On today’s episode of the RecruitingDaily Podcast, William Tincup talks to John from Questis about enabling DEI initiatives with financial empowerment.
Some Conversation Highlights:
Listening time: 27 minutes
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Music: 00:00 This is RecruitingDaily’s Recruiting Live podcast, where we look at the strategies behind the world’s best talent acquisition teams. We talk recruiting, sourcing, and talent acquisition.
Each week, we take one overcomplicated topic and break it down so that your three year old can understand it. Make sense? Are you ready to take your game to the next level? You’re at the right spot. You’re now entering the mind of a hustler. Here’s your host, William Tincup.
William Tincup: 00:34 Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup, and you are listening to the RecruitingDaily podcast. Today we have John on from Questis, and our topic is enabling DEI initiatives with financial empowerment. It’s a topic I haven’t talked about, and I can’t to get into with John. So John, would you do us a favor and introduce yourself and Questis?
John Tabb: 00:55 Sure. William, thanks for having me. John Tabb, I am the CEO and co-founder of Questis. We are a financial empowerment company, and we care a lot about helping people with their financial wellbeing, through both financial coaching and technology, support communities, all those things. Always trying to focus on the hard topics with people’s money and also change money mindsets and ultimately their behaviors.
William Tincup: 01:28 It’s interesting, when people started to use the word privilege with a kind of a negative connotation, this was years ago, a few years ago at least, I think initially I was offended, I think as a kind of white middle class, lower middle class actually, growing up, I thought it’s just to paint a brush with everyone that grew up white is somehow privileged or has some type of privilege. There was an affront. I felt offended for some reason.
And then once I started to kind of unpack my feelings, I’m like, well, there’s some truth to this. It does hurt. And you know what, it’s hurt a lot of other people in the opposite way. I hadn’t given that thought. I haven’t given that enough thought and enough of my mind to think about how I grew up and how significantly different it was from the marginalized people, folks that live on the edges, and people of color, people that just had different socioeconomic situations than myself.
And so, I like that because of what y’all do for a living and how you help people, you’re thinking about, okay, you care about DEI. That’s cool. First of all, I think it’s great that we’re at a place where people are actually spending money on programs that actually will help people.
But I haven’t had someone actually talk about the financial side, the empowerment side and how we can fix one side, we can level the playing field with pay equity. Let’s just say we do that, magic wand and okay, equity. Everyone’s paid equal, done. It’s done. That doesn’t necessarily mean that people are going to be better off.
John Tabb: 03:28 No, it’s very true. I think first off, I agree with your sentiment that I’m also a white male, so this should be a great conversation. No, I’m just kidding.
William Tincup: 03:44 I think we might have talked about it a while back, my favorite DEI consultant is a middle class white Marine from Nebraska, from Omaha, Nebraska.
John Tabb: 03:58 Who would’ve thought?
William Tincup: 04:00 Who would’ve thought? A Marine and a white guy. And he is amazing because he’s fully thrown himself into it for 30 years to figure out what’s going on and how to make it better. And so [inaudible 00:04:16].
John Tabb: 04:15 To your point, the gaps are pretty large. So magic wand, that would be great. Our company, Questis, we don’t have the power to wave the magic wand to change pay equity, just people getting promoted equally and all of these things.
What we can do is try to kind of level the playing field by offering benefits that benefit everyone. And I can give you some examples in a little bit, but I think also you’re right. Even if you did wave the wand, there are certain classes of people and the people who are earning less, who didn’t necessarily have the benefit of having conversations around the dinner table about their finances or money or anybody helping them.
I will say that not many people in general of any race, gender, any of this, have enough conversations as a child or learn enough about personal finances. But I do think that sometimes minorities are definitely at an advantage there, or disadvantage, there as well.
So, there’s an education gap. Unfortunately, education alone, financial literacy, as is important as it is and as sort of as much publicity as it gets, is not effective by itself. We have talked about this before, William, that the formula for doing something is a lot easier on paper than it is for actually getting it done. So, I think that it takes financial coaching and education and all that to kind of reduce that gap.
William Tincup: 06:03 Right. So, let’s talk about examples that benefits everyone because I think that’s a great way to kind of start the conversation of, okay, well, how do we think about programs when we think about programs that would not just help one group of people or class of people, but programs that would help everyone? What do those programs look like? [inaudible 00:06:25].
John Tabb: 06:29 My background is I was a financial advisor or a consultant on mainly defined contribution plans. So 401(k)s, 403(b)s, went out, talked to employees about it, helped employers decide what was the best plan. And through all those conversations really led us to where we are today in the whole financial wellbeing space.
That’s because there was so many people that weren’t ready to talk about retirement and investments and portfolios and asset allocation and basis points and fees and all that stuff. They were more concerned about the day-to-day finances and just making sure that ends meet and being able to save for an emergency or be able to handle an emergency. That’s kind of what led us to where we are today.
That’s what I mean by equal benefit. We want to help everyone. An example of something that doesn’t necessarily help everyone would be a 401(k) plan that maybe people can’t take advantage of. I mean, the less money you make, the harder it is to contribute to one of those. The less educated you are, the harder it is to contribute to it.
Student loan benefits are huge now. Employers are starting to pay back student loans. I think it’s very, very important for an employer to know their audience. Hopefully, they’ve surveyed and they know how many people really do have student loans and how important it is. But are they offering a benefit that certain people can’t take advantage of? Those are good examples.
William Tincup: 08:01 So, let’s start with financial literacy, because I have this bit. Again, outside of what was taught either by example with your parents, relatives, friends, all that other stuff, or what was talked around the dinner table. Outside of that, middle school and high school, not taught, zero.
John Tabb: 08:25 I’ll stop you right there. Get this, we did a survey recently, and I think I’ll probably get the number close, but it was like 60% of people learned everything that they know about their finances from making mistakes.
William Tincup: 08:40 Oh wait, that’s hot.
John Tabb: 08:44 That’s okay. Right, right, right. That’s okay if you’re trying to learn how to bake a cake or snowboard on YouTube, but you don’t want to mess that up and think about how long it might take you to realize that you have messed it up. You’re 50 years old and you haven’t saved anything for retirement. There’s just so many bad things that could happen if that’s your only way of learning about it.
William Tincup: 09:11 So, financial literacy, can you go backwards in terms of what didn’t happen in eighth grade and all the bad experiences that we’ve had that have helped us along the way? I remember actually out of college, I don’t know how many credit cards my wife and I had, we literally put them in a coffee can and lit them on fire.
John Tabb: 09:35 Awesome.
William Tincup: 09:39 Immediately, it was empowering like, oh my God, this is fantastic and also, oh-
John Tabb: 09:46 Scary.
William Tincup: 09:46 … we don’t have a safety net. Something happens, there’s literally no card to go to. So, good luck. I wouldn’t give this advice to other people. There’s a better way to do it. We just needed something symbolic because we had gotten ourselves into debt, and we just didn’t want to even have access to them.
John Tabb: 10:08 Yeah. Something bold to jumpstart the change.
William Tincup: 10:13 That was probably not advice I’d give other people. However-
John Tabb: 10:16 Oh, I don’t know.
William Tincup: 10:18 It was nice to see them on fire in that coffee in my mom and dad’s garage, just to see them on fire going, well, there you go. That’s done. Now what? Now how are we going to make this happen?
So, with literacy itself, again, having a third party teach literacy to folks and kind of helping them, what do you find are some of the best conversations that coaches can have with employees around financial literacy? Where do we start?
John Tabb: 10:53 Well, I mean, I think there’s kind of the Xs and Os of personal finance, and most of it’s fairly basic. You spend less than you make, and it’s important to save. Automating savings and all of those things are really important. Having some safety net if something goes wrong and setting goals.
And then obviously, getting into the details on all of those decisions. How would I save? What’s the best vehicle for saving? And like you said, should I have a debit card? Should I have a credit card? What kind of bank account should I have?
All that stuff is tactical. You could read, we could teach it. But the biggest thing is actually doing it and following through and making sure that someone’s held accountable to actually do all of those things. I think that’s where the coaching and this kind of sort of support communities come in to help.
William Tincup: 11:49 As we look through the lens of DEI, what do you think that’s needed there that… Maybe we need to over index for DEI as we do for our total employee and population, but maybe thinking about them in their needs specifically. Have you seen anything pop out in the data?
John Tabb: 12:13 Maybe you could state that a little bit differently.
William Tincup: 12:14 Sure, sure. Again, I’m thinking about the DEI executives that are listening to this. And they’re trying to think of, okay, where can we start to give maybe that group of people some type of head start? Where do they need help the most? Is there anything that you’ve seen in coaching or your data that says okay, with people that have been marginalized, here’s some of the things that you can do to really help this group of people?
John Tabb: 12:43 Yeah. I mean, I think it’s a good point. I mean, I think in the DEI, we’re certainly the inclusion. We are the I. We are trying to assist with the I probably the most out of all of it. It really is just meeting people at the paycheck and wherever they are in life. The conversations are all going to be different, but sort of catching them up on things that no one’s not just taught them about, but no one’s been there to help the.
I worked at Merrill Lynch in the early days of being an advisor, and our minimum account size kept going up. I mean, I think when I left, it was $500,000 of basically liquid assets. If you think about just the workforce and who you’re trying to help, that’s got to be a very small number of that workforce that would ever be eligible or have access to talk to a financial planner or financial advisor.
And then there’s the 80% in the middle that maybe they have access… I don’t know if 80% would ever have access to that, but they didn’t necessarily want that sort of culture and that. And that relationship felt too… I don’t know… too, I don’t what the word is. Like they were too entitled to have it or something. But then there’s nowhere to go. And there’s nowhere to learn all these things if you don’t have access.
William Tincup: 14:17 Back to what you said earlier, you’re going to learn, you’ll just learn through mistakes.
John Tabb: 14:23 One thing I will say is that I talk to a lot of employers, and generally the first place everyone’s gone for the last 10 years, or five years at least, is when they talk about financial wellness, they’ve leaned on either their retirement plan advisor or their record keeper, whoever the institution is that’s essentially the service provider that does the bookkeeping on the plan, provides the online experience for your accounts and all of that.
In most cases, and I can speak from experience because that’s what I did, I took all the CFP stuff and I learned about retirement plans. I was never trained to help people with the problems that are out there today. If somebody had crushing debt that kept them up at night, and they didn’t know what to do about it, that’s not a CFP that’s going to help you. A CFP is learning about complex estate planning and alpha and beta and sort of portfolio metrics and stuff in the investing world and options.
So, it’s a different skill set to be able to help people. I guess my point is that when I talk to employers, they say, “Well, my 401(k) person comes out and they speak to everybody once a quarter about all kinds of topics.” And I’m thinking they are not qualified to do that, one, I’m sure. They quickly agree that yeah, you’re right. It’s not really what we want. We need more, and we’re not doing enough.
I mean, and really those people, if you look behind the scenes, most of them are motivated to find qualified candidates to essentially convert to clients. And the people that need help are not qualified leads to convert to clients. That’s a huge conflict.
William Tincup: 16:10 Yeah. Yeah. It’s very interesting. And you unpacked something that was very good for me, diversity, equity, inclusion, equality, belonging, all of these things that are super important to companies and have been at least in the lip service, but now at least there’s budget and programs and people in place.
I like that you put financial empowerment and financial wellness as the I. This is if we truly want to be inclusive, if the goal is to create an inclusive workforce, an inclusive workspace for folks, then we have to care about their financial wellness. We have to care about financial empowerment.
First of all, I just love the way that you’ve kind of positioned the I. For folks to think about it, it’s like, listen, we want to care and we need to care about that whole person, not just the person that they bring to work or the outputs of the job, but that whole person. And that whole person has a lot of other things going on that don’t show and don’t show up necessarily at work.
What other examples have you seen with clients, without names and brands and stuff like that, but what other things have you seen where people have tied or thinking about tying TI and especially inclusion to financial wellness and financial empowerment?
John Tabb: 17:43 Oh, that’s a tough question. Gosh. I mean, I think the examples I gave are probably the best examples that I have of just trying to sort of I guess supplement, compliment existing benefits that are already out there, because they just know that it’s not doing enough.
William Tincup: 18:12 Yeah. I think the-
John Tabb: 18:12 I think-
William Tincup: 18:15 … EAP model that’s been around for a while that doesn’t go used because maybe there’s a stigma attached to it, I think if we think about inclusion in this way, which I think is really important for folks to understand, that we think about financial wellness, helping people with literacy, the building blocks.
Now you have access to coaching, you have access to people that’ll help you. And there’s no judgment on wherever you’re at. There’s no judgment in terms of whether or not you’re on your second mortgage or you lease cars, whether you buy cars. There’s no judgment. It’s where are you at? And those coaches can then help you, coach you from wherever you’re at to wherever you want to go next, which I think is inclusion or a tactic of inclusion.
John Tabb: 19:05 Yeah, absolutely. Obviously, I mean, that’s changed a lot. I think mental health, it’s a lot less stigmatized than it was. And we’re sort of in the same space of a benefit that’s addressing wellbeing. We talk to a lot of mental health companies that are providing that service. It’s very similar. It’s much more acceptable to talk about that stuff now.
If you think about wellbeing as mental and physical and financial, I mean, people they’re stressed out of their minds just because of all the stuff that’s going on. And I mean, maybe it’s always been that way, but it seems to always be more.
Obviously, people are not healthy in America. It used to be a thing where there was one overweight child, and I was probably that child in my class many, many moons ago and got picked on, and it’s like, now it’s all caught up and no one’s healthy. And the majority of people are sort of spending more than they should be and struggling and stressed out.
So, I think all three of those things have caught up, and people are now like, gosh, how do we solve all these problems? It really represents all of us. The minority is the one that’s got it all figured out, I guess.
William Tincup: 20:25 Yeah. You’re familiar as I was with the label on jeans, husky.
John Tabb: 20:30 Yeah.
William Tincup: 20:33 Who came up with that term? I want to meet that guy in an alley somewhere. Husky, thank you. That’s always very kind to get the husky jeans. But kind of going full circle to kind of where we started with privilege, some of this is luck too, right?
John Tabb: 20:51 Oh yeah.
William Tincup: 20:51 So again, very middle class, lower middle class myself. And when my wife and I were buying our first house, or at least going down the path, this was the late 90s, so housing was crazy. Pay was crazy. Dot com was crazy.
The real estate broker that we fell in love with wanted us to max out. Of course, they did. Shocking, not shocking. The max at that time, I think, was 750. And so, we started looking at houses.
We’ve been married at this point five, six years. And we’re both doing relatively well. But again, I just told you this story about is burning all of our credit cards, so not that well. And we were contemplating buying a $750,000 house.
So, we’re looking around, and these houses were great. These houses were fantastic. And this is a total accident, he put us in touch with a mortgage broker who basically sat us down and said, okay, tell me a little bit about your finances. What’s going on? All right. Yep, yep, yep. Okay, how much you’re paying in rent? At the time, we were paying about $1,000 in rent. And he goes, “Okay, thanks.”
John Tabb: 22:12 It’s going to be more than that.
William Tincup: 22:13 Yeah. He goes, “Here’s the deal? Here’s the rule, for your first house, it’s just 10% more than what you’re paying in rent. That’s it? That’s your budget.” And he looked-
John Tabb: 22:22 Not 750.
William Tincup: 22:27 Yeah. No, it’s not 750, which of course brought the house home values down to about $180,000. Right?
John Tabb: 22:33 Yeah.
William Tincup: 22:34 And he said, he goes, “When you get your first house, because you’re going to buy a bunch of new stuff, you’re going to buy a couch, you’re going to buy all this stuff. Doesn’t matter if you’re buying a new home or old home, doesn’t matter, you’re going to have home stuff that’s going to come up. And it’s all this hidden cost that you’re not thinking about.”
He goes, “Yeah, of course the real estate broker wants you to max out, because they get a commission for you to max out. It’s in their best interest if you buy a 750,000. It’s not in your best interest.
John Tabb: 23:06 That’s a nice mortgage broker because he would also win in that deal.
William Tincup: 23:12 He was independently wealthy. He had made money on a bunch of patents, and he was doing mortgage brokerage for fun, for sport. I didn’t believe him at first when he went through this bit with me. I’m like, “Yeah, that just can’t be true.” He said, “Well, let me drive you around.”
He drove me around kind of an affluent part of Dallas, Highland Park, Preston Hollow. And he goes, “I’ve written notes to the paper in this neighborhood.” He goes, “Second mortgage, second mortgage, third mortgage, second mortgage, second mortgage, fourth mortgage, second mortgage.”
Literally, we’re just driving down the streets, and he’s pointing out houses, not telling me the families or any of the specifics, but just going, “These people are leveraged over their heads.”
John Tabb: 23:58 Yeah.
William Tincup: 23:58 He goes, “And you don’t want to start out that way. It’s all avoidable if you just basically do what I’m telling you.” I’m like, “Okay.” And blindly, literally blindly, I’m like, “All right, well, makes sense.” And that’s what we did.
John Tabb: 24:14 Yeah, I definitely think, I mean, from an education standpoint, like you said, it’s some small decisions early on that compound and obviously things around spending and savings and just your mindset around money. One of the most important things that no one ever sits there and thinks about is what actually makes them happy.
If spending money and buying the things, if you look back and you went through your statement every month, or even shoot, fast forward a year, 12 months later and say, “Did that make me happy? Did that make me happy” on each one. And it’s kind of like, wow, probably could have not bought that. It’s just small stuff that all adds up.
William Tincup: 24:53 I love it.
John Tabb: 24:54 And to your point about luck, I mean, unfortunately, the statistics and the pay-
William Tincup: 25:03 [inaudible 00:25:03].
John Tabb: 25:02 … and all that stuff also compounds on itself. So, if you have parents that can make you alone or a friend or whatever it is, and it’s commonplace, those people just get further ahead than everybody else. And it sort of compounds.
So, I look forward to the day that some of this stuff can be solved and we can sort of help facilitate that, be part of the solution.
William Tincup: 25:32 Yeah. Again, getting back to DEI, some of that’s luck and some of that’s also having that support network around you that kind of keeps you… Again, accountable is the word you use, but keeps you in check because you get caught up. I think it’s the first time you make money. It might not be true of people that have come from affluence because I have no idea what that’s like, but the first time-
John Tabb: 25:56 I know what it was like for my friends. And I did not come from that.
William Tincup: 26:04 Right. For me, I went crazy the first time I started to really make money. I lost my brain. It took me a while to like, okay, all right, enough, stop. And I think that just having people to kind of keep you in check and coach you through that, it’s a great way to think of inclusion. It’s just a wonderful way to think of inclusion in a way that we don’t currently, or we don’t often time talk about [inaudible 00:26:32].
John Tabb: 26:31 Again, it’s for everybody because income doesn’t discriminate, right?
William Tincup: 26:35 It does not discriminate.
John Tabb: 26:37 If you look at the data, the same people making $100,000 a year have the same problems. It’s a little less, but it’s basically the same stuff.
William Tincup: 26:45 I love it. Well, John, this has been absolutely wonderful. Thank you so much for your time, and such an important topic that again, I haven’t been able to unpack. So, I thank you for bringing it to my attention and for us to talk about it.
John Tabb: 26:59 Absolutely. Thanks for having me.
William Tincup: 27:01 Absolutely. Thanks for everyone listening to the RecruitingDaily podcast. Until next time.
Music: 27:07 You’ve been listening to the Recruiting Live podcast by RecruitingDaily. Check out the latest industry podcasts, webinars, articles, and news at-
William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.