Financial wellbeing

Do your staff, or clients’ staff ever worry about money?

If so, you’re in good company:

  • Financial stress costs the UK economy £120.7 billion, and 17.5 million hours were lost because of absence from financial stress (Neyber 2016).
  • 40% of employee’s state money worries have caused them stress over the past year (Evans 2016)
  • 19% of employees have lost sleep worrying about their finances (CIPD 2017)
  • Disturbed sleep patterns contribute to lower employee productivity. Surveys at four US organisations estimated that fatigue-related productivity losses cost $1,967 annually per employee (Rosekind et al 2010).
  • One in four workers report money worries have affected their ability to do their work (CIPD 2017)
  • For every £1 million an organisation spends on payroll, it is estimated that it loses 4% of productivity due to poor employee financial well-being (Barclays 2014).
  • 8% of the UK workforce admit to taking time off work because of financial stress (Neyber 2016).

It’s costing you and/or your clients money and causing staff to be less engaged, less able to attend work and to be less focused and effective when they do work. What do you do?

Commonly, provide advice on finance, about pensions and benefits. Tell people how to handle money.

But money doesn’t get depressed, have retail therapy and spend itself. A coin doesn’t go to Relate because it keeps arguing with its partner about itself. A pound note doesn’t spend itself now and fail to save itself for retirement.

The Money Charity (2017) says that in September 2017 the average UK adult had debts of £30,176 – around 113.7% of average earnings. Is getting financial information helping, when the debt figure is going up, month on month?

In case you think that, because an organisation pays well, staff have no problems, the Daily Mirror, reporting on the CIPD & Close Brothers research (CIPD 2017) said:

“Nearly three in 10 (28%) earning less than £15,000 a year said money concerns got in the way of their work.

But the problem extends up the pay scale – troubling one in five (20%) employees earning £45,000 to £59,999 and one in seven (14%) of those on £60,000 or more.

Nearly a third (30%) of those earning £35,000 to £44,999 said financial worries affected them.”

It’s not confined to the lower paid, everybody can worry about money.

Financial capability is now taught in schools and the Money Advice Service have a strategy to teach finance to everybody. Still, the problem is getting worse, not better. Inevitably, since the researchers from the LSE that the FCA asked to look into it a decade ago said:

 “Overall, there is a lack of direct evidence that the National Strategy for Financial Capability will substantially improve long-term financial decision making. The indirect evidence from behavioural economics is that low financial capability is more to do with psychology than with knowledge.”

de Meza et al (2008)

Despite this evidence, the idea persists that people simply need to be told to save more, avoid payday loans and put money into pension, to be rich and happy. And that all people need to change their behaviour (such as saving, not spending), control their emotional responses (such as being stressed, sleepless and depressed) and make good, long-term decisions about money is to be given financial information.

Actually, we knew that giving information about money wouldn’t work, because information doesn’t affect behaviour. If it did, “five a day” and other health campaigns would have reduced obesity, but obesity levels in the UK have tripled in the last 30 years (Driven by Health, 2017). And we knew it because, as Zeedyk et al, 2001, showed if you teach children road safety rules, they learn the rules and tell you what they ought to do to be safe. But when they leave training, they still run out in the road between parked cars and their behaviour doesn’t alter, despite their knowing what they “should” do.

With food, safety, money and anything you name, human beings often know what they “ought” to do, in the same way that they know they “ought” to give up smoking, take more exercise, save more, and eat less sugar. They just don’t do it!

What do you do about financial worries, then?

Some organisations provide counselling (such as EAP schemes) to help those who don’t take the good advice to save more, defer gratification, buy needs not wants, avoid maxing out credit cards and so on, and who become ill with anxiety and depression. It’s bolting the stable after the horse has gone, but OK.

Do you feel that suffering from depression or needing pills to get to sleep is the same as suffering from a dislocated joint and needing pills for the pain so you can sleep? There is a stigma about “therapy”. There shouldn’t be, but there is. Maybe that’s why the take up on EAP schemes is so low – “According to the EAP Association Market Watch report in 2013, about 10% of the workforce on average use their employer’s EAP service. But in some cases, usage can fall as low as 2%.” (Blackburn, 2016). Compare that to the rate of stress from money worries alone.

Like it or not, people don’t want to have “therapy”, there’s a stigma to it, they feel pathetic and don’t want to be ridiculed. And your staff are likely to remain less effective while they’re working out whether to have therapy.

Besides which, do you want your highest ambition to be stopping staff breaking down and becoming non-functional by helping them merely survive their anxieties – they aren’t ill, but they certainly aren’t well, happy or functioning effectively.

There is a better solution.

Prevention, rather than cure, together with tackling the actual problem with financial worries.

The problem with financial stress, poor decisions and illogical financial behaviour isn’t money.

That sounds odd, because the common perception (that drives an ineffective National Strategy) is that anything “financial”, including stress and wellbeing, is all about money.

But money doesn’t get depressed, have retail therapy and spend itself. A coin doesn’t go to Relate because it keeps arguing with its partner about itself. A pound note doesn’t spend itself now and fail to save itself for retirement.

People make the decisions, take silly actions, get emotionally burned. People have feelings, cognitions and behaviours and their inappropriate actions, thoughts and emotions are what get them into financial trouble.

Money is knowable, and relatively simple. A good IFA can know 90-95% of what there is to know about money, for everybody –I used to be one. You can learn how to advise anybody, so a person’s own finances (that won’t usually include both basic saving and offshore trusts, for example) doesn’t require extensive complex knowledge and it’s all learnable.

Compare that to the requirements of managing stress, understanding how the brain works (how, for example, long term stress can contribute to type 2 diabetes, increased risk of heart disease, compromise of the immune system), managing emotions (such as emotional intelligence), clear decision making. The brain is the most complex single entity in the universe, nobody knows more than, say, 10% of what there is to know about managing emotion, behaviour and thinking.

And while there are textbooks and website full of sound factual information about money, there is very little totally reliable information on how to manage one’s own thinking, feelings and behaviour.

Money is a tool – it can be a very useful tool, but it’s only a tool. Like a hammer, it’s great when it’s appropriate, but given a hammer, humans tend to treat all problems as if they are a nail, even if the problem is a left-hand thread bolt.  It’s another example of how our behaviours and decisions are not always logical or what we think they should be.

A better way to deal with financial stress and help staff to attain wellbeing (financial and in other ways) is to start with the behaviours, emotions and thinking. Those are the elements that create the problems with finance. By tackling those, people are enabled to use their money as a tool. They lose some of the fear and that reduces the stress and increases the wellbeing. They get a greater sense of control that gives them confidence to set priorities and goals, so their decision making improves. And they start to act in accordance with their own values, and think in the longer term, instead of being pulled around by the desire to have more money, whatever the cost to them personally in terms of health. And a consequence is that they not only feel better, think more clearly and behave in a more appropriate way, they also have more money to spend on what is important to them.

I’m currently piloting workshops to provide staff with the skills to manage their emotions, thinking and behaviour, and hence manage financial stress and create wellbeing. They’re based on several years of individual coaching, a couple of books and about 50 years of psychological research into behaviour change, such as curing addiction, better decision making and emotional control.

If your organisation or clients would be interested in finding out more and preventing problems rather than waiting for a crisis to emerge, please get in contact.



Barclays( 2014) Financial Well-being: The Last Taboo in the Workplace?, Barclays available at, accessed 10/1/18

Blackburn J, (2016), The future of EAPs, Cover Magazine, 30/9/16 available at, accessed 13/1/18

Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. (2017) Financial well-being: the employee view. London: CIPD. Available at: accessed 10/1/18

Daily Mirror (2017) Tired, stressed and poor – how money worries are putting our jobs at risk too available online at, accessed 13/1/2018

de Meza, D, Irlenbusch, B & Reyniers, D (2008) Financial capability: A behavioural economics perspective, FCA, available at accessed 10/1/18

Driven by Health (2017) Obesity statistics in the UK, available at accessed 13/1/18

Evans. K (2016) Working Well How employers can improve the wellbeing and productivity of their workforce, Social Market Foundation, available at accessed 10/1/18

Neyber ltd. (2016) The DNA of financial wellbeing: summary report [online]. London: Neyber. Available at: [Accessed 10/1/18).

Rosekind, M. R, Gregory, K, Mallis, M.M, Brandt, S. L,  Seal, B & Lerner, D. (2010). The Cost of Poor Sleep: Workplace Productivity Loss  and Associated Costs, Journal of occupational and Environmental medicine / American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 52. 91-8. Available at accesssed 13/1/18

The money charity (2017) The Money Statistics December 2017, available online at ( accessed 13/1/18

Zeedyk, M. S; Wallace. L; Carcary, B; Jones, K; Larter, K (2001) Children and road safety: Increasing knowledge does not improve behaviour; British Journal of Educational Psychology, Vol 71, Issue 4


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