Money Fit’s Accredited Financial Counselors® can facilitate workshops and answer day-to-day personal finance questions that are top-of-mind for your employees. Proactive programs can prevent financial problems that might otherwise affect employee productivity and efficiency.
For now, with regards to balancing a checkbook register, here are a few things for your employees to consider. First, programs like Mint.com will automatically download and even categorize transactions but only if they have cleared the checking account. Such programs do not replace the critically important activity of tracking and balancing purchases.
Your bank may have small, card-sized paper registers that they would be willing to provide to your employees at no cost. Your bank may even send out a staff member to lead a workshop on checkbook balancing. The challenge is that Millennials, Genexers and even many Babyboomers are not accustomed or even willing to make paper and pencil notations for each purchase.
Additionally, employees can use a simple spreadsheet they can save to their phone or to their cloud account. A Google search for “checkbook register spreadsheet” will return several hundred thousand results from which to choose.
Finally, and my personal favorite, employees can look in the App Store or Google Play for "Free Checkbook Register" apps. They are bound to find one that makes tracking their purchases easy, convenient and nearly painless. I personally like the simplicity and ease-of-use of Volkron Checkbook (free version), but everyone will have their own preferences.
If you have questions about implementing a financial wellness benefit program for your employees, please feel free to call me at (855) 685-7839. We do not have any programs to sell, so you will get unbiased information and help in finding the right financial wellnes service for your organization’s needs.
I actually recommend you do some research yourself, discuss your options with your benefits broker, AND contact organizations like Money Fit. After all, a BALANCED approach typically returns the best results.