Financial fitness is the secret sauce for Original Rudy’s Country Store and Bar-B-Q
With the help of SmartDollar, employees have paid off $522,000 in debt and saved $568,000 over two years.
TEXANS TAKE their barbecue seriously, and The Original Rudy’s Country Store and Bar-B-Q takes the financial welfare of its employees seriously. The 27-year-old business, with three locations in San Antonio, wanted to make a difference in the lives of its 134 employees and their finances.
Two years ago, the restaurant’s president, Mike Barker, started offering Dave Ramsey’s SmartDollar program, a financial wellness program that helps people learn the basics of money, including how to budget, how to set aside funds in an emergency account and how to pay down debt.
“We decided to offer this program to help them figure out where their money is going; help them make a budget,” says Sandra Devol, Rudy’s human resources director. “Most of our team members didn’t know how to make a budget. They were living paycheck to paycheck. They had payday loans. We paid a great wage so there was no reason they were still living that way. We wanted to educate them.”
Many of Rudy’s employees have been with the company for 14 years or longer, and they all make an hourly wage, which makes financial assistance and education all the more important. In fact, Rudy’s took the SmartDollar program one step further than most companies that offer it — Rudy’s makes it mandatory for all employees to participate, which means it has nearly 100% participation in the program.
The program was not well received at first, Devol says, because people have a hard time talking about their finances, but as the program progressed she has seen a big difference in employees’ financial behaviors. It is all about taking baby steps to make a difference overall.
Dave Ramsey’s seven baby steps are: get a $1,000 beginner emergency fund; pay off all debt except for your home; build your emergency fund up to three to six months of expenses; invest 15% of your household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement plans; start a college fund for your kids; pay off your home early; build wealth and give.
When Rudy’s first rolled out the program, the company’s owner raffled off $1,000, which would be split between four of the restaurant’s team members who were actively participating in the program by budgeting or actively paying down their debt.
The company offers other incentives throughout the year to keep employees interested and on track, she says. It offers back to school cash to help people buy clothes or supplies for school, cash for Christmas and scholarships “so they know that if they’re engaged in this program they’ll get more hours and money from the company,” Devol says.
So how successful has the program been?
The 127 Rudy’s employees who have engaged in the SmartDollar program have paid off $522,000 in debt and saved $568,000 over two years.
Plus, employees have started opening up about their personal financial issues as part of the program. “[Employees] are more open to discuss where they are at with each other and with the company... There’s no judgment,” she says. “We want to serve them because it is part of our core values.”