Talking about money can be uncomfortable, stressful and maybe even taboo in many circles.
But McKee Foods Corp., one of Hamilton County's biggest companies with more than 6,000 employees, wants its workers and their families to talk and learn more about money to take some of that stress and discomfort out of their financial planning.
Shawn Pellington, compensation and benefits manager at the Collegedale-based bakery famous for Little Debbie Snacks, said McKee decided last year to add financial well-being courses to its decades-old wellness initiatives for its employees.
"Wellness has always been part of our corporate culture, but over the past five to seven years we've recognized that our wellness offering was not complete in that it didn't have a focus on financial wellness and financial fitness," Pellington said.
So over the past three years, McKee evaluated several financial planning offerings for workers and ultimately decided to pick a program developed by SunTrust Bank known as Momentum onUp.
Unlike most programs, the onUp courses and material from SunTrust don't promote any specific product for the bank or other financial businesses but instead offer some universal help for people trying to improve their credit scores, savings and retirement plans.
"We like the flexibility and the affordability of this program and we wanted to do this to help our workers and to help reduce the financial stress in their lives, which we know can be harmful to the individual and to their work performance, Pellington said.
So far, about 500 of McKee's more than 6,000 employees have signed up for the online program, but Pellington expects more to take advantage of the offering over time.
More than two dozen other major companies have introduced the program to their employees, including Home Depot, Delta Airlines, Equifax, Waffle House and Haverty's.
"More than 40 percent of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, and 75 percent report experiencing financial stress," SunTrust CEO Bill Rogers said. "Progressive companies can improve overall wellness in America by offering a financial fitness program for their employees."
The SunTrust program includes on-site sessions and online resources to help employees establish financial goals, start an emergency savings fund, navigate their expenses and spending habits, and take steps toward financial wellness.
"In the same way that we seek to foster good work/life balance, enriching professional development and a commitment to their health and wellness, Momentum onUp gives us a valuable resource that not only helps our people understand where their financial life is today, but also lets them put a stake in the ground for their family's future," said Mike McKee, the third generation CEO of the family-owned company started by his grandparents, O.D. and Ruth McKee.
Of those surveyed who have participated in the program so far at companies across the Southeast:
' Those who said they are now living by a budget increased from 43 percent to 87 percent, and those with an emergency savings improved from 68 percent to 98 percent;
' Employees increased their investment contributions for retirement by 35 percent;
' More than 99 percent would recommend the program to others.
"This is a program that supports our corporate mission of lighting the way to financial well-being," said JV Vaughn, the market president in Chattanooga for SunTrust Bank. "This program really helps employees to learn about their net worth, how to improve their credit sores, how to create a budget or how to better save for retirement. This program is applicable for anyone along their life cycle and it's a good way for us to support our purpose and, at the same time, do the right thing for our clients and their employees."
SunTrust purchased the intellectual property of a leading employee program and hired the company's founder, financial expert Brian Ford, to build the Momentum onUp curriculum. The program was first piloted by 15,000 SunTrust teammates, where more than 80 percent of those completing the program report feeling in greater control of their finances.
To encourage participation, SunTrust matched up to $1,000 for participating associates to help build their emergency savings as part of the program. The bank also gave employees an extra day off each year to focus on their personal finances, as well as a day to volunteer in an activity that builds financial confidence in their communities.
Contact Dave Flessner at email@example.com or at 423-757-6340.