Insights on Getting Financially Fit in 2021

It’s no secret that 2020 was tough—especially as many Americans lost their jobs when businesses shut down and lockdowns began. But that historic year is now in our rearview, and we’ve made it to 2021. Although the pandemic isn’t over yet, there’s light at the end of the tunnel as vaccines roll out across the country and the world. 

So what's next? With a mission to help working Americans grow financially, we want to help the Branch community get financially fit in 2021. We kicked things off with a survey to understand what financial wellness means to Branch users and how they approach different financial situations. Here’s what we learned.

Financial Wellness = Eliminating Financial Stress

The tie between stress and wellness extends beyond physical health and into finances too. When asked how they defined financial wellness, a majority of Branch customers answered that it meant not being stressed about their finances, followed by having enough money to not worry about unexpected expenses.

Emergency Savings Remain Top of Mind

When asked about financial concerns ranging from short-term bills to managing debt, nearly half (48%) cited not having money in case of an emergency as their top financial concern. Users want to be able to have more ways to handle the unexpected and see an emergency savings fund as an important way to get there. 

Emergency savings became a huge topic of discussion in 2020,when millions of Americans became unemployed or furloughed indefinitely. Another Branch survey found that 52% of Americans had $0 in emergency savings, further highlighting the need for services like Instant Pay, our earned wage access offering, which can help workers navigate unexpected expenses or bills without blowing their budget  

It Takes a Financial Crisis to Seek Help

As respondents were concerned about emergencies, it’s also when they’re most likely to seek financial help. About half (50.12%) of users said that they’d seek help during a financial crisis, rather than a life event or making an important financial decision.

These findings reinforce the need to regularly assess your financial situation before emergencies arise. For employers, it’s also a reminder to provide workers the tools and resources to better anticipate and weather emergency financial events before they happen.

So what can you do if you’re feeling financially stressed and unsure of where to start? Start with these three steps.

Three Steps Towards Financial Fitness

1. Use Branch’s budgeting tool

Our budgeting feature can alert you to upcoming bills and help you stay on top of your monthly expenses, so you’re less likely to be caught off guard when a bill hits your account. It can also provide an at-a-glance view of your spending habits, helping you see where it may be possible to scale back, and what your general spending trends are.

2. Work on debt first

It can feel counterintuitive to pay off debt before you build up a savings fund, but you’ll lose more money in the interest you pay on debt the longer you wait to pay it off. Create a debt payoff strategy to slowly tackle any credit card, student loan, or other debt you might have.

3. Start small

It can be intimidating to start saving when you feel like you’re living paycheck to paycheck, which so many people are right now. The truth is, setting aside even a small amount of money on a regular basis helps you get in the habit of saving and can come in handy for some of those unexpected bills that life tends to throw our way. 

Check out more financial wellness tips to help you stay financially fit here.

Read this next: New Year’s Financial Resolutions: What to Toss, Keep, and Add in 2021
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