The World of Work Project

Better Financial Wellbeing: Understanding the Five Pillars

Individuals can be said to have positive financial wellbeing when they feel they have a sense of financial security. This happens when the feel they have enough money to meet their needs, including enough money to enjoy life.

Summary by Brin Chartier, for The World of Work Project

Introduction

Financial wellbeing is an important contributing factor to an individual’s overall wellbeing.

Many employees around the world suffer from low levels of financial wellbeing. As a result, many workplace financial wellbeing programs are being introduced to address this issue. This is an issue for our times, and it’s one that needs to be addressed.

Given this, it’s important that we understand the what it actually means to be financially well. There’s obviously much more that we need to understand to improve Financial Wellbeing. This article is just an introduction to the topic.

What is Financial Wellbeing?

Financial wellbeing is a state of being where a person can meet current and ongoing financial obligations, feel secure in their financial future, and is able to make choices that allow them to live life to the fullest. When individuals have low financial wellbeing, they may be under strain and feel high levels of stress.

There is no specific financial amount that someone must have in their bank account to be considered financially well. Instead, the definition of financial wellbeing is closely tied to a person’s own sense of financial stress and financial confidence.

Financial Wellbeing brings a sense of calm and peace
Financial Wellbeing occurs when people feel calm, secure and tranquil from a financial perspective.

To help bring this to life it’s worth considering the fact that there are many individuals or families who are an reasonably modest levels of income, but who have positive net asset positions and who are reasonably secure, at least secure enough to meet their needs. At the same time, though, there are many individuals or families who have large incomes, but who also have large levels of debt that they struggle to service and who do not feel financially secure.

The Current State of Financial Wellbeing

Financial wellbeing is an increasingly important topic for individuals and employers. This is because to the financial stress that many individuals who are in work find themselves under. In many countries, financial wellbeing is actually deteriorating for employees.

For example, in the UK, a 2019 report by the Royal Society of Arts found that:

  • 36% of the working UK population would struggle to pay a £100 bill,
  • 59% would struggle to pay a £500 bill,
  • 24% sometimes struggle to meet their basic living costs,
  • 30% don’t feel they earn enough to maintain a decent standard of living, and
  • 32% are concerned about their levels of debt.
  • majority of these numbers represent a deterioration in financial wellbeing since 2017, the date of the preceding RSA report.

The majority of these numbers represent a deterioration in financial wellbeing since 2017, the date of the preceding RSA report.

Credit may reduce your financial wellbeing
Many employees rely on credit to meet their monthly obligations on time.

Similarly, in the US, PwC’s 2019 Employee Financial Wellness Survey found that financial stress was cited more times by employees as a source of stress than all other life stresses combined. In addition, the report found that only 44% of employees think their employers care about their financial wellbeing, and that 49% of employees find it hard to meet their household expenses on time each month.

Given this picture, and the continuing decline of financial wellbeing among employees, it’s clear that we need to develop a deeper understanding of what financial wellbeing is, and how organizations and individuals can help to improve it.

The 5 Pillars of Financial Wellbeing

Financial experts across the industry define financial wellbeing in different ways. We think this summary from Claire Daily, a research associate with Corporate Insight, really captures the spirit of financial wellness.

Daily suggests that a person is said to achieve a state of financial wellbeing if they have:

  • A manageable level of stress associated with current and future financial matters,
  • A manageable level of debt—or no debt at all—that can be paid off without financial penalty or significant stress on an individual’s financial situation or lifestyle,
  • Enough disposable income to maintain a desirable lifestyle that is within reason,
  • An ample emergency savings fund that can sustain an individual’s lifestyle for a bare minimum of three months, and
  • Financial acumen that will allow them to plan appropriately for future goals and respond to unforeseen financial obstacles.

While financial wellbeing is the goal, chronic financial stress is a reality for many many people around the world. Modern workplaces are stepping up and offering a range of programs that look to support financial wellbeing, and are seeing promising results. That said, there is much more that can (and should!) be done.

Increased savings increase financial wellbeing
An emergency savings fund increases financial security.

The World of Work Project View

Financial wellbeing is a hugely important subject. When individuals and families don’t feel secure in their ability to meet their financial requirements, they feel stress and anxiety. This stress and anxiety may become overwhelming enough that it is difficult for individuals to transition back to financial security.

Many people do not have sufficient provision for their later lives.

Our efforts to address a lack of financial wellbeing in the world need to involve many different stakeholders, in part because the causes of lack of financial security are so complex. We are sure that there are people claiming that this is a simple issue, but we think differently.

In our opinion, financial wellbeing, or otherwise, is attributable in part to the actions of individuals, in part to the actions of organizations and in part to the actions of our states and societies. Given this myriad of accountability and influence, we can’t help but consider financial wellbeing the product of the systems we have created.

Everyone Has a Role To Play

Despite the complex and systemic nature of the root causes of financial insecurity, everyone can help improve it.

  • Individuals, with agency, can learn and make positive actions towards their own financial wellbeing,
  • Organizations can introduce training, processes (such as out-out pensions) and systems that help increase their employees’ financial wellbeing,
  • Organizations can also consider more than profit, explore responsible approaches to business and pay living wages,
  • Consumers with enough income for discretion can make ethical decisions about how they spend their disposable income. By doing this they will support responsible businesses, and
  • Societies and countries can engage in conversations and make decisions about the role of public pensions, healthcare provision, the role of charitable activity such as food-banks and other social safety-nets.

As Brin said at the start of this article, this really is just an introduction to a complex topic. There is a lot more information about it in many places on the internet, and there are an increasing number of organizations who focus on helping to improve financial wellbeing, including LearnLux.

About the Author

Brin works on financial wellbeing
Brin Chartier

Brin Chartier is the Director of Marketing at LearnLux, an independent, US based, Financial Wellness provider for the modern workplace that blends digital education with interactive tools and on-demand human advisors.

She is personally passionate about the amazing things that happen when employees feel financially confident and used LearnLux’s program on her journey to home-ownership this past year. She loves to help companies navigate the exciting space of Financial Wellness as an employee benefit and can be reached any time at brin@learnlux.com.

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Chartier, B. (2020). Better Financial Wellbeing: Understanding the Five Pillars. Retrieved [insert date] from The World of Work Project: https://worldofwork.io/2020/02/the-5-pillars-of-financial-wellbeing/

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