On today’s episode of the RecruitingDaily Podcast, William Tincup talks to John from Questis about the impact of financial stress on mental health.
Some Conversation Highlights:
Listening time: 28 minutes
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Announcer: 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 today is the impact of financial stress on mental health. Because this is mental health month, this is a great time to be talking about it, so the impact of financial stress on mental health. John, how are you doing?
John Tabb: 01:00 Good.
William Tincup: 01:01 Good. Please introduce yourself and Questis.
John Tabb: 01:05 All right. Thanks for having me, William. My name is John Tabb. I am the CEO and co-founder of Questis and we are a financial empowerment company. We’re focused on basically the things that really matter in someone’s financial wellbeing, change in behaviors, focusing on big, hard problems to solve. We do that with both financial coaches and technology communities, support communities and everything. We work through the employer as an employee benefit, and passionate about helping people with their finances.
William Tincup: 01:44 I love that. I was a guest on a podcast this morning in the UK. And the gentleman asked me, he said, “With everything going on with the economy, do you think employers are doing more to help their employees from a financial perspective with inflation and things like that?” I said, “It’s great that you ask that, because I think they are. Put the inflation, or recession, or great depression aside for a moment. I think it’s just in their best interest to care more about their whole employee and what’s going on in their life.” Then we had a wonderful conversation about it. Had nothing to do with this show, but are you seeing the same thing? With your business and your customers, are you saying that to engage, to retain talent, people are more willing, they’re more emboldened to do things, to help folks in different ways maybe than previously?
John Tabb: 02:51 Absolutely. My background is I was a financial advisor and I worked in the retirement plan space. I’m a certified financial planner still. Not practicing, but helped us build what we have built. We’ve been doing this about six years. When we started, we said, “Well, we’re going to…” Here are the problems that we think there are as a result of learning from so many conversations with plan participants that had a 401k. And you go in there and you talk to them about asset allocation and small cap value and blah, blah, blah. And Darren headlights, lots of other stuff going on, lots of things to consider and they’re not too worried about what we’re talking about and they need help with other stuff. Which all that other stuff ended up becoming financial wellness years later or financial wellbeing.
But when we started, they didn’t have that name and we really didn’t know what to call it. But we were also having to explain to people, explain to HR departments and explain to employers, why what we were doing was important. And you think it’s like today, fast forward. I think COVID had a major role in awakening the employer when people were fearful they were going to lose their jobs and there were layoffs and all kinds of stuff. It was pretty quick. Then we found out that people couldn’t make it one paycheck before they had to dip into their retirement plan savings, or take out loans, or do some very bad move like maybe some type of payday loan or something like that to make ends meet.
So I think that exposed it. On the same time to be candid, employers were freaking out during COVID and they didn’t know what to spend money on or how to stop the bleeding. So I think that now that it’s, call it, calming down, under control, this is when they’ve all awoken and said we have to be looking at this. And just anecdotally, we go to a lot of conferences and five years ago I went to conferences and like I said, I had to explain it and now people walk up to us and they say, I’m here for mental health and financial wellbeing. Help me with the solution.
William Tincup: 05:21 I love that. Well, first of all, I think it’s smart. It’s horrible in terms of how we got here. However, I’m glad you are here.
John Tabb: 05:32 Generally how it goes though.
William Tincup: 05:34 Yeah. Generally how it goes. Exactly. You got to get slapped around and then understand, okay. This is actually more important for the individual. If we want to retain this talent, we should probably think about everything’s going on in their life. Let’s talk about stress and the drivers of financial stress and the things that you see that there are just kind table stakes for folks that right now that, okay this is what… Maybe you don’t live this life. Maybe, for whatever reason you, this isn’t something that’s stressful for you, but for your employees, here are some of the things that they’re going through that is stresses.
John Tabb: 06:14 God, I think everybody is somehow financially stressed at all levels.
William Tincup: 06:18 Agreed.
John Tabb: 06:19 We say that income does not discriminate. So as far as what’s causing stress, there’s debt. Forget what’s going on now. These, call it, current events. There’s always stuff going on. But just all the time people are worried about all the debt that they’ve used. Credit was or money was essentially free for many, many years or very cheap, so debt. And what’s going to happen with when it’s not free anymore. I think at the back of the people’s minds, depending on where you are in your career, what your age is and all that stuff, retirement, if you’ve not been able to stop working ever. In a short term being able to fund an emergency fund, if something happens, if your car dies, if your washing machine dies. There’s a large, large number of Americans that definitely cannot handle a thousand dollars shock to the system.
So that being ready for an emergency. On the other end of this income spectrum, like we said, it doesn’t discriminate. People that make a lot of money, want more money. They’re stressed about that. And it actually shows and I think the other interesting thing is that all the other high stress items that rank up there with finances are all actually related to finances. So personal relationships. It’s marriages, it’s kids, it’s your home, it’s work, all of those have ties to money.
William Tincup: 08:07 I think you’re spot on in terms ofeverything. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t discriminate. I think that’s just sage advice. Something that probably comes from your CFP training. We spend by and large, not everyone. Some people are great savers, but by and large, we spend what we get. So if you’re making 3 million, you’re spending at least 3 million. You’re probably spending more than that. And so if you’re making $300,000 or $3000, doesn’t matter, it’s all relative to some degree. If you were to build a Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in terms of financial wellbeing, will build the opposite. What does that look like when you talk to people, okay, get this, get your house in order. Get your financial house in order. Here’s some of the building blocks of doing that. And there might be associated stress still, but it’s different. It’ll be manageable. If you get your house in order.
John Tabb: 09:14 Yeah. That’s a good question. It’s really just goes the definition of when are you financially healthy or when do you reduce all that stress. And there’s so many bad definitions of financial wellbeing out there, or financial wellness solutions. We always go back to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s definition, which they came out with it back in 2015 when this was all new. But essentially it addresses both near term and long term spectrum of time and versus choice and security of your lifestyle and wellbeing. So as far as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Roof over your head, survival, control over your day to day finances, knowing what’s coming in, what’s going out on a day to day, month to month basis. Being able on the short term to just make choices that allow you to enjoy life. They don’t have to be big, but maybe it’s go out to dinner and know what the implications are in going out to dinner and how much you can actually do it and do something that you like.
And then the long term, make sure that you can absorb some type of shock. So you have some emergency savings where it’s not going to derail whatever plan that you’ve got in place or make you do something that’s detrimental. Obviously that’s a big that’s a big stress driver. And then obviously long term, it would be that you have financial goals and that you’re tracking toward meeting those. So knowing what it’s going to take to stop working one day and replace your income, and that looks different for everybody. Sometimes social security might even be enough for some people, but most cases not. So being able to pay for kids college, all that stuff. To just know what it’s going to take and have a plan.
William Tincup: 11:11 Do go ahead to finish your thought.
John Tabb: 11:16 No, I was just going to say and I think that’s obviously… This whole thing is the reason that we have financial coaches and not financial planners. And I am a financial planner, at least I was. And I didn’t really know what a financial coach was until we started doing this. But the reason that we do it is because on paper some of this stuff seems pretty easy. I equate it to, you’ll get this. Everyone who listens will get this, that physical wellness and if you eat consume less calories than you burn every day or close to it, and you get a good night’s sleep, and you exercise, or do some walking and stuff you should in really good shape. But that’s extremely hard to do. There’s all these things that are stopping you from doing it.
And half of the solutions that have been created only make things worse. I’m sure we could both argue that nobody’s better off since the creation of Diet Coke. So it’s very similar, the financial solutions are very similar. So the reason that we use financial coaches and not planners is if you’ve ever been to the doctor and they’ve done blood work and they say your blood pressure’s high or you’re overweight or whatever it is, they don’t generally, other than drugs or telling you to go to somebody else, which represents a coach or some person that’s going to help you, they don’t really help you do it. And that’s being a planner, you learn the CFP body of knowledge and you say this isn’t your plan, but you don’t really help people deal with the really hard things that you have to do to get there, which is almost always behavior change or completely altering your money mindset or how you think about money. It’s hard.
William Tincup: 12:56 You’ve touched on something that’s really fascinating for me. Because I was at my heaviest, I was 275 and I’m in my 180s right now. I still have a little way to go.
John Tabb: 13:07 Congratulations. Not easy.
William Tincup: 13:09 Not easy. This is the funny part, people ask me, “What’d you do to lose weight?” I’m like-
John Tabb: 13:17 Work like hell.
William Tincup: 13:19 Everyone knows how to lose weight. It’s not a secret. You just outlined. Literally, you just outlined it in a very brief form, here’s how to lose weight. Eat less.
John Tabb: 13:33 Yeah. We always joke that we’ve always said you got to go to the supermarket, you’re checking out and they’ve got the magazine that says, “Here’s how to get a six pack.” And there’s three magazines that have the same general thing. And if you read it, you literally could read it and get a six pack, nobody does. And then right next to it are the candy bars and energy drinks.
William Tincup: 13:56 So again, financial wellbeing, which is how we’re getting to financial stress, is because we’re not living that life. For whatever reason things are distracting us, we’re drinking Diet Coke, et cetera. What do you see some of the common stressors for just the folks that you all coach, the folks that you see coming through the platform? What are some of the, I say table stakes, things that are just easy to pick off, student debt, whatever, these are some of the things that companies can step in and help with?
John Tabb: 14:35 Yeah. I think there are small tactical things. And we are focused on trying to, regardless of where somebody’s at, solve for the low hanging fruit. What’s the one thing that’s keeping you at night because that’s probably stressing you out the most? But in general, people are just overwhelmed because they subscribe to the consumerism and we are all massive targets in marketing world right now. And we all know from our jobs how precise and what a disadvantage consumers have against marketing these days. And also social media. This is something that’s come up. And we actually did a survey not that long ago with a couple thousand people. And 60% of those people said that they had faked their financial situation to basically appear more stable on social media, which is not shocking along with lots of other things that they’ve faked on social media. But that’s what you’re up against.
And you think everybody’s doing well, you go to LinkedIn you see everyone’s getting a raise. They’re all on vacation and how come I’m not doing that. And it’s the same thing. Show your cars off and your kids new cars and all this stuff. It just makes you not feel good and makes you maybe spend more. And finances are one of those weird things that you can’t see. You can see how much somebody weighs and you can see how nice their house is, but there’s nothing out front that says they’re underwater or they’re miserable.
William Tincup: 16:12 Yeah. No one’s Instagraming their bills. Again, there’s good parts of that, but I hadn’t quite thought of the emotional toll of seeing other people in all of the positivity and how that would make you… It’s emotional eating. When you’re stressed, a lot of people they’re stressed and so they’ll emotionally eat. They’ll just eat things that they know they’re bad for them, but it’s a coping mechanism. And now I’m drawing the dots dot between people going on Facebook and seeing all these wonderful lives and going, [inaudible 00:16:58] isn’t that? I’m going to go to Neimans.
John Tabb: 17:00 Yeah. And think about our poor children that are going to grow up with that as the norm.
William Tincup: 17:07 Oh no. I don’t even want to think about that because at least we know how to get the little X at the right hand of the corner and go, enough. Done. I’m out.
John Tabb: 17:18 For sure.
William Tincup: 17:20 So as we talk about the impact of financial stress. If it’s invisible, to some degree, maybe not all the way, but to some degree, if it’s invisible for an employer, how do they check in? What’s our guideline or guidance for managers and executives to just maybe open up questions or open up lines of talk with folks about how they’re doing?
John Tabb: 17:48 Yeah. I think the obvious thing is to survey your people and ask them how they’re doing. We do that but we try to do it before we work with somebody, but that’s not always the case. We definitely do it when we are working with somebody. And we have lots of data as to where people are at and what we should be focusing on and all that. I think when you’re looking for a financial wellness solution, and these are all the conversations we’re having today. There are a lot of them out there that probably will leave your employees worse off than where they started, or at least won’t be productive. And most of them are free, go figure. Free to somebody. And last thing you want to do is think that you’re getting something that you’re not, and everyone’s tied their name to financial wellness.
You see like earned wage access as an example. Get access to money that you’ve earned already. Well, hat’s good and it could be good for awareness, and it could be good for getting somebody out of a hard situation. And then you take that to the next level. And you say, well I hope that people all the time that want to partner with us say, well, we put you in a marketplace and people could buy stuff by taking advantage or basically taking a loan against their paycheck. And our rates are much lower than whatever. Well you could buy anything, you could buy jets. And generally the same people that are really stressed and up going to those programs and they use them over and over and over. And it’s just kicking the can, it’s only making things worse. So again, it goes back to the hard things. You got to change behaviors and all that. So I think that there’s a lot of noise out there and there’s a lot of bad solutions that people are working through now.
William Tincup: 19:38 It’s funny because I was going to ask you about like daily pay. I’ve seen an uptick in the last couple years on like Uber drivers being able to tab out at the end of their driver shift or whatever. It seems reasonable. And now that you’ve seen a movement in the professional world where people can do that in the professional world where they can just tab out at the end of their accountant day or consultant day. But if we can acknowledge for a moment that we’re horrible with money, generally speaking, getting it faster isn’t necessary.
John Tabb: 20:23 No, but that’s the thing. Take a step back and just waiting one week, or two weeks, or a month at the max. I don’t think anyone pays monthly anymore, but biweekly, weekly, whatever it is. If you can’t make it that long, there’s a problem. And getting it every day is going to catch up with you where the problem is the gap is now gone and you’re screwed again. It doesn’t solve the problem. So it starts conversations and all of these earn wage access and similar programs, have content and coaching and stuff, some of them have coaching tied to it, but I just can’t get over that I don’t think that’s a… I do believe it is a Diet Coke solution.
William Tincup: 21:05 Yeah. I’m of a very similar mindset. That for some, it’s probably a good thing, but for most, probably not helpful. Probably not helpful at all. So the thing about mental health and how it would render itself at work, obviously we would see something like days off or prolonged days off, or productivity performance going down, et cetera. Can you think of other ways that it renders itself for the employer? I’m trying to think of, if they check in, which is great, do that. But if you don’t check in, you start to see some of these signs, it’s probably a good time to then have a conversation with one of your employees.
John Tabb: 22:09 Yeah. Which nobody wants to have a conversation with their employees. That’s the hard part. You got to have somebody else do that. That’s what they’re trying to get away from. And that’s the same thing with financial advice. And it’s been that way for a long time, no one wants to deal with that. So it’s probably a liability anyways. So obviously stress can be small, big, and it can really lead to serious health issues and everything else. And the reason we put these two together, mental health and financial wellbeing, I feel they’re so interrelated. You are stressed about paying bills or credit cards, or retiring, or something as silly as the market’s going down. Should you buy, or should you sell, or inflation or whatever it is. It keeps you up at night or you wake up and you think about those things and it’s bugging you enough that you’re not sleeping well.
And then you show up to work and probably the most obvious thing is you’re not productive, you’re not engaged. But it could be worse. It could lead to obesity, it could lead to all these other things. You don’t work out, you don’t eat healthy, you eat to feel better, all this stuff. And it’s so interrelated and there’s just a ton of examples where all that goes together.
So I think that’s what we’re there for, is to have those conversations so your employers don’t have to have them. There’s been EAPs and stuff out there for a really long time. And they don’t have this stigma of something’s wrong with me, when I call and their referral networks to generally don’t know where. So I think that being very engaged always, out in front of everything and making it we want to meet you wherever you are. We want to empathetically help people and they’re not alone. So that’s one of the reasons we’ve started the whole community thing. It’s essentially Facebook groups without all the ads and the negative stuff but people can get together, and support each other, and help work through problems, and peer mentors, and peer support along with our coaches that moderate it, make sure it’s all safe and everything. So I think that stuff alleviates the need for the employer to get involved.
William Tincup: 24:40 Yeah. And what I love about, again, a third party, especially because of the pandemic and mental health being destigmatized to some degree. Maybe not fully, but to some degree we don’t have to talk about mental wellness. We don’t even have to talk about financial health. We can just talk about, hey, you want to be in a better place? Let’s talk about the positive side of this. Because if we talk about the positive side, we go, okay, well, let’s talk about what’s your situation right now? What’s your mortgage? What’s your expenses, revenue and re expenses? Let’s just talk about how do you capture that? Going through the basics, I think alleviates stress in some ways of helping people understand, okay, I can get my head around one part of this, which will reduce stress. So it’s almost like the anti. You don’t have to talk about the stress, you can talk about how to fix it and that will then reduce stress.
John Tabb: 25:49 Yeah. I didn’t subscribe to the fact that because I was always more of an engineered mind person that I always wanted to solve a problem. But I truly believe that just talking about something and working through it with somebody alleviates stress.
William Tincup: 26:03 A hundred percent.
John Tabb: 26:05 So I think you’re 30, 50% of the way there just by talking about it.
William Tincup: 26:08 Yeah. And again, you’re not going to fix it over… Rome wasn’t built in a day. You’re not going to fix it today. So if you’re in a really bad spot financially, you’re not going to get out of it overnight. You didn’t get into it overnight. I tell people that all the time about my weight. I’m like, “I can’t get fat overnight. I’m not going to get healthy overnight.” It’s a slow burn, but that’s the point. You said it a couple different times, you make those hard choices and life changes. You’re not really trying to stop drinking Diet Coke, that’s great. That’s one thing, but it’s going to be a cadre of many things that’s going to help you lose weight. But in this case be more financially stable.
John Tabb: 26:53 Yeah. Building momentum. From losing weight, you got to build momentum on just seeing results. That’s the hardest part. Wait for those first results and then working with it.
William Tincup: 27:05 And then you set new goals. I don’t know if that translates to financial wellbeing, but with health wellbeing, I’ve noticed that you don’t… For me, it wasn’t, “I’ve got to lose a 120 pounds.” That’s crazy. That’s Mount Everest. I’m going to lose two pounds. That’s that’s the goal. Let’s just do that and start slowly, get off caffeine, get off fast food. Slowly get off of different things that were just unhealthy. Which again, I think for financial, stop putting everything on your credit card. Little things along the way. Not everything, just little things along the way. John, this has been wonderful. Thank you so much.
John Tabb: 27:58 Yeah. Thanks for having us. Good conversation.
William Tincup: 28:01 Absolutely. And thanks for everyone listening to RecruitingDaily Podcast. Until next time.
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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.