Maslow’s hierarchy of needs will be familiar to anyone interested in personal growth. Its five stages range from survival basics such as water and sleep at the base of the triangular model, through to self-actualisation at the pinnacle.
When it comes to evolving our financial wellbeing, some similar principles apply:
• Basics (equivalent to ‘survival’ at the base of Maslow’s model). We use a combination of income and debt to pay for absolute essentials only.
• Sustainability (‘safety’ in Maslow’s model) We are able to cover our minimum financial needs with earned income.
• Accumulation (‘belonging’) At this stage we can put money aside in order to cover future expenses.
• Independence (‘esteem’) We feel in control over our money and are not held back by financial problems.
• Utilisation (‘self-actualisation’) – we use money well to help us achieve life goals, both today and in the future at retirement.
Neyber’s DNA of Financial Wellbeing 2018 report found that a significant number of the 10,000 UK workers we surveyed are at the Basics and Sustainability level of this triangle. One in ten said that they feel their finances are out of control, and a further 18% said that they repay debt at the minimum amount each month. Their situation might be sustainable at present, but an unexpected expense or change in circumstances could see them fall back into the Basics category again. Younger workers are even more likely to be at the Basics level, with 16% of 18-24-year olds feeling out of control.
Our research also found that struggling with money affects employees at work. Sixty-nine percent said money problems affect their performance, and 68% that it impacts their behaviour.
Moving up the hierarchy
There are plenty of ways in which employers can help employees move up the hierarchy to the point where they feel they are in control of their money:
• Support employees with debt. Employees who are struggling at the Basics level of the hierarchy need support in finding the right debt management products to help them move their finances to a more sustainable level. Fifty-seven percent of the employees in our survey said that they had debts, increasing to 69% in the 25-34 age group.
• Build good savings habits. Employees whose finances are more stable say they could also benefit from help in finding appropriate savings products. In Neyber’s survey, 55% of employees said that they would welcome help with at least one aspect of their finances, with 20% saying that they want help with long-term planning. In the 18-24 age group, 27% said they want to build good savings habits, and 22% of all respondents aged between 25 and 54 want more help with long-term planning.
• Help with financial inclusion. Financial inclusion plays an important part in helping employees climb through the stages of financial wellbeing. However, 17% of the 500 employers included in our survey believe they have staff who are financially excluded and find it difficult to access financial products at appropriate cost. While offering affordable loans at work can help, financial education also has a critical part to play. Thirty-one percent of employees in our research said that they have no knowledge about credit scores– but keeping check on credit scores is essential to accessing the best value loans and products.