Alice walks into the store where she works. Like she does every morning, she turns on the lights and fires up the computer stations before putting her small brown-bagged lunch in the office fridge.
If anyone had been paying attention, they might have noticed that Alice’s lunch is small—more of a snack. They may have noticed that Alice lingers at the candy jar left for visitors and helps herself to a few pieces. Someone who was looking might have pointed out that Alice has worn the same winter coat for three years and has never gone out with other co-workers for drinks or out for dinner, even though everyone else at the office pitches in for a meal every Friday.
But no one looks.
Before the first customers begin to trickle in, Alice has already put in an hour of work. She has a smile for everyone and at the end of the day she carefully folds the brown paper bag from her lunch and walks back to the bus stop.
ALICE works at many businesses across the nation. ALICE can be any gender and exists across all ages. She (or he) has to make some tough choices each month: Do I pay for rent or my medication? Do I pay for electricity or the eyeglasses I need for work? Should I get a short-term loan or try living on one meal a day again?
ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) refers to millions of working Americans who work, in many cases, full-time jobs but can’t afford to make it to their next paycheck and can’t pay for necessities. ALICEs make up some of the 70 million Americans who live paycheck to paycheck.
Businesses do some serious number crunching to come up with competitive wages to pay employees. They consider local costs, state regulations, business profits, competitiveness, and other factors. In many cases, small business owners can only pay so much to stay competitive.
And the very idea of a “fair wage” is hard to nail down. A fair wage for a single person is not the same as the wage for someone supporting family members. A fair wage looks very different for someone who is healthy than for someone struggling with a pile of medical bills. Unexpected events such as divorce, illness, a sudden increase in local rental costs, can all wreak havoc with what was once “enough.” In many cases, employers set wages without knowing all the details that go into individual employee’s lives. And so ALICEs are created.
Few employees offer up details of their financial lives and few employers ask. ALICE individuals are everywhere and they often have few choices. Without assets to sell or borrow against, without other means of making money, and with their days filled with work, they can feel trapped. Often, they are teetering quietly on the brink.
If you’re an employer and saw one of your workers drowning, you’d throw them a life preserver. The trouble is it’s often impossible to tell which of your employees are barely above water—or even slipping under.
This is why more companies are turning to the PayActiv benefit. This benefit allows workers to access their wages before payday for a flat fee of $5 per payday period. This simple and cost-effective solution lets your workers afford food and rent and even use PayActiv financial literacy resources. Users can use the app to pay bills or order from Amazon or order an Uber, helping them avoid credit card debt.
Most of all, the PayActiv benefit helps restore ALICE’s dignity. There’s no need for employees to explain their financial struggles if they’re not ready. They don’t need to ask for money they have already earned. If they ever need it, their earned dollars are as close as the app in their pocket.
The reality is you never quite know what’s behind a team member’s smiling face. Few companies make financial discussions part of the status quo and even the most caring workplaces may have workers who are too ashamed about coming forward. The PayActiv benefit resolves the issues of pay advance requests for HR and payroll. Payday doesn’t change but ALICE is freed of the stress of waiting for pay to handle her bills, he or she can walk taller strolling into work.