Trusted Advisor program delivers financial wellness to NYC small businesses

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A new collaboration between a nonprofit and the City of New York aims to deliver financial wellness benefits to employees of small businesses.

The non-profit Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners has teamed up with Best for NYC, an initiative of the City of New York that helps small businesses improve job quality, to provide employees of small local businesses with access to the non-profit’s financial counselors.

Workers interested in participating in the Trusted Advisor program sign up on their smartphones or mobile device and receive a text with a link where they can view the profiles of Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners’ financial counselors. The employees then schedule an appointment via phone or Skype with their chosen counselor.

After their first meeting, the employee and the counselor design a financial plan and the counselor follows up with the worker to ensure that he or she sticks to the plan. “The counselor will send text messages such as “Remember, no Starbucks today, make your coffee at home,”” says Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners CEO Justine Zinkin.

The Trusted Advisor fee is waived for Best for NYC members.

His partner urged Stephen McManus, director of mediation at Manhattan yoga and meditation studio Three Jewels, to sign up for Trusted Advisor. “I did not know what to expect. I was sent a text and within a couple of minutes, I was signing up for a one-on-one with Sarah,” he says, referring to his trusted Advisor financial counselor.

His motivation to sign up was his credit card debt. After meeting with his counselor, Mcmanus realized that eating out was his biggest expense along with monthly bills. “That was the biggest thing: me spending money on random stuff,” he admits. “Sarah helped me, told me to buy groceries, cook at home. That alone helped a lot.”

After working with Trusted Advisor for two months, McManus finds that he is saving money and is able to pay off his credit card debt. “I am ultimately working towards buying a house,” he says.

“I love it. I keep raving about it to others. I sent an email to the other staff [at the yoga and meditation studio,] saying please sign up,” says McManus.

The Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners and Best for NYC have been in talks for a while, says Christine Curella, director of business initiatives and job quality at the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development. “We know that everyone needs support with financial planning,” she says. “Financial issues are not too far from the minds of small businesses. We also heard of the need for such a service from different angles, academic partners, thought leaders, etc.”

Research has shown that workers who are under financial distress tend to be distracted at work and that this makes employers responsive to the non-profit’s offer, Zinkin points out. “Employers like us because they see that what we do helps their business as well,” she says, adding that employers’ status as a non-profit is also helps. “Employees can trust we are really acting in their best interest,” she says.

The program had a “soft launch” over the past couple of weeks and was announced on July 11, says Curella. Since its launch, 143 businesses have signed up for the program.

In the past, Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners has worked mostly with medium-sized businesses as well as very large companies such as Staples. The New York City partnership comes as a pilot program and the non-profit looks to extend it in other cities and states.

“We have the program in Miami and Chicago, and will be starting in Baltimore,” Zinkin says.

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Certified Trusted Advisors Small business Financial planning Retirement planning Financial literacy