Hamilton_HeadshotStress induced by financial hardships can negatively impact the workplace in the form of higher absenteeism and lower productivity. Fortunately, employers can ease some of that stress by helping employees manage their personal finances and prepare for retirement. Here, Brian Hamilton, Ramsey Solutions’ vice president of Financial Wellness, talks about SmartDollar, a financial wellness tool created by financial expert Dave Ramsey and offered by the Manufacturer & Business Association as a value-added member service.

SmartDollar is touted as “the premier curriculum for teaching financial literacy in a corporate setting.” How would you describe SmartDollar and how does it go beyond the idea of just “getting out of debt?”
Personal finance is not about numbers; it’s about behavior. With SmartDollar, people are taking control of their lives and their money in a proactive way. This isn’t another “lunch-and-learn” where a company just checks the box on offering another wellness program. SmartDollar is highly motivating and engaging. It’s mobile and customized to meet people where they are with their money, walks them step-by-step through the process of eliminating debt and empowers them to invest for their retirement.

How does the program work?
What we realized is that information alone is useless; it’s pie charts and percentages, and people rarely took action. We found that, along with information, there must be inspiration and motivation. SmartDollar is an engaging approach that includes entertaining and inspiring videos paired with personalized tools that are accessible anytime and anywhere.

What makes SmartDollar unique compared to other financial wellness programs?
SmartDollar doesn’t treat the symptoms of financial problems, but rather the cause, and the cause is behavior. The program follows the proven, practical steps Dave Ramsey has spent 25 years teaching people. It’s designed for quick wins along the way. Those small victories aren’t so small when they cause unstoppable momentum. SmartDollar helps people believe again.

Why is SmartDollar a good idea for MBA member companies to consider as part of their employee benefits package?
Workers tell us they’re scared, confused and stressed out about their money. Employers tell us they see the negative effects of their employees’ stress in high absenteeism and low productivity. What’s causing all of that stress and fear is that they have no plan, widespread debt, and lack of savings. SmartDollar is a benefit that communicates to employees that you really do care about them and their families. Our studies indicate that workers of all ages are overwhelmingly open to their employers helping them with their money.

What are some key advantages of the program for employees and employers?
Please share examples.Much like physical wellness, when people begin to win with money, they become healthier. The average savings per employee in the first six months of the program is $2,700, and the average debt eliminated per employee is $5,300. This results in better 401(k) participation rates, decreased loans and more productivity. In addition, there’s no mystery to the numbers. Employers receive aggregate reports that show participation rates, progress in the program, and levels of engagement.

How can an MBA member company get started?
Visit our website, There’s information there for both employees and employers. Just click “Get Started,” and you’re on your way!

Is there anything you would liketo add?
I cannot stress enough how much all of this matters. Workers tell us their employers are the main resource they look to for information on retirement. Yet, despite those high expectations, 40 percent of workers say their employers do not provide any type of retirement or financial education. That gap is why so many workers are scared and stressed. We can do better.