Do you have $500 you could access for an emergency? If you do, you're in the minority of Americans. According to a 2017 Bankrate survey, 59 percent of us don't have $500 to cover an emergency.

The problem is, savings or not, emergencies happen. Car accidents, broken furnaces, or an emergency room visit for a sick child. Not having the money to cover these things causes your employees stress.

A simple solution is to give everyone a raise, but considering that 59 percent of the US lacks a $500 savings account, increasing any one person's paycheck isn't likely to result in an increase in savings alone. (I once had to explain to a man who earned enough to be in the 1 percent, that his next check was going to be late. He asked how on earth I expected him to pay his mortgage when the check would be late. I sincerely hope he was just crabby and had enough set aside to cover one month's mortgage payment.)

People of all income levels live paycheck to paycheck and rely on credit cards to cover unexpected bills, which then increases their monthly obligations.The trick is to get people to save, regardless of income, so that they can handle emergencies when they arise.

The Wall Street Journal reported on businesses that are doing something about the savings rate--paying their employees to set aside money for an emergency fund. They described what one company is doing, and why:

Pitt Ohio, a Pittsburgh trucking company that employs 1,800 drivers, in 2016 began offering $56 to employees who contribute at least $19 a week for six months to an emergency-savings account without making withdrawals. Employees who maintain that for another six months qualify for a second $56 payment.

Pitt Ohio executives grew alarmed about employees' finances after researchers at the University of Pittsburgh discovered in a 2016 survey that drivers who reported financial stress are more distracted and had more accidents, inflating the company's total by about eight accidents a year.

Safety is a priority for any trucking company, and 8 accidents a year can make a significant impact on the bottom line. 

But, it's not just about accidents. Employees who are under stress aren't going to perform as well in office jobs either.The $56 payment isn't huge, but 92 percent of those who participated reached the goal and received they payment. It was enough of a push to get them to put aside money.

Lots of businesses do 401k matches which also encourages saving, but such money isn't liquid: there are huge tax penalties should you make a withdrawal before you're old enough. This type of program creates liquid savings accounts so that when an emergency happens, the employee can fix it.

It's not just a blue collar problem. With student loans and high rents, lots of people try to pay down debt before saving anything, but because emergencies will happen, you end up in a never-ending cycle of credit card debt.

Among all the benefits and perks that your business can offer, doing something to increase your employees' savings can do a lot toward reducing stress, which benefits your business.

Published on: Feb 22, 2018