Saving money

Saving money is one of those good habits that just isn’t that satisfying in the present. Like flossing. Oh sure, I may have a lot more of my teeth in 30 years, but I want to eat this entire bag of taffy NOW.

Still, virtually everyone knows that saving (and flossing) is good. If a person can just get started doing it, maybe it can become one of those good habits. Personally speaking, I had to find ways to trick myself into flossing and saving money. That basically involved setting up a direct deposit to a hard-to-access bank account and stockpiling Glide in the shower. Ideally, however, saving money (or decent oral hygiene) shouldn’t require such psychological acrobatics.

What I’m getting at here is: among the many problems the pandemic exposed, the fragility of people’s finances is a significant one. And it’s no wonder—saving is hard to manage when everyday expenses continue to go up and household income struggles to keep up. Fortunately, employers are starting to help, and employees are willing, according to this New York Times piece:

[M]ore than half of working adults surveyed by AARP said they would probably participate in a payroll deduction emergency savings program.

The programs signal that employers are taking seriously a long-recognized problem: Many Americans struggle to save. Repeated surveys by the Federal Reserve have found that many households would find it difficult to pay an unexpected $400 expense.

The pandemic put additional pressure on many families’ finances, highlighting the need for workplace interventions, said Matt Bahl, vice president and head of workplace at the Financial Health Network, a nonprofit organization. “Employer savings programs are ascendant,” Mr. Bahl said.

Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems that, much like health benefits, the easiest way to facilitate financial wellness benefits is through employers. (Whether it’s the best way, is a discussion for another day.) If employees are given access to 401(k) plans and savings programs, and better yet, if they are auto-enrolled in those programs, they are probably more likely to save for both the long and short term. And it doesn’t take a lot of money to make a difference. The Times piece cites an Urban Institute study that found that a stash of $250 could help families avoid financial trouble. That’s a way less intimidating savings goal than six months of take-home pay that experts recommend.

It wasn’t really my intent to do this, but here we are: Gusto Wallet is just such a savings tool. It can help people split up their paychecks for different purposes (e.g., spending, floss reserves), and Gusto Cashout grants access to pay in advance—interest free—when people get in a pinch. The best part: It doesn’t cost employers—Gusto employers, that is—anything to offer it to their employees.

Accountants advising their small business clients around benefits has been a recurring theme around here for the last few months. And while health insurance is a natural thing to focus on during a public health crisis, its cost and complexity still put it out of reach for many small businesses. Savings solutions like Gusto Wallet don’t have that burden. If employers want to improve their employees’ lives during a difficult time, giving them a tool to set some money aside is an easy way to do that.

WFH: Dress codes

If you embraced the pajama party that is WFH a little too enthusiastically and are now experiencing a bit of hangover, you are not alone:

Without a reason to get dressed up each morning, some people say they are experiencing a loss of motivation and a sense that each day bleeds into the next.

Psychiatrists have a name for what folks are feeling. “Enclothed cognition” is a theory that describes the effect that clothes have on how we feel and act, according to Dr. Nina Vasan, a psychiatrist and clinical assistant professor at Stanford University School of Medicine.

“Clothing shapes your mental state and productivity,” said Dr. Vasan, who sometimes wore pajama pants and a regular top when she first started seeing patients by computer. Now she wears dresses and heels, even though she is still mostly seeing patients virtually.

Although I am wearing sweats as I write this sentence, I can appreciate the connection people have between clothes, mental state, and productivity, even if I don’t fully subscribe to it.

Perhaps all the years that I have WFH-ed have helped me transcend the need for business casual to feel productive. Perhaps it’s the countless number of early mornings I’ve spent writing newsletters. Perhaps I need to join a recovery group. I don’t really know. But if you need to wear a pair of trousers or a nice pair of shoes to prepare yourself to get things done, then I will not judge you. We’re months into a WFH-induced pandemic; pretty much anything goes at this point.

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Caleb Newquist Caleb is Editor-at-Large at Gusto. In 2009, he became the founding editor of Going Concern, the one-of-a-kind voice on the accounting profession, serving in the role for 9 years. Prior to Going Concern, Caleb worked as a CPA for nearly 6 years in New York and Denver. He lives in Denver with his wife, two daughters, and two cats.
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