tiny figures pushing giant piggybank up steep hill American employees were struggling with money long before coronavirus hit. (Photo: Shutterstock)

It goes without saying that with the consequences of coronavirus now settling in, employees all over America are hurting. As if a virus threatening their health and their loved ones wasn’t enough, their money problems have now been made even worse because they lost hours or got laid off, and many workplaces have permanently closed their doors. Many Americans are feeling about as hopeless as a person can feel right now. They need your help, and they need hope.

Related: Boomers, retirement at financial risk in coronavirus downturn

American employees were struggling with money long before coronavirus hit. They were going into debt up to their eyeballs, were spending more than they made, had little to nothing saved, and weren’t putting money away for retirement. Here’s some of what we were seeing before this pandemic started.

  • 78 percent of Americans were living paycheck to paycheck no matter their paygrade
  • 39 percent couldn’t cover a $400 emergency
  • 40 percent of student loan borrowers were on pace to default on their loans by 2023

So, it’s no wonder in a time like this that millions of people are freaking out! They’re looking for answers, and you have the chance to help.

1. Talk to them (No, really)

Stay at least six feet away, of course, but talk to your employees. Leaders set the tone for how to handle hysteria like our country is going through now—they don’t ride the wave of it. Employees need to hear from their leaders—they need their leaders to communicate stability and calm in the face of their teams’ anxiety and fear.

They need to hear that no matter how hard or scary something like this might be, it will end. They need to hear that economic downturns don’t last forever, and that it’s a horrible idea to take money from their 401(k)s right now. They need to know they probably shouldn’t go buy a new TV with that check from the government. You have a chance to show them that you’re in this battle with them—and that will give them hope.

2. Offer them a plan for their money that actually works

Now more than ever, employees across the country need guidance for their money. They need to know how they’re going to get through this.

At SmartDollar, we recommend the 7 Baby Steps. In uncertain seasons like the one we’re all in, people need to have a plan. The Baby Steps give them that plan. Here’s how they go.

  1. Save $1,000 for your starter emergency fund.
  2. Pay off all debt (except for the house) using the debt snowball.
  3. Save 3 to 6 months of expenses in a fully funded emergency fund.
  4. Invest 15 percent of your household income in retirement.
  5. Save for your children’s college fund.
  6. Pay off your home early.
  7. Build wealth and give.

It doesn’t matter how much your employees make, what their current money situation is, or where they’re at in life—it’s never too late to start. We’ve seen people all over the world use these steps to take control of their money once and for all. They need to hear it from you that they can do this.

3. Equip them with resources and tools to make it through

Your employees need you to go to bat for them. They need resources, tools and motivation to get their money right in a time like this. We’re already seeing all kinds of financial wellness promotions being thrown into the marketplace for business leaders and HR people to give to their employees. The unfortunate thing is that many of them are just trying to make a buck off your employees’ anxiety and fear with junk products that do nothing to help in the long run. Their end game is profit—not giving people hope and a plan to get through this thing. They’re wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Here at SmartDollar, we see some companies taking advantage of people who were just looking for help. They’re putting people in marketing schemes and sales funnels they never wanted to be a part of in the first place. These people were simply looking for hope. And when so many are struggling right now, this kind of behavior honestly makes us angry.

It’s our mission to help people get a plan for their money and find hope. So, in a time like this, we want them to know that it’s available. That’s why we’re doing this. Your employees need to know that things will be okay. They need to know they can get to the other side of this—as long as they have a plan that actually works for them.

Brian Hamilton is vice president of SmartDollar, a financial wellness program from Ramsey Solutions.

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