April 12, 2011
Filling the Gap for Workplace-Based Loan Solutions
Fifty million workers in the United States live paycheck to paycheck and do not have access to
savings in an emergency. As a result, full-time workers are borrowing against their 401Ks or
making hardship withdrawals at the highest rate in a decade. These loans and withdrawals
come with risks that employees may not know or fully understand, including potential penalties
and/or endangerment of retirement savings. 1
Compounding financial stress in the workplace is the use of payroll advance and predatory short
term loan providers. More than 60% of hourly employees rely on payroll advances regularly to
help them through emergencies. These workers lost $100 billion in fees to predatory payday
lenders last year, which computes to predatory interest rates of 400% or more. Payday loans
often lead employees to future financial troubles, with one recent study finding that people who
took out payday loans almost doubled their chances of filing for bankruptcy as compared to
similarly situated applicants who did not use payday loans. 2
Since 1980, the number of employers that offer internal payroll advances has plummeted to
record lows, due in part to lack of administrative and processing capacity coupled with legal
implications—as a result most workers don’t have their employer to rely on when emergencies
arise. As employer payroll advance options decrease, payday lending has increased; the
number of payday loan branches in the U.S. rose from approximately 200 in the 1990s to
approximately 26,000 in mid-2009. 3 Many employees turn to payday loans because they don’t
have alternative, affordable sources of credit. 4 However, there are new and innovative voluntary
benefit programs in the marketplace that are helping employees who find themselves in a pinch.
When employers think about adding a new financial wellness program for employees, it should
do more than provide emergency funds until the next paycheck. Socially responsible workplace
lending programs should:
1. Build Credit. A workplace loan solution with a third party provider must work with
accredited mainstream banks and financial institutions that report employee repayments
to the major credit bureaus. Every time a payment is made, the employee is taking a
step towards building positive credit. Socially responsible loans not only benefit
employees but also allow banks and financial institutions to build relationships with new
and existing customers while supporting the local community. 5
2. Increase Financial Stability. The National Credit Union Administration’s lending rules
state that small dollar lending programs are more successful and beneficial for
borrowers when they include savings and financial education features. 6 In order for
employees to truly improve their financial well-being, loan programs should be
complemented by a suite of products including financial counseling, debt management
assistance, and credit resources, encouraging employees to transition into mainstream
banking relationships with savings programs.
3. Be Easy and Fair. Loans should have fair payment periods, be affordable, and be
provided by reputable banks and credit unions. According to the National Consumer Law
Center (NCLC), features of a fair small dollar loan include an APR of 36% or less, a term
of at least 90 days and the use of multiple installment payments instead of a single
balloon payment. 7 The NCLC also states that alternatives to payday loans must not
force repayment by paper or electronic check holding. 8 Careful consideration of a
borrower’s ability to repay a loan prior to lending coupled with the ease of direct deposit
repayment can provide benefits to the borrower, including lower interest rates. 9
Features like next day loan processing, integrated direct deposit to ensure timely loan
repayments and a secure online application process are all key parts of making
workplace borrowing a truly viable alternative for busy workers.
4. Financial Wellness Products That Benefit the Whole Company. There are many
definitions of ‘emergencies’ facing the average worker; medical bills, child care bills, car
repairs, utility turn-offs, and possible eviction –-all of these life emergencies are realities
that can affect employees every month—even employees with higher incomes. The
availability of fair, short-term loans can dramatically improve employee financial stability,
which results in higher employee retention, lower rates of absenteeism, and better job
performance—in turn benefitting all employees and business’ bottom line. Similarly,
employers who provide workplace financial education may see lower levels of financial
distress and absenteeism by employees. 10
Most employers don’t have the capacity to provide their workers with paycheck advances or
workplace loans. There are, however, social companies which provide employers with
employee benefit packages that couple convenient, affordable and fair loans with free unlimited
financial counseling by phone and financial wellness products. Some of these social companies,
including Emerge Financial Wellness (www.emergefinancialwellness.com), give employers the
ability to offer employees a fair, low interest personal loan from an accredited bank or credit
union with no risk to or accountability for employers. In addition, at the time of the loan approval,
Emerge will set up unbanked employees with a savings account, and offer them easy ways to
start a small savings for future financial emergencies.
Choosing to offer a workplace personal loan solution to your employees will help workers cope
with a short-term financial crisis without turning to predatory lenders, and reduce stress by
improving their financial well-being. This leads to higher job satisfaction, with more time in the
workplace spent working, not worrying.
For more information on how social loan and financial assistance companies are working with
businesses in your industry to help employees keep more of their hard-earned paycheck, please
visit www.emergefinancialwellness.com or email email@example.com.
Emerge Financial Wellness
901 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
“Fidelity’s 401(K) Data Show Steady Savings Pattern By Majority, But Loans and Hardship Withdrawals
on The Rise.” Fidelity.com. August 20, 2010. <http://www.fidelity.com/inside-fidelity/employer-
“Payday Loans Put Families in the Red.” Center for Responsible Lending. February 20, 2009.
Caskey, John P. “The Economics of Payday Lending.” Credit Union Association of New York. 2002.
See Burhouse, Susan, Miller, Rae-Ann and Aileen G. Sampson. “The FDIC’s Small-Dollar Loan Pilot
Program: A Case Study after One Year.” Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. 2009.
12 CFR Part 701, available at
Carter, Carolyn, Plunkett, Leah A. and Lauren K. Saunders. “Stopping the Payday Loan Trap.” National
Consumer Law Center. June 2010.
Prawitz, Aimee D. et al. “Employee Financial Distress, Emotional Health Risk, and Absenteeism.”
Personal Finance Employee Education Foundation.