Photo by Donald A. Promnitz. Preston Cross, owner of Four C’s Construction in Fresno, watches as Bang Vue, lead fabricator puts together a piece of sheet metal for a new high school in Madera. Cross just rolled out SmartDollar for his company.
Written by Donald A. Promnitz
A popular financial savings plan has found its way into Fresno and according to its users, their team members have already been seeing positive results.
The plan in question is SmartDollar, a program rolled out by financial management company Ramsey Solutions from Brentwood, Tennessee. Brian Hamilton, vice president of SmartDollar, described it as a program for financial wellness and an employee benefit. According to Hamilton, the average household spends $500 more than they make, often leaving little breathing room in the event of an emergency or unforeseen expenditure. This can result in higher stress for employees and diminished performances.
“When my employees come to work and they bring their financial problems with them — and they’ve got a lot of financial problems — that shows up in work through productivity issues, retention and turnover, and health care costs,” Hamilton said.
Originally offered only in workshops, Hamilton said that those employees that took the classes saw significant improvements in their financial situations, but participation was generally low, with a typical rate of only 2 to 5 percent. The classes were hampered in part by guilt around the perceived mismanagement of finances by peers and counselors.
“A big reason for low participation is because if we’re going to talk about the problem here, which is debt and budgets and emergency funds — if we’re going to talk about that at work — that carries a negative stigma with it,” Hamilton said. “And I don’t want to sit around with my coworkers and talk about my credit card debt.”
In more recent years, the SmartDollar program has been taken online and with it, participation has gone up to 30 to 50 percent. To help with personal financial management, the program relies on a seven-step process that includes saving $1,000 for an emergency fund, starting a college fund, paying off a home early and (perhaps most notably) paying off all debts except mortgage using the snowball method — a form of payment that involves handling small debts first and building individual confidence.
In Fresno, business owner Preston Cross of Four C’s Construction and Advanced Metal Works, Inc. has already used Ramsey program Financial Peace University with his wife. Through that, it’s helped them to not only get out of debt, but also start saving more for retirement and their children’s college fund.
Cross, who has 75 employees (referred to by him as “team members”), decided to help those in his companies by sharing what they’d learned. Through two nine-week courses, approximately ten to 15 team members and families (each) took the classes in the office. Cross said there were some who struggled to hold on, but they were encouraged along the way.
Two weeks ago Four C’s and Advanced Metal Works team members are now able to take this advice online, with SmartDollar classes being rolled out. Based on previous experience with Ramsey, Cross said he’s optimistic.
“So I would say it helped everyone back at home, it helped marriages, it helped people be more attentive at work because you’re not worried about the debt collector calling you,” Cross said. “Or paying or bills or living paycheck to paycheck, you take some breathing room, so they can have a better quality of life.”