Boosting Rhode Island out of its stagnant economy will not happen overnight, but the mission of Empower RI is to build a solid financial base, one employee and family at a time.
The financial-empowerment initiative launched by R.I. Treasurer Gina Raimondo last November encourages businesses to offer financial coaching as an employee benefit. A key element of the project is the Financial Coaching Corps, created in collaboration with the Capital Good Fund, a Providence microfinance organization. The corps includes financial experts who volunteer to help Rhode Islanders take charge of their finances.
“I spent a lot of time talking with business owners before launching this program,” Raimondo said. “In big and small companies, they know that a financially literate employee is a more stable employee. Employees who are distracted by their own personal financial concerns, or who don’t have a rainy-day fund and can’t cover emergencies, are not as productive.”
Empower RI is also a response to the nation’s economic woes, Raimondo said.
“We’re just coming out of an economic crisis fueled by debt problems,” she said, pointing to issues such as mortgages and student loans. “A lot of families in Rhode Island got hurt by that.”
The pilot program for Empower RI on the business front has been in progress for several months at Groov-Pin, a Smithfield-based manufacturer of engineered fasteners and precision-turned components for industries including aerospace, medical and telecommunications.
“Our mission in piloting this program is to see if an employer-based program makes sense. We’ve been very focused on what we could do to improve the business and reduce the stress of the recession,” said Groov-Pin CEO Scot Jones.
“We started a wellness program and we saw financial coaching as a financial wellness program. That’s why it was attractive to us,” he said.”
Employers pay a $750 initial cost for Empower RI. Then there’s a $300 fee per employee, or $350 for employee and spouse, for the one-year program.
Each employee received three one-on-one financial coaching sessions, which wrapped up in January. They are now in the next phase, with six- and 12-month follow-up sessions.