3 Easy Ways to Foster Financial Wellness at Your Small Business

Pam Krueger, CEO, Wealthramp
Mar 31, 2021

No matter where employees are in their careers, they all want the same thing when it comes to money: peace of mind. In this episode of PIVOT, MoneyTrack host and CEO of Wealthramp Pam Krueger shares the tools small businesses can use to help employees build financial wellness.

No matter where employees are in their careers, they all want the same thing when it comes to money: peace of mind. With 74% of Americans living paycheck-to-paycheck, there’s a need for financial wellness education that employers are stepping in to meet. But since the best financial advice is the kind that’s personalized to each individual’s specific situation, where should a small business start?

In this episode of PIVOT,  host of the PBS show MoneyTrack and CEO of Wealthramp Pam Krueger shares the tools small businesses can use to help employees build financial wellness. You’ll hear how to meet employees where they are in their careers without becoming a financial advisor yourself, and tips for helping employees take control of their personal finances based on Pam’s wealth of experience as a financial advisor and educator.

On this episode, you’ll hear:

  • [07:24-10:21] Why a financial wellness offering is so important in a small business 
  • [14:19-15:04] What matters most in helping employees feel financially secure
  • [16:43[-18:39] The key to finding tools that are low-cost and high-impact
  • [18:44-22:16] Three categories employees from a personal finance perspective
  • [23:14-27:07 ] Pam’s recommended financial wellness tool for early-career employees: You Need a Budget (YNAB)
  • [28:12-33:54] Pam’s recommended tool for mid-career employees: Betterment and Blooom
  • [34:02-37:56]  Pam’s recommended tool for late-career employees: Wealthramp.com
  • [40:37-44:17] Why it’s important to gather feedback from employees on financial wellness tools
  • [44:32-45:56] Pam’s advice on the best place to start when offering financial wellness resources for the first time

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POPS Star Bio

Pam Krueger is a financial wellness advocate who has spent the majority of her career educating and advising on financial literacy and investment best practices. She is the creator and co-host of MoneyTrack, which airs across 255 PBS stations nationwide. While educating investors on her television show, Pam was an early pioneer of the employee financial wellness space, creating videos and content for employers to bring financial literacy into the workplace. After the credit crisis and financial meltdown in 2012, Pam’s viewers began asking where they could go for qualified financial advice. She founded Wealthramp in 2014 to connect consumers with rigorously vetted and qualified fee-only financial advisors to make the process of finding a best-fit advisor simple.


Pam Krueger: 74% of all American workers live paycheck to paycheck. So at the end of the day, we all want the same thing. We want to not be stressed out. About money. We want to reduce financial stress and have peace of mind and confidence.

Didi: It’s the People Ops podcast from Zenefits, the only show dedicated to small businesses. Sharing stories of pivotal people moments. I’m your host Didi D’Errico. In this episode, we’re diving into an increasingly important topic for small business leaders. How do you appropriately support your people’s financial wellness?

Beyond their paychecks. I mean, for most of us the past year has put our short-term and even our long-term financial fragility in the spotlight. So what can, or what should you an already strapped small business leader do to help your people build better financial literacy and better financial planning?

It turns out. A lot, but without a lot of effort today, Pam Kruger joins me to demystify and distill the very big topic of financial wellness and give you practical ideas on how you can help your people build better financial literacy and resilience. Calling Pam an expert feels like an understatement given her background.

She’s the CEO of Wealthramp, and she’s the host of PBS show MoneyTrack. Oh. And she even has her own podcast, friends talk money. She’s given me a few tips on podcasting, but also a whole lot of insight on financial planning. So let’s get started. Let’s talk about how Pam got her start in financial wellness.

Pam Krueger: I think of myself mostly first and foremost as an investor or even an employee financial advocate, because I started in the business on the sales side at a retail brokerage firm at a big wirehouse. And I started my career there and I didn’t like it because I felt like I was really a sales rep. And what I really wanted to do was advise.

So I got out of that business. And then over the course of time, I developed a television series called MoneyTrack and we were on 255 PBS stations. And the goal of MoneyTrack is investor education. And at the same time being an entrepreneur, I also created a company that back in the early days of employee financial wellness, I was actually creating videos and content for employers to share with their employees to help their employees bring financial literacy into the workplace 

Didi: for most small businesses, their employee’s financial wellness isn’t top of mind, it’s often thought of as a nice to have, and not given much attention beyond a typical 401k or retirement program, but the pandemic has put a much more urgent focus on this and all of the facets of wellness and businesses of all sizes are stepping up to provide more for their employees. Wait, before that scares you off rest assured for Pam, the key for small businesses is to avoid doing too much.

Pam Krueger: If I’m a smaller company, which I am, I would rather do fewer things and do them really well than to try to get all bogged down with trying to be all things to all people. We want to do everything within our power to help. Our employees and our teams focus on their work. We want them to be as productive and as engaged as they possibly can.

And when there is a super high level of anxiety around personal finances or job security, those money worries directly impact how much those employees can feel that they can engage with the rest of the team. It makes it harder for them to step up and take on a new project. Because they’re bogged down worrying about money.

So then you kind of step in and say, well, what can I control and what can I do to help? And then where can I draw my boundaries and say, I can’t help.

Didi: We can all agree that as leaders, we all need to pay better attention to how we take care of our people. So whatever you decide to tackle, there’s one point to keep in mind, engagement is key.

Pam Krueger: We really figure it out that if we’re going to help, uh, our employees feel more financially secure, we know that one thing matters more than anything else, pure and simple engagement. I hate the expression in a way, because it’s so overused, but I love it to you meeting the employee where they are. I mean, that’s what it’s all about.

So engagement is rains that rules the day, having the employees actually engage in whatever you’re deciding that you want to introduce as tools for financial wellness. So I’m going to give you the tools that I really like, but I just want you to keep in mind that engagement is where it’s at. 

Didi: As we break down the practical applications and steps. Remember no one is suggesting you become a financial expert. These are just ways you can start. Now here’s the conversation with Pam beginning with the financial wellness benefits that can have the biggest impact. 

Pam Krueger: I like what you pointed out about having to become a financial advisor. That’s no small point. That is a very big deal because here’s what happens. You want to be able to help your employees. And we know that the be-all end, all. Is highly personalized one-on-one advice. Notice, I didn’t say education or generalists, like really specific advice and we’re not in a position to do that. We can’t do that as employers.

So not stepping into the role of the advisor is really critical to understand that maybe our job is to provide multiple touchpoints for where employees can access. The advice at the level where they need it. So again, meeting them where they are. So, I mean, we know that financial advice. Is always going to make the biggest impact when it’s personalized.

It’s just a fact. So we know there are limits and the key to moving the needle is getting as close as possible to truly meeting those employees’ needs. And so engagement and adoption is going to be much higher when you can offer the tools and the service offerings that are based on where they are in life.

For me, the way I see a small company best moving the needle. For their employees is simply by understanding the three different groups have three different sets of generalized priorities and based on where they are in their career, and you can move the needle with them and get them engaged simply by offering.

Content great content and tools that have been vetted that are already out there are practically free. All you have to do is go out and vet the tools and decide that you want to bring them into the company and create those multiple touchpoints so that you can meet those employees where they are.

Didi: And I know Pam that you have got a couple of suggestions to get people started on tools that you’ve vetted and you recommend for, for your customers and maybe for employees in your own business. So if you could talk a little bit about an example in each one of those categories, I think that would be a super helpful way to dig in a little bit deeper and get people thinking about how, how to make this practical.

Pam Krueger: So practical equals less is more so we don’t need to get bogged down and we don’t need to get confused. So let’s start with the early career. You know, the folks who are coming to me three times a week, I talk to people just exactly like this. Who are asking me, okay, I’m just getting started? I am funding my 401k, my husband’s funding, his 401k.

We want to make sure that we’re on track and we’re finally getting out of digging out of debt, but we don’t, we know we don’t have enough in emergency savings. I hear that week after week after week, these are typically people who are probably in their twenties and thirties, and I have a tool that I love that can be as simple tool that you can offer to help. And that is an app called you need a budget and you need a budget or Y NAB, Y N a B, why NAB? And you need a budget and sort of stands for, I don’t like this tool. I love this, you know, you’ve heard, okay. DD, you know, mint, right. We all heard of mint. I like mint. I liked it.

I’m going to tell you the difference between mint and why nap. Okay. So mint is going to basically say, look financially speaking, and getting your organized, tell you what we’ll do the laundry and we’ll fold it and we’ll put it away for you in terms of money. They’ll organize your money, get it all, just like little boxes, right?

The difference that you need a budget goes. Okay. I’ll DDL do your laundry and I’ll fold it. But guess what? I’m going to teach you how to do your laundry and I’m going to teach you why you want to do your laundry. So what, why nav does it’s different? Is it really gets someone engaged in the, why do I want a budget?

Not why do I need a budget? Why do I want a budget? And it gets you thinking about your money completely differently. And it works now they say, and I don’t know if this is true yet, but they claim why NAB claims that on average, that people who were budgeting using their program, using their app save $600 in their first two months and more than $6,000 a year.

After year one, that’s $500 a month that they’re saving because they’re finding money. That’s going out the window and they’re using you need a budget again, to not only organize and get it together and do it for you. But to show you how to get involved with your own budget and be your own best friend when it comes to paying down debt, when it comes to figuring out what to do with your money, when to start investing, I mean, there’s a lot of education involved in it as well.

So I. Love, you need a budget. And as a employer, all I have to do is introduce it to my employees and let them know. Guys, I vetted this tool. I’m excited about it. I can help you use it, but I want to give it to you because it works. I love the behavior change piece. 

Didi: We do a lot of work with different partners and by the way, we’re not being paid or endorsed for any of this. These are, these are just good, useful tools that Pam is suggesting. But you know, like Ariana Huffington has a company thrives globally, and it’s all about micro-lessons, about little things that help you start to change your behavior. So you’re investing in your own future and your own. Wellness on a different level and this is a financial comparison to that.

So I think that that’s, that’s really powerful. So let’s, let’s move on to talk about mid-career early to mid-career and your suggestion there. 

Pam Krueger: We’re talking tools. We’re not trying to put the employer, you know, and I’m trying to put the HR person in, or, or the, you know, the management in the control seat of being the advisor.

We’re trying to simply introduce tools that we can easily understand and frankly, use ourselves and offer to employees because we can say we vetted these tools. The second tool that’s practically free. This is actually too. During this entire mid-career span, we’re looking for tools here that are going to make investing in that 401k more important.

More automatic and less expensive. So let me give you an example, instead of paying upwards of one to 2% a year in management fees to have a mutual fund that’s managed for you, you can have an ETF. Or an index fund that accomplishes the same goals. And you can use a robo I’ll explain that in a second type of advisor service, like a betterment, and they will allocate the assets in the best possible way at the lowest possible cost.

So guess what that saving amounts to. That’s kind of a boring way of saying that you’re going to save a lot of money, be in, have much better returns because at the end of the day, You’re talking about a couple of thousand dollars or so every single year and that as your balance starts to go up and your 401k, those fees, all of a sudden get to be serious.

So at the end of a career, you’re talking about the difference between not just thousands of dollars, hundreds. Of thousands of dollars. That’s why employees, especially ones who have been in there for one kid for a long time are suing the employer because they’re saying why didn’t you know, that this tool was out there?

Why didn’t, you know, this exists now I think that you Zenefits have just partnered with betterment. Is one of the leading what we call robo advisors. It means that it’s a platform online where individuals can invest and have those investments managed at the lowest possible cost. So betterment makes it possible for first-time investors to have access to everything in terms of what the stock market can offer.

And you’re doing it at an incredibly. Very very low price point. So over the years, instead of accumulating big fees that drag down your performance, you’re saving that money goes right back to you. It makes a huge difference. The other tool that I liked for mid-career, I also love bloom it’s bloom with three O’s.

B L O O M bloom also much like betterment is also a robo, but the only difference there between the two is I like to use bloom for his, it audits for fees. And it looks inside your existing 401k. If somebody is changing jobs or you are, let’s say, it’s your spouse. Who’s been working for a company where you kind of suspect that the 401k is expensive and you want to continue to invest in it.

The employee wants to continue to put money in, but they’re wondering. Am I really getting the best out of the 401k bloom is a tool or an app that goes in and kind of audits the 401k and shows you the lower-cost alternatives. So you’ve got two tools there that are designed to help mid-career employees access the market and invest the best possible way to optimize their investments and keep the costs down. 

Didi: Fantastic. And let’s move to the late careers and just wrap this up a little bit. 

Pam Krueger: So in the late-career, this is really important. This is where the stakes are super high because now your employees have accumulated. They’ve got a lot of money at stake, their spouses too. Let’s not forget our employees or our employees, but they’re, you know, they have partners or they might have spouses and they’re saving together. Now they’re at that point in life, maybe they’re in their fifties now, or maybe they’re in their sixties. You cannot afford to do-overs. You cannot afford to make mistakes.

Now, life has gotten more complex. In most cases, you’ve got kids, you’ve got college funded, probably you’ve got a house. You might have other real estates. Your spouse might own a small business, whatever it is, it now matters. Everything matters. Now, this is where you can’t play around. You can’t take wild guesses and wild swings.

You need to know with accuracy, you know, where you’re going to land. So this is where, to me, this is where the personalized advice comes in. This is where the employee needs to sit down with a real advisor or registered investment advisor. Who’s been vetted, not somebody who sells products or mutual funds or insurance, somebody who’s completely unbiased.

And the word here is fiduciary. You’re looking for an advisor who you can then refer with comfort, that employee, that you’re talking to them comes into your office and says, I’m going to have a rollover. I’ve got $500,000. I don’t know how to roll it over. You know, without getting a penalty and how am I going to know when I can retire?

That’s when you want to have a referral, a tool you can reach for, to offer personal advice, because you want to offer that and you don’t want anybody in the company offering it. Yeah. So this is, I created Wealthramp.com,  like ramp up your wealth and DDT. You know, the story, the reason that I created wealth ramp was two reasons.

Our viewers were asking me for that kind of tool. Because I was always so busy telling people how, Oh, you don’t need a financial advisor. You can do so much on your own. You can just use the free digital tools, but employees were going to employers coming to me and our viewers were coming to me and saying, it’s time, I’m ready for a financial advisor.

Give me a name. And I would say, Oh gosh, The advisor has to be vetted before I feel comfortable giving an eight. So it took me four years, but I curated a network of 250 of the best-registered investment advisors that help everybody from people who have $50,000 or less up to people who have, we have clients who have $20 million or more.

Most of our clients are people who are coming to me, their employees, we partner with companies and. The employees are rollovers. Their typical median is 1.2 million. This is serious money for this is really serious money. They have to live on this money for the rest of their lives. And it sounds like a lot, but if you’ve got another 28 years of life to fund after you’re going to retire and interest rates are pegged to zero, you need advice.

So I finally kind of came to God. I met with myself and said, I have to create something that’s going to help people get referrals to registered investment advisors, who I personally have vetted and that’s wealth ramp.com. So we partner with employees just like betterment does for a different reason.

We work hand in hand with these other tools. We don’t compete. We solve different problems at different career stages. So the early career, mid-career. And then the later career. So when you really do want that advice and they’re seriously wanting that, that real hands-on advice, then wealth ramp is what I’ve created to solve that problem and to fill that gap for employers.

Didi: I love that. And I know when we were talking before you, you talked about, this is the network of consultants when you need them and not until you need them. And I think that the point that you’ve made through all of this, which is really well taken as know your people they are and what their needs are.

One of the things we’d like to, I always do in this show to kind of bring it home is to ask our guests to share a memorable example, maybe a pivotal moment where you saw a small business. Maybe Pam at your own small business, kind of put some of these ideas in place and come out with a powerful result.

Can you share something that you’ve either counseled on or experienced directly? That could be a good mile marker for people to keep in mind as they’re thinking about the financial well-being for their small businesses.

Pam Krueger: Yeah. I mean, can you imagine if I’m in the financial education and financial investor advocacy world?

And I’m not helping the people who come to work with me. I think that what is really meaningful for me was when I was getting money, track our TV series up and running, and I had interns, you know, we had a lot of interns, paid interns, not free interns paid, and they were. Trying to get going. And I found myself being a little bit of the mother hand and kind of bringing them in together.

And it was a very rudimentary sort of foundational building block to what we’re talking about today to watch the employees blossom from interns who started out in debt. Bringing in these tools and showing them because on the PB series, that money track, we were showcasing a lot of tools and test driving them.

So of course I wanted my own teams to be part of this. So I watched a couple that I can think of a couple of really young, you know, 20 somethings that started with me as interns. Really get out of debt and get to the point where they had $50,000 or more in there in savings and investments and feel empowered and a lot more confident.

And I had them come back to me again and again and again, and say, just learning these. These things that are so simple to learn and get into these habits, like you just mentioned with the small habits of behavioral changes is a game-changer. Because at the end of the day, we all want the same thing.

We want to not be stressed out about money. We want to reduce the financial stress and have peace of mind and confidence so that, you know, even if you’re sitting down with an advisor, you’re confident that you can have a conversation. That is collaborative, not where you’re like, Oh, you know, everything, I know nothing.

So that’s what it’s all about. And I think also did that for me. I learned and saw firsthand with my own, with the people who were working with me, that watching the employees utilize these tools and getting feedback from them. And I think that’s really important. I think that those two things then.

This resulted in them asking more questions. And when, when employees start to ask more questions, that’s not a bad thing. It’s a good thing. It means that something stimulating them. And so I think that. You want to try to get them to use these tools as much as possible, and then you want to care about their feedback, tell them you want their feedback.

So in other words, we’re not just saying, okay, I’m going to kick you to the curb and give you this tool and help them best. Right. We’re saying we want to hear back from you. I want your user story about this tool. And would you mind sharing it with the rest of the group? If it’s not personal? 

Didi: That hits such a chord with me. I think most, every conversation I have had with guests on the show, we’ve talked about the fact that that feedback today is even so much more important because so many businesses have remote teams. And when you can’t see them, sure, we see them in little square zoom boxes or whatever. And that’s probably going to be the reality, at least a hybrid reality of, of some of your folks that you, you may see in person, some of you functioning, you may never see. So the feedback on there. Physical. Well-being the feedback on their emotional wellbeing. The feedback on their financial wellbeing all goes hand in hand with kind of the new world of work reality. 

Pam Krueger: I’ll tell you what I think is super important and it’s got nothing to do with money. It’s got nothing to do with anything but common sense.

I really believe that if they know that you’re hearing them if they know that you’re listening. And let’s just say you had nothing, but these four tools, these, these three or four practically free tools, if you are listening to them and they feel heard. You’re relieving their stress right there. You’re going to increase the engagement right there.

And then if you tell them, and I want to hear back from you, I do that with our clients all the time, DD, I, and I sincerely mean that. I say, Hey, before you just go off and start to talk to this advisor, please, I want to hear back from you on how you make out and guess what they do. And they really appreciate the fact that I want to hear back.

So I think that that’s what we can be doing, has nothing to do with. Becoming a financial expert. It’s just, people want to be heard. 

Didi: So in a quick summary here, if you were talking to a small business leader, so we want to think about starting where’s the best place to start. Would you say, perhaps it’s a survey of your people and to see where they are and how they feel, or where would you, where would you suggest that they get started?

If they want to go down this path and haven’t really done any kind of financial wellness conversations with their teams.

Pam Krueger: I think that that’s a great place to start. I think that you know, just again, hearing where they are and look at the employee base and say, Oh gosh, I just realized that three-quarters of our employee base are under the age of 40.

Okay, so that tells you something right there, or it might be the other way around, or it might be evenly distributed, and then asking them, querying them, and asking them, we want to be able to introduce some tools. Can you just give me the top three pain points for you with your own financial security or give them an array of choices?

You know, like a little bit of a survey, make it simple. You know, not, not dense if something super simple so that they know that you’re, you’re concerned about it. You want to make sure that they’re making the most of everything and you men, and then from there, introducing the tools based on the feedback.

Didi: So, one last question for you, Pam, what are you most optimistic about this year? When it comes to small businesses like yours?

Pam Krueger: I think that we’re growing better as it results of the pandemic that it’s really caused everybody to sort of reprioritizing and figure out time is so valuable. Everything is more valuable.

And so as we grow and you know, that that doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. And, and I truly believe that not despite, but because of the pandemic, I think we’re going to grow and be a tighter group. And when you think about everybody was working in their offices and you had your office life, and then you had your home life.

And now, especially with small businesses, everybody has more understanding and more compassion and more empathy. And so I think that we grow better. Because we understand each other more and we were all in the same boat. The only thing that I would want to say, you know, as we wrap up here and say it, so sincerely is don’t try to be all things to all people just pick the best of showed pools and the fact that we’re a small businesses.

That’s fantastic because we don’t have to have big cumbersome, you know, complicated programs. We can just pick and choose. What’s already out there that already works. That’s already proven and bring it in and introduce it to our employees. I think that’s pretty clean, pretty simple.

Rob: Either fellow paycheck, enthusiasts. It’s Rob again here to kick us off with a quick show note. Lady Gaga is legal team asked that I stopped referring to my future theoretical rabid fan base as little monsters. That’s left the marketing team here at the POPS podcast, AB testing some possible alternatives, including Rob zombie’s robots and our CFO’s favorite non-revenue generating free tier subscribers.

Anyway, in this episode, I’ll be weighing in on one of the hottest topics. Roiling the HR industry today. Location-based pay adjustments. What are location-based pay adjustments who ask that’s your management team, deciding that maybe your salary should reflect your new presumably lower cost of living red believers.

We may have missed the boat on baggage and resort fees, but if we marshaled the entire Rob army, the Rob hive, the Robbins, the Rob nation, I’m talking all of the Robin addicts. We might still be able to knit this insidious little cash grab right in the bud. Now we could take the high road and argue on principle.

That they’re not actually paying for our costs, but our value in the outcomes we create for the company and our customers, after all Beyonce, doesn’t stop being Beyonce. If she moves to Oklahoma. And there is a reason that T Swift can fill an arena at 400, a pop while Hanson can headline the grand opening and my local that’s smart.

Yeah, we could do that, but I prefer a more let’s call it. So cratic approach, if you see signs of this cold, starting to crop up, uh, your employer. Take the opportunity at your next all hands fast, these little innocuous conversation starters, number one, does the company adjust its pricing based upon its customer standard of living?

Do they lower prices for the good hard-working residents of say Mississippi, Arkansas, Kansas, too. Well, the executive team’s compensation also be adjusted for cost of living after all, most of them took the COVID opportunity to hop in the old Learjet jet and run off to claim tax residency. If they’re a hunting lodge ranch, a volcano base, surely living in a place where the primary economic activity involves trading Beaver pelts for sugar should warrant some tweaking of total compensation, three.

Ask them how much they’re saving on office leases, snack kitchens, team-building activities, janitorial services, and happy hours. Also feel free to politely inquire as to when they plan to start paying for their use of your spare bedroom, breakfast nook, junk room or mom’s center. Don’t forget to ask for a security deposit.

And finally, if all else fails, we’re on the talent. Just enthusiastically embraced the new corporate policy. This would be a great time to tell your HR team all about your crippling gambling addiction, three kids, special needs parakeets, student loans, credit card, balance, and exciting plans to buy a Tesla and move into a much larger home in Beverly Hills.

Don’t forget to bring proper documentation to help them better calculate your new pay raise. Well, Robin haters, I’d love to stick around and see how that conversation goes. But I got to run. I’m late for a meeting. 

Didi: That’s Rob I’m Didi, And this was PIVOT. If you want more detail on the topic of financial wellness and resiliency, check out zenefits.com/pops-podcast. If you have questions you want us to answer on our show, check out the link in our show notes below and we’ll get it covered.

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