Andrew Carnegie is quoted as saying: “Take away my people, but leave my factories, and soon grass will grow on the factory floors. Take away my factories, but leave my people, and soon we will have a new and better factory.”
It is important to understand that it is the people in the business who make things happen. In most organisations, the key element to success is the people who work in them. In the past, insufficient importance has been placed on this human factor that can determine the success or failure of a business.
How quickly circumstances in South Africa have changed: High interest rates as a result of high inflation, rising oil prices, disruptions in electricity supply and economic problems in the USA that have resulted in a worldwide credit crunch. The introduction of the National Credit Act in June 2007 to protect consumers has made it more difficult for consumers to borrow.
For these reasons small and large businesses – and individuals – are faced with very different challenges.
In the past, the general attitude was “leave your problems at home when you come to work”. But, businesses are increasingly aware of how difficult this is, and that what happens at ‘home’ or in a personal capacity can so often affect work performance.
Empowering staff with financial knowledge is the best way that employers can ensure full concentration and productivity from employees as they are secure in the knowledge that their financial circumstances are under control.
Can companies assist their employees in becoming more financially organised? Absolutely – by providing a platform to educate and assist staff through this often complicated process.
How to Help Employees
An important starting block is to help your staff understand what it means to be ‘financially organised’.
‘Organised’ people are probably able to provide details about their expenses and, off the top of their heads, particulars about their pension plans and savings accounts. The ‘financially disorganised’ would probably have some difficulty calculating even basic expenses such as the weekly grocery bill, and are more likely to react with a baffled expression if you ask about their pension or insurance plans.
Even with such stark differences between the two categories, creating a financial plan and writing all the details down is the best way to work.
To become ‘financially organised’, employees need to know what their monthly and annual expenses are, and what their bank balance is. Many people who consult financial planners have no idea how much money they have in their bank accounts. Being up to date also requires individuals to become acquainted with the details of their savings and retirement plans, insurance, tax, estate plans and long-term wealth creation investments.
These details are, however, still not enough. It is equally important to understand precisely how these different aspects of each person’s finances correlate with each other. Planning ahead is essential for unexpected developments.
Only when people understand their present and future economic needs, can their financial plan be considered sensible and ‘organised’. Certain factors change all the time. When this happens, all they need to do is revert to the existing plan to determine whether adjustments are necessary.
A financial plan consists of more than just savings and investments. A significant component of your plan should be insurance, and each employee should know how much is needed to protect their family in the event of their own premature death. The following questions should also be answered:
- How much will their family need if they have to stop working?
- Will their pension allow them and their family to live comfortably after they retire?
- Do they need the extra benefits of insurance?
- Will there be benefits for their spouse when they are no longer around?
- It is also important for employees to take care of their long-term welfare. How would they take care of themselves if they fell ill?
High up on the list is for employees to understand the employer’s policies and attitude. Many companies try to abdicate their obligation of continuing to fund medical aid premiums for people who have retired or are close to retiring.
Ensure that employees can see the bigger picture and are not focusing on just one aspect of their plan while neglecting others. Borrowing from financial institutions to meet savings goals is definitely not the right way to go. The interest you are charged is probably far higher than the returns you can achieve. You also need to realise that any investment you make has costs that must be factored into the calculations.
A financial plan is a long-term investment. Putting matters into order and preparing for the future by budgeting well, increasing investment returns, taking insurance or reallocating current assets are key to achieving your financial goals.
The Company’s Role
Companies are seldom qualified to take on the responsibility of dispensing financial advice to their employees. However, they can provide a platform for employees by contracting, at their own cost, independent financial organisations that will provide objective financial services to employees. Costs would range between R1 000 to R3 000 per employee. This is a small price to pay if the employee is going to get complete, independent advice without fear of buying a financial product, as the only way financial planners are rewarded is through commissions on products sold.
The biggest advantage in offering a service like this to one’s employees is that it provides stress relief, freeing employees up to focus on the business at hand and thereby increasing productivity.