Target. Amazon. Walmart. Now, Costco.
America’s largest employers and retailers are all moving toward a living wage. Costco joined the wage-hike trend today when the mega-box store committed to paying workers at least $16 an hour.
As the Senate gears-up for a battle over raising the national minimum wage to $15/hour, companies are recognizing the value of investing in their people. For many—especially those living in areas with a higher cost of living—an increased income is a necessity if they are ever going to achieve financial stability.
But higher numbers on a paycheck will not be enough to help most Americans escape their money troubles.
Financial exclusion is not, primarily, an income problem. It is a system problem. Our complex financial world incentivizes and traps consumers of all income levels in perpetual debt cycles. And making income a lever for debt has exponentially driven the costs of housing and education to the point where meeting basic needs is harder than ever.
In Douglas County, Colorado, home of the fourth-highest income per capita in the U.S., there are over 45,000 food-insecure people in a population of about 350,000. People living in half-million-dollar homes are struggling to pay utility bills and put food on the table because they were not ready for a financial shock and did not know how to navigate our broken financial system.
Better pay, benefits, and perks are a good start and hopefully a sign that companies have identified the importance of investing in their people. But all that really matters at the end of the day is if employees are able to use their available resources to not just survive, but also make meaningful progress for themselves and the people they love.
That means we need define success at the individual level and track outcomes like having sufficient emergency savings, proper protections, eliminating high-cost debt and providing alternatives, and much more. If employees remain trapped in debt cycles, those higher wages just mean more money for lenders.
Higher wages are a good start. But it is time to redefine and reimagine human capital in terms of individual outcomes, and help employees convert their resources into success.