Why we built Origin

Origin is bringing financial planning to every employee, everywhere. Learn more.

Today, I’m happy to share more about what we’ve been working on at Origin.Our mission is simple:to bring financial planning to every employee, everywhere. Origin is a place where employees can track financial milestones, get professional advice, and take action towards reaching their goals. We make it easy to do things like: pay down student debt, build emergency savings, understand equity, and more. 

Financial stress is now the no. 1 employee reported issue

Managing finances is complicated, time-consuming, and fraught with misinformation. Pick a statistic—they’re all terrible. 40% of American adults couldn’t come up with $400 for a financial emergency, over a quarter of U.S. adults have zero dollars set aside for retirement, and nearly 60% of Americans state finances as their number one source of stress. The list goes on, each statistic is more sobering than the next. In spite of 10 years of appreciating asset prices and record low unemployment, the financial health of Americans was shockingly poor coming into 2020. Very few had a financial plan that could protect them from even a modest economic pullback.Unfortunately, the economic destruction wrought by COVID-19 has exacerbated these underlying structural issues for millions of Americans. Some of this financial impact is obvious—millions of lost jobs have an immediate and intense impact on those affected. Other impacts are less apparent—folks still employed have reported huge decreases in perceived employment security while over 30% of employees have experienced meaningful pay cuts. Retirements will be pushed out, plans to buy homes and start families delayed.

Given this dynamic, it’s no surprise that financial stress now outpaces every other issue reported by employees (including mental and physical health).

I know what financial stress is like first-hand. In 2015, I quit my job working on Wall Street and moved to San Francisco to accomplish my lifelong goal of building a company. Weeks of ideating and “figuring it out” quickly turned into months. Every investor I met with said, “not interested”. My savings dwindled with each passing day. A friend offered to let me couch surf if I couldn’t pay my rent. With $42 left in my bank, we got lucky. An investor decided to take a chance on us. I remember the stress of having no idea what to do next—at times it felt crippling. As I worked out of my financial hole, I slowly built savings and put a retirement strategy in place. Reflecting on these experiences, I knew that I needed to find a way to help others solve the same problems I had faced. Financial stress is a global problem and my story is not unique. We all know the school teacher struggling to figure out how to reach their dream of owning a home, the new graduate starting their career saddled with student debt, and the senior manager trying to figure out if they have enough savings to retire.

If folks aren’t learning how to manage their money in school and even the most financially-savvy people don’t know how to plan effectively, how can we expect the rest of us to figure it out?

Origin is the answer to the financial uncertainty that millions of Americans face every day and we’re partnering with those best positioned to help—employers. Origin empowers employers to go beyond just cutting paychecks by providing employees the guidance of how to best make use of that paycheck and chart the course to financial security. Employers take care of the paycheck, Origin will take care of the rest.

Getting financial wellness right

Leaders in the benefits world have long been familiar with the concept of financial wellness. Solutions in the space have been around for so long and have been executed so poorly, that most yawn when they hear it mentioned. Early, and most current, financial benefits solutions consisted largely of employee workshops and educational resources (someone pinch me before I fall asleep). Can we really blame benefits leaders for not seeing the value? The problem lies in the generalized nature of these early solutions. Educational resources and speaking workshops are so-so for everyone and great for no one. They aren’t personalized, which leaves employees with more questions than answers. Said otherwise, the young college graduate with $75,000 in student debt has different needs than the 50 year-old manager putting her third child through college while looking towards retirement. Further, current solutions don’t allow you to actually do anything. On the off chance that an employee learns something from static, generalized financial materials, they don’t have a place to execute their financial plans. This is where Origin comes in. We’re the first platform that combines human financial planners with cutting-edge financial technology that both educates employees and allows them to create, execute and track their own, personalized financial plans. It’s now clear—if you want to build a happy, healthy, productive, and loyal workforce you need to provide benefits that truly improve your employees’ lives. Now more than ever, employees need help getting their finances in order. It can change their lives and it will change your company.

What’s in it for employers?

Of course, every company wishes that they could give their employees the moon. People and Talent leaders wish that they could pay more, offer more flexible work-from-home options, provide continuing education, mental health services, and financial guidance. Employees would be more creative, improve their skills, get more done, and stay with the company for years. Unfortunately, the folks crunching the numbers haven’t always seen it this way. Where’s the value? What’s the ROI? In the light of today’s difficult business environment, this dynamic is truer than ever. So how has this sector of non-traditional benefits grown? Well, because the proof is in the pudding. It is now beyond reproach that high-impact benefits meaningfully improve employee productivity while also reducing absenteeism and turnover. With the annual cost of employee financial stress as high as $500 billion annually, the impact of holistic financial benefits is clear and employers have taken notice. Over just this past year, the number of employers offering financial wellness to their employees has increased by 25% and for good reason:

  • The average employee spends ~4 hours per week (10% of total time) managing personal finances at work.
  • 40% of employees report health issues or loss of sleep due exclusively to financial stress at an estimated annual cost of $400 per employee.
  • Financially-stressed employees are more than 2.2x as likely to leave their employer.
  • Financially-stressed employees are 190% more likely to become depressed.

Given the ubiquity of financial stress coupled with a direct impact on physical and mental health, employee happiness, engagement, and job performance, it is clear that incorporating financial wellness into a broader benefits strategy is not only incredibly positive for employees, but should also be considered a critical strategy for sustained enterprise growth. Here at Origin, we feel honored to help.


Matt Watson


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